The latest series of Heaven Hill Bourbons have arrived with new cask strength lots from Elijah Craig Barrel Proof and Larceny Barrel Proof. This latest whiskey didn’t debut any earlier last year than it captured Whiskey Defender2020 Whiskey of the Year Award, with a success score of 95 points.
These are Bourbons with a punch: each is cask raw, meaning no water is added at bottling, and both bypass cold filtering, a standard process meant to remove a cloudy appearance, but which some drinkers say dampens the flavor. Each Bourbon is released in three batches per year, starting with January and continuing through May and September, a schedule established with the first Elijah Craig Barrel Proof release in 2013. The most recent releases are lot number A121, which is the code for the release date. . The letter “A” signifies the first batch of the year, the number “1” corresponds to the month of January and the number “21” indicates the year. Larceny’s most recent batch was dumped at an alcohol level of 114.8, while the Elijah Craig came in with a proof of 123.6.
Larceny is a Wheat Bourbon, which means that wheat is its secondary grain. (All bourbons must be made from more than 50 percent corn.) The grain recipe, or mash bill for Larceny, is 68 percent corn, 20 percent wheat, and 12 percent corn. ‘barley. Wheat is believed to produce sweeter whiskeys. (Maker’s Mark is a popular example of a Wheat Bourbon.) Pappy Van Winkle, highly sought after and super-aged Bourbon fame, was a whiskey maker known for his use of wheat as a secondary grain. Its Old Fitzgerald brand, now owned by Heaven Hill, is the origin of the Larceny name. Apparently John E. Fitzgerald was a tax inspector who liked to use the samples on his official visits. He made his debut in 2012 at his standard test of 92.
Elijah Craig Barrel Proof comes from the same High Corn Cereal recipe, but is devoid of wheat. His mash bill is 78 percent corn, 12 percent barley, and 10 percent rye, and he’s 12 years old. Its over 123 proofs may seem blistering, but it is downright tame compared to the past expressions of this whiskey. The barrel-proof versions have been in the 130 degree strength range several times and have already reached the temperature of 140. Only the May 2019 batch contained a lower alcohol percentage than this latest version.
The whiskey is named after an 18th-century Kentucky minister who, according to legend, invented the barrel charring method by which Bourbon is aged.
As Heaven Hill matures its whiskey in Bardstown, Ky., Home of its Heritage Center for tourists, the spirit is distilled in Louisville. After a fire in 1996 destroyed the Bardstown factory, the family business bought the Bernheim distillery from alcohol giant Diageo. Heaven Hill keeps the Evan Williams Bourbon experience separate for Whiskey Row customers in this town.
These last two releases are proof that Heaven Hill always makes great Bourbons, no matter where you are. Pair them with good cigars for an enjoyable evening.
LARCENY BARREL PROOF A121 (proof 114.8, $ 50)
APPEARANCE: Rich, coppery color; slender and sluggish legs.
NOSE: A very nice floral and fruity opening is followed by spices, maple and vanilla.
MOUTH: Carmel comes first and as the Bourbon progresses in the mouth, graham crackers with cinnamon, berries and maple emerge.
FINISH: The fruit on the nose reappears on the long finish and joins the lingering notes of the palate. Spicy wheat is predominant.
ELIJAH CRAIG BARIL PROOF A121 (123.6 proof, $ 60)
APPEARANCE: Dark copper; thick and fast legs.
NOSE: Take out with honey and maple, then add orange and blackberry.
MOUTH: Sweet and tangy, it also has a mellow vanilla / maple quality as well as some chocolate.
FINISH: A very long finish that hits all the notes of the nose and the mouth, then adds a nutty, almost praline flavor.