Blind Tasting Elijah Craig
Last week we did a blind tasting with BourbonHunt Pro members. There were no clues given. No outline for what we’d be tasting. Just 3 samples labeled 1, 2 and 3 and a week to taste. I’ve already discussed the merits of blind tasting but it’s always cool to see it in action. Here are the blind results.
What were these mystery samples? Notice that the distribution of scores gets tighter towards the as the samples progress. Out of the sixteen tasters fifteen scored sample #3 as a seven or better. Sample #1 didn’t receive any 10’s but it did have a strong showing with four 9’s. There’s also no agreement on pricing. Sample #3 seems to have the highest consensus on pricing with 66.7% of tasters thinking it falls in the $36-$65 range. Enough rambling. Here are the results:
That’s right. The $15 bottle of J.W. Dant BIB was scored at “7 or better” by 94% of the tasters. Yes, Elijah Craig 18 is almost 10x the cost. I think this goes to show that you don’t always have to pay a lot to get the best bourbon. Everyones taste is subjective. Not everyone loves the dry, woody flavors of ultra aged bourbons. Consider yourself lucky if you don’t as it will save you a lot of money!
Do you know who stocks JW Dant here in Jacksonville? I’ve already cleaned out all the EJC front label 12 from local ABC’s. But have not seen any Dant around the beaches area. Thanks for any leads!
that’s eye opening and now I want to run out and grab a bottle of JW Dant. thanks for sharing this.
Hey, Total Wines has it in Northern NJ (bergen county)…saw them plentiful on shelves there yesterday if you’re interested and are in the area..
Just curious, what is the mash bill of the different bourbons in your taste test, was J.W. Dant BIB a similar mash bill to the Elijah Craig’s?
They’re all the exact same mash and distillery http://bourbonr.com/blog/heaven-hill-distillery-by-mashbill/
But the EC18 was not likely distilled by HH.
Yes, it was
That is great, thanks got to pu some of that bib @$15
I love blind tastings! I run a whisk(e)y tasting club, the Rutland Whisk(e)y Society, and we do a monthly tasting. All but our last event have been blind tastings (the last was bottle-emptying event, we had amassed quite a collection of bottles that were down to 1/3 left). We usually taste 2-3 whiskies, though we do them in a single evening (understanding there could be some palate confusion there). It is always amazing to see what people really like and don’t like based purely on their taste and not marketing, labeling, etc. The only info I give is general category (like Kentucky Straight Bourbon, NDP Bourbon, American Single Malt, etc) and a price range (this is because the society absorbs the cost by splitting it across the attendees present) for a 750ml bottle. They are always fun and informative, and people always end up finding something new they like (or really don’t like).
Interesting, but not surprising. I’ve tasted the EC 12, 18 & 20 side by side, in that order, and I prefer them in that order.
May be a little bias as well. “Bourbonr sent a sample, so it must be good.” Various results might skew to the right as such.
Love this review! My wife and I do this at home for friends. Always surprising!
Fascinating. Once in a while, I’ll randomly pick a lesser expensive bottle of something just to give it a shot, with the hopes of finding some precious catch. Recently, I bought a bottle of Copper Pony solely because I liked the bottle. I whiffed. It had a terrible medicinal taste. Had a friend over the next evening and he tried it and liked it a lot. Needless to say, he went home with it!
Funny thing happened yesterday…..I saw a bottle of the COPPER PONY, but didn’t buy it because of your review here….I got cold feet, lol, it was priced at $24.99…not too bad.
Did all tasters taste them in the order of 1,2, then 3 or could it be random?
Everything was done in the same order. But as far as I know there was no communication between tasters
Would be interesting to see if them tasting in different orders would yield more random results.
Exactly my thoughts.
Send them out again and have them try in reverse order and see what the results are. It’s difficult to control for bias here but it seems like that would be the best way to attempt to do so.
Fascinating and well done experiment. Nice job.
The truth is, for me, it’s never about how expensive the bottle is but what’s in the glass. I have had Pappy Van Winkle back when no one was drinking it and loved it and I paid $70 and bought three. Then I found the lot B for $24 and bought six! I went to restock about two years ago and was shocked at the prices. As good as they were, nothing is worth the $600 to $3000 they are asking for up here! I now drink Elijah Craig 12 ($24), Old Weller 12 (when its under $26, some stores are asking $99!!), and all the Four Roses, Wild Turkeys as my everyday bourbons. I still occasionally buy that bottle of Blantons or Bookers etc. but I draw the line at spending more than $75 for a “special bourbon” There are too many delicious, complex bourbons that won’t break the bank and I would rather buy three different ones than one expensive one.
