I had the good fortune of helping to pick this barrel with the LJWhiskeyFamily team back in May. Both Derek and I had an incredible time helping them make a great choice. Swipe through the pics below to see how the morning went! Though it's not an official collaboration pick - it certainly earned the Mass Bourbon Alliance seal of approval that day! It's finally here and releases September 30th for pickup from the punch program. Now that it's finally in the bottle (and 0.5 proof point lower than we tasted it previously!) I'm interested to see how it reviews as taking notes at the distillery completely slipped all of our minds. I enjoyed walking down the endless rows of barrels and smelling the beauty of the space.
When you taste on premise at Heaven Hill they usually let you pull from the barrel yourself with a copper thief, though you're usually pouring into the cute sized wee-glens (probably for the best on a 10am tasting). I'm interested to see how much more developed the nose experience is on a larger glencairn glass. Let's get into it!
Company on Label: Elijah Craig (Heaven Hill)
Whiskey Type: Bourbon
Mash Bill Percentages: 78% Corn, 10% Rye, 12% Barley
Age: 8 years
Further identification: Barrel serial number 6652930 is an 8 year pick from Heaven Hill which comes from Floor 6 of Warehouse O which sits on their main campus (the same location as the 1996 fire)
Nose: Mmm. Butterscotch, caramel, nougat and toffee all leap out of the glass on this one. Usually things like to start soft and slow, but this comes right out at you on the nose in full flavor bloom. Crème brûlée in its purest form comes across elegant here. The chocolate wafer aromas build really well in the resting glass. A soft swirl awakens leather and level oak. Just a tinge of the old barrel funk I often dream about tickles the nostrils. I remember now why I pushed for us to pick this barrel (despite I think being initially outnumbered in my opinion); the deep complexity that is incredibly apparent from the rich barrel influence is on full display. It smells much older than the 8 year age statement leads on and likely did age faster than any of the other samples we tasted that day as this was the highest floor barrel. Letting it rest and coming back I find more bakery sweets have crept in. There's a pervasive confectioners sugar lingering in every corner. Overall it's bright, inviting and sweet with persistent vanilla. Time for a sip!
The nose is increasingly delectable and enjoyable as more of the rich barrel influence begins to bellow off the surface of the glass. Cherry skins long to escape the clutches of the nutmeg and potent oak. The butterscotch returns strong on the nose now with bread pudding in tow. Vanilla eventually softens to marshmallow and the nose is easier to understand and enjoy. Bright linen/paper characteristic shows up later in the glass like I find on the Heaven Hill Bottled-in-Bond 7 year release. Mmm: deep inhales are all butterscotch now & well worth waiting for. Hints of stone fruit are still on the subsurface. Perhaps a bit of water could unlock them here. Hints of floral tones can be scraped off the oak boards that line the nearing empty glass. The truly empty glass smells of deliciously clear milk chocolate, creamed espresso, mascarpone and flan.
Palate: Wow, that'll wake you up for sure. My first sip is punchy with cherry hots leading the charge before retreating into a almond honey nougat profile that reminds me of a Toblerone. Raspberry truffle meets decadent black forest cake. Another sip reveals more of the sweet, slightly tannic fruit. I find dark things like raspberry, plum, blood orange and blackcurrant. The linger is consistently chocolate forward with a layer of cacao powder that sits in the back of the mouth. Rich whipped cream dances in and out between the throngs of balanced heat and spice. Allspice tingles on the tongue while a soft honeysuckle begins to ebb in to push it away. Caramel cookies & pecan turtles swing in late. A honey sweetness begins to build in the bottom of the glass. There's been a great evolution in the glass thus far. My last sip is bright with black pepper, white linen and tart raisin. The linger is long, smoldering and a touch drying. It shows off notes of gingerbread, chocolate croissant and biscotti.
Rating: Two Thumbs Up
This is most definitely not an 'any day' bourbon. This is a big proofy monster that shows off many great layers of complexity that I'm sure will evolve with time and air. I like the idea of keeping your pours small on this one to let the proper air interactions allow you to enjoy this without too much struggle. I've admittedly not found too many Elijah Craig barrel proof single barrels that I've liked but this one is really solid and reminiscent of some of the great batched barrel proof products (looking at you 2020 blends)! I hope you enjoy this one. If it's a touch hot for your preference, I think this could do phenomenally in an old fashioned, though I typically prefer rye in mine. Cheers!