Elijah Craig 12 Yr Barrel Proof

Elijah Craig 12 Year Barrel Proof

Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey

Batch #5 – 67.4% / 134.8-Proof (DANGGGG)

I have said probably a hundred times that the standard Elijah Craig 12 Year is my pick for the best value bourbon on the market right now (runner up would be Evan Williams Single Barrel 2004 Vintage).  Recently, I’ve seen it going up in price but in North Carolina you can still get a 750ml bottle for under $25, and last month I purchased a 1.75L bottle for $42, insane.  So obviously I HAD to try the barrel proof expression of the stuff.  I unfortunately missed out on the first four batches, but I heard a fifth batch was to be released early summer, and sure enough the other day I was lucky enough to stumble upon the last bottle of it at Five Points Bottle Shop in Athens, GA.

Heaven Hill just started putting this out last year, and here is what the releases have looked like so far:

Batch #1 – 67.1% / 134.2-Proof
Batch #2 – 68.5% / 137.0-Proof
Batch #3 – 66.6% / 133.2-Proof
Batch #4 – 66.2% / 132.4-Proof
Batch #5 – 67.4% / 134.8-Proof

Here’s what the folks at Heaven Hill have to say about it: “Named after the Father of Bourbon, Reverend Elijah Craig this limited release Small Batch, twelve year old Bourbon is bottled at Barrel Proof and without chill filtering, preserving the natural flavors produced during the aging process. At full Barrel Proof, you can enjoy the Bourbon much the same way our Master Distiller does when he samples straight from the barrel or, if you choose, add water to reduce the proof to your liking.”

Unless you are a Master Distiller, which I’m almost certain you are not, I would highly recommend you add water to this beast.  Not ice, though I do prefer certain bourbons with a rock, but not this guy.  Just add some nice, room-temp, filtered water until you’ve diluted it enough to actually taste it.  It goes down HOT.

Be careful when nosing this one, you’re liable to burn your little nose hairs right out ya face.  If you add some water and do the old “put your nose over the rim but breathe through your mouth” trick you get a nice bouquet (ugh…I think that’s the last time I’ll ever use that word) of cherry, caramel, mint, oak, and a tiny bit of orange peel.  Taste-wise I’m getting about what I expected: vanilla and caramel up front (you miss most of this if you don’t water it down), spice in the back–cinnamon and nice black pepper that isn’t overpowering.  It feels nice and big in the mouth, and yes I’m pretty sure that is what she said. It’s exactly what you’d expect from a barrel strength bourbon.

Overall, while this is one I’m happy to add to my collection, I don’t know that I’d buy it again based on the price to awesomeness ratio.  I’d say it’s about 15 percent more interesting than the regular Elijah 12 Year, but at double the cost.  Of course it is much higher in alcohol, but getting wasted faster is not what I expect you’re looking for when you want to enjoy a nice bourbon.  If you’ve got the money, go for it, but at $50 (I’ve never seen it for it’s “list” price of $39) I’ll probably stick with the cheaper, more readily available EJ 12 Year 94 Proof–and buy two bottles of it!

***Update June 2015

So I’ve had this bottle open for nearly a year now, and it has become one of my absolute favorites.  They say once you open a bottle and expose it to oxygen that the low proof whiskeys start slowly dying and the cask strength ones get better…in this case I find that to be true.  What was a cool, good bourbon has now become one of my top 5, a true powerhouse of flavor, one I hate to see the end of when it’s in my glass.  I find my first tasting notes to still be accurate, but all those flavors are now much more intensified–deeper, brighter, better.  There are currently 8 releases of this bottle out there in the wild, all different proofs, and if you manage to find one I recommend opening it and letting it sit for a month or so before truly diving in.  Easier said than done I know!  It will be worth it…

Rating: 9.3 / 10

Bought at Five Points Bottle Shop in Athens, GA for $49.99

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One thought on “Elijah Craig 12 Yr Barrel Proof

  1. I like you am a big fan of EC12. This one really does it for me because it’s like getting coke syrup instead of a bottle of coke. I like to steal a few neat sips just to watch the hair on my chest grow and then I’ll add a little water to tame the beast and open it up a bit. So many magical flavors lurk in those old EC barrels and I love them all. Sadly it’s very hard to find this one but I like it that way…makes me appreciate it more!

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