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Elijah Craig 12 Year Old Straight Bourbon

Review: Elijah Craig 12 Year Old Straight Bourbon Whiskey   (91/100)
Review By: Chip Dykstra (Aka Arctic Wolf)
Posted January 11, 2017

Elijah Craig Bourbon Whiskey is produced by the Heaven Hill Distillery Company which is located in Bardstown, Kentucky. The Heaven Hill Bernheim Distillery where the spirit is produced is located in Louisville, Kentucky. I am reviewing the 12 Year Old version of Elijah Craig Straight Bourbon which sadly is slowly disappearing from the marketplace. The whiskey is being replaced by a non age stated bourbon whisky, Elijah Craig Small Batch Bourbon. My understanding is that the new version will be blended from straight whiskies which have been aged 8 to 12 years. The change is being made because the Elijah Craig brand has become so popular that maintaining a 12-year-old age statements and keeping production up with the demand became two incongruent goals.

Fortunately the 12 Year Old Version is still generally available in Canada. The Whisky is aged a full 12 years and bottled at 47 % alcohol by volume (94 proof).

Elijah CraigIn the Bottle 4/5

I am not exactly sure why, but I am very ambivalent towards the Elijah Craig bottle display. I like the solid cork, but there is not much else that inspires me. The label is simple (and I suppose effective) and the medium short stubby oval-shaped bottle seems fine. However, I cannot say that I would look twice at this bottle in a retail setting. It looks average, not special. Hopefully the liquid inside the bottle will prove my first impression wrong.

In the Glass 9/10

When I poured the whiskey into my glass it displayed itself as a rich copper coloured whiskey with a hue that reminded me of a lightly tarnished copper penny. The whiskey imparts a light sheen on the sides of the glass when swirled and lightly thickened leglets form on the inside of the glass. The initial nose featured thick butterscotch and honeycomb, fresh oak and cedar with accents of tobacco and wood sap which were very pleasing.

As I let the glass breathe, the cedar and sappy oak remained strong; but these firm scents did not overpower the butterscotch and toffee scents have been accompanied by vanilla and baking spice (cinnamon and touches of nutmeg). The whisky is bottled at 94 % alcohol by volume; however, I am impressed that there are few astringent alcohol notes. The bourbon promises to be rich and smooth despite the high bottling proof.

In the Mouth 55.5/60

The whisky enters the mouth with a rush of dry oak and cedar flavour which oozes spicy sap and light butterscotch. There is also a firm grassy/tobacco-like flavour underneath which reminds me of fresh hay and clover. Alongside the dry spiciness is a lightly sweet mixture of maple and honeycomb. These sweet impressions are mild in comparison to the overtly dry spice, yet they are firm enough to bring about balance, and I am quite happy to continue to sip. Rounding out the flavour profile are bits of herbal menthol and impressions of pungent baking spice (vanilla, cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg).

When I add a cube of ice, bitters flavours of dark chocolate and coffee develop which to me taste absolutely yummy. When I add a splash of cola, The resulting ‘Buckeroo‘ tastes absolutely delicious. (Of course sipping is delicious as well.)

In the Throat  13.5/15

The 12-year-old expression of Elijah Craig has a medium length exit which is remarkably smooth for a spirit which 94 proof. After the swallow there is a dry spiciness which hints at oak sap and cinnamon left glowing on the palate. Just enough sweetness pushed through to balance the dry spice, and with ice lovely espresso flavours reveal in the finish.

The Afterburn 9/10

Elijah Craig 12 Year Old is a wonderful bourbon. I found the rush of dry spices and the building oak and cedar flavours quite yummy. The spirit shows evidence not only of age but also the character, balance, and smoothness which comes with that age. Hopefully the 12 Year Old expression make a return to the main roster in the near future. Until then I will hoard what I have.

You may read some of my other Whiskey Reviews (click the link) if you wish to have some comparative reviews.


Recommended Serving

old-fash-sam_2928The Old Fashioned Cocktail

2 oz Elijah Craig Small Batch Bourbon Whiskey
1 tsp Sugar Syrup
1 dash Angostura Orange Bitters
Ice cubes
1 twist Orange Peel

Add the first three ingredients to a rocks glass over the ice cubes
Rub the cut edge of the orange peel over the rim of the glass and twist it over the drink. (This will release the oil from the orange zest into the drink)
Drop the peel into the cocktail if desired.

Please Enjoy Responsibly!

If  you are interested in more of my original cocktail recipes, please click this link (Cocktails and Recipes) for more of my mixed drink recipes!


As always you may interpret the scores I provide as follows.

0-25 A spirit with a rating this low would actually kill you.
26-49 Depending upon your fortitude you might actually survive this.
50 -59 You are safe to drink this…but you shouldn’t.
60-69 Substandard swill which you may offer to people you do not want to see again.
70-74 Now we have a fair mixing rum or whisky.  Accept this but make sure it is mixed into a cocktail.
75-79 You may begin to serve this to friends, again probably still cocktail territory.
80-84 We begin to enjoy this spirit neat or on the rocks. (I will still primarily mix cocktails)
85-89 Excellent for sipping or for mixing!
90-94 Definitely a primary sipping spirit, in fact you may want to hoard this for yourself.
95-97.5 The Cream of the Crop
98+ I haven’t met this bottle yet…but I want to.

Very loosely we may put my scores into terms that you may be more familiar with on a Gold, Silver, and  Bronze medal  scale as follows:

70 – 79.5    Bronze Medal (Recommended only as a mixer)
80 – 89.5     Silver Medal (Recommended for sipping and or a high quality mixer)
90 – 95         Gold Medal (Highly recommended for sipping and for sublime cocktails.)
95.5+            Platinum Award (Highest Recommendation)



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