Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Elijah Craig 12 year Label Change

As part of the administrative tools available via the blog provider, I can see keyword searches you all put into the Google Machine or other browsers and clearly readers are questioning the possible demise of the age statement.  Within the last couple of days it was noted that Heaven Hill has made a label change to their Elijah Craig 12 year 94 proof brand.  Right now, the number 12 is front and center on the front label but new bottles showing up on retail shelves simply say "Small Batch" on the front with the age statement noted on the back.  For those of you that have been fortunate to pick up their barrel strength variant, there is no age statement on the front but is listed as "twelve years" on the back label.  The back label age designation will now be the place for their 94 proof offering.

Let the freak out begin.  One keyword search that popped up over the last 24 hours is "Elijah Craig losing age statement".  If I put on my tin foil hat I could forecast that this is a precursor to the age statement being dropped at some point in the future.  Let's analyze:

Go back to 2009 when Buffalo Trace removed the age statement from Old Weller Antique.  It was noted from BT that this was done because there simply wasn't room for the age statement with the new bottle format and label.  BT assured the enthusiast community that OWA will remain 7 years old.  Well, I'm not going to point the guilty finger directly at BT, the reality is, a shortage of wheat mashbill soon followed and there was a shortage of 7 years + barrels.  Weller Special Reserve was difficult to find for a period of time as was Old Weller Antique.  Bottom line, BT, as is their right, can put younger whiskey in the bottle if they choose.  The bean counters want more flexibility with bourbon stock and one way is to remove age statements which then removes outflow constraints (e.g. sell younger whiskey).  This in response to significantly higher demand.

So, Elijah Craig 12 year and the label change smells like the same trajectory.  Here's my tin hat theory.  Heaven Hill changes the front label and the consumer (that's you!) over time gets used to the new label and the absence of an age statement in plain view.  One day you walk into your local liquor retailer and pick up a bottle of Elijah Craig 12 year and suddenly notice the "12 year" is no longer on the back label.  Surprise, you're not buying a 12 year bourbon anymore.

So, what should you do? I guess that depends on whether you think it's good enough to bunker or trust that it will be around for a while.  To be honest, Elijah Craig is not a bottle I typically have in the bunker for the very reason that it's readily available.  This afternoon while traveling home, I stopped and picked up a bottle and am at this moment, sipping on a healthy pour.

This is a value pour no doubt.  I paid normal retail at $27 but in some markets, it's over $30.  I'm mulling over a trip to a neighboring state to pick up 1/2 case because their prices are around $20 a pop.  I've been drinking bourbon long enough to have seen many age statements drop off the shelves so this is one to watch.

10 comments:

  1. I'd bet the farm on HH easing the "12 Year" off the EC back label as quickly as possible. Same as I'll bet that the "10 Year" designation that's now on the back of new bottles of ER10 will be gone before long. Have you noticed how EC12 is on sale all over the place right now? I have a friend who works for one of their wholesalers and he told me that HH is doing a big push (price breaks, sales incentives) right now on EC12 which is clearly an effort to sweep out inventory of front-labelled inventory so that they can get the new stuff into the market ASAP. It'll be gone before you know it.

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    1. Interesting feedback on HH's push to move the front label 12 year stock off the shelves. Some would think your statement "it'll be gone before you know it" is hyperbole but you and I both know it happens just that fast. AAA 10 year, OWA 7 yr, EW1783 10 year, etc. were gone in a short couple months or less; at least around here. I said I might get a 1/2 case and put down but I've got a dozen ECBP that of course are 12 year so not sure yet that I'll pull the trigger on the regular 12 year.

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    2. Yup. And don't forget Old Fitz 12 Year, Old Fitz BIB, Old Charter 10 Year and even Old Charter 8 Year. And look what's happening with Weller 12 Year! Nuts. I pretty much cleaned Party Source out of AAA 10 Year handles and liters just before they stopped shipping and I;m thrilled that I moved fast. Damn shame that EC12 is now a Dodo bird and I'm stocking up on all that I can afford at the current $22-$25 price because it's a long-time favorite daily drinker. Wonder if EWSB will stop being 10 Year Old before too long, at least at the current $25-$30 price point? Imagine what they could charge of they upped the proof and kept it at 10?

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    3. I wouldn't go so far just yet calling EC12 a dodo bird. The age statement's being moved for sure but for now, it's still the same juice at 12 years. With respect to AAA10, I did the exact same thing. I think VA may have been one of the early states that lost distribution as I snapped up 8 liters before they disappeared and that was back in 2007 or 2008. I waffle on getting multiples of EC12....I'm sure if I don't, I'll be sorry down the road. As I mentioned in the post, I picked up a bottle last week and to be honest, it's a decent pour; not earth shattering but solid.

      For now, I'll probably hold off getting the EC12 as I'm headed to KY in two weeks for this years barrels picks. We'll be visiting Beam for another round of KC120; BT for OWA and of course Four Roses for our normal multi barrel pick (last year we purchased 7 barrels from them). So, with new picks coming down the pike, EC12 may not be high on the list for purchase.

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    4. Are those barrel picks that you'll be making for a retail outlet?

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    5. Never - they are for personal consumption among group membership.

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  2. Jan 2016 Elijah will no longer have the 12 statement, will be made with 8-12 year old barrels. See the Heaven Hill site.

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    1. Yup, I've seen it. Also, looking at liquor store shelves, the 750 age stated bottles are pretty much gone. The 1.75L bottles are still on the shelves in some areas.

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  3. It's kind of sad - I just noticed the missing 12 year age statement tonight and the HH website saying that they are mixing 8-12 year old bourbon. I've been drinking Elijah Craig for quite some time now (over 20 years). I've watched the price steadily climb ($28.95 in Charlotte) and now over the last couple of years, the bourbon gets newer and newer. It used to be quite the treat - super high quality, smooth, and comparably inexpensive. Now, with all of the Bill and Ted's Excellent "premium" bourbons out there at $50+ a bottle, it's still a bargain, but it's depressing that how the trend is now "less for more".

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    1. It's a new age Bruce with higher prices and younger whiskey. Doesn't mean you still can't drink well. Even w/o the age statement, the EC small batch is still a good value as is Evan Williams Bottled in Bond white label. A good solid pour at around $20 or less a 750.

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