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Elijah Craig is one of Heaven Hill’s numerous whiskey brands. The eponymous Baptist minister Craig is reputed to be the “Father of Bourbon” because, as lore—and the promotional pamphlet accompanying the bottle—would have it, he “became the first to age his whiskey in charred oak barrels.” As Chuck Cowdery points out in “Bourbon, Straight”, however, this claim is likely hokum. There is simply no evidence that Craig aged his whiskey in charred oak barrels, and his operation never resided in Bourbon County, where "bourbon" originated. That Craig distilled whiskey is accepted, and his standing as a “holy man” likely lent credibility to the whiskey trade, but he is almost certainly not the Father of Bourbon in any real sense.
Mythology aside, many respect the Elijah Craig label, though there is debate about its consistency. For the sake of precision, then, my bottle code (running clockwise from the top left) is 1 77 42 09. Elijah Craig is distilled from a low-rye mash bill (the same used by the J. T. S. Brown and Evan Williams brands, to name a few), though the rye grain features prominently enough in its profile.
The nose on the Elijah Craig 12 Year-old begins with bold oak, yielding touches of vanilla, apricots, and lemons. It then moves to spicier elements of mustard, grass, cinnamon, and clove. Finally, it surrenders sweeter, almost visceral notes of brown sugar.
The palate is astringent and a bit hot, with spicy rye dominating. It has some depth of character, and departs with an oaky, nutty finish wherein hints of varnish give way to a slight candy-corn sweetness and eventually heat.
I recently received a second bottle of Elijah Craig 12 Year-old as a very thoughtful gift, and I am very pleased to have it, as I am nearly through the one currently open in my bunker.