Tasting the first 8 Elijah Craig Barrel Proof Releases

Elijah Craig Barrel Proof Tasting 2

Elijah Craig Barrel Proof is a 12 year old, Cask Strength / Barrel Proof, Non-Chill Filtered expression of Elijah Craig 12 – one of Heaven Hill’s 2 flagship bourbons. Made from a Mashbill of 75% corn, 13% rye and 12% barley like its younger cousin Evan Williams, this bourbon packs a punch in both the proof and flavor departments. The first ECBP was first released in the fall of 2013 and has been a quarterly release for them ever since and is often hard to find because of their popularity.

Elijah Craig Barrel Proof Release #1 (67.1% / 134.2 proof)
Nose: Wood, dark sweets, dark fruit, spice and dusty grain
Palate: Dark fruit, dark sweets, grain, astringency, lemon zest, oak and grain.
Finish: Oak, herbal, dark fruit, s’mores.
Overall: B (83-86) Definitely on the higher end of the B range. It has a nice bourbon character to it, but even with water it feels a bit muted. Like it’s holding back just a wee bit.

Elijah Craig Barrel Proof Release #2 (68.2% / 137 proof)
Nose: Cherry heavy dark fruit, butterscotch heavy dark sweets, oak and a touch herbal.
Palate: Dark fruit, peanuts, toasted grains, wood, butterscotch and a touch of astringency.
Finish: Oak, butterscotch and mint that fades out to a light herbal character.
Overall: B+ (87-89) This one was excellent. Release #2 was rich, full and had a nice depth to it across the senses. If it opened up a bit more with water then it would have scored an A-. My second favorite of the lineup.

Elijah Craig Barrel Proof Release #3 (66.6% / 133.2 proof)
Nose: Oak, toffee, dark sweets, lemon custard, vanilla and dark fruit.
Palate: Oak, spice, root beer popsicle, pepper, a touch of grapy / raisiny dark fruit and astringency.
Finish: Oak, herbal, toffee, spice and peanut.
Overall: B- (80-82) A bit muted across the senses and adding water brought out some astringent burnt notes. Not enough to kill it, but enough to knock it from a B to a B-.

Elijah Craig Barrel Proof Release #4 (66.2% / 132.4 proof)
Nose: Oak, cherry heavy dark fruit, spice, watery dark sweets, a touch of imitation vanilla and some pie crust.
Palate: Oak, cherry heavy dark fruit, spice, watery dark sweets, a touch of imitation vanilla and some pie crust.
Finish: Oak, watery dark fruit and a bit of vanilla.
Overall: C+ (77-79) Watery and oaky at the same time with an overall character that was a bit boring to be honest. Water didn’t open it up, just flattened it out even more.


Elijah Craig Barrel Proof Tasting 3

Elijah Craig Barrel Proof Release #5 (66.2% / 134.8 proof)
Nose: Caramel, watery oak, dark fruit and spice.
Palate: Oak, corn, watery caramel, spice and peanuts.
Finish: Oak, peanuts, musty corn and vanilla.
Overall: B- (80-82) Water releases a bit of a cough syrup quality and overall it’s a tad boring. Not bad though and still worth trying.

Elijah Craig Barrel Proof Release #6 (70.1% / 140.2 proof)
Nose: Spice, oak, currant heavy dark fruit, complex dark sweets, spice and a touch herbal.
Palate: Oak, toasted corn, spice, complex dark fruit, caramel heavy dark sweets, and spice.
Finish: Oak, roasted peanuts, corn and spice.
Overall: A- (90-92) This was unanimously everyone’s favorite and it’s easy to see why. It’s complex, multi-faceted and deep. Water worked magic on this one and opened it up greatly.

Elijah Craig Barrel Proof Release #7 (64% / 128 proof)
Nose: Dark fruit, dark sweets, toasted grain, oily nuts and spice.
Palate: Dark fruit, dark sweets, toasted grain, oily nuts, spice and a bit of cocoa.
Finish: Oak, dark fruit, corn and cocoa.
Overall: B+ (87-89) My 3rd favorite of the night. It showed a slightly different character and water brought out some nice toasty notes that I really enjoyed.

Elijah Craig Barrel Proof Release #8 (69.9% / 139.8 proof)
Nose: Dark fruit, toffee, banana, grains, melon and a nutty character.
Palate: Caramel, vanilla, biscuits, oak, spice and cherry heavy dark fruit.
Finish: Caramel, oak and spice.
Overall: B (83-86) Initially I felt a bit put off by it with the weird notes clashing a bit, but after adding some water it evened out and ended up enjoying it.

My overall feeling on the Elijah Craig Barrel Proof Releases so far is that the nose is almost always a bit closed off at first, but a bit of water opens it right up. I definitely recommend trying these with a splash of water not just to help open them up, but to also cut the heat from the alcohol a bit. My final verdict on the releases, so far, would be that they’re all worth a try, so long as the price is right, except for release #4. That one I’d be weary of unless you get a REALLY good price on it.


