It’s not usually my practice to drink bourbon or, much less , any hard liquor at 10:40 in the morning. But this morning I must make an exception with a gorgeous little bottle of Elijah Craig bourbon sitting right there in front of me. I’m toasting a cheese sandwich to accompany this historic occasion. Sure I enjoy the warm richness that Elijah Craig brings to my glass, but this bottling is no mere whiff of Kentucky history. It is Kentucky Royalty in a glass. The bottling that is calling my name is Barrel Proof drawn straight from a single barrel. I’m honored to have the chance to taste it, even if it is before noon. Why? Because somewhere in the world the sun will rush over my toes, warming them deeply. And that time, however fleeting, will be my time to enjoy a small glass of this magical elixir.
The Elijah Craig Single Barrel offering is no lightweight. It rolls in at 134.2 proof or 67.1% alcohol by volume. In my hand-blown glass, I detect a warm underpinning of caramel apple. Sweet, long-cooked rhubarb and strawberries swirl up my nose. It hardly burns at all! I take a huge swig and BOOM! It goes straight up into my head. The birds outside suddenly seem far away and my grilled cheese sandwich? Oh, that one…
This stuff kicks serious butt. Even as a Yankee and a DAMNED Yankee at that, I consider myself damned lucky to have a bottle of this single barrel offering in front of me. With a sprig of fresh mint and a splash of the local branch water- ok, maybe some Mavea filtered water ice, crushed to the point of becoming diamonds. Hmmmm, that certainly is a fine idea. I’ll get right on that one. Plus, it’s still only 11:07 in the morning and I’m drooling over the sound of Elijah Craig Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey and my Kentucky Colonel Mint, with raw cane sugar and Mavea filtered water ice????
This is too good to be true. Now if only my juleps last year at the Kentucky Derby tasted so fine! (They were not so fine)
I’m quickly becoming a fan of Elijah Craig. This bottling is the 12-year version. In my research I also discovered that they do an 18-year version. If this is so delicious, the 18-year must be as soft as that branch water that bubbles up near my home.
I absolutely recommend that you eat something when you enjoy your glass of Elijah Craig. A 134 proof drink is no 99 pound weakling. This bourbon will hurt you pretty bad if you aren’t careful. It’s so easy to drink and that razor’s edge is all too easy to jump up on. I know as it happened to me last month down in Kentucky. If I only had a glass or two of Fernet Branca the next morning, I might have survived that leap into and beyond the precipice.
Tasting Notes for the Elijah Craig 12 Year – Small Batch Bourbon…
Bottled un-chill-filtered so it may be cloudy! I love that!
Deceptively soft nose of caramelized walnuts and cashews give way very quickly to notes of white chocolate, long-cooked rhubarb and toasted strawberries. Take a sip and let it swirl around your mouth. There is a pinball game going on – of salty to sweet to explosions of the ever-present alcohol. You cannot escape it because it’s just like the heat of the day down in New Orleans during Tales of the Cocktail. It envelops your head and drenches you in its embrace. Too much of the Elijah Craig in your glass and the world might just become a much fuzzier place. There is a point when sniffing this righteous beast gives way to actually swallowing it. Toasted benne seeds are right up front and the alcohol gives way to molten fire immediately at the back of your tongue. Don’t mess around with this one folks. It’s serious stuff indeed and should be carefully imbibed, lest you discover the wonders of Fernet the next morning!
On the mid-palate there hovers a veneer of toasty tobacco leaf. It’s dry in the mid-range and finishes dry. Appearing in the back of your throat is a soft pillow of Icelandic Puffin down, which arrives in a burst of cotton candy sweetness. In this case the cotton candy immediately gives way to a coating of the throat that goes on for minutes.
I drank mine straight with a sprinkle of branch water on top. Alongside it, I enjoyed a grilled cheese sandwich, made on Pechter’s Rye bread in the cast iron pan.
When I mixed the sample into a mint julep I have found that foods like fried chicken from Martha Lou’s Kitchen in Charleston, South Carolina come in handy. Once you’ve had her chicken, you’ll know why I recommend it. If you are cooking at home, make sure you find yourself a nice deep Dutch oven to fry your chicken. I’d say soak it in buttermilk first to break down the sinews. You can roll it in corn flake crumbs or Panko should you desire. I prefer Panko. You may prefer something else.
Bourbon like Elijah Craig will imprint itself into your memory, so choose your food carefully. I did. You should too.