Only a few months after expanding the venerable Elijah Craig lineup with the addition of the first Elijah Craig Rye—a high-value selection that we immediately enjoyed —Heaven Hill seems to be expanding the purview of the Elijah Craig name once again. Today, the distillery announced something that whiskey geeks have been waiting for: Elijah Craig Toasted Barrel Bourbon, a new version of Elijah Craig Small Batch that will spend additional time aging in freshly toasted barrels. According to the company, the toasted barrel process “adds an extra layer of sweet oak complexity.”
To quote Heaven Hill’s press release directly on the creation of this whiskey:
The process begins with fully matured Small Batch, which is dumped and then re-entered at barrel proof into a second, custom toasted new oak barrel designed in partnership with Independent Stave Company. Made with 18-month air dried oak, the finishing barrel is first toasted and then flash-charred using a moderate toast temperature and toast time. An extensive research and development process resulted in a final barrel toast profile bringing forward dark sugar flavors within the wood to create a balance of smokiness and sweetness after months of finishing. The resulting taste is big, rich and complex with spice and pepper notes that fade into milk chocolate with a hint of smoke as the finish lingers with chocolate and baking spices.
“Toasted” barrels are indeed different from the charred barrels that distilleries are federally required to use in the aging of bourbon. Toasting, by contrast, is a lighter degree of roasting that draws out a different array of flavors, often highlighted by vanilla and marshmallow-like notes. The use of toasted barrels has become increasingly popular in the whiskey industry in the last half-decade, with some twice-barreled whiskeys using them to great effect. Other distilleries may also toast barrels, and then char them. This particular release would seem to be Heaven Hill stating its interest in getting a piece of that toasted pie, and the Elijah Craig line is the obvious place to do it in a way that won’t break the bank. MSRP will be set at a pretty reasonable $50.
“Elijah Craig Toasted Barrel pays homage to our namesake’s pioneering spirit as the first to char oak barrels through thoughtful innovation in the barrel-aging process,” said Max Stefka, Elijah Craig Senior Brand Manager. “It was a pleasure partnering with Independent Stave Company to create a custom toast profile and char level designed to best complement fully matured Elijah Craig. Twice barreled for nuanced flavor, Toasted Barrel showcases a Straight Bourbon process unique in the marketplace.”
Suffice to say, we’ll be very much looking forward to tasting this one when it starts hitting store shelves in September. Perhaps a tasting lineup of “toasted” whiskeys will be in order?