Whiskey Review: Elijah Craig Barrel Proof A117

When distilleries make whiskey, one of the final steps before bottling is diluting the spirit with water to bring down the alcohol content to around 90 proof. Barrel proof whiskeys skip this step, and usually have an ABV between 60 – 65%, and are upwards of 120 proof. Elijah Craig Barrel Proof Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey Batch no. A117 is no exception, clocking in at 127.0 proof.

The spirit is distilled at Heaven Hill Distillery in Bardstown, Kentucky, the nation’s largest family-owned distillery. Heaven Hill was also the site of a fire in 1996 that destroyed seven warehouses and 90 thousand barrels of bourbon, about 2% of the world’s bourbon supply at that time. Their popular Elijah Craig brand is named after Rev. Elijah Craig, the first man to age his Kentucky bourbon in charred oak barrels. Because of the variances in the proof and taste of each batch, Elijah Craig Barrel Proof has become something of a collectors item, and aficionados enjoy comparing each release.

Beginning in 2013, Elijah Craig has released a batch of their barrel proof whiskey four times per year. This year, they’ve introduced a new way to catalog each release. For example, my sample is from batch A117, where ‘A’ stands for which batch the whiskey came from. The ‘1’ stands for which month of the year the bottle was released. Finally, ‘17’ represents the year of the release. Heaven Hill Distillery hopes this new cataloging system will help enthusiasts keep track of which batches they’ve enjoyed.

Tasting Notes: Elijah Craig Barrel Proof 

Vital Stats: Batch No. A117, 63.5% abv, 127.0 proof. The mash bill is 75% corn, 13% rye, and 12% malted barley.

Nose: Smells like ripe cherries and sweet tea. It has a delightfully smooth, perfumey bouquet.

Appearance: Weirdly enough this whiskey is about the same color as my mom’s golden retriever, Rocky – a medium amber glow.

Palate: On first taste, I’m struck with a buttery flavor and lots of dark, fruity notes. The cherries, brown sugar and toasted almond flavors stand out initially. Tobacco and spice notes lend themselves well to this complex flavor. 

The Takeaway

I was pleasantly surprised by how smooth this whiskey was. It definitely had some cognitive consequences after the first glass, which I realized after trying to read my notes the next day. I tried one glass with an ice cube, and one without; I preferred the whiskey at room temperature.

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Before trying this batch, I’d never tried Elijah Craig Barrel Proof, but I’m a fan of the complex, fruity notes. I’ll definitely be watching for their next release. 

User Rating 3.8 (44 votes)