Elijah Craig is a bourbon line from the famous Heaven Hill distillery. It comes in two editions, a 12 year small batch edition and an 18 year single barrel edition. As the 18 year is a little out of my price range, today I am reviewing Elijah Craig 12 year small batch bourbon. It is named after Elijah Craig, the often alleged inventor of the bourbon, a fact which is disputed about as much as it is brought up. The bourbon itself has two important distinctions in that it is the oldest (aged 12 years) whiskey that I have reviewed on this site so far, and it has the highest proof (94) of any whiskey I have reviewed so far. Like several of the mid-range craft bourbons I have reviewed on this site, Elijah Craig draws some mixed reviews. Some love it and some hate it. I am probably somewhere in the middle.
I love the way Elijah Craig smells. The nose is rich with oak, but is balanced by burnt sugar, some char from the barrel, vanilla, and roasted caramel. The palate is also richly oaky, but there is also some burnt sugar, dried fruit, rye spice, vanilla, and caramel. The finish is long and warming, but it is a little narrow. The oak rumbles across the back of the tongue, leaving only a little room for some dried fruit and rye spice to come through.
Overall, I really like Elijah Craig. I wish it had just a little more balance to it, but it still sits quite high among my favorite value bourbons. The oak is a bit too dominant and single-minded for my tastes (I think Rowan’s Creek achieves it a bit better). As always, try it for yourself and let it ride.
For other varied opinions on Elijah Craig 12 year, see these bourbon blogs.
Jason Pyle at Sour Mash Manifesto rates Elijah Craig several points higher than Buffalo Trace and Eagle Rare, both bourbons that I have already reviewed on the site.
At Blue Kitchen, Elijah Craig is graded lower than Bulliet, another bourbon I have already reviewed.
My grade for Elijah Craig: B-. Price: $25-30/750ml. This is a dense bourbon, but it is still a nice pour to keep around in the winter. It is not my go-to bourbon, though.