Elijah Craig | Best Bourbons | Heaven Hill Distillery | Premium Aged | Review | Rye Whiskey

Every Elijah Craig Bourbon & Rye Whiskey Reviewed [2021]

Dec 9, 2020

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by Matty Sims

Glencairn Whiskey Glass

The origin of Elijah Craig bourbon is shrouded in some mystery as it was named after an 18th-century preacher, entrepreneur, and factory owner, Reverend Elijah Craig. Heaven Hill boldly proclaims him as the father of bourbon. As the legend goes, a fire broke out at Craig’s distillery and charred the oak barrels he used to transfer his whiskey and he decided to use them anyway. And wouldn’t you know the charred barrel made the whiskey taste better.

Related:

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The Best Elijah Craig Whiskey Ranked

Elijah Craig Whiskey

  • Elijah Craig 18YO Bourbon – Gold 93.6 out of 100 Points
  • Elijah Craig Barrel Proof Bourbon – Gold 92.6 out of 100 Points
  • Elijah Craig 23YO Bourbon – Silver 91 out of 100 Points
  • Elijah Craig Toasted Barrel Bourbon – Silver 87 out of 100 Points
  • Elijah Craig Singel Barrel Store Pick – Silver 87 out of 100 Points
  • Elijah Craig Small Batch Bourbon – Silver 86 out of 100 Points
  • Elijah Craig 20YO Bourbon – Coming Soon
  • Elijah Craig Small Batch Rye Whiskey – Coming Soon

Elijah Craig Small Batch Bourbon Review

Elijah Craig Small Batch Bourbon

Elijah Craig Small Batch
Elijah Craig Small BatchDetails
Off the Still137 Proof
In the Barrel125 Proof
In the Bottle94 Proof
ABV47%
Mashbill75% Corn, 13% Rye & 12% Malted Barley
Char Level#3 Barrel Char
Distilled and AgedBardstown, KY
Age8 to 12-years-old
StyleSmall Batch, Non-Chill Filtered
Size750 mL to 1.75 mL
Suggested MSRP$30 to $50
DistilleryHeaven Hill Distillery
Bardstown, KY
ProsPerfectly Balanced
ConsMaybe a bit oaky for beginners
AvailabilityAvailable to Buy Online
RatingSilver 86 out of 100 points
InventoryKeep Stocked
Buy OnlineElijah Craig's Website

Heaven Hill describes Elijah Craig as, “The award-winning Bourbon that started it all. Our signature Small Batch owes its distinctive warm spice & subtle smoke flavor to Level 3 charred oak barrels.” Elijah Craig small batch bourbon boasts perfectly balanced sweet, oak, and baking spice — its small batch bourbon at its best (even though some might argue with the small designation, more on that in a minute). Elijah Craig is a blend of 200 barrels or less to achieve that signature flavor we all love. Small batch isn’t a regulated term, so it is up to the distillery to determine what that means for their brand.

Nose – 87 out of 100 Points

Elijah Craig offers rich, complex baking spice notes of cinnamon, subtle clove, and ginger. Layered rock fruit sweetness and apples stewed down in cinnamon round out the palate.

Taste – 85 out of 100 Points

The front of the palate reminds me of mixing packs of peach oatmeal with brown sugar and cinnamon oatmeal. Elijah Craig also offers some barrel char vanilla sweetness and toasted oak with black pepper on the back of the palate.

Finish – 85 out of 100 Points

The finish medium with charred oak, vanilla, pepper, and just a pop of tart apple.

Verdict – Silver 86 out of 100 Points

The Bourbon Bard Silver Medal

What more is there to say about Elijah Craig small batch bourbon? It should be a bourbon cabinet staple. It’s versatile with the fruit notes lending themselves to summer drinking and the spice coming through for colder winter nights. It works great with a bold cigar and can hold its own in a cocktail. Elijah Craig offers medium viscosity with thin legs. It’s a light copper in the glass.

Awards

  • Best Small Batch – San Francisco World Spirits Competition, 2018
  • Double Gold – San Francisco World Spirits Competition, 2018
  • 93 Points, Tried & True Award Tried & True Award, Ultimate Spirits Challenge, 2020
  • 86 Points, The Bourbon Bard Silver, 2020

Frequently Asked Questions

Elijah Craig Small Batch Age Stated_1

Is Elijah Craig a good bourbon?

