In the 18th century, Elijah Craig settled in Kentucky to produce his very own brand of high quality bourbon.
The Reverend Elijah Craig is credited dubiously with pioneering the charring of American oak casks. The effect of blackening the inside of a barrel is the onset of a purification process. Bourbon owes its characteristic smoothness to this wonderful innovation, and Elijah Craig 12 year old, produced at Heaven Hill Distillery, is no different.
Perhaps one of the finest spirits nobody is talking about, Elijah Craig offers a craft presentation bottled at an irresistible 47%. Ralfy Mitchell has called Elijah Craig ‘a benchmark bourbon;’ a spirit that sets the standard for all bourbons to aspire to.
This spirit is deserving of such high praise. Elijah Craig delivers intensity and complexity; coconut and vanilla are at the forefront on the nose – perennial characters of American oak. EC is beautifully rich, with cherries fading into a briny, almost maritime development – perhaps salted caramel. The sharp nip of alcohol can accommodate the addition of water, further aiding the development of this beautifully balanced spirit. It is undoubtedly the finest bourbon I have tasted, and I look forward to spending more time with it.
Elijah Craig is far more popular in the United States, which is to be expected. But one point of interest for fans of Scotch whisky reluctant to look further west is the craft presentation offered by Elijah Craig – the fact that bourbon producers shun additives like E150a (caramel) in order to enhance the spirit’s colour. The bigger brands, certainly in the blend market, favour the addition of caramel as they believe consumers are drawn to darker whiskies. And the decision to bottle at 47% further underlines the distillery’s attempt to provide consumers with a more ‘craft’ product.
To conclude, it is important to draw attention to the ‘small batch’ process carried out at Heaven Hill Distillery and many other bourbon producers. Small batch means mixing the contents of a limited number of casks. This process allows for a more consistent product aged in selected barrels by the distillery’s master blender.
Elijah Craig 12 year old is bottled at 47% and is extremely good value at around £27-£30.
image: © Heaven Hill