While still waiting for the Buffalo Trace Antique Collection to hit Chicago, I’m going to talk about what I consider one of the very best American whiskeys of the year. As I mentioned in the previous review, I consider the Four Roses 125th Anniversary (2013 Small Batch Limited) the best American whiskey I’ve had so far. Once I tried it, I commenced to try it side by side with Jefferson’s 21 Year Presidential Select and the Elijah Craig 21 Year. It was very hard to pick between the other two. I did give a slight edge to the Jefferson’s, admittedly I do have a strong affinity to Jefferson’s. As I stated in my review of Elijah Craig Barrel Proof, the Elijah Craig line are distributed by Heaven Hill Distillery and are named after Craig who was a Baptist minister and bourbon pioneer who reportedly was the first to use charred oak barrels to age bourbon, a tradition that stands to this day and will till then end of time. The no longer available Elijah Craig 18 Year is one of my all time favorite bourbons, it was released in 2008 and just went “out of stock” this year. There are some bottles still floating around if you know where to look and I suggest you snag one if you do find it. The Elijah Craig 21 Year was originally only available at the Bourbon Heritage Center in Bardstown, Kentucky and it is a limited edition so like the 18 and 20 year before it, once the allocation has been gone through, it will no longer be available. We have about 4 and a half bottles left at Untitled and I am in the process of acquiring three more (fingers crossed). The barrels used for this whiskey were taken from the middle part of the distillery’s rickhouses.
The nose of the Elijah Craig 21 Year is very interesting. It smacks of an old warehouse with dusty and oak aromas mingled with seeded fruit and cinnamon. You can also find an underlying layer of toffee and vanilla as well. The taste is also very balanced and continually and delightfully opens up as you proceed through a healthy pour. It does have a decently thick mouth feel. One thing I found while drinking it is that it does have slightly heavy fruit notes, which you get right up front with apricot and cherry. Mid-palate you get your rye influence with big cinnamon and other baking spices and some nuttiness with the fruit notes starting to fade at that point. The spice notes follow through with caramel and vanilla on the moderately lengthy finish where the oak presence makes its mark. Not a lot of oakiness for a bourbon of this age, but it does make a contribution in subtle fashion adding to the overall balance of this whiskey. I highly recommend giving this bourbon a whirl while we (or whatever whiskey bar you frequent in your area) have this available. Anyone who enjoys a well-made balanced and crafted bourbon will surely enjoy this offering.