Yes, Elijah Craig is a good bourbon. It’s won several prestigious awards for best small batch bourbon, we ranked Elijah Craig Small Batch a solid 86 points (silver).

What does Elijah Craig taste like?

Elijah Craig Small Batch bourbon batched with 200 barrels or less and offers notes of sweet rock fruit and apples balanced with bold baking spices.

What mixes well with Elijah Craig?

Elijah Craig stands up to anything because of its big bold flavors. Mix it with coke. Mix it with ginger ale. Mix it in coffee.

How long is Elijah Craig bourbon aged?

Elijah Craig small batch was a 12-year-old age-stated bourbon from 1986 to 2016 when the age statement was removed, the bottle was redesigned (see old bottle design above), and it became a blend of 8 to 12-year-old bourbons.

Start shopping for bourbon clothing and accessories for your journey. The Bard’s Shop has custom tees and hoodies, books, barrels, and more.

Elijah Craig Barrel Proof Batches

Elijah Craig Barrel Proof

Elijah Craig Barrel Proof Batches
Batch #DesignationProofYearNotes
Batch 24C920132.8 Proof2020
Batch 23B520127.2 Proof2020
Batch 22A120136.6 Proof2020
Batch 21C919136.8 Proof2019
Batch 20B519122.2 Proof2019
Batch 19A119131.4 Proof2019
Batch 18C918131.4 Proof2018
Batch 17B518133.4 Proof2018
Batch 16B517130.6 Proof2018
Batch 15B517131.0 Proof2017
Batch 14B517124.2 Proof2017Whiskey of the Year
Batch 13A117127.0 Proof2017
Batch 12136.0 Proof2016
Batch 11139.4 Proof2016
Batch 10138.8 Proof2016
Batch 9135.6 Proof2015
Batch 8139.8 Proof2015
Batch 7128.0 Proof2015
Batch 6140.2 Proof2014Hazmat
Batch 5134.8 Proof2014
Batch 4132.4 Proof2014
Batch 3133.2 Proof2014
Batch 2137.0 Proof2013
Batch 1134.2 Proof2013Gift Shop Release

Elijah Craig Barrel Proof Bourbon Batch B517 Review

Elijah Craig Barrel Proof Bourbon Batch B517

The Elijah Craig B517 Barrel Proof Batch was named the whiskey of the year by Whiskey Advocate in 2017.

Nose – 93 out of 100 Points

Slowly and gently take in the aromas. This is a bourbon you don’t want to aggressively nose. It packs a Mike Tyson right hook. I pick up caramel-covered corn nuts. I’m also enjoying baking spice and orange zest.

Taste – 92 out of 100 Points

The toasted corn nuts take a leading role on the palate along with peanuts. There’s also prominent sweet cinnamon that warms the palate and black pepper that billows forward.

Finish – 93 out of 100 Points

The finish is long. It’s more toasted nuts, caramel, and black pepper

Verdict – Gold 92.6 out of 100 Points

The Bourbon Bard Gold Medal

The color of this bourbon is dark. The complexity is strong, and it’s balanced. I can see why proof hounds loved this batch.

Awards

  • World Whiskies Awards’ category winner 2017
  • Double Gold and Best Small Batch Bourbon – 11 Years and Older at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition 2017
  • 95 Points at F. Paul Pacult’s Ultimate Spirits Challenge 2017
  • Gold at the SIP Awards 2017
  • 94 in the Summer 2017 issue of Whisky Advocate magazine
  • Whiskey Advocate Whiskey of the Year 2017

Elijah Craig 18-Year-Old Single Barrel Bourbon

Elijah Craig 18YO Single Barrel

Elijah Craig 18YO Single Barrel Bourbon
18YO Single Barrel BourbonDetails
Off the Still137 Proof
In the Barrel125 Proof
In the Bottle90 Proof
ABV45%
Mashbill75% Corn, 13% Rye & 12% Malted Barley
Char Level#3 Barrel Char
Age18YO
StyleSingle Barrel
Price$150
ProsPerfectly Balanced
ConsMaybe a bit oaky for beginners
AvailabilityLimited Fall Release
RatingGold 93.6 out of 100 Points
InventoryBuy It Now

Nose – 93 out of 100 Points

The nose is a lesson in balancing oak with other flavors. In EC18’s case, those notes are tart apples, cherries, baking spice, chocolate, vanilla, and buttered toast.

Taste – 94 out of 100 Points

The mouthfeel is solid and oily. A nice developed toasted oak buttressed by stewed apples, dark caramel, and baking spice. A nice musty leather and black pepper highlight the back palate.

Finish – 92 out of 100 Points

The finish is medium with leather, charred baking spice, oak, and white pepper.

Complexity – 93 out of 100 Points

I enjoyed the layers of flavor especially the leather, dustiness, and oak contrasted against the vanilla, caramel, and fruit notes.

Value – 96 out of 100 Points

Elijah Craig 18 is a premium aged bourbon under $200. If you can find it at the suggested retail of $150 it’s a steal.

Verdict – Gold 93.6 out of 100 Points

The Bourbon Bard Gold Medal

Elijah Craig 20-Year-Old Single Barrel Bourbon

Elijah Craig 20

Elijah Craig 21YO Single Barrel Bourbon
21YO Single Barrel BourbonDetails
Off the Still137 Proof
In the Barrel125 Proof
In the Bottle90 Proof
ABV45%
Mashbill75% Corn, 13% Rye & 12% Malted Barley
Char Level#3 Barrel Char
Age21YO
StyleSingle Barrel
PriceWas $140
AvailabilityDiscontinued

Full Review Coming Soon. Elijah Craig 20-year-old bourbon has been discontinued.

Elijah Craig 23-Year-Old Single Barrel Bourbon

Elijah Craig 23YO Single Barrel

Elijah Craig 23YO Single Barrel Bourbon
23YO Single Barrel BourbonDetails
Off the Still137 Proof
In the Barrel125 Proof
In the Bottle90 Proof
ABV45%
Mashbill75% Corn, 13% Rye & 12% Malted Barley
Char Level#3 Barrel Char
Age23YO
StyleSingle Barrel
Price$200
ProsAromas on the Nose
ConsOvere Oaked
AvailabilityDiscontinued
RatingSilver 91 out of 100 Points
InventoryTry It First

Nose – 93 out of 100 Points

The nose is fantastic. Cherries and raisins with gorgeous undertones of toasted oak. Those who love oak notes will go nuts over this. I’m a fan of the interplay between the oak and fruit notes. They just work for me.

Taste – 90 out of 100 Points

You got just a pop of those fruit notes at the front of the palate and then tannic oak shows up and bully balls all the other flavors that try to show up. I pick up just hints of vanilla, musty leather, and maple syrup amidst of the onslaught of oak.

Finish – 88 out of 100 Points

No surprise that the finish offers more tannic oak with white pepper, leather, tobacco, and a smidge of vanilla. But again it’s a savory, oaky finish.

Complexity – 88 out of 100 Points

I prefer the Elijah Craig 18 primarily for the complexity that’s lost much past that mark. After nosing, Elijah Craig 23 is oak, oak, and more oak with other flavors fighting to find their screen time.

Value – 96 out of 100 Points

Elijah Craig 23 is a premium-aged bourbon at $200. If you’ve never tried a bourbon over 20 years old, Elijah Craig 23 may be the most reasonable option if you can find it.

Verdict – Silver 91 out of 100 Points

The Bourbon Bard Silver Medal

Elijah Craig Toasted Barrel Review

Elijah Craig Toasted Barrel Review
Elijah Craig Toasted Barrel ReviewDetails
Mashbill78% Corn, 12% Malted Barley, and 10% Rye
In the Bottle94 Proof
ABV47%
AgeNAS
Release TypeSecond Barrel: 18-month air dried oak then flash charred
Size750 mL
Suggested MSRP$50
DistilleryHeaven Hill Distillery
Bardstown, KY
ProsFlavor Profile Is Complex and Interesting
ConsBitterness During Finish
RatingSilver 87 Points
InventoryMid-Level Splurge, Buy a Few to Share

Elijah Craig Toasted Barrel will be a permanent addition to the Elijah Craig family of bourbons and will be released annually. Elijah Craig Toasted Barrel’s release date was September 2020. Many people as asking, “Is Elijah Craig toasted barrel a limited release?” Yes, it was an allocated release in its first year. But not limited in the sense that it won’t be released again. Elijah Craig Toasted Barrel’s cost should be around $49.99 a bottle — so average for a bourbon receiving a secondary finish.

Here’s what Heaven Hill has to say,

The process begins with fully matured Small Batch, which is dumped and then re-entered at barrel proof into a second, custom toasted new oak barrel designed in partnership with Independent Stave Company. Made with 18-month air-dried oak, the finishing barrel is first toasted and then flash-charred using a moderate toast temperature and toast time.

