The latest release in Elijah Craig’s always highly-anticipated Barrel Proof series is here, this one labeled batch A119, as the first release of the year.
As it has been with previous releases, this is a 12 year old, cask strength release from what Heaven Hill considers its finest barrels.
Let’s dig in.
For batch A119, don’t go looking for a lot of nuance, at least up front. Boldly wood-forward and leathery on the nose, it’s a musky spirit that offers hints of black pepper and, at last, some raisin notes, all of which keeps it fairly weighty. The palate is equally bone-dry, heavy with woody barrel char and notes of cherry pits and pepper. Water is virtually essential here, coaxing out a more traditional vanilla/caramel note, chocolate sauce, and a gently fruity note that offers some cherry and even a little strawberry character. That said, those fruit notes are elusive, well hidden beneath the lumberyard notes, so be patient and diligent with your H2O dosing.
All told, this is a huge whiskey, bigger than most Elijah Craig Barrel Proof releases (which are hardly “quiet” bourbons), a spirit which takes some time (and water) to find its comfort zone. However, once you do, it really manages to keep things lively and engaging. Well worth exploring, particularly in comparison to other Barrel Proof bottlings.