Elijah Craig Small Batch Drops 12-yr Age Statement

Heaven Hill Brands is discontinuing its age statement on Elijah Craig Small Batch. The former Elijah Craig 12-year-old Small Batch will now be a composite of 8- to 12-year-old barrels.

The Elijah Craig Barrel Proof product will keep its 12-year-old age statement and there are no plans to remove it, officials said. The company said the Barrel Proof will see “a little more availability.”

The updated product is set to hit the distribution pipeline later this week. It will remain 94 proof.

Heaven Hill is increasing the Elijah Craig Small Batch barrel dump from around 100 casks to 200 barrels. The suggested retail price will remain around $30, officials said.

EC Back Label 1
In 2015, Heaven Hill moved its 12-year-old age statement of Elijah Craig (see photo above) from the front to a much smaller print on the back.
EC Back Label 2
Today, Heaven Hill informs me it’s dropping its age statement altogether on Elijah Craig Small Batch.

In 2014, for my WhiskyAdvocate.com Burning Down the Rumor Mill story, Heaven Hill steadfastly denied removing the 12-year-old age statement. But last year, Heaven Hill moved its age statement to the back label Elijah Craig, when the company was debating  the brand’s age statement. Why?

Barrel inventory.

The company says there’s not enough 12-year-old bourbon to grow the Elijah Craig brand and still supply future 18-year-old and 21-year-old versions. Elijah Craig Small Batch is a 70,000 nine unit case product, and the company believes it would decrease 30 percent in case volume at the current rate when factoring holding stocks for 18-year-old Elijah Craig. “We are trying to protect flavor profile of brand. We will have dumps closer to 11 to 12 {year-old barrels},” says master distiller Denny Potter. “We’ve been handcuffed a little bit because we can’t distribute like we want to. I feel this brand has been under appreciated because it’s not as visible as others.”

They did not consider lowering the proof and said will make it publicly known if they must lower the 8-year-old minimum barrel target. Heaven Hill also cited the goal for on-premise whiskey and a desire to keep Elijah Craig at its current price.

When the Heaven Hill private barrel selections are restarted this fall, buyers will be able to select from 8- to 12-year-old Elijah Craig barrels. Heaven Hill’s Bernheim distillery is also expanding, adding a new still and fermenters, so maybe the age statement could return with increased production (the possible return is not a Heaven Hill statement, it’s my hope.)

So there are the facts. How do I feel?

Well, I enjoy many bourbons. But Elijah Craig 12-year-old was special. I sipped on it while watching Oklahoma State. If I didn’t have a bottle, I’d take a pull from Evan Williams, which is the same whiskey just different age and barrel dump amounts.

From the business perspective, I totally understand. Heaven Hill is trying to grow the Elijah Craig brand and you cannot justify keeping an age statement if you want to maximize the brand’s potential and profits. If you think age statements matter from a business standpoint, then, why are Woodford Reserve, Maker’s Mark, Buffalo Trace, Jim Beam White, etc., all selling case after case?

But from a consumer perspective, age statements matter, because it gives us something to compare and contrast. That’s why we like knowing the mashbills and barrel chars. Bourbon consumers just want what is afforded to wine drinkers: Production information. Wine lovers can tell you which side of the hill grapes were grown, while beer people recite the hop styles as if they’re the Pledge of Allegiance. Meanwhile, bourbon affords us a brand name and alcohol by volume / proof. That’s why I included mashbills, grain origins, barrel-entry proofs, barrel chars, and then some in my book Bourbon Curious. We just want information.

If Heaven Hill sticks to their whiskey transparency plans, there shouldn’t be a problem. They’ve become one of the most-transparent companies in bourbon, giving me unprecedented access to Bernheim production logs, mashbills and to production people who make the company tick. All of the transparency is great, and I’m sure Elijah Craig Small Batch will be delicious and as drinkable as before.

I will be receiving the new Elijah Craig Small Batch sample and hope to write a side-by-side comparison. For now, I’m mourning. I’ve lost an old friend.

 

Fred Minnick is the author of Bourbon Curious.

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15 Replies to “Elijah Craig Small Batch Drops 12-yr Age Statement”

  1. what I don’t get is why they didn’t just come out and say this was happening when the rumors were going around. They could have sold out the old age stated stocks at a premium (everyone wants what is no longer available) and they wouldn’t have lied to their customer base.

    I’m not a fan of what I feel is a company trying to put one over on me.

  2. Another outstanding bourbon moving to the growing family of ordinary unremarkable bourbons. Sadly, most bourbon today is just bourbon, 4 to 6 years of age maybe 8 if you believe the marketers, unremarkable with little difference between flavor profiles. I’ve been a bourbon drinker for decades but it’s time to move on to other spirits as the bourbon industry no longer believes in itself . If 12 year old bourbon is the same as 8 to 12 year old bourbon then 8 to 12 year old bourbon is the same as 4 to 6 year old bourbon, in other words, bourbon is bourbon, just ordinary unremarkable fungible alcohol.