An extensive research and development process resulted in a final barrel toast profile bringing forward dark sugar flavors within the wood to create a balance of smokiness and sweetness after months of finishing. The resulting taste is big, rich, and complex with spice and pepper notes that fade into milk chocolate with a hint of smoke as the finish lingers with chocolate and baking spices. Only charred new American oak barrels are used throughout the process to maintain the standards of identity class and type designation for Straight Bourbon Whiskey.

“Elijah Craig Toasted Barrel pays homage to our namesake’s pioneering spirit as the first to char oak barrels through thoughtful innovation in the barrel-aging process,” said Max Stefka, Elijah Craig Senior Brand Manager. “It was a pleasure partnering with Independent Stave Company to create a custom toast profile and char level designed to best complement fully matured Elijah Craig. Twice barreled for nuanced flavor, Toasted Barrel showcases a Straight Bourbon process unique in the marketplace.”

Elijah Craig Toasted Barrel provides a thin coat on my Glencairn whiskey glass. Its color is dark amber.

Nose – 87 out of 100 Points

I get black licorice, deeply fire-roasted marshmallow, some muted fruit sweetness, then I taste the charred wood.

Taste – 89 out of 100 Points

The first sip I got a ton of sweetness when it hit my palate — typical bourbon profile. That dissipated quickly then I tasted a light smokiness, bitter coffee with vanilla cream, dried leather, and pepper. Rich dark chocolate comes to play as well. The flavor profile reminded me of a delicious, rich s’more with a perfectly charred marshmallow and melted dark chocolate.

Finish – 85 out of 100 Points

Long, bitter, and peppery—but in the best possible way. I also get balanced notes of tobacco, chocolate, and jalapenos.

Verdict – Silver 87 out of 100 Points

The Bourbon Bard Silver Medal

I love a toasted barrel finish but a lot of the murmur I was hearing was that it was hot and smokey. I’m not a huge fan of smoke flavors a la High West Campfire. But I found this enjoyable. Sniffed and drank out of Glencairn whiskey glass than with a small splash of water. My last glass was on the rocks. I recommend trying all three variations, especially with this particular toasted barrel finish. With a little water, some of the spice mellows, and the sweet notes come forward. With a slow melting rocks glass, it was the perfect companion to a robust cigar on a cold fall night.

Start shopping for bourbon clothing and accessories for your journey. The Bard’s Shop has custom tees and hoodies, books, barrels, and more.

Elijah Craig Straight Rye Review

Full review coming soon

Elijah Craig Single Barrel

Elijah Craig Single Barrel Beverage Superstore

Elijah Craig Small Batch is a staple for my collection. It’s a solid drinker, at a great price, and pairs great with a variety of cigars. For my palate, it’s a summer bourbon because of the rich fruit notes that often pop.

This particular pick comes from one of my fav stops in GA. They consistently pick solid bourbons and whiskeys. This EC pick is thick and oily.

Nose – 87 out of 100 Points

Fresh summer fruit. Tart Granny Smith apples and strawberries. Heavy whipped cream with lemon zest. Subtle oak.

Taste – 87 out of 100 Points

Strawberry shortcake with whipped cream and tart apples dance on the front of the palate but are quickly moved off center stage when the oak enters mid-palate. It warms the entire mouth and brings along subtle leather notes. It moves from fresh and crisp to oaky fast.

Finish – 87 out of 100 Points

The finish is an oak tree’s love child. It’s full-flavored, robust, and complex.

Verdict – Silver 87 out of 100 Points

The Bourbon Bard Silver Medal

This barrel pick is a perfect pick for people who love oak. It’s not naked oak but balanced within a bouquet of fruit flavors. That marriage of oak and sweetness is a hallmark of Elijah Craig.

Start shopping for bourbon clothing and accessories for your journey. The Bard’s Shop has custom tees and hoodies, books, barrels, and more.

Why Trust The Bourbon Bard?

Written by Matty Sims

Matty Sims is a storyteller who loves bourbon. He has been drinking and studying whiskey for over 10 years. He has also been featured on sites like Bourbon Sippers, Explore Whiskey, Thrive Global and Inside Hook, partnered with dozens of distilleries, and reviewed hundreds of whiskeys. He has also created single barrel stickers for Bourbon Pursuit and Total Wine.
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