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Head-to-head review: Elijah Craig 12 Year vs. Elijah Craig Barrel Proof

Posted on by Eric Burke

Ever have one of those days where you know you really should come home from work and drink bourbon, but aren't sure that you want to?

...

No?

Normally I don't either. But today...today I was tired. Tired and hungry. And a little cranky. And did I mention hungry? I mean, analyzing a bit of bourbon means pushing supper off so you can save your taste buds for the finding of all those flavors in the bourbons. 

It's been a while since I did an analytical tasting. You can tell because these thoughts were actually going through my head at first. I was looking at it as if it were something I had to do not something I should want to do.

But that's the beauty of bourbon. Pouring the samples, nosing them. Making notes along the way... yeah I got right back into it. Irritation? Gone. Hunger...still there, but manageable. Bourbon? Oh yeah. It smelled so good.

I've been doing a lot more beer drinking this summer than I have bourbon drinking. But tonight I realized again why I love bourbon. I love the smell. I love the way it hits you like a wave of sweetness that is a mix of caramel, vanilla and tannins. I love how it feels when you breathe in after you swallow, how the air cools your tongue and the burn lingers in your throat. I love that every bourbon is similar, yet different. They are all speaking the same language, but the dialect is different. 

Oh geesh, think of the difference between someone from Minnesooota, like me, don'tcha know...and...someone from Chahlston, South Carallina, where I might, someday, move. 

They both speak English, but you'd know they were different. Bourbon is the same way. Each one is similar, but each one is a variation on the theme. 

I love that!

And as a continuation of the theme of similar, yet different, tonight I decided to taste two that are supposedly the same except for proof. Elijah Craig 12 year and Elijah Craig Barrel Proof. These are supposed to be exactly the same, but at they are different proofs. Does it make a difference. Yeah, yoo betcha. I didn't do it blind tonight because, if you've ever seen Elijah Craig Barrel Proof you know it's as dark as a cup of coffee. You'd know them apart just by looking at them.

Elijah Craig 12 Year

Color: Amber in color as are most bourbons.

Nose: At first sniff, this hits with a alcohol burn to the nostrils. After that, it reminds me most of standing in the aging warehouse at Heaven Hill's Bourbon Heritage Center. It smells like oak and dust and bourbon. Digging just a little deeper I get some toffee and a clove/allspice scent.

Mouth: This has a vague sweetness. Carmel, vanilla, etc. But there is also some oak and a bit of spice. Not a one-note wonder.

Finish: dry, tannic with a bit of a burn.

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Overall: I like this, but just barely. It's not bad by any means, but it's trending a bit too hot and dry for my tastes. Not so far outside the realm that it's meh, but it's the closest like to a meh, I've ever given.

Elijah Craig Barrel Proof

Color: this is brown. Like cup of coffee brown.

Nose:  Very sweet and much less burn than the regular release. I'm getting a buttery baked apple loaded with cinnamon and warm brown sugar.

Mouth: Very sweet with some spicy clove. A bit fruity on the tip of the tongue. 

Finish: sweet again with a warmth that sits right over your heart for minutes. After my first swallow, I got a burst of a burn coming back up my throat.

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Overall: Hoo momma, this is strong. I recommend water. But don't water it down to the 94 proof of the regular release, that's a bit much. But when not adding any, I burned out my tongue pretty quick. This one is really good. 

I was curious so I added water to bring it down to about 95 proof. On the nose, the alcohol burn came back but it was fruitier with bigger clove/allspice than either of them right out of the bottle. The taste just fell apart. Though, my mouth was plenty burned out by this point so who knows.

These are both good, but for my money I'd go barrel proof if you can find it anywhere.