Jim Beam

Review: Knob Creek Single Barrel (Maisano’s)

Single barrel whiskey can some of the most unique, flavorful whiskey you can taste. These single barrels can sometimes vary wildly from the brand’s core flavor profile. It could come down to age, warehouse location, or even the barrel itself. Store owners, or those choosing barrels, must sometimes make a decision to choose something close to the brand’s familiar profile to please a wider customer base or they can select something more interesting.

In the case of this Knob Creek selection, Jonathan Maisano of Maisano’s Fine Wine & Spirits in Ocean Springs, Mississippi went with the latter. I know because I offered my opinion during the barrel selection. During this year’s New Orleans Bourbon Festival, Jonathan and I tasted through several barrels of Knob Creek with Jim Beam Master Distiller Fred Noe and his son Freddie.

All six barrel samples were varying degrees of delicious. However, for my tastes, one barrel presented itself as ‘the one’ by all parties involved. This barrel, number 6740, matured for 14 years and two months on the third floor of warehouse X. The barrel selection proof was 124.5, which is really close to the final bottling proof of 120.

The nose features hints of spiced cherries, dark brown sugar and caramel, cinnamon stick and sweet toasted oak. Dark notes dominate the palate: brown sugar, dark chocolate-covered cherries, molasses, and vanilla. A touch of burnt orange peel and leather show on the mid-palate, followed by dusty oak and some more spice heading into the back-palate. The finish is long, with barrel char, tobacco and molasses notes lingering.

What I find fascinating about this barrel is the fact that being so old, its oak notes do not dominate in the least. Those dark, heavy notes are here in spades. As much as I enjoyed Knob Creek 25th Anniversary, this barrel blows it away.

Now for the bad news. As of the writing of this post, which happens to be the day after the barrel pick was released, less than 10 bottles remained in stock. That is not only the sign of a beautiful single barrel of whiskey, but of a store’s loyal fanbase. This one is easily the best Knob Creek Single Barrel bourbon I’ve tasted. 9.5/10

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Review: Basil Hayden’s Two by Two Rye

The latest Basil Hayden expression, Two by Two Rye, is not a rye whiskey. I can see where a consumer might get confused, thinking he or she is buying a rye whiskey. Simply deleting the word “rye” and naming this Basil Hayden’s Two by Two would have been a more direct approach.

What’s inside is interesting. It’s a blend of straight whiskies: 5-year-old rye, 7-year-old “high rye” , 13-year-old bourbon, and 7-year-old bourbon. The bourbon and rye whiskey blends aren’t new, but are delicious when made well. (See High West’s Bourye and Wild Turkey’s Forgiven.) In keeping with the Basil Hayden tradition, Two by Two Rye is bottled at 40% abv. This whiskey retails for $44.99.

The nose is nice, if a bit muted and a little young, featuring spiced caramel, slightly ‘green’ rye grain, and a touch of burnt sugar. There is more of the same on the palate. Hints of caramel and waxy vanilla meet some baking spice. That green note from the nose is here as well, but in a less upfront way. A bit of toasted cedar develops right before the spicy and slightly dry finish.

I’ve gotta say – this is the first Basil Hayden release that disappointed me. It came across as a bit thin and sort of boring. The thin part had to do with the whiskey’s low proof. That hasn’t hindered the brand’s other expressions, but here it keeps robustness on a very short lease. As for the boring part… the whiskey is not bad. It’s just… okay. There’s nothing exciting here. The aforementioned Forgiven and especially Bourye are big, spicy, and robust, which is what a bourbon and rye blend should be. As for Two by Two Rye, a better choice would be any other Basil Hayden expression. Go for the reliable Basil Hayden’s bourbon with its high rye mash bill, or even the fruitiness of Basil Hayden’s Dark Rye. 6/10

Basilhaydens.com

Thanks to Basil Hayden’s for the sample. As always, all thoughts and opinions are my own.

Review: Jim Beam Distiller’s Cut Bourbon

Every blue moon, a value whiskey comes around that’ll have me doing a double take.  This is one of those whiskies.  Jim Beam just released their limited release Distiller’s Cut.  The straight bourbon is aged five to six years, un-chill filtered, bottled at 100 proof, and priced at $23.  Let me restate that.  Aged five to six years, un-chill filtered, bottled at 100 proof, and priced at $23.  Yep, a double take whiskey.

Distiller’s Cut is five to six years old, which puts it in Jim Beam Black Label territory in terms of age.  Black Label used to be eight years old, but lost its age statement a few years back.  Chill filtering is applied to most whiskies.  It’s done to keep the whiskey clear when adding water or ice.  Skipping the chill filtering allows the whiskey to retain all those fatty acids that help contribute to flavor and mouthfeel.  So, when you add some ice and your whiskey clouds up, it’s completely normal.  Jim Beam didn’t mess around when it came to proof, leaving Distiller’s Cut at a hearty 50% ABV.  This just about guarantees a big, bold flavor.  The surprise is the price.  A bottle will set you back $23, but you’ll most likely find it for less than that. That’s even cheaper than Jim Beam Black Label!

The nose is signature Jim Beam, full of caramel and vanilla with a touch of nuttiness, spice and oak.  Here the aromas are a bit more cohesive than the standard Jim Beam White Label and more robust than the Black Label, thanks to the higher proof.  Taste-wise, we’re talking about hints of caramel chews, grilled corn, charred oak, vanilla bean and a sprinkling of baking spice and herbs.  The finish is medium-long with a sweet and spicy cinnamon cake note.

Wow.  The whole experience for $23 or less?  Is this an answer to the criticism of late concerning some of  Beam Suntory’s high-priced releases like Knob Creek 25th Anniversary or Booker’s Rye?  If so, Jim Beam Distiller’s Cut is a proclamation that great bourbon doesn’t have to cost a lot.  Off the top of my head, the only other options that comes to mind when I think of a big, robust bourbon at around $23 is Elijah Craig Small Batch or Henry McKenna BIB.  And generally those are priced a few bucks higher.  If you know of a better value than Jim Beam Distiller’s Cut, I’m all ears.  Keep in mind this is a limited run, so find a bottle sooner than later. Jim Beam should consider making this a permanent entry in their lineup.  Highly recommended!  8.5/10

Jimbeam.com

Thanks to Jim Beam for the sample.  As always, all thoughts and opinions are my own.