Showing posts with label Heaven Hill. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Heaven Hill. Show all posts

Friday, June 10, 2022

Elijah Craig Straight Rye Whiskey Review & Tasting Notes

I am, admittedly, an Elijah Craig fanboy. It is one of the better value Bourbons around, especially when you get into the single barrel program. I was defending the brand when Heaven Hill removed the age statement, and everyone was saying they’d never drink Elijah Craig again (without ever tasting the non-age-stated version).

Every so often, I run into something from Elijah Craig that leaves me less than impressed. One of the most disappointing buys I made was on the 18-year. I spent a few years looking for it, and it was underwhelming, especially considering the price (it was only $99.00 then). I say this to show that even favorite brands release a dud or two now and then.


If you’re unfamiliar with the background of this brand, Elijah Craig was a Baptist minister, a teacher, and a businessman who many people credit being the inventor of Bourbon by storing whiskey in new, charred oak barrels. There is also debate as to whether those barrels were new or used. I’ve heard versions of the story that talk about his charring the barrels to hide the flavors of whatever the barrel was originally storing. In truth, nobody knows who the inventor was and who used the first new, charred oak barrel – it may very well have been Craig – or not. Regardless, it makes a nice backstory.


Heaven Hill released Elijah Craig Straight Rye in October 2019 to much fanfare. It took a bit to make its way to Wisconsin liquor stores. The Rye shares the same barely-legal 51% rye, 35% corn, and 14% malted barley mashbill as Rittenhouse and Pikesville. It carries no age statement and falls in at $35.00, slightly more expensive than Rittenhouse and much less than Pikesville. Similar to the Bourbon, it is packaged at 94°.


The Rye has been said by some to be excellent and others to be okay. Despite my love for the Bourbon, I can stay unbiased as this is a different whiskey. Let’s #DrinkCurious and see if the brand has a winner.


Appearance: Poured neat in my Glencairn glass, the Rye was orange amber. A medium rim generated thick, crooked legs that fell back to the pool.


Nose: Cinnamon, star fruit, and cherry formed a sweeter aroma joined by toasted oak and black pepper. The familiar Elijah Craig oak flavor introduced itself when I inhaled through my lips.


Palate:  A thin, light-bodied texture greeted my tongue. With Rye, you expect there to be spice upfront. Strangely, corn was the first thing I tasted, with vanilla and caramel. At mid-palate, things became spicier, with nutmeg, cinnamon, and clove. The back featured pimento, rye spice, and black pepper.


Finish:  Sweet vanilla and caramel carried through to the end, along with rye spice and cinnamon Red Hots candy. The duration was medium to long, with the Red Hots rounding things out.


Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  Elijah Craig Straight Rye is decent. I have to be honest, for $10.00 less, I believe Rittenhouse is a better value. It is the same mashbill at 100°, and I found it more flavorful. I don’t know that I would go out of my way to buy a bottle of the Elijah Craig version, and that's very hard for me to type. As such, I’m going to give it a Bar rating. Cheers!


My Simple, Easy to Understand Rating System

  • Bottle = Buy It
  • Bar = Try It
  • Bust = Leave It


Whiskeyfellow encourages you to enjoy your whiskey as you see fit but begs you do so responsibly.



Friday, May 28, 2021

Evan Williams 12-Year Bourbon Review & Tasting Notes

Evan Williams is perhaps one of the most iconic Bourbon brands today. That and Jim Beam (don't get me started on Jack) are the top players sales-wise. Most of us are familiar with the Black Label, which pretty much keeps Heaven Hill in, pardon the pun, the black. Then, there's my favorite budget Bourbon, the Bottled-in-Bond White Label. The lesser-known brethren are the Single Barrel, 1783, and Green Label.

But, a 12-year old Evan Williams?  Red Label?  What's that all about? In the United States, Red Label is a distillery exclusive. It even comes with a necker label that says Evan Williams Bourbon Experience, which is their microdistillery in Louisville. My understanding is that Red Label is also sold in Japan. It is bottled at 101° and runs about $129.99. Whoa... isn't Evan Williams a budget brand?

It is born of the same distillate as any other Evan Williams product:  78% corn, 12% rye, and 10% malted barley. It is charcoal-filtered just like any other Evan Williams product. It is aged in the same #3, new charred oak barrels like any other Evan Williams product. The big difference is proof and age. But, is that worth a nearly 6-fold premium?  The only way to know for sure is to #DrinkCurious.

Appearance:  Poured neat in my Glencairn glass, Red Label appears as your run-of-the-mill Evan Williams Bourbon. It offers a mellow amber color, and it left a medium rim with fat, wavy legs that dropped back to the pool of liquid sunshine.

Nose:  This Bourbon produced initial aromas of nutmeg and caramel. Underneath those were corn and mint. Finally, a totally unexpected but distinctive bubble gum smell. When I inhaled through my lips, it was only bubble gum. 

Palate:  When the whiskey crossed my lips, it was much thinner and lighter than I would have otherwise expected. At 101° I'd assume there would be some warmth. Instead, it was soft.  On the front of my palate, it was the very familiar corn and oak. Mid-palate was also the predictable vanilla and caramel. The back was new:  clove, nutmeg, and cocoa.

