Review: Elijah Craig Barrel Proof (A123)

You may have noticed, but it’s been a while since I last posted on this blog. A good while. 53 weeks to be exact. Not to get into too much detail, but 2021 and 2022 were challenging years. I’ve experienced lots of personal loss. On the positive side, I’m involved in a new career that’s extremely fulfilling while keeping me pretty busy. Let’s say I’m happy to be back. Enough about me, let’s move on to the whiskey at hand.

If there were ever a standard bearer in the bourbon world, Heaven Hill’s Elijah Craig Barrel Proof is just that. The 12-year-old bourbon is bottled uncut and unfiltered. The producer has managed a tricky thing – consistency. Each batch of Elijah Craig Barrel Proof manages to keep almost the entirety of its root character consistent from batch to batch. Some brands like Barrell approach every new batch with a fresh flavor and aroma profile, and with outstanding results! Not here. There’s little change from batch to batch. Obviously an exact duplicate can’t be recreated, so there will be minuscule differences.

The first batch of 2023, A123, comes in at a hearty 125.6 proof, or 62.8% abv. As always, it carries a mash bill of 78% corn, 12% malted barley, and 10% rye. This batch carries a suggested price tag of $69.99, which is a deal no matter which way you look at it. Heaven Hill expects additional batches to be released in May and September of this year.

On the nose, layers of spice build on a dark caramel base. It’s a somewhat closed off nose at first, but a little airtime allows the vanilla and oak notes a little time to shine. On the palate, you’d think 62% abv is a little hard to enjoy without a splash of water, but you’d be wrong. Rye spice and black pepper kick things off. They are soon followed by rich layers of caramel cake, cinnamon, and oak. Tannins are a little high here, but the finish is relatively long and warming – just what you’d expect from a good barrel proof whiskey.

If you couldn’t read between the lines, I’m a fan. I generally point people to Elijah Craig Barrel Proof when pointing out one of the best values in bourbon. It’s a quality release packed with loads of flavor at an excellent price point. Seriously, what else do you want?

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

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