Elijah Craig vs Buffalo Trace

Elijah Craig vs Buffalo Trace

Meet Luke

Luke is a Level I Certified Whiskey Specialist with a passion for exploring and unearthing the best whiskeys around. Luke has a preference for Rye whiskeys but has tasted over 250 different whiskeys to date varying from bourbons to scotches. He continues to expand upon his whiskey knowledge by tasting dozens of bottles monthly and reviewing them here on Barrel and Brew as he pursues his Masters of Whiskey certification.

Our guide today is going to be a battle between two powerhouses of the bourbon and whiskey world – Elijah Craig vs Buffalo Trace. We’re going to find out which is better…. Well, at least by my opinion.

Elijah Craig and Buffalo Trace both have a long history, and this battle will see one of these go down. Who will come out victorious? The small batch bourbon in Elijah Craig? Or the highly coveted, hard to find Buffalo Trace?

Before we get to the head to head tasting, we’re going to discuss some of their histories, production methods, price, and any other relevant information.

Elijah Craig vs Buffalo Trace

Elijah Craig vs Buffalo Trace History

Buffalo Trace Bourbon was only released in 1999 as the distillery’s flagship brand, but the real history lies in the Buffalo Trace Distillery.

In 1858, a distillery was put up on the land that would be purchased 12 years later by one Colonel Edmund Haynes Taylor Jr. – E.H Taylor. And just a couple years later, in 1878, it was purchased by George T. Stagg. In 1921, Albert B. Blanton became the president of the distillery. These names should ring a bell as E.H Taylor Jr., George T. Stagg, and Blanton’s are all top shelf whiskeys that are highly coveted.

Buffalo Trace is also home to Weller, Eagle Rare, Pappy Van Winkle, and many others.

Elijah Craig, on the other hand, is named after a Baptist preacher who is known as the father of bourbon. In 1789, Elijah Craig aged his whiskey in new charred oak barrels. It’s said that an accidental fire charred the barrels and changed the whiskey inside to whiskey we know today – bourbon.

Elijah Craig is distilled at Heaven Hill Distillery alongside brands such as Evan Williams, Rittenhouse, Larceny, Henry Mckenna, and Heaven Hill to name a few.

Elijah Craig vs Buffalo Trace Overview

Elijah CraigBuffalo Trace
Spirit:Small-Batch Straight BourbonStraight Bourbon
Owned By:Heaven HillSazerac
Distilled By:Heaven HillBuffalo Trace Distillery
ABV:47%, 94 proof45%, 90 proof
Mashbill:78% corn, 10% rye, 12% malted barley75% corn, 10% rye, 15% malted barley*
*Unknown, but this is what the mashbill is thought to be.

Elijah Craig and Buffalo Trace Age

The first thing to discuss is the age of Elijah Craig and Buffalo Trace. They are both NAS, no age-statement, bourbons which means they are at a minimum 4 years old. However, both are thought to be a bit older than that.

Elijah Craig originally donned a 12-year age statement, but that was dropped in 2016. It is thought, now, that Elijah Craig is composed of 8-12 year whiskey.

Buffalo Trace isn’t aged quite as long as Elijah Craig, but it’s thought to be made of 6 – 8 year whiskey.

Elijah Craig is aged in barrels with a #3 char, and Buffalo Trace is aged in barrels with a #4 char.


Elijah Craig and Buffalo Trace have very similar mashbills. We know Elijah Craig’s mashbill is 78% corn, 10% rye, and 12% malted barley. Buffalo Trace, on the other hand, is very secretive of their mashbills, but Buffalo Trace Bourbon uses their #1 mashbill. It’s thought that the Buffalo Trace #1 mashbill uses ~10% rye, 75% corn, and 15% malted barley, but this is perhaps a bit of guesswork.


Both of these bottles MSRP for right around $25-30, give or take depending upon location and individual store. While you’ll likely be able to find Elijah Craig at about any liquor store at this price, the same cannot necessarily be said for Buffalo Trace.

