Elijah Craig 12 yearWith the sad, sad news that the age statement had been removed from Elijah Craig, that left a lot of bourbon drinkers at a loss. Why? because Elijah Craig is, or had been, their go-to everyday bourbon. And why wouldn’t it be? It’s affordable (around $30), was generously aged and age stated at 12 years, and was a great sip that could be found in virtually every liquor store in America.

Now, who knows? It won’t be 12 years old anymore, and the batch size has doubled, meaning it cannot help but change in flavor profile. Now that we won’t explicitly know how old the whiskey in the bottle is, Elijah Craig has gone from a largely unique item in the marketplace to just another label.  In a lot of ways, EC drinkers feel betrayed by Heaven Hill with these new changes, and want to find a new go-to.

To really take the place of Elijah Craig, we should examine what makes the old Elijah Craig what it was:

  1. Small Batch. Batched bourbons are considerably more consistent than single barrel bourbons.  An everyday bourbon should be consistent.
  2. Age.  Elijah Craig was 12 years old.  This is really about the maximum age most rye-based bourbons should be bottled at.  Even the Elijah Craig single barrel variants get progressively worse with each older release (one of the 18 year bottlings was excellent).  So some solid age is a good start, but we’re not looking for something beyond 12 years.
  3. Price.  At $30, Elijah Craig was within the grasp of most consumers.  It didn’t break the bank.
  4. Availability.  You could find it anywhere.  Nearly any liquor store with a bourbon shelf carries Elijah Craig.
  5. Proof.  Elijah Craig is an easily approachable 94 proof.

So what’s a bourbon geek to do?  Where do the legions of Elijah Craig fans turn?

Here’s our suggestions along with how well each fits into the requirements above.

We haven’t tasted the non-age stated version of Elijah Craig yet, but it may be the closest in flavor profile to the old option.  But this post is really for those with a deep feeling of betrayal or disappointment in the changes to their brand and want to make a change.  Plus, we’re not trying to replicate the flavor of Elijah Craig, per say, just help these folks find a new everyday bourbon.  So we won’t include it on the list.

Knob Creek:Knob Creek Art (2)

Small Batch: Knob Creek, like Elijah Craig, is a small batch bourbon.  Fit: EXCELLENT

Age: It’s age stated at 9 years (for now), making it amongst the last of the “everyday” bourbons to be aged stated. Fit: FAIR

Price: Under $30.  Verdict: GOOD

Availability:  It’s one of the more widespread and available premium bourbons on the market. Fit: EXCELLENT

Proof: A stout 100 proof, this isn’t a mouth burner, but it’s going to pack more punch than Elijah Craig.  Fit: GOOD

Viability as a replacement for Elijah Craig: VERY GOOD

Buffalo Trace:Buffalo Trace bourbon stylized

Small Batch/Single Barrel: A small Batch bourbon, we dont’ really know the batch size, but it’s consistent as anything on the market.  Fit: EXCELLENT

Age: Not age stated, but usually around 9 years, this is decently aged.  Fit: GOOD

Price: Around $25, this is actually cheaper than Elijah Craig in most markets. Fit: EXCELLENT

Availability: This is a commonly available bourbon, though there have been runs on all Buffalo Trace prodcuts in some areas over the past couple of years.  Fit: GOOD

Proof: At 90 proof, this is pretty comparable to Elijah Craig.  Fit: GOOD

Viability as a replacement for Elijah Craig: GOOD

Four Roses Small Batch:four-roses-small-batch-4

Small Batch/Single Barrel: Small Batch, as the name suggests.  Fit: EXCELLENT

Age: Not Stated, but probably between 4 and 6 years.  Fit: POOR

Price: Under $30.  Fit: EXCELLENT

Availability: Pretty easy to fuind at any good liquor store. Fit: GOOD

Proof: 90 proof. Fit: GOOD

Viability as a replacement for Elijah Craig: FAIR

Old Forester Signature:old forester signature

Small Batch/Single Barrel: This is a batched product, though I would guess “Small batch” is a stretch.  Still, it is very consistent. Fit: GOOD

Age: Not Stated.  This is a young bourbon, likely in the 4 year range.  Fit: POOR

Price: In the low $20 range, this is really affordable. Fit: EXCELLENT

Availability: Not as easy to find as others, it’s still not a rare bourbon.  Fit: GOOD

Proof: 100 Proof.  Not a harsh bourbon by any means, but it will drink hotter than Elijah Craig. Fit: FAIR