You are a VERY smart “bourbonr”! I bet you have a lot of undiscovered “goodies” in your whiskey cabinet that you’re not letting us in on!…lol
I have been lucky to find a few high quality under the radar bourbons over the years. The first was Eagle Rare, then Noah’s Creek, the Williet. Now all are considered premium spirits, but can still be found at reasonable prices if one takes the time to look.
We took a Bourbon Tour in the fall of 2014. Stayed in Lexington, and planned day trips to the distilleries. I recall going through the “Jim Beam Experience”, including a tasting of various quality levels of Beam product. Much to my surprise, plain old Jim Beam was among the best of what I sampled that day.
I have consumed several bottles of Pappy over the years, including 20yr and 23yr. The last bottle of 20yr was purchased in 2011 however…. I have a bottle of 10yr on hand, and about 1/2 a bottle of Jefferson’s Presidential Select, with an early lot number, and a 1991 Stitzell Weller Mash Bill. I enjoy the older bourbon, but do not think that the quality is commensurate with current market value.
For blind tastings I do not use numbers to ID the samples. Instead, I use symbols. This is a result of classes I took in induced bias response. Numbering 1, 2, 3 typically does two things. First, people often sample them in that order. That makes #1 the standard and #3 the most memorable (really most recent). It also has some people comparing 1 against 2 and 2 against 3, and they do not compare 3 against 1. The other issue is that for some people numbers lead them to infer #1 is better than# 2 which is better than #3. Color coding also has bias. Green is good, red is bad, etc. Letters as well (A is better than B etc. like grades) So when we did sampling (not bourbon) we marked containers with symbols (squares, circles, triangles, three lines, etc.)and allowed the sampler to select the order of sampling.
A bit of a geeky response but thought I would throw it out there for consideration.
But what if i think a triangle is better thsn a square 🙂
Haha! Goes to show you never know what influences a person’s judgement!
I was one of the fortunate tasters. I cannot speak to how others tried them, but there was enough in the bottles to compare 1 with 2 and come back and compare 3 with 1. The EC 18 was oaky. That came through, but 100% better than the EC 23 I had in the past. I refer to that purchase of the 23 EC as my mosr disappointing bourbon purchase ever. I though the EC 18 was Col Taylor Single Barrel. So if you are looking for somethings similar, and lower priced, try Col Taylor Single Barrel.
Your synopsis for blind taste testing is very interesting, and truthful …I enjoyed reading about the different variables that could influence a bias decision(s)…….great input!
That’s a good point Scott. I remember reading about that in the book Influence. It’s funny how the smallest most unlikely things can sway our opinions. I’ll start using some other distinguishing object from now on.
With a single barrel Competition against no other single barrel, there is no real tasting. So you got a bad or not so good barrel of the Elijah 18. Not such a stretch. The best bourbon that I have consistently tasted was BLANTON’S STRAIGHT FROM THE BARREL. No hands down! Who cares if you got a bad barrel of the Elijah Craig 18. I happens. I have several bottles that I have opened, and they all have slightly different tastes. Some are very woody and others are not so much and weak to the taste. Yes for a shot in the dark for a $120+ bottle of bourbon, I would prefer not spending for shot in the dark for each barrel. I personally like the woodier the better. Character like a good fine wine. If any of you want to give me a synopsis of your barrel, please do. I love the person that talked about the Willet!!! We all know that they are the Dom Pérignon of bourbons. They take the best of the best and make it more of the best. The same as Diageo has done with some of the best old bourbons that are aging to points of no return. Shame on BUFFALO TRACE! AND SAZERAC! WE ARE LOOKING FORWARD TO YOU FINALLY GIVING THE USA YOUR BEST BOURBONS.WHY WOULD YOU SELL OUT TO THE FUCKING JAPANESE LIKE THE BEAMS DID? IT’S OUR COUNTRY, SO MAKE SURE THAT OUR PEOPLE PAY THE AMERICAN PRICE FOR OUR PRODUCT. GEORGE WASHINGTON AND THE VIRGINIANS CONTINUE TO MAKE IT OWNED BY US. STOP OVERCHARGING US FOR OUR BOURBON. THE OVERSEAS COMPANIES AND PEOPLE NEED TO BE THE ONES TO PAY THE ULTIMATE PRICE FOR OUR NECTAR OF OF BOURBON. USA ALL THE WAY. AS FOR THE ELIJAH CRAIG 18 I HAVE HAD, THEY HAVE BEEN ALL GREAT TO ON EXTENT TO THE OTHER. AS I SAID. THE SINGLE BARREL IS A SINGLE BARREL. EACH DID HAVE THEIR OWN TASTES.
