Rich, buttery, and mature. This bourbon is big, bold, sweet, and relatively complex.
This batch is a little out of balance compared to the prior releases. The sweetness falls short, and the huge amount of ethanol burn is not backed up with as much flavor as I would like.
Just a few months ago, by popular vote all of you in the Whiskey Bourbon Scotch Enthusiast Community voted Elijah Craig Barrel Proof as your favorite release of 2017. In response, our staff posted our review of last year’a batch C917, which received very favorable remarks. Indeed, ECBP’s 2017 accolades were well deserved!
With a new calendar year upon us, will Heaven Hill be able to keep producing batches of Elijah Craig Barrel Proof with a quality to match this bourbon’s widespread reputation? I’ve been curious to find out. As soon as I saw 2018’s first batch hit shelves, I snatched a bottle for the notably still very reasonable price of $60 and pulled the cork off the bottle to start exploring that dark, glorious liquid within.
- Batch A118 means this is the first release of the year (A), and was bottled in January (1) of 2018 (18).
- 12 Year Age Stated (please never take it off!)
- Standard Heaven Hill bourbon mash of 75% corn, 13% rye, 12% malted barley
- Bottled at 65.3% ABV (130.6 Proof)
Nose: Deep and buttery oak up front with caramel, vanilla, and butterscotch following the big blasts of fresh wood. With the swells of oak there is a richness that reminds me of much older whiskeys before giving way to peppery spice and wood from the barrel. It is very pungent with a hefty dose of ethanol burn.
Palate: Very rich and buttery as the whiskey shows off its age statement. Vanilla and fresh cut wood come on strong, followed by waves of sweetness before tapering off to the more mature side of this drink. The flavors that follow are a bit more tart and spicy with deep pepper-like notes alongside some caramel. There is a nice fade back to dark vanilla extract and bold oak with some nuttiness reminiscent of almond or walnut.
Finish: Rich caramel nougat and vanilla. Sweet at first before fading to a bit more of a refined and somewhat tannic wood note. The spice comes in strong with the proof of this whiskey showing itself a bit peppery, woodsy, and faintly floral. Finally, at the end of this marathon finish, a bit of a mild tobacco, creamed corn, and a nice nuttiness linger. There is a lot of depth to enjoy to this finish.
Buying Recommendation: Must Try! Those of you who know me well know that I love strong, sweet, high proof bourbons. This stuff is big and bold, but contains flavors I usually find in much older bourbons. The whiskey is flavorful and complex, and at $60-75/bottle its worth a purchase if you’re into big oak and high proof. For me personally, this batch is a little out of balance compared to the prior releases. The sweetness falls short, and the huge amount of ethanol burn is not backed up with as much flavor as I would like. Still, as is the case when reviewing great whiskeys, we tend to split hairs and I am doing a bit of that here. This is an excellent whiskey! Great work by the folks at Heaven Hill, but like many others who attain great success, the bar is set a bit higher for you now! Cheers!
At WBSE we use a true 100 point scale for scoring to allow whiskeys to further differentiate themselves (as opposed to a letter grade scale where 90% of whiskeys fall between 78-92). This allows you to more easily compare scores between different whiskeys. Here is how the scale breaks down:
1-49: Varying degrees of bad
60-69: Better than average
90+: Truly Exceptional
All thoughts and opinions expressed are original to the author of the review or article. We are in no way paid to express any specific opinion about any specific company or product.