Elijah Craig is a wonderful example of why the obsession over age statements is currently overblown. Elijah Craig, made by Heaven Hill Distillery, is their darling premium straight bourbon product. In previous years, it carried an age statement of twelve years. As the demand for whisky increased, the stock of old barrels became an issue. Heaven Hill couldn’t keep the age statement and still continue to release Elijah Craig while also expanding the line into older age statements.
The move to a no-age statement bourbon became an immediate controversy. This small batch release is a mix of barrels ranging from eight to twelve years of age. The initial reaction was the predictable outrage, and that’s not such a surprise, as Elijah Craig 12 Year Old was a darling bourbon. The assumption, the correct assumption, was made that the non-age statement bourbon wouldn’t have the same flavour profile as the 12 Year Old. How right people were. What wasn’t as predictable, was how much better the small batch is compared to the late releases of the 12 Year Old discontinued version.
I’m a firm believer that Elijah Craig was struggling to produce a high-quality twelve year old bourbon. I’d argue, even, that the last few years weren’t necessarily the best releases of Elijah Craig 12. The whisky tasted over-oaked and dead on the inside. It wasn’t the Elijah Craig I remembered first tasting several years previous. The Small Batch release isn’t the same whisky. It’s a far superior bourbon.
Elijah Craig Small Batch
Heaven Hill Distillery
Category: Straight Bourbon, NAS
Nose: Rich cherry apple, caramel, some barnyard notes.
Palate: Bright, blood orange sweetness combined with caramel, plus zesty spice, and nice buttery layer. The finish is dry, but it has plenty of pep, and takes on some sour notes toward the very end.
★ ★ ☆ ☆ Your great regular rotation whisky that’ll come and go
For many whisky fans, this will be their absolute favorite bottle of bourbon. For those whisky fans that have a quick trigger finger wanting to taste variety (like I do), Elijah Craig sits in a very competitive market at its price-point. I’ll happily rotate this whisky in and out of the cabinet. Whether this is a two of three stars whisky for you, though, will depend on how much bourbon you care to own.
*Whisky Cabinet Rating Explained:
☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ Not recommended
★ ☆ ☆ ☆ Good whisky, but not a ‘must-have’
★ ★ ☆ ☆ Your great regular rotation whisky that'll come and go
★ ★ ★ ☆ Excellent, a near must-have
★ ★ ★ ★ Extraordinary, memorable, and original