Elijah Craig 12 Background
Elijah 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.
12 year age statement. Bottled at 47%. Uses Heaven Hill’s mash of 75% corn, 13% rye, and 12% barley. Paid $27.
Oak is up front with lots of caramel. Vanilla, dark fruits and spices Hint of banana and maybe some old leather in there
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.
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.)