Elijah Craig 12, Small Batch

Elijah Craig 12Elijah Craig 12 is a classic, affordable ($25 and below) and easy to find bourbon. It is somewhat unusual, I suppose, in being popular with both bourbon geeks and regular drinkers. It is bottled in small batches by the Heaven Hill distillery in Kentucky and is made, I believe, from a not-particularly high rye mashbill. I have tried and enjoyed it a number of times before but this is my first time paying close attention to it.

Elijah Craig 12 (47%; from a sample received in a swap)

Nose: Maple syrup, caramel, cinnamon. Classic bourbon nose. Little bit of orange peel as well. More vanilla as it sits. Very well balanced. Gets dustier with time. Not very woody. A few drops of water bring the caramel closer to toffee.

Palate: More oak on the palate certainly but it emerges after the caramel, cinnamon and clove and a bit of cola pass through. Not a whole lot of change with time. With water the oak gets pushed back a bit and there’s more of a mocha note now. I just wish there was a little more texture/depth.

Finish: Medium. The spices and the oak linger. With more time I get more rye on the finish.

Comments: I like the nose much more than the palate but this is very nice–better with some water, I think. I wish the companies that own the Scottish distilleries (to say nothing of the Japanese) could give us whisky of this quality at this price. It does seem like there is a much smaller jump in quality from $20 to $80 in bourbon than there is in single malt Scotch–and some might say that bourbon is dodgier at the $80+ end of the market than closer to the $20 end. Granted I’m no bourbon maven, but I could be happy drinking Elijah Craig 12 and Old Weller Antique and not much else. Will things remain this way for long? I really enjoyed the Elijah Craig 18 that I got to try a couple of years ago but that disappeared and was replaced by a 20 yo that cost three times as much.

Rating: 84 points.

Thanks to Bryan F. for the sample.

5 thoughts on “Elijah Craig 12, Small Batch

  1. i’d drink this over the heritage hope anyday. the cheapest best goto bourbon around along with the four roses single barrel when on sale. great solo, with a cube, or via old fashioned or manhattan.

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  2. What’s your recommendation, in 2022, for someone who really loved Elijah Craig 12 back in the “guarantee” day and hasn’t found a pleasing whiskey since (but, to be fair, doesn’t drink a lot of them)? I liked that it was on the extremely sweet end of whiskeys (I’ve often joked about my Tripel Karmeleit & Kwak taste in beer, “I’m pretty sure I don’t actually like beer — I actually like cream soda and should just give up drinking alcohol altogether”) but still had something really refined about it — it wasn’t just “bubble gum on fire” the way college-student things like SoCo can be.

    Four Roses seems to have once been almost as sweet, but I’m not sure if it always is … but it’s been a while.

    Anyway, able to save me any time and tell me something to just try? I’m definitely dissatisfied with the “fierier,” less-sweet, less-refined taste of the modern Elijah Craig I just picked up at Costco hoping it would come close (it didn’t), so now I’m trying to find a new whiskey I can “hey I actually don’t hate that” the way I had a reaction to Elijah Craig so many years ago.

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  3. I’m no bourbon expert, but I’ve had both the EJ Small Batch and Evan Williams’ products and I like the Williams versions better. I’m not sure if it’s a lower alcohol level or longer cask time or what, but that’s my experience. Cheap enough to try out.

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