Elijah Craig 20yr Old Straight Bourbon


SPIRIT: Bourbon

VOLUME: 750 ml

ABV/PROOF: 45/90

AGE: 20 years

 In the fall of 2011, a 20-year-old bottling of Elijah Craig Single Barrel Bourbon went on saleHeaven Hill Distillery’s Bourbon Heritage Center, in Bardstown, as part of the Kentucky Bourbon Festival. One of the very few bottles in the release ended up with John Hansell, then editor of Whisky Advocate. 

Upon tasting, Hansell penned a review that would help solidify Elijah Craig 20 as one of the most sought-after American whiskeys of all time: “From one barrel, and only sold in one location, but well worth the effort to procure a bottle.” He gave it an astounding 96 points, and Elijah Craig 20 Year Old (barrel #3735) would go on to win Whisky Advocate’s 2011 American Whiskey of the Year award.

A year later, Heaven Hill released additional stocks under the Elijah Craig 20 Year Old label. Still, with only about 1,300 bottles available, demand far outweighed supply, and the $130 bourbon eventually reached significant premiums on secondary markets. The years that followed saw the introduction of 21-, 22-, and 23-year-old Elijah Craig Single Barrel expressions, as well as the return of the 18-year expression from a three-year hiatus in 2015. And Elijah Craig, which had long been a solid but unremarkable bourbon in the Heaven Hill portfolio, suddenly began to shine.

As for Heaven Hill’s motivation for releasing these special hyper-aged whiskeys, it was less about sales or acclaim and more about keeping the memory of the Old Heaven Hill Distillery alive following its catastrophic fire in 1996. According to Bernie Lubbers, Heaven Hill’s global whiskey ambassador, “Our goal was to try and keep people aware of older [pre-fire] Elijah Craig. The 18-year-old expressions were typically 19, 20, or 21 years old, we just kept the 18-year age statement on them. These were the first of the expressions to be bottled under their real ages.”

Today, Elijah Craig Single Barrel Bourbon can be found annually (and sparingly) at 18 and 23 years of age, but that original 20-year-old release remains the catalyst for their modern-day popularity. 

Release: Elijah Craig Single Barrel Aged 20 Years

Spirit: Bourbon

Misc.: The reverse label reads: “Aged for 20 years in a single charred oak barrel, it offers you a rare opportunity to enjoy the hearty, full-bodied flavor of a true Kentucky classic.”

Collectors’ tips: Approximately 80 barrels were dumped and bottled individually for this special 2011-2012 limited release, with barreled-on dates and barrel numbers noted by hand on each bottle’s reverse label. While the majority of Elijah Craig 20 bottles feature a tan colored label with a prominent “Drawn from the same lot as Whisky Advocate’s American Whiskey of the Year” on the front, there is a less-common green label with “A Taste of Kentucky” proclamation in its place.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *