Elijah Craig Barrel Proof Batch A124 Review
Since Elijah Craig Barrel Proof dropped its guaranteed 12-year age statement in 2023, fans have been anxiously waiting for the release that comes in significantly younger. Would it suffer a distinct dip in quality? Or would focusing more on flavor than age allow for these releases to exceed previous conceptions of value?
These astute drinkers were placated — at least in part — by the thought that occasional batches would tick above 12 years. Batch C923 was a prime example of this, a back half of 2023 release that, at 13 years and seven months old, showcased some incredible heights for the line. Finally, though, we have our first “ECBP” with an age statement under 11 years.
At 10 years and nine months old, A124 is the youngest-ever Elijah Craig Barrel Proof release. (For reference, the “A” corresponds to January, the “1” signifies the year’s first release, and “24” indicates a 2024 batch.) And at 119 proof, it’s decidedly on the lower end for these bottlings.
This is a bourbon release that seemed both inevitable and gossip-inducing. The only way to measure a whiskey’s true quality, though, is to taste it. So let’s see how Elijah Craig Barrel Proof Batch A124 holds up!
Elijah Craig Barrel Proof Batch A124: Stats and Availability
One concern with losing those guaranteed 12-year age statements involved value. Elijah Craig Barrel Proof has long been the bourbon world’s worst-kept secret at the intersection of age, quality, and price, at least from one of the nation’s major producers. It’s also a thrice-yearly, nationwide release. The MSRP for this and other recent batches is around $75.
Because of variance from one release to the next, certain bottlings will command a slight premium. Batch C923, for example, carried a much higher age statement and also garnered rave reviews; it wasn’t uncommon to see it for $20-$40 above suggested retail on shelves. With a noticeable drop in both proof and age, I wouldn’t expect A124 to go for that much above retail, either on store shelves or the secondary market.
Elijah Craig Barrel Proof Batch A124 Review
As with all of VinePair’s whiskey reviews, this was tasted in a Glencairn glass and rested for at least five minutes. With this review, I also had a rested glass of last year’s Batch C923 on hand for comparison.
The nose is immediately rich in tanned leather, dark cocoa, and cured tobacco. In contrast to the early and pronounced cedar aroma from C923, this latest expression is a bit more classic Heaven Hill to start.
After another sniff, leather steps aside to reveal a variety of sweeter notes paired with a heavy amount of oak influence, especially given the relatively young age statement for this batch: light caramel and boiled taffy are chief among them.
Further time in the glass brings out green, vegetal notes, with some similarities to Kentucky ryes I’ve sampled recently. A tiny hint of green onion pairs with stewed tomatoes, such that the progression so far has gone from tannic to sweet and now herbaceous.
At the very back end of the nose comes baking spice, heavy cinnamon with some nutmeg grated on top.
On the nose, Batch A124 brings a traditional Elijah Craig trifecta of oaky, sweet, and spicy. I’m equal parts relieved and intrigued, and thus far this younger Barrel Proof is holding its own on quality. It’s also a noticeable departure from C923 with much less in the way of fruit. Let’s see how that translates to the palate.
A rich — and not intensely dark — caramel kicks things off on the palate. That tanned leather and tobacco return here as well. Flavors really coalesce in the very center of the midpalate, as if there’s a focal point in the dance between drying spice and oaky sweetness. Rye-forward spice is also prominent.
Only after that point do the flavors expand to more fully fit the palate. Sweetened black tea rolls both forward and back across the tongue, along with a light dusting of cinnamon. Small hints of apple and mint julep help bring a bit of freshness to the melange of sweet and spicy; otherwise, I’d have trouble sussing out much more depth in the mouth. While there’s good interplay between sweetness and spice, it doesn’t quite present the two in brilliant harmony at every point. But it comes close in stretches.
The mouthfeel is pleasantly viscous, though overall the palate lacks the same rich depth as some recent batches in the line. Batch A124 also drinks just a little hotter than its 119 proof, though it’s a (relatively) “mild” release for Elijah Craig Barrel Proof. To be clear, it’s not out of control in the slightest, and a drop or two of water reigns things in quite well for just about any bourbon drinker’s palate.
The finish is sweet and also leans further into the herbal, with a touch of lemon peel tartness. It’s reminiscent of homemade sun tea, though imagine a hearty ethanol kick to complete the experience. Again — and specifically compared to the most recent Batch C923 — there’s not an extraordinary amount of complexity at this juncture. The finish, though solidly enjoyable, is at once suitably long and a bit lacking in the depth we know Elijah Craig is capable of.
Elijah Craig Barrel Proof Batch A124 Rating
The year’s first Elijah Craig Barrel Proof is a solid bourbon, let’s get that out of the way. It certainly doesn’t stack all the way up to its immediate (and exceptional) predecessor in overall quality, but again, that doesn’t make it a bad whiskey by any means.
Compared to the rest of the American whiskey market, a 10-plus year, cask strength bourbon at $75 is something to take notice of. Fans of the expression are likely to grab bottles to keep tabs on the line, and more casual drinkers may find the combo of sweet-and-tannic accessible and fun. And A124 also exemplifies the fact that as these batches vary in age, they vary just as much in flavor. I’m already looking forward to what 2024’s next two releases bring.