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Elijah Craig 12 Years Old Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey

Elijah Craig 12 Years
Old Kentucky Straight
Bourbon Whiskey


By Robert Plotkin

Bourbons are at the height of popularity both here and abroad. After decades of living in the shadow of imported whiskeys, case depletions of our indigenous spirit now easily surpasses those of Scotch and Canadian. The attraction is easy to understand. Bourbons are full-flavored gems with huge bouquets and long sumptuous finishes. Equally important, it doesn't require a week's pay to enjoy a world-class America whiskey. Few brands better illustrate what the world finds so alluring about bourbon than Elijah Craig 12 Years Old Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey.

Crafted at Heaven Hill Distilleries in Bardstown, Kentucky, this small batch marvel is the handiwork of legendary master distiller Parker Beam. The whiskeys selected for use in the bourbon were aged a minimum of 12 years in charred, American white oak barrels. Each batch is comprised of a small number—typically between 12 and 20 casks—of select barrels of aging whiskey pulled from the "sweet spot" of the rickhouse, the part of the aging warehouse where the prevailing temperature range is considered ideal for maturing bourbon. The exact mash bill used in distillation of the whiskeys are comprised principally of locally sourced corn and lesser amounts of rye and malted barley. After the whiskeys have been blended to attain the specific taste profile, they are reduced to bottling strength of 47% alcohol by volume (94 proof).

Even a few moments alone with Elijah Craig 12 Years Old Bourbon is all it takes to realize that you're in the company of greatness. The whiskey has a dark amber hue, a full, lushly textured body and a generous nose saturated with the aromas of honey, raisins, vanilla, toffee and toasted oak. The whiskey's aromatics alone are thoroughly engaging and make it well worth the price of admission. The bourbon bathes the palate with seemingly endless waves of semisweet flavors, an array that includes black cherries, caramel, honey, plums and a dash of cinnamon and allspice. The finish is long, warm and satisfying.

The whiskey is the personification of balance. While its broad swath of flavors makes it a natural choice to use in whiskey-based cocktails, make sure you try this bourbon neat, or with a tiny splash of water. After that, mix away.

Those with a few more dollars in their wallets and who are looking for more of a good thing will want to check out Elijah Craig 21 Years Old Single Barrel Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey. It is everything you'd want of a bourbon and then some. The secret to its greatness can be gleaned in its name. It is the same whiskey used in the previously described whiskey, but in this case, the bourbon is matured on average 9 years longer. As significant, the whiskey is bottled one select barrel at a time. Each barrel yields approximately 240-750ml bottles. The whiskey is marketed at 45% alcohol by volume (90 proof).

The Elijah Craig Single Barrel affords you the opportunity to experience the whiskey the same way Parker Beam does. The limited release bourbon has a rich, dark amber/brown color obtained while maturing more than two decades in deeply charred barrels. It has a velvety smooth, medium-weight body and a glorious nose of fresh peaches, cinnamon, toffee and toasted oak. On the palate, the bourbon delivers loads of classic whiskey flavors, an onslaught of chocolate, almonds, cinnamon, caramel, clover honey, red fruit and raisins. The longer the whiskey breathes in the glass, the more flavors it develops. The finish is long, oaky and eminently pleasurable.

So who was Elijah Crag anyway? The brand is named after a Baptist minister and whiskey pioneer, who in the 18th century started the practice of charring the inside of oak barrels before aging bourbon. The revolutionary practice inexorably changed whiskey making in the United States.

Both expressions of Elijah Craig bourbon deliver a whole lot of whiskey for the buck. Here's the brand for those who care more about the juice inside the bottle and less about hype and pretense. Kudos, Parker Beam.