Elijah Craig Barrel Proof Batch A123 Review

Elijah Craig Barrel Proof has become one of the bourbons that I will always hunt for and always purchase because they are always fantastic pours. Some may be better than others, but none are ever boring or lacking in flavor. So, I’m sitting here with a heavy pour to work on an Elijah Craig Barrel Proof Batch A123 review, which happens to be the 31st release of this great juice!

This puppy clocks in at 125.6 proof and like all the Elijah Craig barrel proofs, it has been aged for 12 years. A little research shows that they fire their barrels for 40 seconds to achieve a Level 3 char, which is known to impart rich, aromatic layers of flavor such as caramel, brown sugar, toffee, and mild smokiness.

The Elijah Craig brand statement displayed on their website is well written and interesting:

All Bourbons are crafted from four essential elements: Grain, Water, Fire & Time. But it takes expertise and ingenuity to transform them into unique and award-winning whiskeys. Our Master Distillers add “The Human Element.” In their hands, every expression of Elijah Craig is truly greater than the sum of its parts.

– Elijah Craig Distillery

Heaven Hills Distillery has marketed the Elijah Craig brand as “The Father of Bourbon” (more on that history below) and this accolade appears on the labels of the Elijah Craig Single Barrel 18 year, 20 year, and 23 year, as well as the Elijah Craig Small Batch.

Series: Annual Barrel Proof series of 3 releases
Classification: Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey
Age: 12 years
Proof: 125.6
Batch Designation: Small Batch
Batch Designation: Small Batch
Proof Designation: Barrel Proof
Filtered Status: Non-Chill Filtered
Mash bill: 78% Corn, 12% Malted Barley, 10% Rye
Distillery: Elijah Craig Distillery Co. (Heaven Hill)
Company: Heaven Hill
Bottled By: Elijah Craig Distillery
Distilled/Aging Location: Bardstown, Kentucky
Release Date: January 2023
MSRP: $70 (2023)
Availability: Relatively Available

Elijah Craig Barrel Proof Batch A123
Elijah Craig Barrel Proof Batch A123 Review

My tasting reviews are unique in that I include the notes of several well-known whiskey critics. The hope is that this format will help me and others to explore and expand their tasting experience. After you have taken your own tasting notes, read the reviews and see if there is a flavor note that others discerned that now you can detect as well.


Caramel, vanilla, fig.

Other Reviewer’s Perceptions

Mash & Drum: Rich cherry forward nose, dusty peanut, brown sugar, fudge brownie, good underlying oak, vanilla extract.

Whiskey Raiders: Huge cherry cola, root beer, caramel and sweet tea on the nose. I haven’t often gotten this bold, black tea note, but it’s very complementary to the bold oak and cherry cola notes.

Breaking Bourbon: Rich caramel | Sweet charred oak | Cherrywood | Vanilla | Fudge | Mix of light mint & pine | Superb intensity


Caramel, vanilla, toasted oak, toasted marshmallow, leather, a hint of butterscotch & cinnamon.

Other Reviewer’s Perceptions

Mash & Drum: The palate explodes with flavor. More of an oaky presence on the palate than on the nose. Some smoky oak, all the sweetness is there, a little of the cherry note, maybe a little medicinal cherry, some nuttiness. Each sip gives me something a little bit different. The consistent notes are dark cherry, brown sugar, a lot of vanilla, something like a cinnamon red hot candy. It goes from sweet to spice to cherry, to a lot of oak. It is definitely an oak-forward profile.

Whiskey Raiders: Rich and viscous on the palate, tons of oak and char, sweet tea and pralines. The cherry cola returns — this could seriously give the best Stagg Jr.s a run for their money. Despite the proof, it’s easy-drinking, viscous and syrupy on the palate without bruising ethanol on the back palate.

Breaking Bourbon: Thick caramel | Tannic charred oak | Blackberry | Plum | Vanilla


Moderately long. Toasted oak, caramelized sugar, mild baking spice, vanilla.

