- 94 Proof
I love getting my hands on new products from the big guys. It seems that with the big distillers like Heaven Hill it's getting harder and harder to release creative new products that are not allocated or limited releases. That's why we're seeing traditionally bourbon brands releasing rye whiskeys (Old Forester and Rare Breed) as well as expansions of existing lines (such as Weller and Benchmark).
That being said, when it's a solid, well-loved brand like Elijah Craig, and when the creativity doesn't stray too far from what's been working, I'm all for it! Toasted barrel finishes certainly aren't anything new, but it is new to Heaven Hill. I think Elijah Craig was a good product to use for it, too, being on the lighter side of pricing which helps keep more limited releases such as this (I honestly have no idea just how limited this will be) at a reasonable price. The same can be said for the Barrel Strength as well.
As expected based on my experience with other toasted barrel finish whiskeys, this immediately came off sweeter than normal Elijah Craig on the nose. I got some light burnt orange or orange peel, as well as some salted peanuts. However, I also got some rich toffee as well as kind of a white sugar note. It was almost like light corn syrup, and I got a bit of sugar cookie from it.
As to flavor, one of the first notes I got was a light oak flavor. It wasn't strong, and I was surprised that it was what hit me first. Immediately behind that, though, were the flavors I was getting from the nose. I got a lot of toffee from front to back, including on the finish. I also got that orange peel or burnt orange note. This combo was pretty consistent throughout.
I also got some dark cherry, with a little bit of anise bite to it. There were some notes of almond extract as well to add a bit of richness and complexity to the flavor. I'm not sure exactly which notes may have been added by the finishing in the toasted barrel, whether it was the toffee notes or the anise spice--perhaps both.
Overall, though, this came across as a bit sweeter than Elijah Craig, but also spicier. However, the added spice wasn't peppery or even cinnamon, as so many bourbons tend to lean. Rather, it was that anise note, even a bit of a ginger bite, that seemed to amp this bourbon up a bit. Additionally, there was an added rich layer of dark cherry and dark chocolate, particularly towards the end, that added to the richness and complexity. While this isn't necessarily in my wheelhouse (anise and dark chocolate aren't really my thing), I know many bourbon drinkers that would love this profile. So take my grade with a grain of salt. There are those out there that will love this for sure.