Lots one could say about this whiskey but I'll settle for saying that it has had the critics drooling since its release and, so it would seem, also the 'layperson'. I've liked all previous Heaven Hill products and have been really enjoying my forays into the rye world. It's also fairly hard to come by in the UK so I grabbed a bottle while I could. Expectations were a little high, it must be said . . . so how is it?
Bottle's been open almost two months with about 4/5's left. Pour is neat (and large!) and, for a change, from my Taylor D glass.
Nose - Big, sweet spices; lots of clove, some cinnamon, baker's ginger, pepper a little cardamom and a hint of anise. What's delightfully unusual here though is that it's as though the spices (which are mostly sweet in relation to spices in general, but not sweet per se) have been sugar coated. Spices on candy floss, if you will. It's delightful. There's a little chocolaty toffee in there, sour red apple and rye bread along with a slight gherkin note. The alcohol is present but it doesn't burn or sting, but rather warms the senses.
Taste - Oh man, you can chew on this for an age - great body and grip. More of the sour apple and spun-sugar on the arrival, which seems contrary to the nose's suggestion; but then the spices from the nose unfurl on the tongue. Would it be pretentious to say they dance? Yes. Moving on. Turns a little drier as it develops and the pepper sings loudly. I also get some vanilla and a slightly floral, bourbon like flavour.
Finish - Fairly long. More pepper and some oak tannins that balance nicely with the sweet, spicy nose and palate.
This isn't far of the bliss point in terms of whisk(e)y, it really isn't. I've never had a rye that offers such a sweet counter balance to all the spice the way this does, and it is immensely enjoyable. In fact, balanced is a great way to describe this along with cliches such as 'it's like a fireworks display in my mouth'. I am left a little sorrowful as each sip passes though as a) it's not a cheap bottle over here and b) it's not all that available. Still, this is a must for a repurchase - I'd buy a case if I could.
Price valuations within the potential purchaser vary enormously with market conditions. In 2011 I watched two bottles of Pappy Van Winkle 23 yo sit on a shelf for a year, thinking " $200 for a bottle of bourbon? You must be crazy!" Now they auction for $ 2,600 per bottle. If I could go back in time I would pay the $ 200 per bottle. Hindsight is 20/20 and I have not yet met the individual who successfully predicted what happened to world whisk(e)y markets between the years of 2010 and 2014.
@OdysseusUnbound that was probably the batches of Elijah Craig you sampled. I had the worst bottle I have EVER bought of the EC 12 yo, and have tasted very good NAS Elijah Craig Small Batch. As Elijah Craig goes, I only buy the 12 yo Barrel Proof, though, of which I have maybe a dozen bottles in storage. Batch variation is a very big deal in any large-batch whisk(e)y release. I've had bad Talisker 10, Highland Park 12, standard Buffalo Trace, and others generally liked. I've also tasted all of those from much better batches, which I liked. Yes, recovering trust after a bad bottle is a VERY difficult thing to do.
@OdysseusUnbound - That's disappointing to hear. I loved my last bottle of the EC 12 and have another in the stash that I'm even more reluctant to open now . . .