The demand for Buffalo Trace has sky rocketed and it’s extremely difficult to find at any liquor store. Buffalo Trace is also likely playing the game a little bit by limiting the supply to drive up demand. With that being said, you may have a hard time finding a bottle at a liquor store, and if you do, you may pay a bit more than MSPR.

Elijah Craig vs Buffalo Trace Tasting Notes

Now that we’ve covered most of the basics, let’s find out which is better, Buffalo Trace or Elijah Craig? Time to pour myself a couple glasses and get to drinkin’.

Is Elijah Craig good?

Elijah Craig Tasting Notes

Nose: lots of vanilla, cherry, dark fruits, floral and nutty undertone, oak, cocoa.

Palate: vanilla, cherry, and fig. cinnamon and licorice. wood spice. nutty at the back end. On the thinner side of a medium/moderate mouthfeel, but still buttery.

Finish: nutty notes with black pepper. Moderate length.

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Taste Summary: I was expecting a typical bourbon profile here, and that’s not what I got. I mean, it still has those typical bourbon notes of vanilla, oak, and cherry, but their was some more complexity with the dark fruits, a strong nutty tone, as well as some various spices. It vaguely felt like a whiskey that would be barrel finished in ex-cognac casks.

Points for having a more unique profile than anticipated. A quality whiskey that I wish was a bit thicker and richer.

Buffalo Trace Tasting Notes

Nose: Some oak and strong and sweet vanilla upfront. light fruits as well as some rich cherry.

Palate: Vanilla is very present with some green apple. It starts out sweet, but the oak on the nose is more leather and tobacco on the palate. Still a little bit of dark cherry as well. Very good mouthfeel, on the thicker side and quite rich.

Finish: Short – medium in length. The leather and tobacco transforms into a nice black pepper and a touch of vanilla before fading away.

Taste Summary: Here is your typical bourbon profile but done really well. The vanilla is sweet and strong, and the oak turned to leather and tobacco after a sip or two. Reminded me a bit of Heaven’s Door with the connotation of your typical strong bourbon – strong as in strong flavors, not necessarily proof.

Is Buffalo Trace good?
Couldn’t find Buffalo Trace at any liquor store, but most bars (especially whiskey bars) will still have Buffalo Trace in stock

Which is Better: Elijah Craig or Buffalo Trace?

These are two bourbons located about an hour away from each other that are produced by two of the largest whiskey distillers in the world. There is a couple year age difference, but both go a good bit over the minimum 4 year mark. They are aged in #3 and #4 charred barrels, and have a very similar mashbill.

I was expecting Elijah Craig and Buffalo Trace to be very similar. But that is not the case.

In my opinion, these two are very close. Elijah Craig is going to offer a more unique bourbon, with dark fruits, roasted nuts, and wood spice. Buffalo Trace thrives on the richness of the oak, vanilla, and fruits.

I’m going to give the edge to Buffalo Trace, though. You may prefer the flavors of Elijah Craig, but when it comes to the quality of the whiskey, Buffalo Trace is clearly out in front. It’s more rich, it’s more full, and I even preferred the flavor of it, too.


There’s a reason Buffalo Trace is so hard to find. The demand is HIGH. Sure, Buffalo Trace is probably limiting the supply, but the bourbon in the bottle has a pretty big role to play.

It’s not that Buffalo Trace is the best whiskey in the world, it’s not. It’s that, for $25-30, there are so few bottles that can compete with it. The bottles that can compete with Buffalo Trace from a taste and price standpoint, can’t compete with it from a marketing and production standpoint.

All of these reasons go into driving the value and demand for Buffalo Trace so high.

Don’t let all of this make you forget about Elijah Craig, though. I thoroughly enjoyed my glass, and for $30, it’s a pretty good sipper, as well.