Viability as a replacement for Elijah Craig: FAIR

Woodford Reserve:

Chris Morris, Master Distiller of Woodford Reserve
Chris Morris, Master Distiller of Woodford Reserve

Small Batch/Single Barrel: Small Batch.  Fit: EXCELLENT

Age: Not Stated, but likely 5-7 years. Fit: POOR

Price: The highest on the list, it can range into the $40s. Fit: POOR

Availability: For a premium, it’s likely one of the easiest to find.  Fit: GOOD

Proof: 90 proof.  Fit: GOOD

Viability as a replacement for Elijah Craig: FAIR

Old Grand-Dad 114:Old Grand-Dad 114

Small Batch/Single Barrel: Batched, likely large batch.  Fit: FAIR

Age: Not age stated.  Likely around 4 years.  Fit: POOR

Price: Well under $30.  Fit: EXCELLENT

Availability: A bit harder to find, it isn’t rare, but you’ll need to find a store with a decent selection. Fit: GOOD

Proof: 114.  Fit: POOR

Viability as a replacement for Elijah Craig: FAIR

Eagle Rare:eagle rare snow

Small Batch/Single Barrel:  Small Batch.  Fit: EXCELLENT

Age: 10 years (for now.) Fit: VERY GOOD

Price: Around $30. Fit: EXCELLENT

Availability: You may not find it at a drug store, but any well stocked liquor store shold have it, barring a run on Buffalo Trace.  Fit: GOOD

Proof: 90 Proof.  Fit: GOOD

Viability as a replacement for Elijah Craig: VERY GOOD

 

EDIT:  Not sure how I forgot it, but:

Evan Williams Single Barrel VintageEvan Williams 2004 Vintage Single Barrel

Small Batch/Single Barrel:  Single Barrel.  Fit: POOR

Age: 9-10 years (for now.) Fit: VERY GOOD

Price: Around $25. Fit: EXCELLENT

Availability: Pretty available everywhere, and likely a good reason Elijah Craig is removing their age statement.  These come from the same mash as Elijah Craig, and are around 9-10 years old (depending on the vintage.  This line seems to have grown quite a bit in popularity recently, and that likely means a good number of barrels in that 9 year range have been diverted from further aging to make Evan Williams Single Barrel.  Fit: EXCELLENT

Proof: 86 Proof.  Fit: POOR

Viability as a replacement for Elijah Craig: VERY GOOD

That really leaves three contenders- Evan Williams Single Barrel, Eagle Rare, and Knob Creek.  None of them are perfect, but they’re both comparable on paper.  In terms of flavor, Knob Creek is obviously a little on the yeasty side, as are most Jim Beam products, but has a heavier barrel profile, which is more akin to Heaven Hill.  Eagle Rare, while not the flavor bomb it used to be, is still a good sip.  It’s a muted version of an aged Buffalo Trace product, where the barrel flavors are certainly muted, and the caramel flavors from Buffalo Trace are present, though they don’t “pop” as they did in the single barrel days.  Buffalo Trace is a good option, but the lack of any age statement means there’s no guarantee there.  It’s a little “brighter” flavored than Eagle Rare, with a touch less barrel char on the profile.  Evan Williams should be very close to the Elijah Craig ballpark, maybe the best option, given its common DNA.  There will be some variability from bottle to bottle, but this line has generally been well received and very tasty.

http://modernthirst.com/2014/07/02/comparison-bourbon-review-evan-williams-white-label-bottled-in-bond-vs-heaven-hill-6-year-bottled-in-bond/

Another option for those in the Kentucky area and not totally soured on Heaven Hill is the Heaven Hill 6 Year Bottled in Bond.  It’s under $15, and the flavor profile is very close to the old Elijah Craig, even managing to be extremely barrel-forward in terms of taste.

 

EDIT #2:  Added at the suggestion of “Keith” in our Comments section below:

Wild Turkey Russell’s Reserve 10 Year

Photo Courtesy CampariGroup/Wild Turkey
Photo Courtesy of Wild Turkey

Batch/Single Barrel: Small Batch.  Fit: EXCELLENT

Age: 10 Years.  Stated proudly on the label. Fit: VERY GOOD

Price: $34.99.  Fit: VERY GOOD

Availability: Not as common as Elijah Craig, but not terribly difficult to find in more decent liquor stores.  Fit: GOOD

Proof: 90º.  Fit: VERY GOOD

Viability as a replacement for Elijah Craig: VERY GOOD

 

 

 

 

Advertisements