Elijah Craig “B Battle” (B519 vs. B520)
One of the things in the whiskey world that intrigues me is comparing products. It can be really fun to put together a blind flight of single barrel offerings from the same brand, or different brands that are all age-stated the same, and so on. When I was finally able to get my hands on both B519 and B520 from the Elijah Craig Barrel Proof lineup…well I couldn’t wait to tear into them and see how they compared. Let’s do this!
I thought about doing this battle blind (and maybe I will amend this with a blind addition in the future) but decided to just do a toe-to-toe battle similar to our Whiskey King of the Hill. Here I have the May 2019 (B519) release of Elijah Craig Barrel Proof, which clocks in at 122.2 proof, battling against the May 2020 (B520) release which shows up at 127.2 proof. It’s no secret that this bourbon is held in very high regard, and checks off a lot of boxes for an affordable and moderately available offering at barrel proof. What can I say that hasn’t already been said? Let’s look to the Elijah Craig website to see what they have for us:
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.
Differences I notice before we even pour are fairly obvious: the 2019 (left) reads “Small Batch”, whereas the 2020 (right) is denoted as “Barrel Proof’ right on the bottle. Other superficial differences are plain to see on the sticker, which designates each to be Barrel Proof and gives the batch info. Okay, enough talk, let’s pour these and get to the battle!
Elijah Craig Barrel Proof “B Battle”
Nose – Cherry, oaky vanilla. Definitely fruit forward for me, and then it’s going into a deeper oak with warehouse funk and mustiness (in a good way) that’s showing off age and character.
Taste – Sweet caramel and fruity vanilla take control. Plenty of heat here, but not punishingly strong. Toffee and then a hint of mocha.
Finish – This is a long and quite tasty finish. Caramel and mocha really work well with the toffee note, and it only seems to get better as it goes along. Hints of fruit show back up throughout. It ends with oak and a light touch of spice.
Nose – Rich and sweet. Dark character living in this glass with some big vanilla before moving to more of a honey and oak structure. A nice layer of caramel too.
Taste – Rich oak and then lighter fruit…stone fruit…and then caramel. English toffee and brown sugar hit the sweet tooth nicely. A touch of spice rounds this out very well.
Finish – Long and rich. Oak and toffee with a strong vanilla backbone. There’s a hint of cocoa goodness in here too. Not quite a dessert pour, but this is a very sweet and delicious sip that goes on.
“B Battle” Winner: B519
So this one may come as a surprise, seeing as how highly rated B520 has been. Something about the way B519 carries the fruit complexity just hit me the right way, and between the two pours I’d have to say it’s my winner. It’s always find to do these comparisons, and even more fun to share them with readers. Swing over to the post on Instagram to add your comments on this if you’d like–it’s certainly entertaining to hear what everyone else thinks of posts like this. Thanks for checking this one out!
Our grading system: As mentioned in our About Us page, we’re excited to share bourbon with our friends, family, and readers. There are enough critics, cynics, and curmudgeons in the whiskey world as it is, so our goal is to foster the bourbon community in a positive way by bringing fun and entertaining content whenever possible–as such–we decided that applying precise scores to whiskey was simply too serious for us (and didn’t accurately showcase variability in taste from day to day). We use a simple grade school system to apply a grade to the whiskeys we review because we feel it is indicative of the whiskey’s grade for us on that particular day. A grade of a “B” today may very well be a “B+” or even a “B-” on another day, so rather than focusing on a precise score today that may not stand the test of time, we are just sharing our overall grade of that pour for that one tasting. Pour a bit and enjoy, friends, these are the good old days of whiskey!