Best Bourbon under $25

The Top 5 Bourbons for $25

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Recently, I’ve reviewed a lot of good whiskey. However, a lot of that has been small batch, single barrel, and cask strength options. While that’s going to be your best whiskey, it’s also your more expensive whiskey. So, today we’re going to discuss the top 5 bourbons you can buy for $25,…


I don’t drink a whole lot of the mass produced Kentucky Bourbons. There are so many small distilleries out there that make unique whiskey that’s really good. I often feel that once you have one Kentucky bourbon (from the big boys), you’ve had ’em all. Reviewing Buffalo Trace and Elijah Craig served as a reminder that that’s not really the case (it’s been a couple years since I’ve had either).

Every whiskey is going to have some unique qualities. Even if you have the same mashbills, age statements, and everything else, the barrels, the environment, the grains, – everything – will play a role in the production and flavor.

Both Buffalo Trace and Elijah Craig are high value bottles that work as great sipping bourbons. If you can get your hands on a bottle of Buffalo Trace, I’d bet you’d enjoy it. And if you find yourself looking for a bourbon with dark fruits and nutty notes, Elijah Craig is widely available.

Do you have a different experience? Let me know in the comments!

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  1. In my opinion Buffalo Trace is posing as a superior bourbon and their marketing team is solid, get your Elijah Craig and don’t look back, but PLEASE don’t add gingerale

    1. Actually, I don’t really think Elijah Craig mix as well with anything I’ve tried. Buffalo Trace does, though.

      1. 100% drink BTrace neat over EC94. No reason to debate this.

        EC Barrel Proof is one of the best pours out there conversly.

        But comparing these two is foolish.

        However, Early Times Bottled in Bond easily beats both of these as best Bourbon for the dollar…. Even if it wasn’t a liter bottle vs 750ml.

  2. Buffalo Trace and Elijah Craig are both excellent Bourbons. But in that price class—perhaps even a bit lower—there’s Wild Turkey 101 which is a superb bourbon; among the tastiest.

  3. Just visited Buffalo Trace last week. Fantastic plant, free tours and tastings. The most wonderful and helpful staff. There are a lot of Kentucky distilleries making great juice, but, Buffalo Trace is my favorite. I’m in love.

  4. I’m not following this statement “Buffalo Trace Bourbon was only released in 1999”. Are you saying that it first released in 1999 or the bourbon was only released in 1999. Since being new to Bourbon I’m not sure if you’re comparing a specific bottle or not.

    1. Sorry for the confusing language, I meant that it was first released in 1999. I used the word ‘only’ to signify that it’s a relatively young and new brand, but certainly could have worded it better.

  5. I have enjoyed sipping Buffalo Trace, as a fairly new fan. However, very hard to find at a store, and if you luck upon it, the price is almost not worth it–$45-47 per bottle. Elijah Craig & Wild Turkey 101.

  6. I like both brands and are the 2 you will always find in my liquor cabinet. I have no problems finding either one in my local liquor store.

  7. While I appreciate both, I am SO tired of Buffalo Trace pricing and allocation games. In reality, you are not comparing equal bottles when the typical price in my area is $50-60 per. I haven’t seen a bottle of BT around here for less than $50 in years. Run some comparisons between BT and other bourbons who’s MSRP is actually the price you can buy it for and see how it compares. I know it’s apples and oranges, but review after review of BT, Weller, or any other of their bourbons in a comparison setting get really irritating because you KNOW you can’t buy them at the list price. While they’re fun to read about, I usually think the losers get screwed because the price comparisons aren’t realistic. I’m not suggesting stop reviewing them, far from it. Just put them up against their real completion. Buffalo Trace created this problem with their allocation policies, so there should be no objection, right? Or am I just bitter because Eagle Rare has more than doubled in price?

    1. I don’t disagree with this take, but it’s problematic because the price of BT varies so greatly from individual store/location. I have friends who have no problem finding a bottle for $30-35, My local store sells it for about $43, and some people – like yourself – can only find it for $50+.

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