Elijah Craig 23 Year

Elijah Craig 23 Year

90 Proof, 23 Years Old

Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey

Single Barrel #52, Barreled on 11.30.1989.  I was six years old!

The nose…surprise–it’s an oak bomb!  I actually love the intense oak on the nose here, very black and smoky, but you can just tell it’s going to be a tough one to drink.  I also get nice tobacco and leather on this nose, and a touch of rye, but much less rye presence than the 21 year (though it’s the same mash bill).  No fruit, no caramel, hardly any vanilla.  My mom would hate this.

So after a semi-interesting, if oak bomb of a nose, the palate is where this really misses the mark for me.  I’m sorry to say, but this is an over-oaked bourbon whiskey.  It’s like when you smell a piece of wood, it smells great right?  Like the earth.  But have you ever licked a tree branch?  I have.  And drinking this, I felt like I just did again.  The two major notes are astringent oak and furniture varnish.  It’s so thin in the mouth too.  Sometimes 90 proof bourbons can be bigger than you’d expect, this one ain’t.  You get a hint of vanilla, but it’s what I imagine chewing up a vanilla bean would be like–bitter and unpleasant. A chef I know tasted fennel on this pour.  Maybe it’s there, but if it is, it’s not helping.

Out of all the Elijah Craig brand bourbons I’ve tried, this is my least favorite, but I’m really glad I bought a bottle.  I haven’t totally hated drinking it, in fact I’d say I did enjoy drinking it, in the way that I enjoy doing hard physical labor that I see results from.  It’s not pleasant in the moment necessarily, but you get a lot out of it, and you learn something.

The biggest problem with this bottle to me is the price tag.  I get that aging whiskey for that long is a huge investment, I don’t disagree with the MSRP on that front.  I just don’t think it’s worth the money in the end, especially with so much great bourbon out there for $30, including your standard Elijah Craig 12 Year.  If I had paid $50 for this I would be like, “wow, that was a pretty interesting bottle of whiskey, probably won’t buy that one again though.”  But for $200+ I’m just like, “oh well, lesson learned…maybe don’t buy a bottle of every single limited release you find…”  What’s amazing is that though these are still sitting around on liquor store shelves everywhere with their huge $200 price tag, Heaven Hill just released another round of 23 year bottles.  Expect to see these on the shelf for some time to come.

Rating 4.7 / 10 (points for the nose and the lesson learned; also ratings are pretty arbitrary so please don’t hold too much faith in mine; also, this is a single barrel bourbon, so of course my experience with this bottle could be completely different than yours with a bottle from another barrel)

Bought near Greenville, SC for $220.  Whoops.

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