Elijah Craig Barrel Proof: Batch B518 (and now Batch C918)

After the initial publication of this article, Heaven Hill sent a sample of the next batch. I thought this would be the best place to put it since I had just reviewed the brand. As I state in my Statement of Ethics, if I accept a review sample, I will disclose it at the beginning of the article. Please consider it disclosed. I’d like to thank Heaven Hill for providing this sample to me with no strings attached. As always, all thoughts are just my opinion and should be taken as just that.

In my house, tonight is the start of the 2018 College Football season. Sure, there may have been games before tonight. One of them may have even featured the team that my beloved Minnesota Gophers are playing tonight. Yep, football season starts tonight. Because honestly, games that happen before my team plays, don't really show up on my radar. 

I love this time of year. It's a time of excitement and hope for fans who like to be into excitement and hope. Though for the typical Midwesterner, it is the time when they start preparing for disappointment so they aren't disappointed in the end when things turn out to be disappointing.

You might have guessed by now, that in this respect, I am not a typical Midwesterner. I like joy. I like hope. I have no problem being so excited that I can barely sit still. And so, I love the hours before the kickoff of the first Gopher football game of the year. Sure, it's likely that I'll be disappointed by the end of the season, but why let that get in the way of having a good time now?

I take the same attitude toward bourbon as well. I don't review all the stinkers that show up on this site just to provide a public service. Though at times that is actually the case, sometimes I just let myself be carried away by hope and get excited by the prospect of trying something new.

Of course, there are times you just know that something is going to be good. Gopher Women's Volleyball is a good example in the Minnesota College Sports world (ranked #3 in the country as of the last poll). And Elijah Craig Barrel Proof is a good example in the bourbon world. My wife and I have an agreement that if we see ECBP on the shelf, we buy it. We don't pass it by. And for good reason. It's always pretty good. Sometimes it's even great. 

Elijah Craig Barrel Proof: Batch B518

Purchase Info: $64.99 for a 750 mL bottle at Total Wine, Burnsville, MN

Details: 12-year age stated. 66.7% ABV. Batch B518

Nose: Dark chocolate, cherry, caramel, cinnamon and a hint of molasses. 

Mouth: Rich caramel, cherry, mint, baking spice, and an alcohol-induced heat.

Finish: Long and warm with lingering rich oaky notes of leather, cherry, and spice.

 IMAGE: a hand drawn smiley face.

Thoughts: I definitely like to have this one with a little water. 133° proof is a bit hard to enjoy neat. Luckily, unlike some barrel proof offerings, this takes water well, maintaining many of the rich flavors while also allowing you to hold it in your mouth long enough to savor them. This one is good, I really like it. Classic bourbon flavors paired with rich, oaky notes of leather and cherry. Delicious!


Elijah Craig Barrel Proof: Batch C918

Purchase Info: This sample was graciously provided by Heaven Hill.  

Details: 12-year age stated. 65.7% ABV. Batch C918

Nose: Apple, oak, wood smoke, caramel, and baking spice. 

Mouth: Sweet caramel, baking spice, and oak.

Finish: Long and warm with lingering sweet caramel and baking spice.

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Thoughts: This is a sweeter, showing much more caramel, than the batch obove. Almost dessert-like. I like this one too, but am struck by the variation between batches. Guess that’s why they name them now.


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Heaven Hill 27-Year-Old Barrel Proof Small Batch

Apologies for the delay on this post, paying work had me up until midnight last night and didn't leave much time for writing. Thanks for understanding.

I state in my Statement of Ethics that if I accept a review sample, I will disclose it at the beginning of the article. I’d like to thank Heaven Hill for providing this sample to me with no strings attached. As always, all thoughts are just my opinion and should be taken as just that.

My daughter is in her mid-twenties (or as I like to tease her, almost thirty). She moved back home to save up money and doesn't really have too many bills, so it wasn't too much of a surprise when she came to us a few months back and said she was going to be traveling across the country to visit a friend for his wedding.

What was a little surprising was that she was buying a camera for the trip. She's not a gadget person, and I just assumed that, like most of the population, her smartphone was going to double as her camera. What was even more surprising was her choice of camera.

Yesterday the camera arrived, and last night she tried it out using the dog as her model. I was working in my office when I heard the familiar "clickclick...whirrrr" of an old-style Polaroid camera come from the hall.  Shortly after, she came bouncing into my office to show me that her new toy had arrived. Not usually being the bubbly type, it was unusual to see this much excitement from her. It turns out that my daughter has a bit of a hipster streak to her and bought a brand-new Polaroid-style instant camera to take on her trip.

I was shocked. I've been practicing photography for decades now. I remember when I was helping on studio photoshoots and the pros would have Polaroid backs on their medium-format cameras to preview a photo set-up because that was the only way to make sure everything was set-up correctly. It was a pain, and I was delighted when digital workflows made that unnecessary. Little did I know that my daughter is not alone in her desire for an expensive and low-quality image. There are so many people in the market for this old-style type of camera that I was able to find websites that reviewed and ranked all the currently available choices on the market. Having lived through it because I had to, I'm confused by the desire of people to, voluntarily pay that much for a single image.

