The extra-aged Elijah Craig expressions have been popping up all over the shelves around here, and being the Elijah Craig 12 fan that I am, I’ve been impulsing buying them as soon as they are available. I rocked the 23-year-old Elijah about a month ago, and now it’s time for the 18. Before I could crack the bottle I snagged I was given the opportunity to include it in a trade that involved the 2015 expression of Old Forester Birthday Bourbon, which my lovely wife Kate has been searching high and low for. I was able to give her that OFBB for her birthday (guess what review is next) and she was super pumped.
After Kate found out I traded my EC18 for her present, she surprised me with a new bottle of EC18 since she knew I wanted to have it in our collection. I have the best wife ever.
Alright, enough sappy love stuff, let’s drink some old Elijah!
Company: Heaven Hill
Distillery: Heaven Hill Bernheim distillery
Mash Bill: 75% corn/12% rye/13% barley
ABV: 45% (90 proof)
Age: 18 years (barreled on 6-20-97, barrel #4175)
Color: Vivid amber
Nose: This aroma is bright and funky, much brighter than expected. Tons of blackberry, cloves, honey, and Watermelon Jolly Rancher (no shit, it took a while but I realized the thing I couldn’t nail totally smells like that Jolly Rancher). Bright red fruit barrel funk carries through and is complimented by spicy black pepper and vanilla.
Taste: The oak is MUCH more prevalent on the sip than in the aroma, bringing with it cinnamon, honey, raspberry, and black pepper. There is almost a roasty coffee quality that has a bit of smokiness to it which serves to add complexity to this guy.
Finish: Super dry oak sucks all the moisture out of your mouth almost immediately leaving nothing by roasted coffee, cinnamon, and pepper.
Overall: I drank this one alongside its older brother, and often referenced the review of it to detail the differences, which is always a fun exercise. Both are definitely old, definitely oaky, but have a pretty nice little balance going on with all the bright fruit and honey jazz. If given a blind taste of the two, I think I could tell which was older, but I would never guess they are separated by a full 5 years. Both share that heavy oak backbone, but have nice characters that make them unique, making it a fun little pair to try next to each other. If only they didn’t have that finish that sucks all the moisture out of your soul they would be a real threat to some of the better whiskeys we’ve reviewed.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, my official recommendation would be to go for a Elijah Craig Barrel Proof 12 over the 18, unless you just really want to spend all that extra $50 on a fancy bottle for your shelf. If you do, I obviously won’t judge, I did the same thing.