Bold and rich. The high proof is manageable and carries the flavor rather than detract from it. The palate is incredibly full and creamy.
There is noticeable booziness, but it blends well enough with the flavors to keep from being detracting. Nonetheless, enthusiasts who are unfamiliar with high proof may struggle to adjust to the intensity.
The 2nd of Heaven Hill’s three annual Elijah Craig Barrel Proof bourbon releases is now lining shelves throughout the nation. Labeled Batch B518, the “B” recognizes it as the 2nd batch of the year, while “518” means it was released in May of 2018. A118 was released earlier this year (read the review here), and if history repeats itself, the third and final batch of 2018 should be bottled in September and start filling shelves by October.
Elijah Craig Barrel Proof falls into a fairly small group of yearly multiple-release barrel proof bourbons that are relatively affordable and attainable, and those are the primary bourbons that I am comparing against it when making a purchasing decision. Wild Turkey Rare Breed, Booker’s, Bulliet Barrel Proof, Maker’s Mark Cask Strength, Elijah Craig Barrel Proof and Stagg Jr. all fall within a $20 retail range of each other and can be found with relative ease throughout the majority of the year. Of this group, only Booker’s and Elijah Craig carry an age statement, with Elijah Craig Barrel Proof retaining its 12 year designation, despite the standard release losing its age statement. I’ts also worth noting that of all these barrel proof bourbons, Elijah Craig is likely the oldest by a wide margin.
Heaven Hill has established Elijah Craig Barrel Proof as a premium quality bourbon for years, but last year’s plethora of awards and recognition gave the brand a spotlight in the mass market rather than just enthusiast niches. I’ve been curious to see how 2018 batches would fare given the newfound popularity. Batch A118 was great but lacking compared to some previous leases. How about this batch?
- Distilled, aged, and bottled by Heaven Hill
- 12 year age stated
- Non-chill filtered
- Mash bill of 75% corn, 13% rye, 12% malted barley
- Bottled at barrel proof 66.7% ABV (133.4 Proof)
Nose: Big blasts of rich buttery toffee and oak. There is a nice caramel and vanilla complex here as well – like a charred cow-tail candy. Noticeable booziness, but it blends well with creamy, lactose-y, under tones to form an overall balanced, full, and enjoyable bourbon aroma.
Palate: Rich caramel rushes forth and mixes with vanilla and wood chips. Very full and creamy with sugary notes of toffee and pie crust. Warming yet fluffy on your tongue as all the flavors merge together like a sweet dark dessert. The mouthfeel is so full that it’s nearly frothy, similar to whipped cream, but the sweetness is cut nicely by the proof of this whiskey, creating a nice balance.
Finish: Long and warm with charred notes of caramel and vanilla, light wood accents, bold brown sugar and chewy sweet dough – like pie crust baked after being sugared. The dram finally finishes with corn and leather, but in a light and sweet way.
Buying recommendation: Buy it now! This is a $60-65 bottle with heaps of flavor and spice. Heaven Hill has done exceedingly well with these batches and continues to make them reasonably accessible. I would personally spend as much as $75-80 for a bottle, and would encourage you to snag one of these immediately if you enjoy other barrel proof bourbons. This is a mainstay at my house and I struggle to ever pass it up as it doesn’t sit on shelves for long around here. Keep that in mind and be quick if you see it. If barrel proof bourbons are something new to you, be prepared for a palate adjustment, but when that happens, these bourbons are a delectable treat.
All in all, Heaven Hill has done it again with the ECBP label and created another excellent bourbon. The heat of this whiskey is managed especially well, and the tasting notes really pop out at you. Bold vanilla and caramel marry together in a sticky sweet and wonderful way. Thankfully these sweet notes are balanced nicely by the spice from the wood at 12 years of age and the heat of the high proof. I do think it’s a bit hotter than some past releases, and lacks the intense complexities and depth that could push this batch to an even higher rating. I prefer it to the first release of 2018, but it’s not my all time favorite batch of ECBP.