Elijah Craig 12 Year Bourbon
I’ve long heard about the folklore around bourbon. Who started making it first, where the name came from etc, etc. The one thing that I hear over and over, and that almost everyone else agrees upon is that Elijah Craig, a baptist preacher, created the process for “true Kentucky bourbon”. He’s credited with the process of putting his distillate into charred oak barrels. These barrels gives the distillate that flavor that we’ve all come to love. Now, whether you choose to believe that or not, that’s up to you. No one will ever really know, but it’s always nice to think back and wonder how this incredible process was started. I personally enjoy hearing all the stories about how bourbon came into existence. The fact that we have a figurehead to pin it to makes it an even more exciting facet of the story of this bourbon.
Heaven Hill distillery has taken it upon themselves to produce this Elijah Craig 12 Year bourbon as a way to honor the namesake of the infamous preacher. This bourbon has been heralded as one of the top value bourbons available in the market. Personally, I’ve had the 18 year variety a few years ago. A little early on in my bourbon drinking life, but I enjoyed it. I doubt I was able to fully appreciate it the way that I think I would nowadays.
So what prompted me to pick up this bottle of the 12 year? Well, on a trip back to my hometown, the wife and I stopped in a local liquor store. I was browsing the selection, and saw this bottle sitting there for $24. I said to myself, “I haven’t had that before and for $24, the wife can’t get mad at me right?”. So then I picked it up and walked right to the counter before I was met with any resistant forces of the spouse. I cracked it open that night to get an initial taste and to let it open up some before I did my official review tasting. Now that I’m back at home I think it’s time to take a deeper dive into this bourbon!
One of my favorite things about this Elijah Craig 12 Year bourbon is the packaging. In fact that’s what caught my eye about it initially. I looked at it and saw this incredibly oversized cork stopper in the neck of the bottle and I was taken aback. I was like why on God’s green earth would you put such a large stopper in there. Then I started looking closer. The top of the stopper had a very detailed signature of Mr. Craig protruding from the rest of the stopper. The wooden circle which contains the signature acts as a handle for removing the gargantuan stopper separating me from my whiskey.
Then I took a look at the label on the front of the bottle. It’s simple, yet perfectly put together. The brand name “Elijah Craig” is big and bold up front followed by a large red 12 to give you an age statement. All on the backdrop of some nice tea stained looking paper. I love this rustic look to the packaging. It’s very inviting and makes me want to get into the bottle even faster.
The coloring of this Elijah Craig 12 Year bourbon is a classic looking dark amber color with a shimmer of gold. When I hold it up in my Glencairn glass I can barely see through it. It has a nice solid color and the legs on it are forever long. Really coating the inner walls of the glass. Needless to say I’m ready to tear into this bourbon and see what it tastes like! Who’s with me?
The first thing that I notice when nosing the glass of this Elijah Craig 12 Year bourbon is the dominant oak note. Followed with some vanilla. The oak has a very hearty weight to it. It’s a deep dark oak note. Very interesting. After I got past that initial scent I began picking up on a sweet caramel and chocolate note. I believe that added to rich heartiness of the oak that I was initially picking up. This bourbon has a pretty in-depth nose. Definitely more diverse than other bourbons in this price range. It’s not quite as deep as the Angel’s Envy Cask Strength, but it’s in a similar vein that’s for sure.
On the palate of this bourbon I instantly picked up on that overarching note of chocolate that I got on the nose. It hit me right in the middle of tongue and just lingered there. Following the chocolate I picked up on some slight butterscotch notes. Alongside that a nice dose of vanilla spice that rounded everything out. Some maple syrup peeked its head out occasionally next to some char notes from the oak. Those were the most dominant flavors, but this Elijah Craig 12 Year bourbon continued to flow in and out of flavors. It was very complex, I wasn’t expecting this level of depth coming from a bourbon at this price point.
Being blown away by the nose and then the palate, I have big expectations for the finish of this bourbon. At the first sip I was left with a nice mouth coating that had me curious as to what would come next. There was a nice lingering that stayed with me for quite a while. Similar to how the legs stuck to the inside of the glass this Elijah Craig 12 Year bourbon was slowly dripping down the lining of my mouth and leaving behind a tasty trail. There was a nice spice and heat to the finish which warmed up my chest. I didn’t pick up on much of the spice from the palate, but it was definitely there at the end leaving you with a sense of wanting more. The finish was longer and drawn out, similar to what the wife calls a “Minnesota goodbye”. You know it’s on the way out, but it keeps hanging around extending its stay before it finally walks out the door.
Elijah Craig 12 Year Bourbon: 9/10
Overall, for $24, it’s going to be very difficult to beat this bourbon. It is incredibly complex and the depth of flavors in the price range are incomparable to others in the same price range. I can’t wait to pair this Elijah Craig 12 Year bourbon with a cigar and see what sort of flavor combinations it creates. One thing I know for sure, is this will quickly become a staple in my liquor cabinet, and I think it should become one of yours as well.