I bet Joe Pavlis is voting Trump!
Good read on the tasting, and as a marketing manager in charge of blind trials, the gentleman talking about bias based upon sample number is absolutely correct. Random numbers with multiple digits and letters or shapes are the most unbiased way to do it.
I think there is something to be said about people’s familiarity with a “level” or age of bourbon. Not many get to taste EC18 so the flavor profile might be more foreign. The younger, easier to get bourbons could have a familiarity that promotes a bias.
These blind taste test results are shocking! This shows me that many drinkers are influenced by marketing strategies and brand names moreso than taste when buying their spirits. I have two bottles of the ELIJAH CRAIG 18 YR OLD, I definitely like it, but am not in love with it….maybe because I paid to much for it because of the “marketing hype”that goes with these Limited Edition bottlings…. I feel $149.00 plus tax (VA) was too much to pay for the EC18 yr….I wouldn’t do it again, that’s for sure. These distilleries are cashing in on this crazed frenzy for bourbon, can’t blame ’em….it’s all about the “Benjamins”, and bottling swill and putting a fancy schmancy label and paying BIG $$$ for marketing it is paying off substantially for MANY of these distilleries …more power to them, I suppose …I will just have to become more conscientious of what I am buying, what I really want as far as tastes and the bottom line, which is cost….but, I must (honestly) say…I still, and probably never will be able to bring myself to drink boyrbon, or any spirit truthfully out of a plastic bottle…NO matter how great the taste is….as was the case yesterday with the J.W.Dant…lol…sorry…me, whiskey and plastic bottles just don’t get along….lol…now, if it was in a glass bottle, I would have bought it.
I have 2 backups and an open EC18 because it’s so damn good. I also have favorite “cheapies” like OGD 100. I knew nothing about EC18 before I tasted it at a buddies, and I didn’t know price, I just knew I really liked the stuff.
I’d bet that if you replaced the EC18 with Four Roses 2015 LE you’d get similar results in this test, I don’t believe it’s hype that leads us to those bottles but complexity and refinement.
I would also like to see a side-by side blind tasting with the “old” ELIJAH CRAIG 12 yr.old age statement bottle”, and the new expression of the blended Elijah Craig withOUT the age statement bottling…….has anyone done this already? Just curious…..
Yes I have done this, very recently actually, and it was very disappointing. The old EC12 that I loved is gone. The new one is by no means a bad bourbon, but the character that made it unique and such a great deal is mostly gone. I won’t purchase it any more. Even sadder was the blind tasting of Very Old Barton 6 yr vs the “number 6” version available now. That is really a heartbreaker, because it was truly a mid to upper shelf bourbon for an absolute bottom shelf price. Side by side with the new version, is drastic. I’ll still buy it as my house mixer bourbon though, because it’s still solid in relation to its price. I’ll just be drinking it neat much less than before.
I really want to think I’d know EC18 if I tasted it since it’s one of my faves. Interesting that the JBD had the tightest grouping at 7 and 8 while the EC18 was such a spread. Perhaps the more aged bourbon has more of a palate preference than something cheap and simple which lacks the complexity that can polarize people?
Bravo. It gets so tiring to see buyers and sellers on the aftermarket declare their whiskey as epic and as having unicorn worthy status. I believe in blind tasting as an essential tool in evaluating spirits and cocktails. I have routinely picked $50 spirits out as IMO “better” than $1200 spirits in the same professional setting. You posting these results helps to encourage others to do so. Thanks Again!
One point continues to surface in a notable number of these responses: Our Pallets
ARE NOT IDENTICAL. So many sensory “biases” can influence taste – even the time
I found over time that there are days that an Isley Single Malt, or Dominican Sp. Res.,
or good (Wiser’s 18?) Canadian simply tastes “better” than my favorite Bourbon just then.
Am I the only imbiber to experience this? I’ll bet not. Why then should we expect our taste buds
to lock step with someone else’s anytime/all-the-time? Let’s be honest, guys: it’s what you
enjoy, not what someone else prefers, that satisfies on your tongue.
Speaking of Canadian: Has anyone ever had the pleasure of sampling Barton’s Hand Seal?
It hasn’t been available since around 2000, so only a stray bottle will likely turn up.
GRAB IT !