Elijah Craig Barrel Proof A118 is the brand’s first 2018 batch. Because Elijah Craig Barrel Proof has proven to be one of the most consistently good barrel proof bourbons in the market, this release is expected to likewise deliver.
Between 2013 through 2016, Elijah Craig Barrel Proof released three batches per year. Each batch was age-stated at 12 years, but the only way to discern which bottle was from which batch was by the bottle’s proof. Bourbon fans kept track of each release, and a chart summarizing the 2013 – 2016 batches is below:
Then, in 2017, the brand’s bottling and labeling changed. Now, batches are identified by a code: a letter followed by numbers. The letters – A, B, or C – denote whether the bottle is from that year’s first, second, or third batch. The number immediately following the letter is the month of the release. The last two numbers signify the year.
So, Elijah Craig Barrel Proof A118 is the first (A) batch, released in January (1) of 2018 (18).
Whether due to Heaven Hill’s own production, or because of Whiskey Advocate awarding Elijah Craig Barrel Proof B517 as 2017’s Whiskey of the Year, Elijah Craig Barrel Proof seems more difficult to find these days. Nevertheless, it remains one of the most affordable premium bourbons, age-stated at 12 years and barrel proof, yet retailing for about $60.
Below is our review of Elijah Craig Barrel Proof A118, and a comparison to the final batch from last year, C917.
Elijah Craig Barrel Proof A118 (12 years old, 130.6 proof)
Nose: A combination of flavors right up front that resemble Vanilla Dr. Pepper; tobacco, brown sugar, and fruit leather follow. As with most barrel proof bourbons, allowing this to sit and get some air for at least 20 minutes helps dissipate the ethanol. 3.5/5
Palate: The fruit leather leads into sweet tobacco cream, cinnamon spice, with grape soda and oak coming mid-palate. This has a noticeably oily mouthfeel. With the strong oak notes, it does not become dry as some older bourbons often do. 4/5
Finish: Tobacco and brown sugar and caramel linger for quite a while, transitioning to purple grapes and vanilla extract. With the exception of the vanilla, no additional flavors are introduced, but the long decrescendo from the palate is still quite good. 3.5/5
Overall: Elijah Craig Barrel Proof is always good. Sometimes, though, certain batches reach another level. This does so, with the additional layer of tobacco and cola, beyond the typical brown sugar and oak bomb. A very good pour. 4/5
Value: At $60 locally (though now almost always under the counter), this is an outstanding value. 4.5/5
Elijah Craig Barrel Proof C917 (12 years old, 131 proof)
Nose: Charred marshmallows, with a strong dose of sweet Demerara sugar and brown sugar; underneath are some purple grapes; black cherry; potting soil; ground cinnamon, and fudge. 3.5/5
Palate: Brown sugar bomb with a strong dose of cinnamon spice. It gets a bit dry starting in the mid palate, turning towards heavy oak and dark chocolate. No particularly unique flavors, and not very deep, but the combination of flavors that are there are nice. 3.5/5
Finish: Gets quite dry, with strong oak and dark chocolate. The charred marshmallow also returns. The Kentucky hug lingers for a while, but none of the flavors particularly do. 3/5
Overall: This is an example of a batch that doesn’t reach that next level, but still delivers a flavorful and balanced experience. 3.5/5
Value: Again, getting a 12-year barrel proof bourbon from a reputable brand with a limited distribution for $60, is becoming nearly unheard of. 4.5/5
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