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.
Wednesday, February 8, 2012
In the glass - a dark dark amber with a gleaming copper core. The nose is rich with toffee / butterscotch, oak, caramel corn, vanilla perfume, sherry, and cognac. Let it sit for 10-20 minutes to bloom before sipping. More aromas keep coming out and the sweetness is amplified in the taste.
On entry there is sweetness: red and yellow fruits, maybe even some tropical fruits from the papaya and pineapple end of the spectrum, leather, floral vanilla and burnt caramel. By midpalate a dryness has crept in fueled by wood tannins. The oak is in the vanilla notes and also a perfume of sandalwood that emerges into the finish. The finish is looong and huge with leather, burnt caramel again, vanilla and sandalwood perfume. There's a rich heaviness to the mouth feel. The mix of sweet and dry is sophisticated and luscious. The whole affair is loaded, like a dense tropical rainforest. But the flavors are very accessible and the overall feel is sweet and easy; an aspect to which I credit the high corn mash bill.
This is amazing bourbon and a steal at the price. My advice: never mix this. Never put water or ice in it. Let it air and sip it neat and slow. Time is this bourbon's friend. Time in the barrel, time in the glass. I find that I keep coming back to it over time too. It's a sinful guilty pleasure that hits all my bourbon buttons. You might not impress bourbon snobs by serving it, but you might find that you can convert people who don't drink bourbon with it. It's an undeniably higher quality class of liquor. Factor in price and it's one of the strongest cases out there.