by Scott Hill
Our very first member review here at Flight Club ICT was a Heaven Hill horizontal review of Evan Williams, Henry McKenna and Elijah Craig single barrel/small batch offerings.
Today, we revisit that review with a newly acquired Store Pick offering — a single barrel, 11-year Elijah Craig bourbon. We thought it would be helpful to see how that bottle, along with a newly acquired Non Age Stated (NAS) bottle, stacks up.
[Here’s Heaven Hill’s official statement regarding its decision to drop the 12-year age statement on its Elijah Craig brand, in case you’re unfamiliar.]
Elijah Craig NAS (old bottle) (previous review):
Nose: Woody, vanilla, caramel, corn, peanut and mint.
Palate: Oak, vanilla, peanut and caramel.
Finish: Oak, dark fruit, sweet and lingering spice (cinnamon).
Elijah Craig NAS (new bottle)
Nose: Similar to the older NAS bottle, but with a bit more corn and a bit less nut; however, I can’t say this is not a difference based upon a newly opened bottle and one that has been opened (albeit nearly full) for about 9 months.
Palate: Not much change.
Finish: Not much change either; possibly lingers a bit longer with some spice/mint on the tail end?
Overall: I can’t say there is much change over the past 2 years, at least not for the worse. That is a good sign!
Elijah Craig Bourbon Street Wine & Spirits Store Pick (~11 years)
Nose: Much deeper wood notes than either NAS bottle, similar to my memory of the old 12 year; a hint of red licorice too; the age bump is very prevalent here; overall just much stronger/deeper flavors.
Palate: Creamier, richer and smoother, even more so than my memory of the old 12 year; the fruitiness is present and the peanut character is spot on perfect.
Finish: Oak, fruit and lingering spice; the dry characteristics that I’ve seen with both 12 year and NAS is tamed.
Conclusions: I was bothered not by my initial conclusions that I prefer the EC store pick over both the old bottle and new bottle Elijah Craig NAS bottles (obviously), but that I think I preferred it as well over my memory of the old Elijah Craig 12 year. So I did the responsible thing and went and poured a glass of 12 year. My memory deceived me. The 12 year still has a one-up on the nose. But on the palate? Yes, you can pick up more age and nuttiness on the 12 year, but the creaminess and the richness of the store pick is fantastic. The finish? The old 12 year still wins out. With all that said, the store pick is an improvement over the NAS, so pick one up if you find one, as the old 12 year is now largely a memory for store shelves.
Oh, and final conclusion. I worried that once Heaven Hill dropped Elijah Craig’s age statement that there would be a slow decline in quality, as the average age of the product slowly crept down. From these two NAS bottles, which I’d guess are about 1-2 years difference in purchase dates, I can’t say that the quality of EC NAS has further declined. Yes, there is a significant drop off with the initial loss of the 12 year age statement. But, it is holding strong since then.