There’s a brand new batch of Binny’s Hand Picked Elijah Craig 18 Year Old on the way. For those in the know, this is an understated value, a great example of what happenswhen an already solid bourbon sees just short of two decades in wood. Joe M. and I tasted through these samples hoping to find two barrels for single barrel bottling.
Our reference sample is from a previous Binny’s bottling, and is classic Elijah Craig 18: A complex and dry nose with notes of molasses, touches of eucalyptus, dried cherry and sawdust. EC18 shows its 18 years of wood aging, along with a spicy,herbal character with dried fruit. It’s bottled at 90 proof, important to remember when tasting barrel samples at variable andsometimes bruising barrel proof.
3160518 X-Warehouse 2nd Floor, 123.8 proof
Or first sample, we’ll call it 518, seems way more fresh and youthful than the reference, at least on the nose. There’s more fresh green herb, more eucalyptus. But that changes on the palate. The dry wood is there. The alcohol is up front almost immediately, and behind that is more caramel, citrus, berry fruit, and even more wood. I like this right away.
3164313 X-Warehouse 4th Floor, 141.8 proof
The nose on 313 is pretty much right on target, if more dry, with autumnal notes like dried leaves and dried fruit. On the palate, its crushing alcohol is just too overwhelming to taste anything else of meaning. We add some water. “Just awee bit” Joe explains, saying “you can always add more, but it’s a bitch to pull out.” Water opens it up so it shows roundsweetness and a wonderfully thick texture, but all the nuance is gone. The angels were too greedy.
3164680 X-Warehouse 2nd Floor, 119.7 proof
680 is perhaps the most typical. On the nose, molasses (yes!) and some sawdust and tea leaves. It’s hard on the palate, spicy and woody, with a strong baking spice similar to cinnamon but not quite, and is framed in caramel. I like this one the most for the great molasses character.
Now Joe and I compare notes. My favorite is 680 for its characteristic molasses and baking spice, and 518 in a close second. Joe likes the 518 for its eucalyptus and freshness and balance (correct me if I’m wrong, Joe). My notes here make these two seem like opposites, but they’re really only opposites within the profile of EC18. Both are a good representation of what the 18 is all about. We also agree that the 141.8 proof 313 is interesting, but just outside of the profile we’re looking for.
Expect both the 680 and 518 to hit Binny’s shelves as single barrel Binny’s Hand Picked bottlings. The turnaround on these purchases is a little unpredictable, but we’re guessing that they’ll arrive in a couple more weeks. As usual, we don’t have control over which bottlings are sent to which stores (a side effect of the three tiered distribution system). So … you know … it can turn into a fun treasure hunt for anybody looking to try a specific Elijah Craig 18, or both.