We’re just a bit late getting to the final Elijah Craig Barrel Proof release for 2023, but here we are at last. As a refresher, with ECBP B523, producer Heaven Hill dropped the 12 year old age statement and let the age of ECBP float. While B523 was shy of 11 1/2 years old, C923 is considerably older, hitting 13 years, 7 months. At 66.5% abv, it’s also the hottest release since January 2020.
Right off the bat, C923 charms with big cinnamon notes on the nose alongside restrained fruit and some mint, though these are quickly tempered by char and a not insignificant lumberyard quality. Hearty and peppery, it doesn’t come off as austere as I would have expected from the extra age, though it is far from shy in the booze department. With time in glass and/or water, traditional bourbon aromas of vanilla caramels begin to dominate.
As expected, the palate is absolutely scorching, and water is definitely on order if you want to fully enjoy the experience. At cask strength, the bourbon offers a strong note of brewed tea, backed by a load of fresh baking spice. The tea leaf is hard to shake, for better or worse, though elements of dark chocolate and ample char come into the fold soon enough, with a greener bay leaf character evident as well.
I dosed this whiskey with a little water, then a little more, and while I was hoping this would temper the heat while letting the more evocative flavors coalesce, this really wasn’t the case. The cinnamon note from the nose becomes stronger, as does the brewed tea character, but any hint of fruit fades away, as does much of the vanilla-laced sweetness. The finish remains very drying, peppery, and over-charred — but most of all it’s surprisingly one-note in comparison to the nose and attack — though perhaps unsurprising given its nearly two extra years of barrel time.
ECBP C923 is going to get (or is already getting) a lot of hype due to its considerably higher age, but it’s long been said that age is not the same thing as quality. C923 is decidedly palatable and worthwhile — rarely has an Elijah Craig Barrel Proof release been otherwise — but don’t get suckered just because there’s a 13 instead of a 12 on the label. There will certainly be more of these old-timers to come.
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