Finish:  The finish was also atypical of Evan Williams. It started with toasted oak, then gave way to clove, which then almost immediately switched gears to sweet, creamy caramel. I found the finish to be long-lasting and pleasurable.

Bottle, Bar or Bust:  Was this Evan Williams expression good?  Most certainly. Was it $130 good? No, not to me. That's difficult for me to admit because I'm a fan of all things Evan Williams. But, I can't justify the mark-up over their standard expressions. I can't rate this a Bust because it is a good Bourbon. But, this is something you should definitely try before committing to, and as such, it takes a Bar rating. Cheers!

My Simple, Easy-to-Understand Rating System:

  • Bottle = Buy it
  • Bar = Try it first
  • Bust = Leave it 

Whiskeyfellow encourages you to enjoy your whiskey as you see fit but begs that you do so responsibly.

Thursday, June 18, 2020

Elijah Craig "Good Carma" Single Barrel Bourbon Review & Tasting Notes

If you've followed my reviews for some time, you know that I have some biases. That's right, I'm human. But, I admit them. And, today I'm going to admit another.

I enjoy the hell out of Elijah Craig.

That shouldn't be a surprise. This is something I've stated for a few years now. I stumble upon Elijah Craig store picks and for me, it is almost always a no-brainer. And, I'm going to give you a spoiler - I love the one I'm reviewing today. But, what's important is what makes this store pick worthwhile.

If you're unfamiliar with Elijah Craig (hey, everyone is new to something sometime, right?), it is distilled by Heaven Hill in Bardstown, Kentucky. Heaven Hill uses a mash of 78% corn, 10% rye, and 12% malted barley. It is then poured into #3-charred oak barrels.  With average retail of less than $30.00, it is also a very affordable investment. That's the standard release that you'll find on every store shelf.

Then you get into the Single Barrel program (don't be fooled by "Small Batch" on the bottle, they use the same bottle for their Small Batch and their Single Barrel program). In the case of today's review, it is a store pick by Niemuth's Southside Market in Appleton, Wisconsin called Good Carma.  Good Carma aged in Rickhouse V on the third floor for 11 years, 11 months, and 11 days. It came out of the barrel at 122.9° and then proofed down to the standard 94°, giving a yield of 228 bottles. Retail is $28.99.

I'd like to thank Niemuth's for providing me a sample of Good Carma in exchange for a no-strings-attached, honest review. With that said, it is time to #DrinkCurious.

Appearance:  In my Glencairn glass, Good Carma appeared as a very orange amber. While the rim it left was very thin, the legs were fat and wavy.  When they dissipated, droplets stuck to the side like glue.

Nose:  Things started off with brown sugar and vanilla. From there, I found cherries and cinnamon. At the end, it was oak and dried, sweet fruit.  When I inhaled through my lips, caramel-coated cherries flowed across my palate.

Palate:  Here's where things get interesting. The mouthfeel was thick and heavy. At the front, it was a total caramel bomb. There was nothing else to contend with. No matter how many sips I took, I could not get past the caramel.  But, once it hit mid-palate, I tasted a combination of hazelnut, vanilla, and sweet corn.  Then, at the back, toasted oak and brown sugar.

Finish:   Medium in length, I was left wishing it would go longer. It was a blend of toasted oak, white pepper, and caramel. 

Bottle, Bar or Bust:  My rating is no surprise since I let the cat out of the bag early.  But, Good Carma is dangerous. It goes down way too easy. On one of the warmest, most humid days of the year so far, it could be enjoyed on the back deck without causing any discomfort. There was no real warmth to speak of. This is the kind of Bourbon that doesn't even require effort to get a Bottle rating from me.  Grab it, you can thank me later.  Cheers!

My Simple, Easy To Understand Rating System:
  • Bottle = Buy It
  • Bar = Try It
  • Bust = Leave It

Friday, May 22, 2020

Hey, I'm now a Certified Bourbon Steward!

Something I've wanted to do for a few years just happened. You can thank COVID-19 for my having time and opportunity to finally sit down and get this done. I'm now officially a Stave & Thief Society Certified Bourbon Steward

What, pray tell, is a Certified Bourbon Steward?  The program was developed in 2012 by Moonshine University "to promote and uphold Kentucky's distinguished Bourbon culture and to set the standard for the authentic Bourbon experience through premier training and education."

The course was fun, and even with my background, I walked away learning something new. I've discovered along the course of my life that no matter how much knowledge you have about something, there is almost always more to learn.

Strangely enough, the part of the exam that made me nervous was the flight creation, tasting notes, and justifying the reason for creating the flight. Let's get real, I plan out tasting flights for my whiskey workshops and I write whiskey reviews. It should have been a cinch, right? Yet, I'd never really been judged on my reasons why I put a flight together, and no one ever graded me on tasting notes. They're just something I do.

If you're curious, I decided to do a vertical flight of Evan Williams.  With all the Bourbons I have in my library, for whatever reason, those bottles screamed out at me.  The flight consisted of the Green, Black, White, and Red labels.   

