If you're looking for absolutely the best distilled spirit you can buy for the money (an issue that used to come up every Friday night in my younger days) you simply cannot do better than Elijah Craig 12. It's an under-appreciated classic of American bourbon crafting. You simply cannot buy a distilled spirit of any kind from any country remotely close to this refinement and quality for anywhere close to the bargain basement low price of Elijah Craig 12. It's a stone. cold. bargain. Have I said that enough?
In the glass it's dark burnished bronze with a molten luminescent core: beautiful and rich. The aroma blooms with lots of time, like a good whiskey should: corn on the cob, black fruits (prune / fig) sawn oak, and old tanned leather. First sip and I'm amazed at how dry and sophisticated this is for bourbon. There's burnt caramel and corn fruitiness - but muted below the rich oak tannins and wood resin. You can taste the years this whiskey has laid in the rich wood. Mid palate has big red fruit notes married to the wood, a sophisticated sherry-like presentation. Finish is long and complex with faint drifts of sandalwood and distant smoke weaving in among the buttered corn, hot spirit, sherry and tanned leather. The dark fudgy edge curbing the fruit sweetness reminds me of bitter orange or very dark chocolate. This is a top flight bourbon flavor extravaganza that feels lean and sinewy while at the same time as it manages to be sweet and rich. The red fruit speaks of sunlight and sugar while the dark wood and bitter notes speak of age and darkness. This is excellent depth of flavor and character.
This bourbon would be impressive regardless of price. At this price (the same as any ordinary mass market bottle of hooch) it's astounding. This bourbon is of a piece with fine single malts or vsop/xo cognac. Sip it slow and neat in a small glass. I pray they never come to their senses.