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