Fred Minneck myth busts some current Bourbon rumors

Burning Down the Rumor Mill

Fred Minneck for Whiskey Advocate:

I’ve examined some of the prevalent rumors found on barstools, forums, and social media; let’s have a look at the facts behind them.

A lot of good tidbits of information here. A couple pieces that I found interesting as related to my recent reviews… We can expect a 5th batch of Elijah Craig 12 Barrel Proof in the next month or so. As I mentioned in my review I heard availability might improve, so it will be interesting to see if this release will be larger than previous batches. Also, nice to hear Elijah Craig 12 Year won’t be losing its age statement.

Also Ancient Ancient Age 10 Star isn’t going anywhere, but apparently the 10 year bottle is retired. I managed to track down a bottle of the 10 year and I’ll review it in the coming weeks.

Also, Weller 12 isn’t going anywhere and won’t be losing its age statement.

Elijah Craig 12 Barrel Proof – Review

Elijah Craig 12 Barrel ProofElijah Craig 12 Barrel Proof Background

Last year Heaven Hill released Elijah Craig 12 Barrel Proof. It’s the leaded version of the popular Elijah Craig 12-year-old Bourbon that I recently reviewed. I’m a fan of that, so I was keenly interested in trying that Bourbon at barrel strength. First I had to get my hands on a bottle. I happened to luck out with one sitting on the counter, so I snatched it up and brought back samples for the store owner and manager to try. We all agreed it was pretty good and they tried to get some more. A few weeks later a few more bottles showed up and I grabbed two more because it had to be done.

Elijah Craig 12 Barrel Proof is non-chilled filtered, so it should offer a nice mouthfeel and characteristics typically lost in the clarifying process. The down side is the Bourbon will cloud up when chilled, but who cares about that. Who wants ice in their Bourbon, anyway? 

Heaven Hill is releasing Elijah Craig 12 Barrel Proof as limited batches and this review is batch #3. It has the nickname the devil’s batch as it came out to 66.6% alcohol. The newer bottles I recently bought are batch #4. There are apparently slight variations in batches, and you can see it in the color, but I haven’t -got into the 4th batch bottle yet. You can tell which batch you have by the bottle proofing:

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
Batch 6 – 70.1% / 140.2-Proof
Batch 7 – 64.0% / 128.0-Proof
Batch 8 – 69.9% / 139.8-Proof
Batch 9 – 67.8% / 135.6-Proof
Batch 10 – 69.4% /138.8-Proof

Details

12 year age statement. Bottled at 66.6%. Uses Heaven Hill’s mash of 75% corn, 13% rye, and 12% barley. Paid $50 (state minimum price)

Aroma

Rich roasted aromas. Chocolate and coffee. Almost stout-like. Dark fruits. Cherry. Caramel and toffee. Getting some rye mint. Wood polish.

Flavor

Oh, boy. Hot alcohol is overpowering on the first sip. Going back in lots of dark, burned sugars. Caramel, toffee, brown sugar. Buttery. Cinnamon and other baking spices. Great mouthfeel. Finish carries on. Need to add some water. Alcohol is turned down and getting more caramel, some rye, and charred oak. Black pepper. Stands up fine to water.

Overall

Regular Elijah Craig 12 is bottled at 47%, so you can see there’s a significant difference in alcohol with Elijah Craig 12 Barrel Proof. While 12 years old is on the older side of things for that conventional proof bourbon, 12 years might be a little young on this bottling. It’s got a lot of heat, although the alcohol isn’t unpleasant. I didn’t get fusel alcohols, just a lot of alcohol that seems to overpower everything else in the glass. Water is needed here and I toyed around with different dilutions to keep this strong, but still an enjoyably drinkable. I settled on 110-proof mostly because the numbers work out, but I’m sure a little higher or lower works too for individual tastes. Using a postage and/or cocaine scale works great for cutting whiskey. For my dram I figured about a 1-ounce pour came to 24g Elijah Craig 12 Barrel Proof and 5g of water. I found this mixture quite enjoyable.

I’m a fan of regular Elijah Craig 12 from my earlier review, so I’m definitely liking Elijah Craig 12 Barrel Proof. I read someone tried blending the Elijah Craig 12 and Elijah Craig 12 Barrel Proof to lower the glass proof. Hmm… Further research is needed. I love the mouthfeel and all the strong flavors here. Sweet, fruity, dark sugars, and barrel character. This is pretty great to me. And the price seems great too considering everything else out there.

My booze monger told me his distributor said availability hopefully will improve. That’s great news. I’m stocked up either way, but if it’s easier to get I’ll just enjoy this that much more. Either way it doesn’t seem Elijah Craig 12 Barrel Proof is going anywhere and a 5th batch should arrive early this summer.

Elijah Craig 12 Barrel Proof Recommendation

Shut Up and Take My Money – 5/5 Rating

Buying Options and Further Research

High proof Bourbons are a bit of an elite class and proofs can be pretty variable. If you’re looking to explore more high-proof/barrel proof bottles in the price range, I’d suggest looking into Knob Creek Single Barrel, Stagg Jr, and Russel’s Reserve Single Barrel. Another good option is if you can find a specialty bottling of Four Roses Single Barrel for around the same price.

