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One night in April I sat down with the first 4 batches of Elijah Craig Barrel Proof to see how they stood up to one another.
This is the second release that I bought and opened on November 11th of 2013. I transferred it to a 200mL bottle in early January of 2014.
Nose: A whiff of smoke greets the nose. Even more sharp and powerful then the 1st release, but without as much depth of sweetness and bass tones. The sweet brown sugar is there, but not as intense. Further, there are some sour notes (granny smith apples, and lemon peel) that create a balance to the sweetness of the 1st release. This has the highest searing-melt-your-face tones of the night. More fire and less wood here then batch 1.
With water: more mellow: not as great as the 3rd release but still better then the 1st or 4th release. There is a much higher tone (2 notches) to this with water then the 3rd release.
Taste: Huge thickness, power, brown sugar mixed with sour apples and lemon zest. This is less sweet than the first release. That said, it has my favorite mouth feel of the 4 batches. =
With water: Not as thick (obviously), but still great
Finish: Huge and mouth decimating . . . hard to breath after this one . . . Oh ya . . . waves of oak barrels, brown sugar, remnants of fires, apples, BBQ, and other southern staples. This is a true southern finish . . . like Stonewall to the sea . . . huge, huge, huge . . .
With water: still the biggest finish anywhere with water . . . still decimation and destruction . . . I am amazed.
Balance, Complexity: This is not as complex and deep as the 1st release, or as spicy as the 3rd release. However, this 2nd batch has a taste and finish to die fore. Is the balance or complexity everything it could be? No.
Aesthetic experience: This is a nice bottle . . . but it is a little hard to hold. I like the spout to pour. And I love the barrel proof nature of this beast. I just wish the age were more prominently displayed. A 12 year old Bourbon should say it on the front label!
Conclusion: This is the biggest and most explosive of the batches (as if you couldn’t already tell that from the ABV). Sadly, it doesn’t have quite the same depth, sweetness and darkness that I enjoy in the first release, or the spice, sweetness and balance of the 3rd release. Still, it is almost tied with the 3rd release (maybe a half point behind?). However, I would need more time (and more liquid) with both to really tease it out. For now I will call them about even.