There are folks who claim that Elijah Craig, a Baptist minister, colonial-era pioneer and capitalist entrepreneur, invented bourbon. That he was the first person to age whiskey in the charred oak barrels that give it its flavor and color. And there are folks who beg to differ. I don’t have a dog in that particular fight. However, there is no question that Craig was one of a number of serious distillers in the area around Bourbon County Kentucky back about the time that George Washington was being sworn in on a bible.(1)
He apparently did establish Kentucky’s first classical school, build Kentucky’s first hemp rope facility, its first cloth mill, its first paper mill, first lumber mill and first grist mill. He was either brilliant or he just got there before anyone else and took credit for everything. Ironically, he eventually died poor, which I’m sure more than one Baptist blames on the bourbon and hemp.
So anyway we had another anniversary to celebrate last evening and we chose to give Elijah Craig 12 Year Old Small Batch Bourbon a try. (There’s also an Elijah Craig 18 Year Old bourbon, but we couldn’t wait that long.)
The first thing you notice is that EJ12 has a great top with a big old impressive cork, which probably deserves a better bottle. Not a big fan of the bottle. The liquid color is dark and rich. Probably from spending 4-8 more years in a barrel than most typical bourbons. Beyond that my expertise flags and I rely on the Liquor Snob:
“Usually we like our drinks to be relatively simple. But Elijah Craig 12 Year Old posed us a challenge. There was a strong rye taste, spicy and heated. But then, we also tasted fruit, citrus and berries. And what else, maybe some of that butterscotch we smelled, as well as the woodiness of the oak? Yessir, it’s all there. When we breathed in, we could feel the heat rushing into our lungs.”
Yeah, what he said. That fire in the lungs thing.
Anyway, our feeling was that EJ12 might be a bit much for a night on the town drowning your sorrows, but incredibly attention-grabbing for a slow sipping whiskey out on the deck as the sun’s going down. Of course the sun’s also going down while you’re drowning your sorrows, but then the last thing you need is some bogus poetic nature display just when you’re working up a good batch of righteous indignity to spew all over the person who has so egregiously rained on your parade.
So on our binary scale of zero-to-one, we gave Elijah Craig 12 Year Old a one.
(1) Our first President made some money on the side selling bourbon. It was 175 years later that President Lyndon Johnson signed legislation that declared bourbon “America’s Native Spirit.” Sort of our Champagne as it were. Luckily for those Presidents there was no significant talk radio at the time.