The Elijah Craig 12 is one of the great values in American whiskey—or at least it used to be. Heaven Hill, which used to make it, has dropped the age statement and it is now NAS (please read Sku on the slimy way Heaven Hill went around denying this was going to happen before it happened). This is now a good time to remember Heaven Hill’s recent history with the 18 yo. When it was discontinued in 2012 we were told the usual story about limited aged stocks. Skeptics noted that the discontinuation of the 18 yo was accompanied by the introduction of a limited release 20 yo and then a 21 yo that cost more than twice as much (so much for limited aged stocks). Then in 2015 Heaven Hill brought the 18 yo back but didn’t bring the old price back. Instead the official price of the new 18 yo is about the same as that 20 yo’s (though most stores are currently asking for a LOT more)—presumably helping justify the even higher price of the 23 yo that they’ve also managed to introduce despite all that pressure on their aged stocks… American whisky has well and truly gone crazy, hasn’t it? I guess everybody is trying to keep up with the Van Winkles. Continue reading
Elijah 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.