Elijah Craig Barrel Proof was first released in March, 2013. Because it's barrel proof, the proof varies from batch to batch. To help identify each batch, in 2017 Heaven Hill started adding batch information to each bottle. The first letter of the batch number indicates which of that year's releases the bottle was a part of starting with “A,” while the second digit is a number that determines the month of the year the bottle was released. The third and fourth digits indicate the year. The bottle being reviewed is from the second batch that was released May 2020.
A burst of sweet caramel and graham cracker is complemented nicely by aged oak. Rich and delightful, the aromas form a near perfect balance. Despite the bourbon’s high proof, ethanol doesn’t impede any of the scents found in this very enjoyable nose.
Toasted marshmallows mingle with charred oak, caramel, and a sweet burnt brown sugar note. The bourbon has a heavy body with a robust underlying structure, reminding you that it’s barrel proof yet allowing the flavors to rise above the proof. This trait helps set it apart from many other high proof bourbons that struggle against their naturally-infused heat.
An initial rush of spice is followed by more depth - tobacco, leather, and again aged oak. The finish is long and warming, with the spicy-sweet combination leaving a superb lasting impression.
Since Elijah Craig Barrel Proof’s introduction to market in 2013, barrel proof bourbons have become increasingly popular. For a time, its 12 year age statement was also quite unique, however we have seen a surge of high aged bourbons in the 12 - 14 year range released lately, many from Tennessee.
I find that unlike similarly aged high proof Tennessee bourbons, Elijah Craig maintains a more quintessential bourbon flavor profile, which at barrel proof is like blasting a stereo on full volume. However, unlike the boisterous in-your-face trait barrel proof bourbons sometimes take on, Elijah Craig Batch B520 keeps the potency in check, instead focusing on a rich, full-flavored experience.
Heaven Hill is known for maintaining a high quality to price ratio, ultimately hitting high on the value scale. While the company has changed up a number of their high value products to realign with the rest of the market, Elijah Craig Barrel Proof has maintained its relatively high value right from day one. It has stayed within the price range of readily-available barrel proof bourbons from other major Kentucky distilleries such as Maker’s Mark Cask Strength and Stagg, Jr. (exceedingly less readily-available in many areas). However, Elijah Craig Barrel Proof pricing falls well below many similarly or slightly higher aged barrel proof bourbons that we have seen popping up lately, many of which are sourced from Tennessee. Elijah Craig’s combination of age, high proof, and ultimately quality make it a fantastic deal at $65.
Now in its 7th year, Elijah Craig Barrel Proof maintains its exceptional quality with an impressive showing from the latest Batch B520.
When Elijah Craig Barrel Proof was first released in March 2013, it was met with a warm reception, and over the years has accumulated numerous accolades. With three batches released annually, B520 is the brand's 23rd batch release, and the second of three slated for 2020. Since the first release, Heaven Hill has maintained the 12 year age statement, approximate price point, and most importantly overall quality. Batch B520 hits all the right marks for the brand, and while the quality is consistent from batch to batch, it makes for one of the better showings. Considering its price point, availability, and overall quality, Batch B520 is undoubtedly an early contender as one of my favorite whiskeys of 2020.