I was very excited when I received the results a few days after the exam, particularly what I was stressed over:  

The focus a single-producer flight can have is stunning, and an eye-opening experience for some. In this instance, this flight resolves any question in your guest’s mind as to what happens in the barrel – the evidence is right in front of them. Good nosing & tasting notes, too – nicely done. 

There are additional classes offered and I'll be continuing my education.  If you're interested in learning more about the Stave & Thief Society, you can visit them at the Stave & Thief website.  I hope to see you as a fellow Steward, cheers!

Monday, April 20, 2020

Evan Williams Green Label Review

Today is a two-fer special!  Not only did my review of Cinder Dick Straight Bourbon go live this morning, but so did my review of Evan Williams Green Label at Bourbon & Banter!

I’m Mr. #RespectTheBottomShelf and when you enter the realm of $10 whiskeys, there’s no doubt where you’re looking – right at the bottom shelf. Evan Williams Green Label is the most basic expression of the brand and is sold in fewer markets than you’d ever guess...

The remainder, including my Bottle, Bar or Bust recommendation, is at the Bourbon & Banter website. Cheers!

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

"Sweet Carmella" Elijah Craig Single Barrel Review & Tasting Notes

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.

Appearance:  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.

Nose:  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.

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. 

Finish:  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!

My Simple, Easy to Understand Rating System
  • Bottle = Buy It
  • Bar = Try It
  • Bust = Leave It

Monday, September 24, 2018

Elijah Craig B518 Bourbon Review & Tasting Notes


I'm going to start this off by saying I'm a sucker for Elijah Craig. This doesn't mean that any of the various expressions get a free pass from me, rather, it means when I see a new incarnation, I get excited and will buy a bottle untasted. When reviewing it, I give it the same unbiased opportunity for BottleBar, or Bust as I do with anything else. There have been a couple of unimpressive releases in the barrel-proof versions...

You can read this review in its entirety at Bourbon & Banter. Cheers!

Monday, April 9, 2018

Remember When Nobody was Going to Drink Elijah Craig Again?


Do you ever feel worn out? Run down? Past your prime? Have you ever longed for your younger days? Does getting older suck, or is it a great experience?

Taking a quick trip back in time, specifically January 2016, the big news in Bourbon was that Heaven Hill dropped the age statement on Elijah Craig Small Batch. The announcement stated they changing it from a 12-year to a No Age Statement (NAS) blend of barrels that aged anywhere from eight to a dozen years.

The reaction on social media and in whiskey groups was immediate and, to say the least, vitriolic. To be fair, a portion of it was anger over the feeling of being misled. Folks were told since 2014 that the age statement would not be dropped, and then, the rumor turned into reality. The mudslinging was lobbed at everyone, but Bernie Lubbers was the biggest target by far...

You can read the rest of this article over at Bourbon & Banter. Cheers!

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Heaven Hill Bottled in Bond Bourbon Review & Tasting Notes


Heaven Hill Bottled in Bond has a very limited distribution. At times you can get it outside of Kentucky, but mostly this is a Kentucky-only gem. It also is, surprisingly, not listed at all on Heaven Hill’s website, leaving you to wonder if they’re trying to keep one of the worst-kept secrets in Bourbon locked away.

Bottled in Bond is my favorite category of whiskey. Heaven Hill Bottled in Bond is one of the best representatives of that category. #RespectTheBottomShelf...

You can read this review in its entirety over at Bourbon & Banter. Cheers!

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Old Fitzgerald Bottled-in-Bond Bourbon Review & Tasting Notes

Despite what some may think, my whisk(e)y tastes are not exclusive to any particular level. I enjoy top-shelf, hard-to-find, exclusive selections and dusty, often-ignored ones. Top-, mid- or bottom-shelf, I've tasted winners and losers.


One of the great whiskey subsets is Bottled in Bond. Often, but certainly not always, these are quite affordable. There are very strict guidelines in order to be qualify as Bottled in Bond. Aside from being a 100-proof American whiskey, it must be the product of one distillation season from a single distiller, and everything must come from a single distillery. There's no blending of different whiskeys. The whiskey must age in a federally bonded warehouse under US government supervision for at least four years. Finally, the label must identify the distillery and, if bottled elsewhere, where it was bottled.


I have known about Old Fitzgerald Bottled in Bond for a few years, but have never seen it on the shelf. Some have praised this, others have panned it. However, while visiting a newly discovered liquor store today, I saw and picked it up.


There's a lot of wheat and vanilla on the nose, wheat, nuts and spice on the palate. This one MUST have time to breathe, or you can use a spirits aerator to speed the process along. Otherwise, if you drink it straight from the pour, there's not going to be any flavor.


While not an earth-shattering whiskey by any means, it is decent. To those who poo-poo this Bourbon, I suspect you've not given enough time for this to breath. Perhaps you'll give it another shot.


The point I am trying to make is to not be a whisk(e)y snob, and know there are both treasure and trash to be found amongst all price points.


Respect the bottom shelf.