Elijah Craig’s New Barrel Proof Bourbon Has Whiskey Nerds Up in Arms. Here’s Why.
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There’s a small but significant change to Elijah Craig Barrel Proof bourbon starting with the new release that launches this month—the whiskey will no longer carry a 12-year age statement. Instead, each batch will have a varying age that will be detailed down to the month on the label. That sound you hear in the distance is the collective gasp of 1,000 whiskey nerds who just realized they might be drinking 11.5-year-old bourbon instead of 12.
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This isn’t the first time a whiskey has lost its age statement, and it certainly won’t be the last. In fact, back in 2016 the regular 94-proof Elijah Craig Small Batch lost its 12-year-old age statement and became a blend of barrels aged between eight and 12 years. Fans were initially pissed off, and then most found out they couldn’t really tell the difference and quickly got over it. Other brands are going the opposite direction and returning age statements to their whiskey—Knob Creek reintroduced its nine-year-old statement to its bourbon in 2020, and added a seven-year age to its rye last month.
Elijah Craig Barrel Proof is released in three batches per year, and B523 (second of the year, released in May of 2023) is a 124.2 proof bourbon with an age statement of 11 years and five months on the front label. Each batch going forward will be selected by a team of three: master distiller Conor O’Driscoll, master taster Tawnie Gootee, and VP of new product development and quality assurance Chris Briney. “Each batch of Elijah Craig Barrel Proof will have its own unique taste profile and proof, as in years past, and now a unique age statement that will retain the extra-aged characteristic the brand is known for,” said a representative for Heaven Hill in a statement. “All other qualities of the series remain the same—non-chill-filtered and uncut to preserve all the natural esters and taste components from the barrels to the bottle. The variance in proof, and now age, from batch to batch is an exercise for true whiskey aficionados to experience the consistency in quality across the series while allowing for the unique intricacies of each batch to pull forward.”
Of course, there could be whiskey more than 12 years old in this new bottle, because the age statement is legally required to list the youngest whiskey in the blend. And apparently this doesn’t necessarily mean that Heaven Hill is trying to shift the Elijah Craig brand to younger whiskey. On the contrary, in a preview of the September release the company revealed that it will be a batch of whiskey aged for more than 13 years. Of course there are blogs and YouTube videos already posted mourning the loss of the age statement, with fans, and hobbyists airing dismay and anxiety about the change. But the reality is that all of this won’t really affect the popularity of and demand for this allocated release, and the outrage will soon evaporate like the angel’s share in a musty rickhouse. We did have a chance to sample the new B523, by the way, and it’s an excellent whiskey with notes of caramel apple, leather, dark chocolate, apricot, and creme brulee on the palate. The loss of those seven months certainly did not affect the oakiness of this bourbon at all.
Elijah Craig B523 is just rolling out to retailers now, so it may be hard to find at the moment. But you can purchase other whiskeys from the brand, including the now classic 12-year-old Barrel Proof, from websites like ReserveBar.
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