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.