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Elijah Craig Barrel Proof Single Barrel (Neat Drinker’s Association/Quality Bourbons and Barbecue) Review

Elijah Craig Barrel Proof Single Barrel (Neat Drinker’s Association/Quality Bourbons and Barbecue) Review

Heaven Hill will always hold a special place in my heart as the place I did my first barrel pick at (Rural Inn Pick #4 of Elijah Craig if you were curious). As we were drinking bourbon straight from the barrel inside of a rickhouse, we asked our guide why we couldn’t get the barrel bottled at barrel proof. He laughed and casually deflected the question saying “we get that question all the time! Trust us, we want it too!” It took Heaven Hill 2 more years to finally give enthusiasts what they wanted.



Elijah Craig Barrel Proof single barrels are now flooding the scene after being delayed due to the strike in the fall of 2021. It seems as if every store has picked one even though I have noticed a few that still elect to have their single barrels bottled at 94 proof. The general consensus among enthusiasts is that the older and higher proofed ones are more valuable than the younger and lower proofed ones. Ages range from 8 years old to 11 years old (puzzlingly, they do not put 12+ year old barrels into the barrel proof program) and I’ve seen proofs range from 108 all the way up to HAZMAT levels of 142 proof. The average proof is right around 125 though.


The Neat Drinkers Association picks a Single Barrel of Elijah Craig Barrel Proof


Veterans of picking single barrels will tell you that the stats shouldn’t be the primary reason in picking a barrel, it should be the taste. It’s often true that the oldest or highest proofed whiskies can taste the most unbalanced or even over-oaked. This is important to take into consideration when you’re faced with a half-dozen options of which single barrel to buy. That’s why you should always seek out a sample first or buy from a store whose single barrel picks have always appealed to your specific palate.



The Neat Drinker’s Association (a delightful pun to the term “NDA”) out of the Bay Area in California is a group that is known to have a great set of palates for their picks. Together with the restaurant Quality Bourbons and Barbecue in Mountain View, CA, they picked a 9 year old single barrel that comes in at 135.2 proof. NDA stickers always have a musical theme to them and the back of this bottle is no different. The song “In The Pines (Oakland)” by Fantastic Negrito is commemorated on the back with hidden barrel information hidden within the artwork. For those of you who are curious about such things, this is barrel 6204263 which came from Floor 5 of Warehouse AA.

So how did my first (but not last) taste of an Elijah Craig Barrel Proof Pick turn out? Read on! I sampled this neat in a glencairn.


Tasting Notes


Nose: The scent of melted Rolo candies, brown sugar and vanilla pudding give the nose a nice sweet start. Seasoned oak mixes with cinnamon, nutmeg and toasted walnuts to let your nose really get a sense of the age and spices from the liquid. Melted butter also reveals itself and probably comes from the unfiltered nature of the bourbon, bringing a rich extra layer to the nose.

Palate: The heat from the proof hits your tongue hard initially. I was expecting this before I even opened the bottle since it’s bottled at over 135 proof. Then the sweets begin to fight the spicy and hot components of the bourbon. Brown sugar and caramel play nicely with a layer of sharp spices like cinnamon, white peppercorns and red pepper flakes. There is an underlying oaky component that gives each sip a nicely aged character. The proof is covering up some of the more delicate tastes underneath, but if you look hard enough, you should be able to find vanilla bean, brown baking spices, mint and even a bit of citrus peel.

Finish: The finish is almost entirely “melted candy bar” while the oak becomes slightly more dry. Overall, everything is in balance here and the finish is rich and satisfying. I also find a little residual citrus oil and mint flavors that add a bit more complexity as you take it all in.


Score: 8.3/10


This is a powerful dram that toes the line of being too hot to handle. Ultimately it’s a worthwhile endeavor to drink because the powerful flavors leave a lasting impression of just how much flavor hides inside of these barrels. I know I’m not alone when I see modern-day ECBP batches come out in the low 120’s and find myself missing the days of them being in the mid 130s. There’s just something about a Heaven Hill product bottled at such high proof that keeps bringing me back to it. This has been a bottle that I’ve enjoyed many times since I received it.



Final Thoughts


In the end, this bottle of ECBP Single Barrel was everything I expected it to be and more. Whereas standard ECBP batches have a good balance of flavors across the board, I figured that ECBP Single Barrels would probably favor certain flavors over others. I wasn’t wrong. The spicy flavors found within seemed to be highlighted more than standard ECBP batches normally have in the past. I also was pleasantly surprised to find citrus and mint notes too. This is the beauty of single barrels after all. If you have favorite notes that you love to find in bourbon, single barrels may be your best bet for finding a bottle that puts them front and center.


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