There are three constants in life: death, taxes and Elijah Craig Barrel Proof tasting like Elijah Craig Barrel Proof. Writing a review for each individual batch gets somewhat monotonous, but the amount of people wanting to hear about the newest batch is long so there’s always an audience.
Does Heaven Hill have a formulaic approach to creating each batch? Probably, but I’m assuming that it’s not as in-depth as you’re probably thinking.
And if we’re being really honest, that formula probably consists of sorting through all of their 12 year old (or older) barrels for ones that are better than Elijah Craig and then using them for their William Heaven Hill line. This leaves barrels that all taste very similar left over for Elijah Craig.
This isn’t to say that I don’t like ECBP. It was my first bourbon love and I am a sucker when it comes to buying the new batch when I see it in the store.
Elijah Craig Barrel Proof
I also understand that consumers are thirsty to find opinions on the newest batches which is why reviewers keep reviewing them. Some reviewers loudly declare that certain batches are so much better than another batch, but I think those kind of comparisons are a bit of a stretch.
Line these batches up blind and I guarantee that nobody could identify which batch number is which. Additionally, I think there is a high likelihood that if the blind tasting was repeated, their answers would change every time.
The one unique thing about batch B521 is that it is officially the lowest proof of all the ECBP batches (the previous record holder was B519 which came in at 122.2 proof).
A lot of the clamor around B521’s proof was the same that we heard when B519 was released; “there’s going to be a lack of flavor,” “it’s missing something,” “there’s not a lot of depth” and so on. I find these opinions to be amusing because it’s almost like consumers are psyching themselves up to not like it based off of a number on a bottle that they haven’t even tasted.
But I’m willing to give B521 the benefit of the doubt. Let’s see how it tastes. I sampled this neat in a glencairn.
Nose: This smells just like an ECBP should. Plenty of sweet, toasted oak notes that seem more accentuated with the scent of light brown sugar. Baking spices and toasted sugars couple with grandma’s fudge and vanilla beans to give a satisfying dessert and oaky aroma.
Palate: I’m surprised to find that barrel char is the first taste I pick up on but it’s quickly joined by sweet elements like toffee, peanut brittle, and caramel fudge. There are small amounts of candied citrus peel and coffee grounds to keep things interesting.
But the tannins are much lighter than I’d normally find on a typical ECBP batch. I’m finding more leather than oak here. The mouthfeel does has a pleasant richness to it that can sometimes be lost in higher proof ECBP releases.
Finish: The finish regains a little bit of the oak that I thought was missing on the palate. It still keeps its sweet profile with toasted sugars, sweet pipe tobacco and crème brulee. Side note: the finish makes this whole dram feel younger than the age statement would suggest.
An enjoyable pour and one that I don’t find much in the way of flaws. While going back over my tasting notes, I kept finding similarities to bourbon that came out of Heaven Hill but does not wear the Elijah Craig name. These include Old Ezra Barrel Strength and Lux Row Double Barreled.
ECBP B521 had the low proof richness that sometimes gets covered up by the heat in stronger batches. But it was the overall sweetness that made it taste younger than it is. It seems odd to say, but if this was given to me blind, I would likely guess the age to be more around the 8 year old mark rather than 12. 12 years usually makes it a bit more complex than I found here.
I also noted that the nose felt lighter as well. This is a catch-22 because while some enthusiasts may desire a heavy nose and taste, others may appreciate that it’s been toned down into something that you can sip on for longer without a full on sensory assault. I say it depends on how you’re feeling that night.
Going back to my opening statement and how I believe that all ECBPs taste roughly the same, I still stand by this. Some batches are better than others but they’re really hard to categorize into “great” and “awful.”
However, if I absolutely had to give an opinion about B521, I’d say that this is probably in my bottom third in terms of rankings for ECBP. I would never turn down a pour of it, but it’s hard to match the other low-proof gems that have rolled out over the last 8 years (B518, B517 and Batch 7 for instance).
So here’s some advice I’d give to those that are disappointed or wary of buying this batch: just wait a few more months for the next one.
1 | Disgusting | Drain pour (Example: Jeffers Creek)
2 | Poor | Forced myself to drink it
3 | Bad | Flawed (AD Laws 4 Grain BiB, Clyde Mays anything)
4 | Sub-par | Many things I’d rather have (Tincup 10 year)
5 | Good | Good, solid, ordinary (Larceny, Sazerac Rye)
6 | Very Good | Better than average (Buffalo Trace, OGD BiB)
7 | Great | Well above average (Old Ezra Barrel Proof, Old Weller Antique)
8 | Excellent | Exceptional (Michter’s Barrel Proof Rye, Four Roses Barrel Strength)
9 | Incredible | Extraordinary (GTS, 13 Year MGP or Canadian Rye)
10 | Insurpassable | Nothing Else Comes Close (William Larue Weller)
*Bourbon Culture is reader-supported. When you buy through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission.