I don't know that Elijah Craig Barrel Proof was ever an overlooked Bourbon, but ever since last year's B517 being named "Whisky of the Year" by Whisky Advocate, its popularity has certainly jumped. I've chased down the Barrel Proof releases since I was introduced to it since back in 2014 (134.8 proof, now referred to B514).
If you're unfamiliar with what the letters and numbers mean, it boils down to the release date. Elijah Craig Barrel Proofs are released three times a year. A is the first release of the year, B the second, and C the third. The numbers are the date. To decode the award-winning B517, it was the second release of the year and was released May 2017.
Today I'm cracking open C916 at 136.0 proof. Decoding this means it was the third release of the year and was from September 2016.
In the glass, the color was a very dark, rich brown. It left a very watery rim and thin, fast legs that raced back to the pool.
I kept the glass about two feet from me and even at that distance, caramel was thick in the air. I let it sit for about ten minutes before nosing it just to let the fumes evaporate. Holding my glass at chin level gave aromas of oak and caramel. When raised to lip level, the caramel remained and it was joined by a hint of citrus and stone fruit. Just under the nostrils, the caramel faded and citrus gained slightly and the stone fruit dominated. Inhaling through my lips was pure orange.
The mouthfeel was thin and oily. It can't be described as coating, although it completely left tingles from my lips to the back of my throat. Flavors of corn and stone fruit were up front, followed by oak, and caramel. The back of the palate found clove and black pepper.
The finish was almost all stone fruit that kept the mouth watering. It mostly resembled cherry and plum. Despite the high proof and the tingling in my mouth, there was relatively little burn, which makes casual sipping easier than you'd guess.
There was so much happening on the palate that I opted to add two drops of water to see how it would change. Remember how strong the caramel on the nose was? It exploded with water. The mouthfeel became thinner but the oiliness went away. Many of the flavors were muted, except it gained a nutty quality. Toasted oak took over the finish.
BOTTLE, BAR or BUST: I try hard to keep an open mind with Elijah Craig. Saying that C916 is one of the better Barrel Proof releases. At the original $60 some-odd, it is an absolute Bottle. Secondary market prices are $75 - $85 and would still be a great buy.