One Last Barrel…
by Sean Carroll, Director of Beverage & Wine Operations
Day number three and one last stop to the Heaven Hill distillery. My pallet was feeling a little fatigued after stops at Maker’s Mark, Buffalo Trace and Woodford Reserve the previous two days, but I was on a mission to find the best Elijah Craig Single Barrel I could. This was a first, as we have never sourced a barrel from Elijah Craig. With a rich history, Elijah Craig has been crafting bourbon for over 200 years using local corn and grains and the limestone-rich Kentucky spring water. Elijah Craig is credited with being the first distiller to age his whiskey in charred oak barrels. No one really knows the true story as to how this happened, but it is easy to understand why he continued to develop the process and changed Bourbon making forever.
Upon arrival, all you see are very large Rickhouses (a storage place for whiskey barrels during the aging process) all over the Bardstown rolling hills. These Rickhouses are filled with an inventory in excess of 1,600,000 barrels. Ranging from Bourbon brands like Elijah Craig, Evan Williams, Henry McKenna and Old Fitzgerald, just to name a few. Greeted by our Bourbon Ambassador, a local from the area and Bourbon connoisseur, we headed across the street to begin the quest.
Now here is where the fun part begins…tasting the Bourbon. I was given three barrels to choose from ranging from nine to 11 years and 126.9 proof to 136.9 proof. I grabbed the whiskey thief (tool used to extract small portions of whiskey from an aging barrel) and poured myself samples of all three. Then went through the process of eyeing, nosing and tasting them to determine which barrel to choose. They were all unique in their own way, but the nine-year barrel at 136.6 proof was too hot and the eleven-year at 126.6 proof did not have the characteristics I was looking for. However, the ten-year at 128.8 proof was just right. It had a nice balance of oak, vanilla and caramel on the nose, with a nice maple syrup, butterscotch flavor on the pallet with a black pepper and clove spice. The finish was long, but with a full round body. It did have some heat on the finish; however, this is normal at this proof. The selection was complete and my pallet was pleased.
So there it was … Ocean Reef Club’s Single Barrel of Elijah Craig, barrel (5518091) filled on December 2, 2008 and selected on September 14, 2019 from Rickhouse V and Floor Number Five. The next process is cutting it (limestone-rich Kentucky spring water) from its 128.8 proof to its bottling proof of 94. This will keep all the characteristics mentioned above but soften the finish.
Well I am happy to announce the ORC exclusive Elijah Craig has arrived and will be available at your favorite Club outlet and Port O’Call. The goal is to bring unique offerings to the Club no matter the punishment my pallet has to go through. We greatly value your support and hope you enjoy this offering as much as you have all the others released this season. Now the planning begins to see what this summer will offer for next season’s barrels of Bourbon.
“Too much of anything is bad, but too much of good Whiskey is barely enough.”
– Mark Twain