Steve Crotty review’s Elijah Craig 12 year old Kentucky bourbon
Elijah Craig 12 Years Old
Small Batch Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey
Heaven Hill Distillery
Approximate price £25 – 30
Arguably one of the founders of the modern bourbon industry, Reverend Elijah Craig is credited with this accolade entirely by fluke. His distillery, founded in 1789 (take a note Jim Beam fans, he beat you by 6 years!) made corn whiskey that was placed in new oak barrels that were not aged in anyway. Due to a fire in one of the storage barns some of his barrels became charred, however the resourceful and thrifty reverend decided to keep on using them. He found this had a profound effect on the whiskey when he drank it. Huzzah! Bourbon was born.
Whether this tale is false or another miracle of faith is open to debate. What isn’t open to debate is that the good reverend is remembered by Heaven Hill in their Elijah Craig, designed as a premium bourbon to complement their standard fare which is aimed at the lower end of the market. Weighing in at a respectable 47% ABV means that this bourbon should certainly pack a punch. Another interesting point is to do with the fact that it is bottled in small batches. This helps the distillers to be more selective when choosing their barrels, which sounds good, but it can also make the finished product vary greatly from batch to batch. The reason your giants of the industry use thousands of different barrels to get an end result is that this helps them to get a uniform taste for each bottling. Elijah Craig doesn’t do this, with less than a hundred different barrels being chosen. So have I got a good or a bad batch?
The colour is an impressive auburn sunset although I have seen enough Elijah Craig’s to know the colour is something that is fairly uniform across all the batches, so no clues there. The nose suggests promise, with bitter lemon, golden syrup and strangely fresh dough all vying for your attention. There is no clear winner in the battle and no sense of cohesion to the aromas but I have no problem with this. I enjoy deciphering the story myself and have no problem with a whiskey that presents a challenge. So far, so good batch.
Oh dear. All the extra hours the nose put in have been undone by the laissez-faire attitude of the taste. All the smells that were present have vanished and been replaced by a burning heat with no taste to speak of. This suggests either a barrel that went wrong and wasn’t spotted or a whiskey that hadn’t been allowed to age for sufficient time to work the heat out of the young alcohol. There are slight hints of the syrup and the heat has a certain spiciness that is not unwelcome, but any of these are muted, spoiled if you will, by the heat of the thing. And to anyone calling me a wet blanket let me assure you I have no problem with the ABV, I welcome such a strength on a whiskey. This one however is not capable of carrying the strength it has been branded with, and it does so at the detriment of any other flavours.
Make no mistake my friends, this was not a good batch. However do not let this put you off buying a bottle if you have your heart set on it, as my bottle is in no way indicative of the bottle you may purchase. Whilst drinking socially I have sampled decent Elijah Craig’s, ones where the strength remained but did not control the whiskey, and where the oak is juicy and filled with a zesty freshness that I sensed on the nose was hiding in my bottle behind that unkempt heat. I must however review the bottle that I have finished with my critical head on, and my head tells me that I was deeply unimpressed. Please let us at Rum and Reviews know of any glorious or similarly disappointing bottles you’ve had. For now though, chalk this one up as a loss.
Overall Rating 5/10