Day Four in the Whisky Advent Calendar
*In this series, I’m working my way through the 2015 Master of Malt Whisky Advent.
I’m not as much of a bourbon guy as my friend and fellow Whisky School Instructor, Tom Fischer, but I’ll do my best on this one.
Elijah Craig was a Baptist Preacher in Virginia in an area that later became Kentucky. He is credited by some (including Heaven Hill who owns the Elijah Craig distillery) as the founder of Kentucky Bourbon, but it’s widely disputed and based mostly on conjecture and possibilities. Chuck Cowdery is one of many who have covered this extensively.
That’s something I’ve never understood. When you have a product as tasty as Elijah Craig, sticking to the facts and science should be enough. The whiskey stands on its own. No need to inflate it with dubious claims.
The distiller is located in Louisville, KY and Heaven Hill is responsible for quite a few well-known whiskies.
The 12yr old Small Batch Elijah Craig is a really great example of a small batch whisky. Bourbon is a newer thing for me, and I’m having to get used to the aggression of a new wood ages whisky and the heavy sweetness of the corn.
Think back to the first time you tried black coffee or an IPA. The dramatic points in the beverage, bitterness and hops respectively, tend to take over the flavors and overpower the subtly. It’s not until you gain experience that your brain can turn those dramatic front notes into background noise that you can discern the light flavors beneath.
I had the same experience with Islay and Campbeltown whisky. But now I can pick up sweet notes of sherry in even the 12yr old Cask Strength Springbank which is a truly aggressively peaty scotch whisky.
I haven’t hit that yet with bourbon. In this one I am overpower with the sweetness of the corn and the aggression of the new oak barrel.
But there are ways around that. Richard Paterson (the tasting and entertainment genius) uses a really cool way of breaking down tasting and smelling (watch his video below). Essentially you take short quick smells, pull the glass away, try to categorize the smell that first comes to mind, and then mentally push it to the side before you go back and look for other smells and flavors.
I find that the mental exercise of doing that with whisky really improves my ability to separate smells out of the mix in something I’m trying for the first time.
Doing that with Elijah Craig 12 results in me finding small hints of anise and bits of hard candy like butterscotch or a Werther’s Original.
For me, bourbon is still a world I drink to learn instead of merely drinking to enjoy. This is a tasty one, but it’s a step back in my whisky preferences.