Elijah Craig Barrel Proof Tasting 5

Josh Peters

Josh Peters

I read about, think about, write about, and drink whisk(e)y. In short, it's my passion.
Josh Peters

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24 Responses to Tasting the first 8 Elijah Craig Barrel Proof Releases

  1. I have had three of the batches reviewed, and interestingly, the one now open is your A- bottle. What this review (and a very helpful one as well) does for me, is to raise the same questions I have had with other cask strength whiskeys I have tried (example, Booker’s). Some seem to feel that there is something more “magical” about a cask strength bottling (Maker’s Mark, as an example). Yet, a cask strength bottling, or the more watered down proofs, should all be judged by the same measure: Smell and taste. For those who would judge a cask strength whiskey as a B-, tells me that the reviewer would have enjoyed another (say, at 43%) bottling when given an A-, and so, which really is the magical bottling.

    • Definitely agree that cask strength does not equal quality. It just means more alcohol… and that’s it. Just like any other whiskey it can be good, it can be bad and can vary from batch to batch.


  2. I’ve owned at least one bottle of 4, 5, 6 and 8. It’s interesting that your group agrees with what I’ve said for a long time; batch 6 is awesome whiskey! I definitely agree with the A- for it and the the scores for the 5 & 8, but think the 4 is much better than the C+ you gave it. I’d give a B to it. I still have a bottle of the 4 and 1.5 of the 6.

    • Lucky you on the multiple of batch 6, that one is fantastic. I imagine if I tried batch #4 all on its own I might like it more, but when tasting all of them side-by-side like that it stuck out as being significantly worse than the rest. Vertical tastings like this are always interesting to me because both flaws and exceptional qualities get amplified since you have so many points of reference available all at once.

  3. This review had me scratching my head a little bit. I’ve found your insights previously to be great at pointing me in the right direction for a whiskey purchase, but on this one I felt you were a little harsh. Admittedly I’ve only had batch 8 & 9 and I found both of them to be excellent for the price. The reason I say this is that you rate a lot of good whiskies into the low 90 (turkey 101 for example) and I haven’t tasted a rendition of ECBP that didn’t destroy WT101(obviously this is all subjective since smell/taste is a personal thing). Do you calculate price into your ratings or does this review stand apart since it was a comparison of batches of a single product line?

    • Hey Ken,

      I don’t take cost into consideration, but on a value scale they’re all pretty good except for release #4. I just really didn’t like that one. It stuck out like a sore thumb as being not as good as the rest.

  4. I think the letter grades are for LA Whisky Society purposes, where their grading system is a bit severe. On a value basis, this is A to A+ stuff. I love WT Rare Breed, but this is a notch better. However, I keep both, as they are both excellent bourbons at very good prices. Also Russell’s Reserve Single Barrel, which is the same price ($40-45).

  5. Thanks for the review. Virginia has received all except Releases #2 & #3. Have tried 4, 5 & 6. Presently #5 open, enjoy it over the EC12 hands down. Add ice & enjoy as it opens. Review on another website rated 4 above 5. Opening 4 next to see if my taste buds agree with yours. Bourbon is personal to each, all good, some better, some great! Thanks again for heads up…

    • Hey Wayne,

      Thanks, glad you liked it. Taste is definitely subjective and admittedly changes a bit when you’re doing a whole run down all next to each other. Not knowing I was tasting the 8 and re-reviewing it showed different results than at the end of an 8 barrel proof run. Anyways, hope you enjoy it!

  6. I know you didn’t like Batch 4 much, but I recently opened my last bottle of it and find it really good, especially with a bit of water to cut the alcohol. Leave it 20-30 minutes and it’s wonderfully smooth and flavorful. This whiskey is an absolute winner at the price, along with the single barrel Russell Reserve. I’ve realized I have a thing for the 74-13-12 mash bill of Evan Williams, Elijah Craig and Wild Turkey, as u love them all.

  7. Just found two bottles at 69.7% ABV (139.4 proof), but don’t know what batch that is.
    Only paid $40 each plus tax. Not the best, at least so far, but still a great whiskey at a great price!

  8. Have you reviewed #11 Josh? I picked some up in a Chicago area Binny’s for $54.99. 139.4 proof. How’s it compare to the other releases? One of the higher proof ones it looks like.

    Tasted solid. Much more going on than the standard 12 year old which is still good. All the red 12 YO standard small batch bottles are gone and some retailers still have the 12 YO age statement on the back but many now don’t even have the age statement on the back.

    • Hey Tom,

      I haven’t tried #11 yet unfortunately. They’re quite hard to come by here in Los Angeles, they get snatched up in a second. It’s a crying shame about the 12 year no longer being a 12 year. I have a 12 year single barrel, a 12 year on the back and I’m going to pick up a new NAS soon, taste them blind and see what shakes out.

      • Just picked up two bottles here in Bellevue WA at the local total wine. There was one bottle left. There was also at least 6 bottles of Rhetoric on the shelf as well as two bottles of Stagg Jr. For being on the west coast this, especially here in the Seattle area, this is practically unheard of. Though it killed me to leave the Rhetoric behind ($130 a bottle) the ECBP and the Stagg jr made it tolerable. haha

        Debating whether or not to go back tomorrow morning and grab the last bottle of the Elijah Craig if it’s not already gone…. :/

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