Dan’s Bourbon of the Week: Elijah Craig 12 Year Barrel Proof

Dan’s Bourbon of the Week: Elijah Craig 12 Year Barrel Proof

It may only be Wednesday, but it feels like it has been a full week already, and there’s plenty more to come!  In Michigan, we are steeped in snow and in the midst of another Polar Vortex, but we are not alone – a good swath of the country looks to be frozen along with us.

One place it’s not frozen is Florida, which is good because it’s Spring Training time!  My Tigers have a few new faces (Cespedes, Gose, Greene and Simon), a few question marks (the rotation) and some injuries to see through, but few things can bring warmth to a sub-zero winter day like the thought of baseball.

This is also Bourbon Classic week, and  I will be going for my second year.  We had a wonderful time last year, sampling the wonderful dishes and drinks, and I am looking forward to it again.  I just wish it was a tad warmer in Kentucky…

So what to drink when the weather is so very cold?  How about trying something Barrel Proof?  And that’s exactly what I did, with a glass of Elijah Craig Barrel Proof!

Dan's Bourbon of the Week: Elijah Craig 12 Year Barrel Proof
Dan’s Bourbon of the Week: Elijah Craig 12 Year Barrel Proof

The most recent issue of Elijah Craig Barrel Proof is it’s sixth offering, although I haven’t been fortunate enough to run across the earlier five myself.  It is also the highest proof, at a little over 140.  No laughing matter here.

Heaven Hill barrels this direct – no char filtering – and it shows in the color.  Even in the bottle, it’s a very deep brown.  They have accented that with a dark label, and it is just distinctive enough to set it apart.  I have respect for 12 Year Elijah Craig, even if it’s not my first choice (it is, however, my first choice in baking – it’s spiciness adds much to pies, cookies and chocolates!). How would this one fare?

Dan’s Take:

The deep, dark amber-brown color of the pour lets you know right away that this is not a light and breezy pour.  But what really amazed me was the nose – a 140 Proof glass should burn, but this most certainly does not.  There are many wonderful, unique and often, sweet aromas in this glass.  Rich vanilla, caramel and the smell of warm baking, like a gingerbread man iced with maple frosting.  Does that sound unique?  It surely shocked me – there was no great burn, just the wholly unique smell of sweet baking in a wood fired oven.

The taste brought me back to earth and how.  The tip of the tongue held that sweetness of caramel before the proof hit.  In baseball, a pitcher might throw a fastball up around the batters shoulders to brush him back a bit, or get him to swing wildly at an eye level pitch – the ‘high heat.’  This drink is the ‘high heat,’ and the first sip admittedly knocked me back for a second.  The nose had lulled me to sleep, but 140 proof woke me up fast.  I caught my breath and tried again – slower this time.  There is a slightly burned sugar taste, brown sugar to be more specific.  Wood weighed in heavily, but not overwhelmingly, as the toasted oak blended well with the toffee, maple flavors.

(I handed it to Jen to sample, and she agreed with me on both the taste, and the kicks-like-a-mule effect of drinking too large a sip!)

It has a long finish, and a whole lot of burn.  THe wood is probably strongest in the finish, and I’ll admit, it went on a little too long for me.  Such a high proof leads to a long finish, and this one left traces of oak, alcohol bite and burnt toast on my palate for minutes.

So how do I rate it?  I thoroughly enjoyed it – not unlike a roller coaster that gives you a great start, but maybe by the end you wish was a little bit shorter, this version of the Elijah Craig Barrel Proof is a great ride.  I look forward to trying other, varied proof versions.

Dan’s Rating: 8.7

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Dan’s Bourbon of the Week: Ezra B 12 Year Old Bourbon

OK, two things:

1) As this summer has gotten busier and busier, I have not been good about posting regularly.  I’m still sampling new bourbons, still reading about developments in the whiskey world and what not, but I’m not writing about it enough.

