Elijah Craig 12 YO Bourbon Tasting Notes Review

Credit: patruby83

Credit: patruby83

Big day!

A few weeks ago, I mentioned I wanted to get into some bourbon whiskey and you guys sent in some fantastic suggestions. Until recently, my experience was limited to the stuff available by the 1.75L in plastic jugs (which barely qualifies as whiskey in the first place!)… but armed with suggestions from you connoisseurs, I picked up a bottle of Elijah Craig 12.

Quick history lesson for those curious about Elijah Craig – according to Wikipedia, Elijah Craig was a reverend and Baptist preacher who as born in Virginia, a part of it that would later become Kentucky, sometime in the early to mid-1700’s. It is believed he started aging corn liquor in charred oak casks, thus creating bourbon, though everyone will surely argue over this until the end of time. I just like that a reverend and Baptist preacher is credit with this at all!

First impressions? It’s good. Sweet, very sweet, but tasty.

You see, I bring a bit of scotch whisky history baggage with me when I drink bourbon. Bourbon is sweet because of all the corn in the mash bill and so it’s something new for me.

Sweet is by no means bad (unless you hate sweets… then you’re on your own!), it’s just different.

The abv is high, 47% alcohol by volume (94 proof), and that’s another trend I see with bourbon. Most are higher than your Scotch standards of 40% and 43%. Not quite “cask strength” in the 60s but a shade higher.

I was able to find a Elijah Craig 12 YO at my local store for about $30, which puts it in the same price range as a Glenlivet or Glenmorangie (but more alcohol!). That makes sense, as it’s aged 12 years old, but you can find younger bourbons for much much less (for example, Bulleit Bourbon is only $22 for 750ml). Another pattern I see is that bourbon is often cheaper, which makes sense because Scotch has to be imported.

Onto the notes, and remember that these are from a Scotch drinker not used to the sweetness:

  • Color: Dark amber
  • Nose: Sweet, some raisin, honey, vanilla
  • Palate: Sweet (told you!), honey, toffee, caramel, little spice for distinction
  • Finish: Warm (47% abv!), not super long but leaves a nice shadow

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed it. Interesting side note, after enjoying some Elijah Craig, I immediately had some Basil Hayden in order to compare the two. Basil Hayden wasn’t as sweet, which was nice, but it goes to show you it’s all a matter of reference.

What are your thoughts on Elijah Craig?

Bourbon: Scotch Whisky’s Cheaper But Still Awesome Cousin

There’s a reason why a lot of folks think scotch drinkers are snobs – it’s a (relatively) pricey dram.

But so is anything that’s been stored in a warehouse for 12+ years and then exported over the Atlantic ocean. The reality is that scotch whisky is expensive because it’s often aged for a very long time and in another country. If we were to shorten the aging period and do it domestically, it’d be cheaper.

But wait! We do – it’s called bourbon.

By Scottish law (Scotch Whisky Regulations 2009), scotch whisky must be produced in Scotland from water and malted barley. It must also be matured in an excise warehouse in Scotland (aged for at least 3 years). So until it goes into a bottle, it has to remain on Scottish soil. There are, of course, other rules and regs but these are the ones that matter for the comparison between Scotch and Bourbon.

For a bourbon to be labeled as such in the United States (The Federal Standards of Identity for Distilled Spirits), it must be produced in the United States from a grain mixture of at least 51% corn and aged in new, charred-oak barrels. Straight bourbon must be aged at least two years (if less than 4, the age must be listed on the bottle) but there is no minimum required aging period for other labels.

I know some of you will say that bourbon is different because it uses 51% corn with rye and barley instead of just barley. And you’re right, it is different. But is the difference that much greater than an Islay and a Speyside? Comparable.

I’d had a few bourbons before, Four Roses sent me some of their fine spirits in the past, but I really didn’t get a full appreciation of it until my friend Dave brought over a bottle of Basil Hayden Bourbon. We poured a few glasses of it neat and thoroughly enjoyed it. The price, around $40-45 per 750ml, puts it on par with some of my favorite scotches (Balvenie DoubleWood comes to mind).

Of the 23 Double Gold bourbons from the most recent SF Spirits Competition, ten could be had for $35 or less. In my research about affordable bourbons, I discovered this fantastic post by one of the judges of the SF Spirits Competition in bourbon, Fred Minnick. The next time I visit the local store I’m going to try to find a few of these gems, especially the $20 1835 Texas Bourbon (a search online showed it wasn’t going to be there :().

Do you enjoy bourbon? Do you have a favorite I should try?