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Barrels and Bars: Elijah Craig

Barrels and Bars: Elijah Craig

We kick off our Barrels and Bars Collection with one of the most iconic producers of one of the most iconic American beverages: Elijah Craig Small Batch Bourbon Whiskey.

In the spirit of our new series, we journey through the rolling hills and lavish cornfields of Kentucky to discover the origins of Bourbon whiskey and the terroir and process that make this quintessential American beverage so special.

In 1776, the new frontier county of Kentucky was carved out of the western portion of Virginia. In an attempt to encourage settlement in the new territory, a law, known colloquially as “corn patch and cabin rights,” was promulgated that allowed settlers to claim up to 400 acres of land on the condition that they build a cabin and cultivate corn prior to 1778. Government corn subsidies? That concept won’t last...

There was merit to the government’s promotion of corn. The southern climate and terroir was amenable to bountiful corn production, it is easily stored for long periods, and the stalks make excellent cattle feed. It was also an inexpensive nourishment for a growing southern population. With corn in abundance, Kentucky farmers naturally experimented with methods to distill it into a delicious besotting beverage. When the government gives you subsidies, make whiskey.

Enter the Reverend Elijah Craig.

Wait … Reverend? Yup, you read that correctly. Reverend Elijah Craig was a Baptist preacher, educator, and entrepreneur in Georgetown, Kentucky. As a savvy entrepreneur, Craig found corn subsidies irrisistable, and began distilling whiskey in the 1789. Although the reason is still unknown, Elijah Craig became the first distiller to age his whiskey in new charred oak barrels. Whatever the reason, the result was good. Really good. Craig continued to refine the barrel charring process, which infused the young whiskey with smooth, rich flavors of vanilla, toffee, caramel, tobacco, and others. This  time-honored process would become part of the foundation of producing Bourbon Whiskey and giving the spirit its distinct flavor profile. Over 250 years later, Elijah Craig is still known as the Father of Bourbon.

Although bourbon can legally be produced anywhere in the United States, its homeland of Kentucky was (and is) unparalleled. This dominance can in part be explained by its unique terroir. The rocky soil and natural limestone deposits in the water impart a viscous consistency and often require sour-mashing, which creates a distinct flavor. In the summer months, warehouse temperatures fluctuate dramatically, causing higher evaporation rates and corresponding cask strengths. Airborne yeast enables the development of proprietary yeast starters particular to a certain location and distillery, thereby affording a truly unique flavor profile that cannot be easily replicated elsewhere. All of this translates to a flavor profile consisting of a caramel, maple sweetness, followed by toffee, vanilla, and leather with strong tannins.

By infusing Elijah Craig without pure Hawaiian cacao, we are able to impart the hallmark bourbon whiskey flavors of toffee, caramel, vanilla, and spice into our dark chocolate bar. The result is a delicious, complex chocolate that has you reaching for another bite … and perhaps another glass as well.

Cheers!

 

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