Whiskey Review: Elijah Craig Barrel Proof Batch A120 - The Whiskey Wash
Father's Day 2020

Whiskey Review: Elijah Craig Barrel Proof Batch A120

Editor’s Note: This whiskey was provided to us as a review sample by Heaven Hill. This in no way, per our editorial policies, influenced the final outcome of this review. It should also be noted that by clicking the buy link towards the bottom of this review our site receives a small referral payment which helps to support, but not influence, our editorial and other costs.

The first barrel proof batch of 2020 from Elijah Craig, distilled out of Heaven Hill, is here. The Elijah Craig Barrel Proof Batch A120 packs a whopping punch of an ABV at 68.3 percent. The 136.6 proof marks the second highest proof for a first batch release by Elijah Craig. In January 2016, by comparison, the Elijah Craig Barrel Proof Batch A116 was released at 138.8 proof. 

As Elijah Craig states on their website, “The variance in proof from batch to batch presents a unique opportunity to explore the impact of the angel’s share and the resulting proof in a small batch of barrels.” It isn’t hard to find distilleries these days experimenting with their craft.

Time, oak, and the environment have a great impact on the outcome of whiskey. For example, Heaven Hill has shown time and time again with each release of Elijah Craig just how important the process is to creating exceptional whiskey.

Heaven Hill Distillery, from its humble beginnings in 1935, is the United States’ largest independent, family-owned distillery in Kentucky. Elijah Craig wasn’t even in Heaven Hill’s portfolio until they acquired the brand from Commonwealth Distillers in 1976.

Ten years later in 1986, Heaven Hill released Elijah Craig when the popularity of bourbon was in a downturn. That Elijah Craig had a 12 year age statement on one hand was to show Heaven Hill was planning on bourbon’s comeback, and on the other hand to distinguish themselves from cheaper and lesser quality whiskey.

Elijah Craig Barrel Proof Batch A120

Elijah Craig Barrel Proof Batch A120 (image via Courtney Kristjana/The Whiskey Wash)

Tasting Notes: Elijah Craig Barrel Proof Batch A120

Vital Stats: 68.3% ABV; 136.6 proof. An uncut, non chill-filtered 12 year old bourbon from cask to bottle out of Heaven Hill Distillery.  750ml ~$60. 

Appearance: Deep, reddish amber/roasted chestnut or hazelnut.

Nose: 

  • Neat: Yup, that’s alcohol alright. While I still have my olfactory senses, the smell of burnt sugar delighted me. Cherry is full-fledged and robust as dried orange peel peaks through. It has a sort of sour tinge to it. Digging deeper, cocoa with Mexican vanilla arrives at the end with graham cracker. It’s like a toasty s’more. 
  • With Water: It only took 5 big drops of water to open up the Elijah Craig Barrel Proof, but it changes the whiskey a significant amount. Bright orange peel is the first thing I notice. I can break down the spice more, and I get cinnamon and clove. The sweetness is similar to demerara or brown sugar. I still pick up sweet vanilla, but there is more of a distinct marshmallow scent to it. 

Palate: 

  • Neat: So far it is light with an oily mouthfeel. I am picking up a lot of dried cherries and cranberries. The middle gets strong with a mixture of leather, burnt and sticky barbeque sauce, and oak. It’s not tannic with the oak, but it is dry. Soon, it moves to something reminiscent of a stale cigarette, or an ash pile, but then it finishes like a robust cigar. I can only liken it to breathing in campfire smoke from a hoodie the next morning. 
  • With Water: The leather, cigar, and ash take over from the start. The dried cranberry is now like fresh cranberry sauce at Thanksgiving dinner. There is a touch of sea salt and saline that wasn’t there before. It’s oaky, but not overwhelming. The cherry and sour tinge I picked up on the nose while sampling neat is at the finish here. 
The Takeaway

Summary

The Elijah Craig Barrel Proof Batch A120 is stellar. This version gives me what I seek in whiskey, and what I find lacking in a lot of bourbons. I like the cigar and ashy palate it provides, and gives me that campfire feel without the bottle price of High West.

5 drops of water is all it takes to open it up, and to drop the burn of the cask strength. It will still warm you up to the point of wanting to undress, but it's worth it. However, please sip responsibly and have a full belly. 1 oz got me schnockered even after I ate a small meal.

4.5
User Rating 5 (2 votes)
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