Reasons exist why you should get excited over Elijah Craig store picks. First and foremost, they're super affordable. Second of all, they are fairly easy to pick. I've done several of these and the number of samples that I didn't care for I could count on one hand. Third of all (did I mention this?), they're easy on the wallet.
So, if you can just go just about anywhere and get an Elijah Craig store pick, can you just choose anything and be fine? There are absolutely some that are superior to others, and as I pointed out, I've had some samples that wouldn't pass my strict standards.
Niemuth's Southside Market in Appleton, WI recently selected a pick for their store, and they provided me a sample in exchange for a no-strings-attached, honest review. In full disclosure, I have been involved in picking barrels for Niemuth's, but this one is not one of those. I do thank them for their generosity.
Barrel number 5189718, called Sweet Carmella, rested in Heaven Hill's Warehouse N on the second floor for just over 13 years before it was deemed mature. If you consider entry proof for Heaven Hill is 125°, when I tell you that Sweet Carmella was dumped at 137.5°, it gives you an idea as to how much the angels stole. This is up at the higher end of Elijah Craig Barrel Proof releases! Niemuth's is charging $28.99 for a bottle.
Before you turn off the review and hop in the car, you should know that Barrel Proof is not an option for store picks of Elijah Craig. Every store pick is bottled at 94°, the same as the Small Batch version. And, when you see the bottle and see the embossed words Small Batch in the glass, don't think you've been ripped off. Every store pick is a single barrel but is bottled in their standard small batch bottle.
And, anyway, don't you want to know if Sweet Carmella is any good before you head on over to the store? Remember, I said there do exist barrels that I don't care for. Time to #DrinkCurious and find out.
In my Glencairn glass, Sweet Carmella presents as a brilliant amber. It left a thinner rim that made fat legs. Those legs raced their way back down to the pool of liquid sunshine.
Typical of Elijah Craig, caramel and oak were heavy on the nose. But, floral rye is much less so, and that followed the obvious. It closed up with an also atypical aroma of butterscotch. When I inhaled through my mouth, vanilla and oak rolled over my palate.
At first sip, Sweet Carmella offered a creamy, coating mouthfeel. Up at the front was vanilla, brown sugar and caramel. Mid-palate was another different quality for Elijah Craig. I tasted berry, with the caramel hanging on for good measure. Then, on the back, it was a complementary blend of black pepper, oak, and vanilla.
While the requisite Elijah Craig oaky finish was there, it was married to a definitive sweet quality. Spicy clove and barrel char left the mouth and throat something to think about before falling off after what seemed to be an eternity.
Bottle, Bar or Bust: Now that the tasting notes are done, is it worth a drive over to Niemuth's? This would not be a sample I would have rejected and, in fact, can envision myself being quite satisfied with myself were I at the Secret Midnight Whiskey Club that day. There is a lot going on and I'm always interested in a different twist out of Elijah Craig. Sweet Carmella does that on all three fronts: the nose, the palate and in the finish. There aren't a ton of 13-year Elijah Craigs available, and when you realize it is only $28.99, this becomes a no-brainer Bottle. Hop in the car and start driving. Cheers!