For the past three years in my whiskey journey, Elijah Craig Small Batch has always been a bourbon that I go back to time and time again. I consider it to be one of the best value bourbons out there and one of my top recommendations for a newcomer to the bourbon world. Dollar for dollar, the consumer is able to experience a high-quality bourbon at a very affordable price. Here in Florida, I can easily find it for $29.99 at most retailers, which is not a bad price for a bourbon aged 8-12 years. We’ll get more into the age statement later.
Elijah Craig is a brand owned by Heaven Hill Brands, which is America’s largest independent, family-owned and operated producer and marketer of distilled spirits. To give you an idea of their size, they have filled over seven million barrels of Kentucky Bourbon since the company was founded after the repeal of Prohibition. Elijah Craig has certainly been one of their successful brands and demand has increased in double digits according to this article by Josh Hafer, Communications Manager for Heaven Hill Brands. The increase in demand has led to the disappearance of the old 12 year age statement found on bottles of Elijah Craig in order to reduce the ageing timeline and increase product availability by offering a small batch blend of 8-12 year old barrels instead. This new and younger Elijah Craig does not include an age statement on the label, although the company is stating in good faith that 8-12 year old barrels will be selectively blended together to produce a bourbon that remains within the standard taste profile as the original 12 year age stated Elijah Craig. There are a few critics of Heaven Hill Brands for making this move, but Heaven Hill’s argument is that they’re preventing a shortage in supply and allowing more consumers to enjoy a quality bourbon. For me, I love age statements because it gives you a way to compare other bourbons, but I understand the business decision Heaven Hill brands is making and I’ll live with it.
Even with the “non-age statement” (NAS) Elijah Craig now on the market, the bourbon is still a quality pour and my perception and enjoyment has not changed. As I mentioned earlier, it is easily one of my top “go to” every day pours. The bourbon is bottled at 94 proof (47% alcohol by volume). The nose is full of oak and vanilla. The taste is comprised of a mixture of caramel, oak, and sweet brown sugar, with a molasses texture. I found the finish to be smooth with a lingering hint of spice. There’s no doubt among bourbon enthusiasts that this is a quality pour, and worthy of at least a try from anyone looking to expand their palate. If you decide to pick up a bottle for the first time, I would love to hear your thoughts.