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On 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 fourth release that I bought in March and opened on March 15th of 2013. The bottle is now half full.
Nose: This is still the same family as the other 4 batches, but this one has the most oak influence yet. All the brown sugar, maple syrup, and sour apples are there, but this one really seems to have more burning logs on the fire then any other. Compared to the 3rd release this one is less sweet with less maple syrup and more oak. It is surprisingly less sour then both the 2nd and 3rd release. Big surprise; it has both the lightest ABV and the easiest nose. I like the wood, but miss the power.
With water: highest and thinnest flavor tones of the night.
Taste: Sweet and then sour. It is very thin on the mouth compared to the others. More like varnish then a “thick bourbon.” The sour dominates the sweet (which is fighting to be heard).
With water: Still very sour with little sweetness.
Finish: Huge wave of sour fire, and then apples, wood, and brown sugar. The fire and sour leave the biggest impression. Nowhere near as spicy as the 3rd release. Nowhere near as powerful as the 2nd release, and nowhere near as deep and dark as the 1st release. This is a very salty finish without any of the thick richness of the others.
With water: Mostly sour . . . totally sour apples. Too much = water bad.
Balance, Complexity: Terribly unbalanced in the taste and finish (but the nose was there). I find it the least complex of the batches so far.
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: Easily my least favorite batch so far. I have tasted this on several occasion over the last 2 month . . . and I have not been impressed. Oh, it has been a big powerful bourbon all on its own . . . but I don’t reach for it. I will give it a few months with the bottle at the half way mark before I try it again. I had the opportunity to pick up a second bottle and passed. I am now on the lookout for the 5th batch! Let us hope this is not a trend in lower ABV and lower quality.