2) Despite the name “Baseball and Bourbon,” I hardly ever write about baseball! I named the blog Baseball and Bourbon because I planned on reviewing two of the things I enjoy the most: baseball parks and bourbons.  However, I discovered two key facts early on – it’s difficult to visit new parks regularly, and it’s way more fun (and easy) to try new bourbons.  This year alone, I have been able to visit one new park (Nationals Park), but will have gone on three separate trips to Kentucky for bourbon related events.

Both of these things will change now.

Not going to more baseball parks – time and money can prohibit that pretty severely.  But introducing more baseball content.  Reviews of baseball books, baseball movies, write-ups of parks I’ve visited in the past and just more baseball chatter will be a priority.  My hometown Detroit Tigers are (again) serious contenders for the title, and I keep pretty well plugged in to baseball.  Time to put it to type.

Secondly, I will include more bourbon reviews, but also, talk more at length about whiskey bars I visit, industry trends, and other whiskeys, especially ryes,

So let the fun begin!

Last night, after what has proven to be a particularly trying week in many regards, my wife and I sat down and opened a bottle that she had picked up a few weeks back out of curiosity.

Ezra B 12 Year Old Bourbon

Dan's Bourbon of the Week: Ezra B 12 Year Old Bourbon
Dan’s Bourbon of the Week: Ezra B 12 Year Old Bourbon

OK, call this a spoiler alert, but I LOVED this bourbon.  Ezra B (Brooks) 12 Year is a Heaven Hill distillery product, and while Heaven Hill makes some bourbons I have liked (Evan Williams, Elijah Craig) and some I haven’t, none have ever tasted quite like this.

While the Ezra B 12 Year is the classier bottle of the Ezra Brooks line, with its wax cap and ribboned label, it’s not obscenely priced.  A little harder to find here in Detroit, it was still available at a store, and not only through third party sellers.  We opened the bottle and poured a healthy amount into our glasses…

…wow, what a fantastic nose.  Ezra B is 99 proof, but the nose didn’t burn of alcohol at all.  Amazingly, it was a sweet, rich nose, with notes of vanilla, caramel, raisin, rum, pecans and wood.  Not charred wood, mind you, but soft wood, like a new baseball bat.  It was warm and inviting.

The taste was outstanding.  First of all, Ezra B 12 Year is a thick mouth feel – like a melting butter.  But unlike most thicker tasting bourbons, Ezra B isn’t full of those mouth-puckering tannins some people (not I) love.  Instead, it’s incredibly smooth with a layered taste.  It opens with a rich sweetness – raisin and ripe banana, toffee and caramel, before giving way to a warming but not overpowering spice.

The finish is soft and medium, and almost seems to come in waves, but not of spice or rye, but rather, that wonderful citrus taste.

This just became a favorite.

Dan’s rating: 9.3

Happy Pi Day (3.14) – Dirty Bourbon Pie and Bourbon Whipped Cream

Happy Pi Day (3.14) – Dirty Bourbon Pie and Bourbon Whipped Cream

Hello, and happy Pi day! Not that one needs a reason to celebrate pies, or to cook with bourbon, but just in case you are interested in doing just that, I’ve got a recipe for you.  It comes from the fine website Doughmesstic, with a few changes suggested by my wife Jen.

Last year, my work celebrated Pi day with a pie-potluck of sorts, where people brought in pies of all shapes and sizes, including quiches, breakfast specialties and some desert items.  That’s when Jen first made this Bourbon pie, and even included bourbon whipped topping.

I won’t lie, it was a bit of a wake up at 8 in the morning…

But that said, at the end of the day, I took home TWO empty pie tins, and regretted we had not made a third just for our own consumption.

So make the pie with the recipe below, and enjoy!

Happy Pi Day - Dirty Bourbon Pie
Happy Pi Day – Dirty Bourbon Pie

Crust:

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup confectioner’s sugar (powdered sugar)
1/4 tsp. salt
9 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 large egg yolk
1 teaspoon bourbon (I prefer Woodford Reserve for this)

Combine flour, confectioners’ sugar and salt in a food processor (if possible) and combine with ‘pulse’ mode

Take the butter pieces and lay over dry ingredients. Once more, ‘pulse’ to allow butter to cut in.  It will be in varied sizes – that’s ok.