Links and Reviews

Elijah Craig 12 Year Small Batch – Review

Elijah Craig 12 Background

Elijah Craig 12 BottleElijah Craig 12 is named after Bourbon folk hero Reverend Elijah Craig. The commercial legend is that Rev. Elijah Craig was the creator of Bourbon. An early Kentucky distiller, he founded his distillery around 1789, but the story goes he was first to give Bourbon its unique characteristics. Apparently some of his whiskey barrels became charred in a fire, which is a key process in the making of modern Bourbon. The accidental results were apparently favorable, and thus, Bourbon was born. That’s most likely not true, but every Bourbon needs a story and that’s a good one.

What we do know is Elijah Craig 12 is a small batch Bourbon that’s a great value. Small batch has devolved as a marketing term, but here Heaven Hill tells us specifically each batch consists of 70 or so barrels. In fact Elijah Craig stakes claim to the practice of small batch bottling 25 years before it became an industry buzzword. Heaven Hill introduced Elijah Craig in 1986.

Elijah Craig 12 Small Batch is the most common bottle in the brand portfolio. There’s also a wonderful new barrel strength version of this Bourbon in Elijah Craig 12 Barrel Proof. There is also a line of single barrel products that started with the 18 year old. That was discontinued a few years back and I’d believe remaining stocks were sold in progressive age releases. The oldest so far as been 23-year-old. Rumor has it Heaven Hill has been aging barrels to reintroduce the 18-year-old expression, which could be in the next year or two. Those expressions are bottled at 90-proof, Elijah Craig 12 is bottled at 94-proof and the Barrel Proof varies by batch and clocks in as high as 140-proof.

Details

12 year age statement. Bottled at 47%. Uses Heaven Hill’s mash of 75% corn, 13% rye, and 12% barley. Paid $27.

Aroma

Oak is up front with lots of caramel. Vanilla, dark fruits and spices Hint of banana and maybe some old leather in there

Flavor

Sweet. Vanilla. Caramel, toffee. Brown sugar. Oak and tannins are there with some firm astringency. Mild rye flavors of mint and spice. Some alcohol heat and spice. A little water knocks down the wood a bit and it seems to hold up pretty well, but I prefer it without.

Overall

Elijah Craig 12 is a flavorful pour. Sometimes it can be a little rough and tough when I’m in the mood for something more… I don’t know, more nuanced. I say that because the wood gives a nice mouthful of flavors and that may or may not be for everyone. It’s not overly woody, but well aged Bourbons seem to have become the exception on shelves. For me, I came to Bourbon from the beer side of things and I always enjoyed the barrel aged brews. So, I dig some good barrel characteristics. Similar to Weller 12, this is a unique product for people who enjoy that Bourbon barrel character. It’s older than most bottles on the shelf, has an age statement, and a pretty great value. But unlike Weller 12, Elijah Craig 12 seems to be everywhere. If a gas station or Qwik-E-Mart has shelf space for a dozen Bourbon bottles, it seems Elijah Craig 12 is most likely one of them.

So, we have well made Bourbon that’s got some age aged, is full flavored, has great availability, and a great price. Sounds like a winner.

Elijah Craig 12 Recommendation

Buy Again – 4/5 Rating

(My 5 point scale: Pass, Try a Glass, Buy a Bottle, Buy Again, Shut Up and Take My Money – Bottle price is taken into consideration for recommendations.)

Links and Reviews

Weller Special Reserve – Review #16

Weller Special Reserve Background

Weller Special Reserve BottleWeller Special Reserve is the third installment of Weller reviews. I previously reviewed Weller 12 and Old Weller Antique. I’m just going to be lazy the third time around and just copy over some background here… Weller Special Reserve is named after William Larue Weller. Weller is credited as being the first to make Bourbon with wheat and not rye. With wheat rather than rye, wheated Bourbons tend to be softer and sweeter. This bourbon was made at the Stitzel-Weller Distillery and then transitioned to Buffalo Trace where it’s made today with the same recipe.

Weller Special Reserve is thought to aged about 6-7 years. It used to have a 7-year age statement, but that was dropped recently. It’s bottled at 90-proof similar to Weller 12, although obviously Weller 12 is aged about twice as long. The other Weller here is Old Weller Antique which is bottled at 107-proof and aged about 6-7 years.The last member of the Weller family is William Larue Weller which is a part of the Antique College released annually from Buffalo Trace. William Larue Weller can probably be considered a barrel proof version of Weller 12

Details

No age statement, but figured to be 6-7 years old. Bottled at 45%. Wheated mash with no rye. MSRP – $17.99 (2016 Price)

Aroma

Caramel, corn, sweetness. Cherries. Fruity. Getting some mild barn yard.

Flavor

Light and clean. Fruity and sweet. Caramel, vanilla. Creamy. A little warming in the finish with some mild astringency. A pleasant pour.

Overall

Compared to the other Wellers I think Weller Special Reserve is a distant third in terms of flavors and complexity. But it’s cheaper. Depending on your budget that may be a factor, but I think Weller 12 and Old Weller Antique are worth the extra coin. I do, however think I may like Weller Special Reserve better than the other popular wheater Maker’s Mark.

I like to keep this around for cooking. It’s a well made sweet bourbon that’s relatively cheap. It’s not going to rock your world, but the price is right. Also I find it’s pretty available on shelves compared to the other Weller products. I’ll recommend this because it’s a little unique as a wheater, it’s a nice Bourbon, and it’s a great price. Clearly, however, Old Weller Antique and Weller 12 are better pours overall.

Weller Special Reserve Recommendation

Buy a Bottle – 3/5 Rating

(My 5 point scale: Pass, Try a Glass, Buy a Bottle, Buy Again, Shut Up and Take My Money – Bottle price is taken into consideration for recommendations.)

Links & Reviews