Elijah Craig Barrel Proof Bourbon Review (Batch B517)


I always look forward to tasting new batches of Elijah Craig Barrel Proof.  Five months into 2017 and we’re just starting to see the second batch, B517, hit shelves.  This one comes in at 124.2 proof.  Not as high as previous batches, but still hearty nonetheless.  I find the quality of these releases to be pretty consistent.  I wouldn’t expect this batch to be any different.  

Waves of caramel, dark chocolate and dark fruits fill the nose.  Wisps of sweet corn and cinnamon bark also show up after a few minutes in the glass.  The entry is rich.  I’d expect nothing else from this whiskey.  Caramel and oak are prominent, complemented by hints of espresso, vanilla, allspice, black cherry and buttered corn.  The finish is long with bittersweet oak and spice notes.  

Bottom line, Elijah Craig Barrel Proof Bourbon Batch B517 is pretty damn tasty.  I did find oak played a slightly bigger part here, especially compared to this year’s first batch.  That didn’t put me off from enjoying the whiskey, which I tasted at full proof.  I didn’t need to add any water to this one.  Sure, water will open it up a touch, but you’ll miss that concentrated blast of flavor that only a barrel proof whiskey can deliver.  8.5/10

Thanks to Heaven Hill for the sample.  As always, all thoughts and opinions are my own.

Rhetoric 23-Year-Old Bourbon Review

One of the more interesting things happening under the Orphan Barrel umbrella is the Rhetoric line of whiskies.  The label calls it “an evolving exploration in bourbon maturation.”  Rhetoric’s first release was a 20-year-old bourbon.  That same batch was allowed to mature for another year giving us the 21-year-old bourbon.  And the same for last year’s 22-year-old release.  Now, Rhetoric’s fourth release is 23 years old.

The whiskey here was distilled between 1990 and 1993 at the Bernheim Distillery, now owned by Heaven Hill.  The mashbill is 86% corn, 8% barley, and 6% rye, so we’re definitely not looking at a spicy bourbon.  This 23-year-old edition of Rhetoric is bottled at a touch higher proof of 90.6 instead of the 90.4 proof previous editions were bottled at.  

The nose carries hints of dark caramel, black cherry, vanilla and coffee & chicory.  There’s a touch of baking spice on entry, followed by big notes of oak, dark fruits, burnt sugar, and dark chocolate.  The oak sort of tapers out.  It is much sweeter than I thought it would be.  Some wood spice, leather, and old oak begins to develop going into the finish, which is long with hints of dark chocolate-covered caramel. 

I poured a little Rhetoric 21 and 22 to compare.  First, the whiskies aren’t miles apart from each other in terms of flavor.  However, little differences do exist.  The 21-year is a little drier.  The 22-year feels thinner but has a touch more spice.  The dark caramel is more prominent on the 23-year expression, surprisingly.  The Rhetoric whiskies seem to get a little sweeter and richer with age.  They are all oak-forward, but I think the 23-year expression presents itself better than the others.  8/10 $120

Thanks to Diageo for the sample.  As always, all thoughts and opinions are my own.

Crown Royal Wine Barrel Finished Canadian Whisky Review

Canadian whisky giant Crown Royal’s newest expression just hit shelves.  This second entry in their annual Noble Collection sees a particular blend of Cown Royal whiskies finished in medium toasted Cabernet Sauvignon barrels for six months.  I don’t see a lot of whiskies using Cabernet casks for a secondary maturation.  The only one that comes to mind is Blood Oath Pact No. 3, which was pretty good.  Cabernet Sauvignon is such a full flavored wine that it can easily overpower a whisky’s character.

“We experimented with a number of different wines and oak provenances – but ultimately American oak Cabernet Sauvignon best complemented Crown Royal’s signature red fruit notes and velvety mouthfeel for a taste that both whisky and wine connoisseurs will love,” said Jim Ruane, Director of Crown Royal.

I had a small taste of this whisky a few months back, and really liked it.  Fast forward three months, and I spent a little bit of time with this Canadian whisky for a more thorough tasting.  The nose has those familiar Crown Royal notes of maple syrup, toasted oak and creamy vanilla.  However, the wine barrel finishing adds an expected fruitiness in the form of red berries, but also gives the whisky a little more spice than usual.  Think ground cinnamon.  The palate follows the nose rather closely.  Waves of caramel and maple syrup build as raspberry jam and baking spices begin appearing midpalate.  There’s some vanilla pod that begins showing up along with a slightly drying oak.  The medium finish features some sweet red fruits and oak spice.

Crown Royal Wine Barrel Finished is just as enjoyable as I remember.  The blend is well balanced between a creamy caramel, sweet fruits, and oak spices.  Bottled at 40.5% abv, this whisky retains the “smoothness” Crown Royal fans like with a genuinely easy-sipping but flavorful character that I think is worth exploring.  Nicely done!  8/10  $60

Thanks to Crown Royal for the sample.  As always, all thoughts and opinions are my own.