  3. I’ve got no issue with this decision other than my own affection for Elijah Craig 12 and my regret that it will no longer be available as such. I’ve met many of the folks behind the Heaven Hill brand and they are among the best people in this business. They are not the slimy toads that some would like us to believe.

    Yes, they could have told us straight up that the age statement was going away, but that wouldn’t have changed the outcome, and WE all knew it was coming anyway, once the number 12 moved to the back porch.

    I’ve been enjoying American whiskey for four decades. There was a time when you could get Evan Williams 1783 10 year old for $10 here in PA, a dollar less than regular Evan was at the time. No one wanted it. Now everyone does, and I can’t imagine how the distillers are jockeying to manage their older inventory.

    Those distillers are finally making some money for a change, too, and that ‘s good for the industry and for us as consumers for the long haul. Yes, prices are going up and age statements are disappearing, but good bourbons can still be had at very reasonable prices.

    All of this indignant anger would have surfaced no matter how they proceeded with the changeover…haters gonna hate! Me, I’ll stock up on what I can get of the 12 and hope for the best. Hey haters, get ready for the announcement from Buffalo Trace that Eagle Rare won’t be 10 years old anymore!

  4. I don’t take issue with the fact that the age statement was removed, but I do take issue with how it was handled. The age statement, a significant point of differentiation for a 12 year-old bourbon, was moved to the fine print on the back label; all the while, multiple HH employees insisted that the age statement would remain. A relatively short time later the age statement was removed.

    One would have to be naïve to think that wasn’t a carefully orchestrated process by HH. I don’t expect them to be choirboys, but I don’t expect to be out-and-out lied to either. At no point in the process did anyone at HH have the integrity or business acumen to stand up and insist that the age statement would have to remain since several of HH’s employees had already gone on the record as saying that it would remain. I’m not a hater, but I do hate liars, especially when they are trying to separate me from my money.

  5. We all saw this coming. No, they were not as transparent as they could be or should have been , but we ALL saw this coming. It is not a surprise to anyone who pays attention to these things. As for money, it’s hard to gripe about a $27 bottle losing an age statement in the current climate.

  6. I have to agree with many of the others. I don’t resent the change itself (given the marketplace realities) but I do resent the dishonesty from the company. Having said that, I don’t plan on boycotting Heaven Hill myself (I feel that they still offer the best mix of quality products at reasonable prices with minimal marketing BS) but I understand those that do will now boycott them.

  7. I’ve recently picked up a case of the new small batch and at my parties no one has noticed the divergence from the old age statement. (At least, no one has said anything to me.) I think I can tell the difference but I’m not sure if that’s a placebo effect… just because I know that it’s now blended.

    Admittedly, I prefer the barrel proof anyway so the change doesn’t effect me.

  8. I’m confused…someone indulge me please: so I’m at the bottle shop today and see the back label on a 1.75 liter bottle and it says “perfection takes time…blah blah blah and it has written in the sentence “12 year” but it feels vague and doesn’t explicitly state that what’s in the bottle is 12 year. Is it safe to assume it is 12 year or what? The front label of the 1/5 says small batch and so does the 1.75. The back labels are different, though, with the small bottle saying nothing about 12 year, as discussed above in the post, yet I still am not sure what’s in the 1.75’s I saw today that references “12 year” in a sentence where one has to make the ASSUMPTION it is 12 in the bottle. Lots of accusations of dishonesty in this string so now you have me wondering. I also don’t feel like paying 30.00 for a 1/5 of blended small batch 8-12 AND a 1.75 of what I think might be 12 year for 57.00 just to do a side by side. And did I just hit a mother lode of 1.75’s of 12 year? Someone enlighten me please…btw, if this is the stuff we lament in life, we have it pretty blanking good…but oh how I loved the distinct flavor of the 12. Good to the last drop. And now I may have access to a bunch of it and my store can get more. It makes no sense.

  9. Thank you Fred for your quick response and advice. I found a great mom and pop shop (a gem of a store).
    They carry bourbons I like and some I haven’t tried yet. Like E.H.Taylor all four offerings, Stagg jr. Orphan Barrel some I have and some I haven’t heard of. Four Roses Elliott’s selection just to name a few. Not to mention the wall of scotch that equals the bourbon.
    Thanks,
    Edgar
    P.S They have seven (7) bottles of EC 12yrs

  10. I’m still a bit confused. I found a bottle with the vague 12-year statement on the back label. Is this in fact still 12-year, before it went 8-12?
    Thanks!

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