Break up the yolk and stir it in, slowly, ‘pulsing’ with each small addition. When the egg is in, process in long pulses–about 10 seconds each–until the dough, whisk will look granular soon after the egg is added, forms clumps and curds.*

Add bourbon.

Turn the dough out onto a work surface and, very lightly and sparingly, knead the dough just to incorporate any dry ingredients that might have escaped mixing.

To press the dough into the pan: Butter a 9-inch fluted tart pan with a removable bottom. Press the dough evenly over the bottom and up the sides of the pan, using all but one little piece of dough, which you should save in the refrigerator to patch any cracks after the crust is baked.

Don’t be too heavy-handed–press the crust in so that the edges of the pieces cling to one another, but not so hard that the crust loses its crumbly texture. Freeze the crust for at least 30 minutes, preferably longer, before baking.*

*italicized text from Doughmesstic website

Filling:

1 cup sugar
2 tablespoons Vanilla Sugar (or regular sugar – vanilla sugar can be difficult to find)
1/2 cup All Purpose Flour
2 eggs, beaten
1/2 cup Melted Butter
1 cup walnuts, chopped
1/3 cup Bittersweet Chocolate Chips
1/2 cup Semisweet Chocolate Chips
1/3 cup Milk Chocolate Chips
3 Tablespoons Bourbon (I prefer Elijah Craig for this)
1 Tbsp Vanilla

Combine flour and sugar, then add beaten eggs. Pour over melted butter and stir to incorporate. Add remaining ingredients and stir until combined. Pour into frozen pie crust, and bake at 350F for 40-45 minutes, until a nice crust forms on top and appears set. Do not overbake. Also, be careful of burning crust – if it appears to be getting too brown, wrap it in foil and continue to bake the remaining time.

Jen’s Bourbon Whipped Topping:

1 cup heavy whipping cream
1/4 cup powdered sugar
1 Tbsp Bourbon

Mix well and chill

Dan’s Bourbon of the Week: Elijah Craig 12 Year Small Batch

Dan’s Bourbon of the Week: Elijah Craig 12 Year Small Batch

Well, a new NFL football season is upon us, and I’m an unrepentant Detroit Lion’s fan, so who knows what this year holds in store.  The team hasn’t looked great in preseason, but adding Reggie Bush in the offseason can’t help but make us better, and we still have Stafford, Suh and Megatron, so I suppose hope springs eternal!

For this week’s bourbon, I tapped a local resource.  A few years back, when I decided to take my bourbon fandom up a notch, my family jumped in to help me try to find some good selections.  In her endless calling around, my mother stumbled upon a store in Birmingham, MI called Kakos Market.  The people at Kakos were wonderful, talking with her for long periods of time and making recommendations for other bourbons that might fit her son’s flavor profile. They pointed her toward some absolute winners, which I will reference at another time.

I dropped into Kakos myself last week, looking for a few specialty bottles, and while in the store, they showed their own small batch barrel of Elijah Craig 12 year. I had a taste in the store, and took a bottle home for myself, to try today.

Dan's Bourbon of the Week: Elijah Craig 12 Year Small Batch
Dan’s Bourbon of the Week: Elijah Craig 12 Year Small Batch

Every once in a while it happens where I can taste a good bourbon, know it’s a good bourbon, but just not feel it myself.  This is exactly what happened here.

My take: This is a spicy bourbon.  The nose was full of autumnal scents – apple, corn, nutmeg – a lot of fruit and nuts. And wood, lets of wood.

The taste carried this over.  The flavor popped with spicy oak, corn and fruit.  It fills the mouth, and has a pleasant taste, but as you may know by now, I like sweeter bourbons, and this one has some burn.  It’s dry, and has a long, strong finish.

I know it’s a quality bourbon, but (and maybe it was just my mood that day) it was too harsh for me.

Dan scale (1-10): 7.0