Other Reviewer’s Perceptions

Mash & Drum: Cinnamon red hot candy with a little of a drying oak note.

Whiskey Raiders: Long finish, filled with sweet oak, caramel, honey, cola and a touch of pipe tobacco. Hangs on for ages.

Breaking Bourbon: Chili spice | Cinnamon | Tannic oak | Nutmeg | Lingering astringent leather note

The Burn

5 out of 5. This means that the burn from the alcohol is a lot lower (10% to 20%) than what I would expect it to be. I would guess this to be around 100 – 115 proof, not 125.6 proof.

Notes and History

Elijah Craig the man was born in Orange, Virginia 1743 in. In 1771 he was ordained as a Baptist minister, and in 1781 he left Virginia and traveled to The Kentucky Territory of Virginia. A few years later he purchased 1,000 acres of land in what eventually became known as Bourbon County, Kentucky.

Reverend Elijah Craig was an important business figure in Kentucky during his lifetime. He opened the first Rope Mill, the first Wool Processing Mill, and the first Paper Mill. His business ventures also included a Lumber Mill, a Grain Mill, and in 1789 he opened a distillery.

According to Elijah Craig legend, he is recognized as the “Father of Bourbon” because he created, or stumbled upon, the use of charred barrels for whiskey. There is no proof that he was the first to do this, but that is Heaven Hill’s story and they are sticking with it! There are several stories about how this happened. In the first, there was a fire during the distillery’s first year and part of a barn burned down. Some of the barrels in the barn were charred but still usable, so for the first time, Craig used charred barrels to store whiskey in. When this whiskey took the 6 month journey from Kentucky to New Orleans, with its contents splashing around in those charred barrels, it was received with much delight and the raving fans wanted more of the “Red Liquor from Bourbon County.” This inspired Elijah Craig to continue making whiskey in charred barrels by burning the insides using hay.

The second common story is that he purchased used barrels that had been previously filled with fish or other goods, and to sanitize as well as remove the scent and flavors of the previous contents, he charred the barrels and then filled them with whiskey.

No one knows for certain when exactly charred barrels were first used or who actually did it first, but there is no disputing the prominence of Elijah Craig’s influence in Kentucky during this timeframe or the fact that he and his distillery made a massive contribution to the world of bourbon.

Not only was the Elijah Craig Distillery making an impact upon the world of bourbon during his lifetime in the late 1700s, but it is recognized as one of the 3 bourbons credited for the “Bourbon Renaissance” of the 1980s. Elijah Craig, Blanton’s, and Booker’s became known as “Super Premium” bourbons and re-vitalized the rise of bourbons over the lighter cocktails and “White Spirits” of gin and vodka that had been so popular during the 1970s.

Elijah Craig Barrel Proof Releases and Proofs

Release Date                 Batch    Proof
May 2023                       B523     124.2
January 2023                  A123     125.6
September 2022            C922     124.8
May 2022                       B522     121.0
January 2022                  A122     120.8
September 2021            C921     120.2
May 2021                       B521     118.2
January 2021                  A121     123.6
September 2020            C920     132.8
May 2020                       B520     127.2
January 2020                  A120     136.6
September 2019            C919     136.8
May 2019                       B519     122.2
January 2019                  A119     135.2
September 2018            C918     131.4
May 2018                       B518     133.4
January 2018                  A118     130.6
September 2017            C917     131.0
May 2017                       B517     124.2
January 2017                  A117     127.0
September 2016            C916     136.0
May 2016                       B516     139.4
January 2016                  A116     138.8
September 2015            C915     135.6
May 2015                       B515     139.8
February 2015                A215     128.0
September 2014            C914     140.2
May 2014                       B514     134.8
March 2014                    A314     132.4
September 2013            C913     133.2
July 2013                        B713     137.0
March 2013                    A313     134.2

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