Editor’s Note: This whiskey was provided to us as a review sample by Elijah Craig. 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 barrel aging of distilled spirits had a more practical start than anything. The act of transporting a spirit required a vessel, and barrels were in supply and not otherwise occupied. The length of the journey, sometimes quite extensive, yielded differing tastes in the final product.
It didn’t take long for spirit makers to discover this. It wasn’t long before barrel aging was employed intentionally for flavor, even when transport wasn’t needed. The best distillers knew to hold onto product before drinking it, or slinging it.
And Elijah Craig would have been one of those distillers. The man was a bit of a trailblazer in Virginia and Kentucky, being a major Baptist preacher and leader in the church, a businessman who started both industrial operations and unique schools, and a community-minded civil servant.
In addition to the variety of activities listed above, he opened a distillery (of course). Heaven Hill Distillery and the Elijah Craig label would have you believe that with the opening of this distillery in 1789, bourbon was invented. Craig has retained the title “father of bourbon,” and gets the credit for the uniquely American spirit.
But does he deserve it? The answer is that we just don’t know. He certainly made early bourbon, but he wasn’t the only one doing it. The only reason to think that he may have, according to an article from Whiskey Advocate, is because of an old history from 1874, that mentions bourbon starting at a distillery probably owned by Elijah Craig.
Elijah Craig wasn’t mentioned, and neither was barrel charring, which Heaven Hill credits Craig with. Barrel charring of course adds to the flavor of whiskey by altering the chemical flavor of the wood, and adding a charcoal-filter element. The Elijah Craig website attributes this development to either the “happy accident” of a fire, or the use of charred sugar barrels used on the whiskey.
These questions are valid, and important if you dedicate yourself to the history of whiskey. They tend to slip away, however, when you start sipping on some Elijah Craig Barrel Proof. It’s a fan favorite among the whiskey crowd and bartenders, for its great taste, strength, and price point.
Tasting Notes: Elijah Craig Barrel Proof Batch B521 Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey
Vital Stats: 118.2 Proof, 59.1% ABV, Aged 12 years, Batch B521, 750ml, $103 MRSP.
Appearance: Soft, toasted amber, translucent. Slow, even legs.
Nose: Banana and cotton candy pop up first with intense sweetness, settling as it warms into nutty, though still sweet, peanut brittle.
Palate: Hot right away, which lingers, then simmers down nicely enough for the flavor to come through. It starts off strong with toffee that leans more buttery than sweet. A short whisper of bitter botanicals is over by the time you notice it. Rich, intense dark chocolate stays with you in the finish.
This is everything you can ask for in a barrel proof bourbon. The sweetness doesn’t overwhelm, but is enough to balance the strength of the sip. It’s good with a touch of water to lighten it up, but if you’re a barrel proof fan like I am, you won’t want anything to come between yourself and the whiskey.
User Review3.45 (11 votes)
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Talia is part of the Portland service industry community, and an alumna of the Multnomah Whiskey Library. She’s an avid spirit and cocktail enthusiast, and likes to experience them both academically and recreationally. When not sipping whiskey she’s a ceramic artist and lover of travel.