Updated: Jan 21, 2021
Elijah Craig Small Batch - 47%
Historically, Heaven Hill has crafted a business model around selling bourbon that's both older and more affordable than competitors. Over the years, the longer aging has been responsible for some of my favorite and least favorite expressions from the distillery. When it comes to pre-fire Heaven Hill, I've enjoyed the higher age statements, but who knows if that's more to do with the different water source, slightly lower distillation proof (138 vs 140), abundance of aged stock to cherry pick, or other production changes that I'm not aware of. Post-boom Heaven Hill often plays the oak too varnish-y and dry for my palate, tasting generically old. Elijah Craig Barrel Proof has been one of the exceptions to this.
The loss of Elijah Craig Small Batch's age statement in 2016 was one the rare moments enthusiasts didn't overwhelming condemn a move to NAS. By the time of its demise, the 12 year was collecting plenty of criticism for being over-oaked and a vocal contingent championed the younger, bright expression shortly after it hit shelves. I tended to agree after trying some really solid, fruit forward, 8 and 9 year private barrels.
This is my first time reviewing the standard shelf version after it went NAS.
Nose: Plenty of character and maturity. Oily. Walnuts. Light maple and oak.
Flavor: Quick buttery notes. Then very dry with nuts and wood.
Structure: Mostly lean and linear. Some sweetness on entry and then it dries way out.
Alcohol Integration: A little ragged - kicks unpleasantly in the finish.
Score: 5 (Acceptable) I've only recently started adding a drop or two of water to everything. Previously, under a 100 proof and I wouldn't even think of it. Here a couple drops added some depth on the palate and calmed down the dry, boozy finish.
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