But I am also smart enough to know that sometimes the things that excite one person are not the same things that excite everybody else. Take tonight's whiskey for instance. Heaven Hill 27-Year-Old Barrel Proof Small Batch is not only a mouthful of a name but is also the oldest bourbon I've personally ever tasted. I'm on record as being a fan of bourbons that fall in the 6- to 12-year-old range. And even then, I sometimes feel that the higher end of that has a reasonable possibility of having too much oak presence for my palate. But far be it from me to yuck someone else's yum.

The bourbon itself is a batch of 41 barrels that were distilled between 1989 and 1990 at the Old Heaven Hill Springs Distillery in Bardstown. That distillery famously burned down in 1996. I'm going to go out on a limb and say that there is comparatively little of this juice remaining and that much of what is still around tastes more than a bit like you are sucking on an old log. Heaven Hill backs up that assumption by saying that only those 41 barrels passed their taste test. And that those 41 barrels only had enough liquid in them to allow the release of 3000 bottles at barrel proof.

That's right barrel-proof. But before you proof-chasers get all worked up, remember that this barrel proof is only 94.7° proof. One of the reasons this was able to last for a minimum of 27 years was that most of the barrels aged on low floors where the proof actually dropped while in the barrel.

But now we come to the moment of truth, how does it taste?

Heaven Hill 27-Year-Old Barrel Proof Small Batch

Purchase Info: This sample was generously sent to me by the distillery at no charge. The suggested retail price is $399.

Details: Aged 27 years. 47.35% ABV. Pre-fire Heaven Hill distilled.

Nose: Floral spice with a slightly astringent note greet you upon pouring. After a bit of time in the glass, soft vanilla and red fruits appear as well.

Mouth: Soft in the mouth. You could easily hold this in your mouth for minutes. Notes of floral oak and vanilla predominate.

Finish: Medium length with a strong floral oak presence.

 IMAGE: a hand-drawn smiley face

Thoughts: I like this, though not as much as others will. It is very, very, far out of my price range, but it also has a much more prominent oak presence than I prefer. Because of that, I'm going to let my wife, who is a fan of old and oaky bourbons take over from here.

"If given this blind, I would have guessed it was in the late teens, maybe low twenties in age. Honestly, before I tasted it, I was expecting it to be an oak bomb. There is a lot of oak, but I don't think it is too much. This is a good bourbon for those who love older bourbons and are lucky enough to have both the means and opportunity to buy it. The floral notes remind me of some of the old dusties we've found. I love it."


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Elijah Craig: Cox's and Evergreen Hand Selected

Last week I was on a family vacation to the Outer Banks area of North Carolina. As we drove home, I was able to finagle an evening in Louisville, one of my favorite cities to visit. Which reminded me that I should probably get around to talking about a bottle that I picked up on my last trip to Louisville back in May. 

It was on that May trip that I remembered that there was such a thing as a private selection of Elijah Craig Small Batch. Well, one that wasn't the Barrel Proof version, that is. I was sitting at the bar of the Silver Dollar having a drink with one friend while waiting to have supper with another. My friend and I both ordered one of their private picks of Elijah Craig, erroneously thinking it was the barrel proof version of the product. It was not. 

It was, however, delicious. Which meant that when I hit up all my favorite stores to do a little whiskey shopping, I needed to keep my eye out for it. And I found it at a store that had been recommended to me by a reader called Evergreen Liquors. It was only my second stop there, but I had really enjoyed the private picks I'd picked up there the September before. And so with those two thoughts in my head, I picked up tonight's bottle. 

Elijah Craig: Cox's and Evergreen Hand Selected

Purchase Info: $29.99 for a 750 mL bottle at Evergreen Liquors, Louisville, KY

Details: 47% ABV

Nose: Worn leather, cotton candy, vanilla, and nutmeg

Mouth: Nice and spicy. Sweet with a good hit of baking spices and vanilla with fleeting hints of fruit.

Finish: On the longer side of medium with lingering notes of oak tannins, mint, and sweet fruits.

 IMAGE: a hand drawn smiley face

Thoughts: This is a very good selection from a store where I've been happy with previous picks I've purchased from them. Two data points are not yet a trend, but it might be a trend forming.

Compared to the standard release, this bottle is spicier in the mouth with a warmer and oakier finish. The noses are very similar. 


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Bottom-Shelf Brackets 2018: Other people's brackets

So one of the things I did this year to shake things up was to introduce more judges to this project. In the past, it has been just my wife and I and if we disagreed, I'd overrule her due to the fact that I do all the writing. Now I was not able to get everyone together in time to get started on these so I was unable to use their input in the initial rounds. 

And now that I think about that, I think this is a good thing. This is a blog that is run by my wife and I and it reflects our palates. Plus, as you will see, everyone so far has chosen a different winner. But, there are a few commonalities in the results that I think you will find interesting. So let's begin.

