Classification: Straight Bourbon
Company: Elijah Craig Distillery Co. (Heaven Hill)
Distillery: Elijah Craig Distillery Co. (Heaven Hill)
Release Date: May 2023
Age: 11 Years, 5 Months
Mashbill: 78% Corn, 12% Malted Barley, 10% Rye
Color: Dark Bronze
MSRP: $70 (2023)
Warm caramel | Stewed apples | Sweet oak | Nutmeg | Vanilla custard | Oak | Pine
Golden raisins | Honey graham cracker | Sweet bread pastry | Vanilla
Dry rye spice | Black pepper | Barrel char
Despite a lower age statement, Elijah Craig Barrel Proof is out to prove age isn’t everything by releasing one of its best batches in a long time.
In hopes of mixing it up for consumers (i.e. providing more variety between batches), Heaven Hill announced along with the release of Batch B523 that they would be dropping Elijah Craig Barrel Proof’s 12 year age statement for one that will vary by release. It’s unfortunate that the first release after this announcement is younger giving off the notion to consumers that they are in for a rollback of age statements much like they saw when Elijah Craig Small Batch lost its 12 year age statement. But stow those pitchforks for now, as Heaven Hill is getting out in front of such fears and the final batch of 2023 will in fact be its oldest release to date.
Elijah Craig Barrel Proof releases have maintained a high level of consistency over the years and it has only been in the last few batches that that quality has been beginning to slip. Loosening the brand’s age statement requirement in theory should allow Heaven Hill’s blenders more creative freedom. That will be certainly welcomed as the brand has tasted more and more similar from batch to batch. Batch B523 definitely shows how loosening its age statement can benefit from this. Coming in around 7 months younger isn’t a major age difference, but the bourbon forgoes some of its overall heaviness to become a brighter and livelier sip this time out.
The brand’s typical heavy and rich caramel forward nose is changed into a warmer and inviting one. Heavy cinnamon is replaced by a more complex stewed apple scent that is followed by more typical scents of nutmeg, vanilla, and oak. The palate is where the bourbon really begins to shine with golden raisins, honey graham crackers, and sweet bread pastry providing a strong three-pronged flavor approach that's not typical of the brand. The finish turns spicy with dry rye spice, black pepper, and barrel char providing the expected contrast.
I wouldn’t call Elijah Craig Barrel Proof Batch B523 a return to form, but more of a creative new direction for the brand. Sometimes a brand needs to mix things up to get out of a creative rut. There have been plenty of above-average batches of Elijah Craig Barrel Proof over the past few years, but few that could be called memorable. Batch B523 is definitely a turn in a new direction that strives to change up what it means to be an Elijah Craig Barrel Proof bourbon.