Veteran Bourbon Article: Elijah Craig “The Father of Bourbon”

Well known around the United States Elijah Craig is a name that many people cannot say they have not heard before. The person Elijah Craig is known as the “Father of Bourbon” and for good reason. He was a baptist reverend dating back to 1789 which is prominently labeled on there barrels, bottles and a name stake of the brand that it portrays forward. It is said that he was the first to make whiskey in new charred oak barrels in which in turn changed the whiskey on the inside. This could have been done by accident as the way that bourbon was being made under the oversight of this man many things could have happened. It also may have been deliberate as they say that he stored his whiskey in former sugar barrels and was impressed with how the charring improved the flavors of whiskey.

Elijah Craig was an enslaver who used African American slaves  to run the operations of his distillery. This is something that is now known for but at the time it was likely an accepted way of doing business. With the changing of times Heaven Hill Brands who owns Elijah Craig has been really stepped up to the table to make up for the way that their namesake made bourbon by finding a way to give back to the African American Communities. Here are some remarks from the Elijah Craig Website on their initiatives “While we draw inspiration from parts of Elijah Craig’s story as a distiller, a critical component of this history are the enslaved people who made major contributions to Bourbon. Elijah Craig was an enslaver, relying upon enslaved people to run his distilling and broader business operations. Uncovering the identities and roles of these laborers, how they contributed to the birth of the Bourbon industry and the legacy their families left is a critical mission of our brand today. Elijah Craig is actively engaged in academic research with the University of Kentucky’s Commonwealth Institute for Black Studies and Central Kentucky Slavery Initiative, as well as other initiatives, to not only share a more transparent and inclusive account of our past, but to also make America today a more just and equitable country.” – 

As I am looking for more and more information about the life and history of the man Elijah Craig I have decided to not recreate the wheel here. If you would like to dig deeper into the life of this man then please (Click Here)

Let’s talk about bourbon now which is really why you’re here. Elijah Craig comes with 5 staple offerings and those are Straight Rye, Toasted Barrel, Small Batch, Barrel Proof and Single Barrel 18 Year. Small Batch which is their most popular offering you will find almost anywhere that you go in the United States has a Level 3 Char which delivers a steady flavor profile that is very well known for mixing in the Old Fashioned Cocktail. The Barrel Proof offering is most noted as the winner of “Whisky Advocates 2017 Whisky of the Year”. They use water Kentucky Limestone water for their mashbill while aging those barrels in what they call “Open Air Rickhouses”. The design allows air to circulate around the barrels which means they never need to be rotated or moved while they live in that Rickhouse. This in turn I imagine saves the company a ton of labor and time. In these rickhouses the temperature can swing from 0 degree fahrenheit to 100 degrees fahrenheit. Now that is a big swing if you ask me. With that climate and science behind these 7 story places that stack their barrels 3 high I can see why their bourbon is so successful. It’s also amazing that they house 27.5 million pounds per rickhouse! Wow, that is up to 55,000 units that have 400 windows in it. 

They continue to grow and impress through innovation like working with Goose Island Beer Company in 2018 where they used Elijah Craig Barrels to age their beer in. Together they have created the Bourbon County Stout which ages their American Imperial Stout for 12 months in bourbon barrels. Goose Island now has a full line up of bourbon barrel beers for consumers to choose from.  

From sponsoring Golf Players to beer partnerships Elijah Craig is a brand that continues to stay well known. This is not just because of coining the name “Father of Bourbon” but from a driving spirit of growth, innovation and a passion for great bourbon. We continue to explore these bourbons at Embrace the Bourbon so keep an eye out for new reviews and possibly even more ways to match this popular brand with other things in your life!

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