Elijah Craig Barrel Proof B518 Review

I’m going to start this off by saying I’m a sucker for Elijah Craig. This doesn’t mean that any of the various expressions get a free pass from me, rather, it means when I see a new incarnation, I get excited and will buy a bottle untasted.

Elijah Craig Barrel Proof B518 Review Header


  • DISTILLER: Heaven Hill
  • MASH BILL: 78% Corn | 10% Rye | 12% Malted Barley
  • AGE: 12 Years.
  • YEAR: 2018
  • PROOF: 133.4 (66.7% ABV)
  • MSRP: $59.00


NOSE: Caramel  |   Oak  |   Vanilla

TASTE: Vanilla  |  Pepper  |  Caramel  |  Buttercream Frosting

FINISH: Considering the proof, this had much less burn than anyone would expect.

SHARE WITH: Folks who enjoy an iconic barrel proof Bourbon and aren't afraid of whiskeys lovingly referred to as hazmat.

WORTH THE PRICE: The normal price in my market is $69.99. I would pay that all day long for this bottle.

BOTTLE, BAR OR BUST: Last year B517 won “Whiskey of the Year” by Whisky Advocate. I enjoyed that tremendously, but didn't think it deserved the title. B518 blows B517 out of the water. This has a unique quality I've not experienced in a whiskey before. I bought a bottle was glad I did, and I recommend you do, too.

OVERALL: I'm going to start this off by saying I'm a sucker for Elijah Craig. This doesn't mean that any of the various expressions get a free pass from me, rather, it means when I see a new incarnation, I get excited and will buy a bottle untasted. When reviewing it, I give it the same unbiased opportunity for Bottle, Bar or Bust as I do with anything else. There have been a couple of unimpressive releases in the barrel proof versions.

The appearance in the glass was a deep, rich brown. That's very typical of Elijah Craig as a whole, barrel proof or not. Giving it a swirl in the glass left a very thin rim that produced fat, fast legs. But, the rim itself stuck like glue.

Holding the lip of the glass to my chin gave the familiar aromas of caramel and oak. At mouth level oak and vanilla.  Letting it hover just under the nostrils brought vanilla.  When I inhaled through my mouth, it created a vanilla bomb.

The mouthfeel was thick and creamy. It felt heavy. I don't recall another whiskey carrying this much weight in my mouth. Vanilla and pepper hit the front of the palate hard. The vanilla then caramelized on the mid-palate, which gave way to buttercream frosting. Part of that was butter, but there is texture to go with it.

At 133.4°, you'd expect it to set your mouth afire. That didn't really happen, although it did make my mouth numb and tingly. But, there's no real burn.

This may be the best Elijah Craig Barrel Proof release that I've tasted yet. If you liked last year's mid-year release, B518 eclipses that, and the comparison isn't even close.

Here are a few other Elijah Craig reviews you might be interested in:


To sip our Barrel Proof Bourbon is to experience Bourbon in its purest form—uncut, straight from the barrel, and without chill filtering. Each bottle is hand labeled with its unique proof and batch number but the nose, taste, and finish of every sip is pure Elijah Craig. We’re proud to say that remarkable consistency earned us the award of Whisky Advocate’s "Whisky of the Year."

With Barrel Proof, you can enjoy Elijah Craig much the same way our Master Distillers do when they sample straight from the barrel in our Kentucky rickhouses.

NOSE: Caramel with toasted oak, fruit notes of apple and orange

TASTE: Rich vanilla, caramel, and butterscotch along with spices of black pepper & cinnamon at the back of the palate

FINISH: Nicely layered showcasing all flavors, fades slowly then lingers as it cools


Each batch of Elijah Craig Barrel Proof is an uncut Small Batch of 12-year-old Bourbon bottled straight from the barrel. The variance in proof from batch to batch presents a unique opportunity to explore the impact of the angel's share and the resulting proof in a small batch of barrels.

The first letter of the batch number indicates which of that year's releases the bottle was a part of, starting with "A," while the second digit is a number that determines the month of the year the bottle was released. The third and fourth digits indicate the year. Hover over the years below to see the full list of releases and their respective proofs.

"It is a mouth-filling, deeply satisfying whiskey, amazingly palatable even at full proof, that will delight many drinkers at a great price—virtues we can all agree on."