As some of you reading this may already know, Heaven Hill recently announced in January that they would be removing Elijah Craig’s 12 year age statement. Many knew this was coming for a while, especially after HH moved its rather pronounced, red 12 year age statement to its back label summary in 2015; it wasn’t a matter of if, but when. As expected this has, generally, been met with much disdain and frantic worry – that this new Elijah Craig NAS (EC) will be a lesser bourbon than its now recent predecessor.
In short, HH’s reasoning for this subtraction of an age statement is to keep the quality of EC consistent, without effecting older HH expressions such as Elijah Craig 18 & 21 and also to simply have EC available and on the shelf as consistently as possible. Unfortunately, apart from Henry McKenna 10 yr Single Barrel, Heaven Hill 6 yr and Fighting Cock 6yr, this leaves virtually no HH “value bourbons” on the shelf with an age statement. According to HH’s website, the new EC will consist of 8-12 year old barrels and, starting back up this year, they will be offering private barrel programs of single barrel EC for those wishing to purchase an entire barrel.
Elijah Craig 12 Year
ABV: 47% // 94 proof
Nose: It’s been while since I visited this old friend. I definitely recommend giving this ample time to open up. As the airtime sets in you’ll find polished oak, heavy on the polish and more acetone than I recall from past bottles. Some blueberry scone, medium spice and lumber thats seen some heavy rain. Again let this one open up. Maple syrup and caramel form under the lumber and theres some light cereal notes that will cut through the alcohol with air time. Dark brown sugars come out after about 20 minutes. Now were going somewhere. Some citrus comes out, with red berries like strawberry and some Raisin Bran cereal. Not a lot of spice on the nose and somewhat restrained for 94 proof. To me the nose feels like it’s already been watered down. Lots of woody notes really assert themselves but its kind of all over the place, not so much oak, just “woody”. Dig a little deeper and on the back of the nose I picked up some cinnamon rolls, buttered toast and wood spices tucked away into the back crevices and this light banana note that was nice as well.
Nothing really pops out of the glass on this nose and I’m really reminded of Evan Williams just with more brown sugars, overall sweetness and that polish note.
Palate: Body on the palate is medium in weight kept standing purely by the foundation of spice on the tongue, which starts on the tip of the tongue then travels to the sides and back of tongue but doesn’t stray from there. Caramel and brown sugars from the nose come through but are quickly overshadowed by what I can only describe as “wet wood”. This is unmistakably HH with this note of chestnut and walnut that I pick up from many of their products. Some more (wood) polish notes appear onto the palate from the nose earlier, not in a bad sense its just very emphatic throughout drinking EC12. Brown sugars, cinnamon spice and that wet wood note keep coming around. The palate on this just felt a little “watery” and two-dimensional.
Finish: At 94 proof I was hoping for a longer finish. The spice that was cinnamon and woody on the tongue lingers to the rest of the mouth but fades all too quickly and becomes nothing but a memory perhaps triggering another sip all too soon. Light hickory smoke and barrel char notes, vanilla bean and brown sugars carry through. Some paper, caramel and lumber round out the finish in whispers.
Bourbon & House Rating: 85
EC12 is a really solid bourbon. It hits many of the classic chords that one typically associates with bourbon; vanilla, caramel, spice, wood/oak….and thats about it. I can’t say whether the traveling Reverend himself, for whom this bourbon is named after, would of approved of what HH is putting out under his namesake. To me, EC12 is two-dimensional and doesn’t offer much more than a generic bourbon profile. I would have liked to of seen more complexity, roundness and definitely depth, at 12 years old. Its been a while since I bought a bottle of EC12, prob about 2 years or so – and now I remember why.
EC12’s charms are many and I can see why its so popular, particularity at the price point of $25, give or take. In fact when I have a friend, colleague or am talking to a stranger and they want to move on past Bulleit, Four Roses Yellow Label and Jim Beam, EC12 is always one of the top 3 I recommend them trying due to its price value, availability and overall quality. EC12 does serve as a great mixer and for that reason, along with its strong “bourbon” profile, is a staple in many home bars.
To be straightforward, I think HH’s Elijah Craig will benefit from losing its 12 year age statement. I’ve enjoyed much of HH’s younger barrels over the years (10 years and under, i.e. Henry McKenna 10yr Single Barrel & Evan Williams Single Barrel) as opposed to their older aged stock. Much of HH’s Parker Heritage is above 10 years and fantastic, but thats obviously on a whole other tier. With the deft hands of the experienced blenders at HH, and some younger aged barrels of bourbon, I’m looking forward to the future of Elijah Craig.