January has passed, and 2017 is well under way. It could be said that plenty of folks are…preoccupied with the state of things. Look, I’m trying to avoid being political, because I’m just as tired of all the hubbub as you are. So—what do we do? You’ve already taken our advice on some of our recent articles and gotten yourself a Bottle of Elijah Craig, right? The special collection Small Batch? If you haven’t, go scoot to the store and make that happen. I’ll wait right here, promise. You live in the woods, huh? Only available by delivery? Ugh, fine. Here Ya Go.
Okay, hopefully you’ve waited your 5-7 business days and returned. Crack the seal on that bad boy and take a sip, we’re about to venture into an interactive thought experiment– designed personally by yours truly, to take your mind off of this harsh, harsh winter climate. So, consider the following as you take your first sip…
You’re Drinking 200 Years of History
Everyone knows the legend of the prestigious luminary of a man that was Reverend Elijah Craig. He’s sometimes credited with the original inception of Bourbon whiskey, among a medley of other things. It’s difficult to say exactly how he thought up the idea of aging of unaged (not for long) corn liquor in charred barrels. Some claim that there was a fire at Ol’ Elijah’s farm that put some smoke into the barrels and fundamentally changed the whiskey inside. Some believe that Reverend Craig found himself some old sugar barrels to keep his booze in. Either way, the storing of his liquor in these unique barrels combined with the accidental aging process of Elijah moving his whiskey across the state of Virginia, that sweet and smoky brown liquor was born. The dedicated team that now manages Elijah’s legacy has gone through the rigorous process of recreating the product that Elijah created so long ago, with added touches of perfection that come with a more refined, modern process. So imagine as you sip, that you’re one of Elijah’s followers in colonial times. Imagine being used to drinking that stinky old corn liquor that everyone else kept bringing through Virginia. Now imagine sipping on Elijah Craig’s smoky aged bourbon. Or wait—don’t imagine that part, just do it.
You’re Drinking a Meticulously Crafted Masterpiece
Creating a quality whiskey is a lot of work—a lot of precise, careful work. Everything; every single component of the distilling and aging process in a whiskey can impact the way it tastes, smells, feels. So look down into your glass and consider all of the processes that were necessary to get that brown drink in there. Now look back to your screen, because I’m about to tell you about those processes. First, corn, barley, try and wheat grains are carefully selected at local farms near the distillery. Fresh local ingredients are crucial. Next, it’s turned into a sort of oatmeal-y mash with Kentucky Limestone water and some distillate, and cooked. This process is what fleshes out those sweet vanilla notes you’re getting. The mash is then fermented over a few days, and the sugars in the brew turn naturally to alcohol. What bubbles to the top of the mixture is “Distiller’s Beer”, and will become the foundation of the whiskey. Next is the scientific and confusing process of distillation. The Distiller’s Beer drips slowly down a tower of copper plates in a copper tube while steam blasts up from below. This encourages the purest and lightest alcohol vapors to travel upwards, where they’re captured and bottled. Convoluted as all this is, what you’ve got at this point is just regular ol’ booze. Elijah Craig refuses to stop there, of course. The crucial aging process comes next. Charred oak barrels are hand selected to contain the small-batch selection for 8-12 years. How small is the batch? Around 200 barrels. This ensures that the master distiller can not only choose the best containers for the whiskey to steep in, but also that he can continuously monitor them throughout their life span. Whew.
You’re Drinking a Decorated, Award Winning Whiskey
I don’t want this to come off as bragging at all; but the whiskey swirling around in your glass and tap-dancing on your palate is—uh, kind of a big deal. “How big of a deal is it?”, you predictably ask; quiet down, I’ll tell you. The Elijah Craig team attended a little event called the San Francisco World Spirits Competition. They walked in with their heads held high, proudly carrying the result of their deliberation and toil in a glass bottle, and they left proudly with a gold medal. Ha, just kidding. They left with 4 gold medals. In a medley of different ways, the EC team won a Phelps-esque assortment of accolades, including 2 double gold medals. I didn’t even know that was possible. They also took a few gold away at the Wine and Spirits Wholesaler’s Annual Convention and Exposition, a Whiskey of The Year Award from Whiskey Advocate Magazine, a Best-of-the-Best Honorary from Whiskey Magazine, and was voted “Best Bourbon twice by Jim Murray’s Whiskey Bible. So, you’re not the only one who thinks it’s good. Look distinguished, you’re in the company of a legend.
It Isn’t Just For Sipping Straight Anymore
We’re nearing the end of our journey here, and I hope you’ve gained a newfound appreciation for the timeless bottle of whiskey resting proudly on your shelf. You want to share this journey with others too; your friends and family, I’d bet. That’s great, I understand that, it’s a great whiskey, and I think I did a great job explaining that to you. But you know that they just won’t get it, right?
Good news, for those among you who just don’t have the refined palate of an aficionado or an internet writer, Elijah Craig has composed a list of the best cocktails to complement their smoky-sweet bourbon treat.
The premier way to prepare any sort of quality whiskey is as an Old Fashioned. This is a fine place to start, of course, but the team at EC got way, way deeper than that. Consider, for instance, adding a shot of the small batch to a shot of sweet vermouth and a shot of Campari for a little bit of a Boulevardier; a frenchy cousin to a negroni. Why not get wild with it and bring a raw egg, some brown sugar syrup, and a creamy-vanilla liquor into the mix for an Eli’s Vanilla Flip? Or warm your hands with a bit of lemon juice, and hot water with brown sugar melted into it for a Commander’s Grog? The list goes on. No really, it does. Psst, hey Elijah Craig, what’s a guy gotta do to get on the team that names these cocktails? Genius!
And thus ends our whiskey-flavored journey. Pease return your tray tables to their full, upright-and-locked positions, and gather all of your belongings from the cabin. Oh, and follow me below for more Whimsical Whiskey Writings.