Age: 12 y/o (not on the front label but on the back)
Proof: 134.2 (67.1% ABV)
Notes: Not chill-filtered. First edition reviewed.
Appearance: Dark brown, like root beer.
Nose: Alcohol, leather, caramels. With a little bit of water, it opens up considerablly. Heaven Hill’s signature herbaceousness comes through, this time as tarragon and lavender, with a big hit of oak joining the party.
On the palate: Hard caramel candy, and lots and lots of burn. Much more drinkable with a bit of water. The herbal notes come through firmly alongside the candy but it’s still quite hot. With a little more water, it opens up into crème brulee, licorice, oak, and more candy.
Finish: Neat, it’s very short and hot, evaporating off the tongue almost immediately. With water, a little or a little more, it leaves a pleasant combination of peppermint, caramel, oak and of course alcohol.
Parting words: This is one of my favorite whiskeys ever. It is very much in the Heaven Hill mold, but the complexity and depth of flavor is unsurpassed for a product of that distillery. It’s much better balanced than the old Elijah Craig Single Barrel 18 y/o and of course much higher proof. It is much closer to the standard 12 y/o Elijah Craig, but even more so to the better vintages of Evan Williams Single Barrel, again at much higher proof. Perhaps an even more apt comparison is to George T. Stagg. This is drinks like Heaven Hill’s answer to Stagg. It is an older, more powerful, richer unchillfiltered edition but one very much in the house style. In the case of Buffalo Trace (the maker of Stagg), that’s sweet vanilla and a little bit of grassiness. In the case of Heaven Hill, that’s caramel, mint and affordability.
The only downside is that for me it was undrinkable at bottle/barrel proof. There will always be the macho men and macho women who will drone on about how they never add water and how that ruins the flavor and so on. Good for them and their gullets, but this whiskey just begs for water. All this and it’s under $50 before tax. You’d be stupid NOT to buy it. Elijah Craig Barrel Proof is highly recommended.