Classification: Straight Bourbon
Company: Heaven Hill
Distillery: Heaven Hill
Age: 12 Years
Mashbill: 78% Corn, 12% Malted Barley, 10% Rye
MSRP: $60 (2018)
Heaven Hill launched Elijah Craig Barrel Proof in 2013, releasing three batches that year and each year thereafter. Since then, the brand has blossomed in popularity beyond whiskey geekdom, having first undergone a bottle redesign to an arguably more sophisticated look, followed by 2017’s Batch B517 being crowned Whisky Advocate’s Whisky of the Year. It’s not surprising that I’ve noticed friends and family on the fringe of bourbon curiosity often have a bottle in their cabinet.
Barrel proof bourbon batches can typically be identified by their proof, though that can be misleading as the proof could be the same from batch to batch depending how the cards fall. Fortunately, Heaven Hill makes identifying batches an easy task by assigning each a code - this one being “C” (for third batch of the year) - “9” (released in September) - “18” (released in 2018).
As for taste, dark fruits against cinnamon spice and tobacco on the nose give way to more traditional flavors of caramel and vanilla on the palate. It finishes long with a spicy kick dominated by black pepper and allspice along with a touch of oak underneath. The sip is charged - it’s an unapologetically high proof and potent affair that’s straightforward in its presentation. I rarely add water to bourbon, but a few drops subdues the spice just enough to pull out some deeper flavors on the palate - dark fruits and a sweet brown sugary note in particular.
Elijah Craig Barrel Proof is a crowd pleaser, and for good reason. After dropping the 12 year age statement from the standard bottling, the company noted the barrel proof version would retain its age statement which means it’s at least 12 years old, something I believe further adds to the complexity and variety you can find from batch to batch. The flavor profile is often rather straightforward, lining up with what many would consider more “traditional” bourbon characteristics that would include flavors of oak, caramel, and vanilla. While I have not made it a point to taste every batch, I do like some better than others, though I have never had a bad one. Batch C918 falls in the middle range of the batches I’ve had, having a straightforward flavor profile that’s good, but lacking characteristics that might make it really stand out. Batches tend to move from good to great, and at $60 (or close to it) for a barrel proof age stated bourbon it’s still one helluva deal.
The sample used for this review was provided at no cost courtesy ofHeaven Hill. We thank them for the sample and for allowing us to review it with no strings attached.