This is the bracket of my friend Dave. He was the inspiration for this experiment because he asked if he could be a part of it. He knows almost nothing about whiskey that I haven't taught him but he is an enthusiastic amateur. I did the pouring for Dave's bracket. So one interesting thing that I think you will see is that Old Overholt was Dave's winner. I've described Old Overholt as one of the gentlest rye whiskeys that I'd found. And I think that it makes sense that an inexperienced whiskey drinker would like a whiskey that wasn't overly hot and aggressive. In fact, you'll notice that most of the whiskeys that made it to his last four were fairly nonaggressive whiskeys. A corn whiskey beat a rye, a low proof beat a high proof on a couple of occasions, and then there is Old Forester where he had a hard time choosing between the two.

This is the bracket of one of my dog sitting clients, Jeff. Jeff is a guy who likes whiskey but mostly sticks to the brands he knows. Jeff administered his own test which is why everything is labeled with a letter instead of a name, all the seeds are in the same location though. In this case, Old Grand-Dad beat Old Overholt, Two Stars beat Hirsch Corn, Ezra Brooks Rye beat Mellow Corn and Old Forester beat Four Roses. I haven't finished my bracket yet, but so far mine matches this one. And if you were to ask me how I thought my bracket might finish out, I can see similarities between his and mine. I'm a bit shocked that Two Stars beat out Old Grand-Dad, but hey Barton/Sazerac makes some pretty good juice. Oh, and for Jeff, Old Forester won. 

This is my wife's bracket. She and I disagreed on whether Mellow Corn should beat Ezra Brooks Rye so I had her finish her bracket based on her scenario. Once again I administered the contest for her. As you will see, there are some similarities between the previous three, Everyone likes Two Stars more than the Hirsch Corn whiskey and Everyone liked Old Forester better than Four Roses. In fact, Old Forester was in the championship for every one of these three. It sort of makes me wonder if my bracket will follow suit? I guess we will see next Tuesday.

Now, this last one is from Pat, one of my wife's coworkers. Pat also administered his own test. And Pat went a different way than anyone else. Unbeknownst to Pat, he seems to be a fan of rye whiskey. And he found this fascinating since he hadn't had very much rye before. From what I understand, he is going to be remedying that in the future. Even so, I can see the Ezra Brooks Rye winning this. It is a good and flavorful whiskey that even at two years old, brings a lot of flavor to the party. 

So I hope you found this as fascinating as I did. I liked seeing the trends among people. All of us liked Old Forester over Four Roses, which I didn't expect from me much less anyone else. It was split evenly between those who preferred Mellow Corn and those who preferred Ezra Brooks Rye. Only one person thought that the Hirsch Corn was better than Two Stars. And yet even with that, they all chose a different winner. I'm very curious now to know which one will win on my bracket. 


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Bottom-Shelf Brackets 2018: Round 1c: Ezra Brooks Rye vs. Mellow Corn

Round 1c of the 2018 BourbonGuy.com Bottom Shelf Brackets features number 1 seed Mellow Corn Bottled in Bond Corn Whiskey versus Number 4 seed Ezra Brooks Rye. 

Mellow Corn is a product of Heaven Hill Brands. It is a bottled-in-bond product, meaning it is the product of one distilling season, bottled at exactly 100 proof and was aged for at least 4 years. As this is corn whiskey, it is made from at least 80 percent corn in the mash recipe and was aged in either uncharred or used barrels. It is a number one seed due to its high proof.

Ezra Brooks Rye is a product of Luxco. It is a sourced whiskey that is assumed to have been distilled at the MGPi distillery in Indiana. It is a two-year-old rye. It is the youngest whiskey in the contest and as such is a number four seed. 

These were tasted blind in the following order. My thoughts on each are from before the reveal.

Mellow Corn

Purchase Info: $11.88 for a 1L bottle at Blue Max Liquor, Burnsville, MN

Details: 50% ABV, non-age stated.

Produced by: Heaven Hill Brands

Nose: Buttery popcorn, spearmint, a touch of cinnamon, and after a while strawberry oatmeal. 

Mouth: Warm and spicy. Cinnamon and honey. 

Finish: Medium and warm. Lingering dried grain notes. A touch of bitterness. 

Pre-Reveal Thoughts: Nice and warm. Good spice. Only slight knock on it is a slightly dried grain note on the finish that doesn't agree with me.

Ezra Brooks Rye

Purchase Info: $17.99 for a 750 mL bottle at Total Wine, Eagan, MN.

Details: 45% ABV.

Produced by: Luxco (Assumed MGPi)

Nose: Strong mint and ginger ale. 

Mouth: Thinner in the mouth than the last one. Mint and ginger spice.

Finish: Flavorful finish. A "Blossom" of flavor after swallowing. Mint, cinnamon, and ginger. 

Pre-Reveal Thoughts: Just the opposite of the last one. This has a pretty mild mouth, but a fun finish. 

Who wins?

So, Mellow Corn is sweet baked good on the nose while Ezra Brooks Rye is a spicy soda. This is a draw on the nose. Mellow Corn has a nicer mouthfeel while Ezra Brooks Rye has a more pleasantly flavorful finish. This is the hardest matchup in the contest. These are both good and to be honest my wife and I both chose a different winner. After sitting on this for most of a week I have to declare a winner based soley on the finish. Winner: Ezra Brooks Rye.


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