Elijah Craig – 18 Year Old – Single Barrel – Straight Bourbon Whiskey – Barrel 4002 – Distilled 5-23-1990 | 45% (90 Proof)
Color/Appearance: Perfect amber swirled with dark honey. The bottle has an elegant rounded shape. I like the scrolling design elements that are printed on the glass but I think the color scheme with its swirling motif seems a little off. Like some sort of time warp from the late 70s. So close to a really classy bottle.
Nose: Rich baking spices, pencil shavings, vanilla, old polished wood, a soft leather chair, orange zest, swedish fish candy, and caramel custard. Very nice. Pitch perfect nose with loads of interesting development and depth. Ah, spend as much time as you can nosing this because things are about to go downhill.
Palate: Dry oak and barrel char. Too closed and woody, with much of the tantalizing nuances from the nose drowned out. They are there but hard to hear. A drop or two of water can bring the wood down a notch for me. Then brighter citrus and dark syrup emerge. A touch of clove with red and black pepper. A little too challenging with some sourness and bitterness, seemingly wood related. Certainly grabs your attention but not for the right reasons. Unfortunately adding that water seems to tamp down the nose. You can get a similar opening-up of the palate if you wait and wait. Give it at least thirty minutes. Still I found that the palate ended up being very limited even with this small opening up.
Finish: A nice return to some of the great notes from the nose. Long and spicy with small bursts of more juicy flavors, a drop of orange juice and a touch of crasins (sweetened cranberries). Then a little ash and oak for days. Here the strong oak presence seems more appealing.
Overall: This is a nice diversion, giving you a hint of what an older bourbon could be like. Unfortunately it’s not really showing up on the palate. I could easily nose this whiskey forever but it ends up being rather frustrating when the palate cannot deliver on that promise. I know that this 18 year old is long gone and has been replaced by new older versions. The most recent one is up to 23 years old. I hope this particular barrel was just one that aged a little too fast and some of these newer and older versions may have it dialed in a little more. With the age increasing by one every year it also seems like all these older Elijah Craig barrels were filled around twenty-three years ago. I hope that they have stashed away another set of barrels and can start the series over again. I would like to try some of the other versions since if the palate could come around some this could be an amazing bourbon. Thanks so much to Florin for the sample. It is great to have the opportunity to try whiskey that is long gone from the market.