By Father John Rayls
One of the great things about enjoying whiskey is that it’s a very personal thing. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion. I know it isn’t a big secret that I really enjoy all things Elijah Craig Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey. However, I had strayed from this camp once Heaven Hill abandoned the 12 Year Old Bourbon for an NAS (no age statement) version of their economical small batch whiskey. Two weeks ago, a friend of mine started telling me about a bourbon he picked up in San Antonio. It was Elijah Craig 12 Year Old. I explained they were no longer offering it. However, he had a bottle and produced it for me. I was really confused. It was definitely Elijah Craig 12 Year Old Small Batch Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey. However It was a Hand Selected Single Barrel offering. The owner of a local Whiskey Outlet had purchased a Private Barrel at the Distillery and it was a genuine authentic bottle. In the past few years, Heaven Hill had suspended all private barrel offerings, but they are obviously back in this business now. Elijah Craig Single Barrel 12 Year Old is only available through the hand select private barrel purchasing program offered by Heaven Hill and the Elijah Craig Distilling Company. You simply travel to Kentucky after talking directly with the company and expressing your preferences in bourbon and pick from barrels set aside that match your preferences. You select a local whiskey shop, preferably near your home, and the bottles from your chosen barrel are delivered to that shop. Many distilleries offer this type of program. It’s not an inexpensive option, but it does provide many additional options for favorite unavailable whiskeys and can include many single barrel options.
The look of this particular Elijah Craig Single Barrel 12 Year Old (2017 bottling) is a beautiful reddish brown with some orange tint. It include some copper highlights. The legs are medium in length, but prolific surrounding the glass. They drain somewhat slowly and relentlessly. The nose is filled with what I believe to be exactly what a good bourbon experience should be offering. The aroma is of medium intensity which rises to meet you agreeably. There are notes of caramel, vanilla, brown sugar, oak and sweet corn. (This is really important for those of us from the MidWest!). There isn’t any burn and only the faintest notion of any tingling.
This bourbon offers a very light creamy mouthfeel and it brings a whole mouth experience. The initial palette experience begins in the front and middle of the mouth. There are notes of caramel and vanilla accompanied with oak and leather and, of course, notes of sweet corn. All of this is on top of a growing spicy feel that brings a warming cinnamon experience. The finish is long and satisfying and warming, but never offering any burn. The cinnamon, brown sugar and sweet corn continues to grow until eventually fading without any aftertaste. It’s a very clean experience.
Elijah Craig Single Barrel 12 Year Old is a very economical and great tasting bourbon. Don’t hesitate to suggest that your local Whiskey Outlets consider joining the Private Hand Selected Barrels program. This particular bottle is offered at $32.95. You definitely need this bottle on your shelf. Maybe you should consider multiple bottles.