knob creek

Knob Creek 25th Anniversary Bourbon Review

I like the Knob Creek lineup, from the standard (now NAS) Small Batch and Single Barrel bourbons to the rye whiskey.  Last year’s limited edition Knob Creek 2001 met with mixed reviews.  I tried Batch 1 and thoroughly enjoyed it, though it hit close to my threshold for acceptable oak impact in a bourbon.  One of the big complaints I’ve read about KC 2001 was its “low” proof.  It was bottled at 100 proof, like the standard Small Batch and Rye Whiskey bottlings.  Maybe Beam Suntory caught wind of the criticism and corrected it for their next release.

Enter Knob Creek 25th Anniversary.  This limited edition release (rumor is about 10,000 bottles total) is an unfiltered, barrel-proof, single barrel bottling.  Barrels picked for Knob Creek 25th Anniversary are between 12 – 13 years old.  Sounds fantastic, no?  

Even though it’s set for a June release, Knob Creek 25th is already proving controversial.  The major concern among some consumers is the price.  People are saying they can grab a 12 or 13 year old store pick of Knob Creek Single Barrel for $40 versus the $130 asking price for this 25th Anniversary release.  They make a great point.  I’m sure there amazing older store picks out there.  However, older store picks aren’t available everywhere.  And keep in mind the palates of the owners (or spirit buyers) who pick out single barrels of Knob Creek aren’t always great.  Some of these folks simply don’t know a good whiskey from a bad one.  This past weekend during the New Orleans Bourbon Festival, Jim Beam Master Distiller Fred Noe told me he is tasting and approving each barrel for this release. I trust his palate.  I don’t think the $130 price tag for a barrel proof, single barrel 12-13 year old bourbon is outrageous at all.  It’s priced about where it needs to be.  I just see Knob Creek Single Barrel as a steal for $40.  

Beam Suntory was kind enough to send out advanced samples to some reviewers and writers.  I received a sample from two different barrels, both filled on 2/11/2004.  I suppose this is more a preview than a review, as we’re still a few months away from the official launch. Once released, the plan is to try it again for a more in-depth look.  In the meantime, here are my tasting notes and some final thoughts.

Sample 1 came in at 121.8 proof.  I picked up dark brown sugar, grilled corn, black cherries, and cigar box on the nose, as well as a hint of dried vanilla pod.  The palate was full of molasses and toasted grain upon entry, developing hints of herbs and roasted nuts on the mid-palate, leading to oak tannins going into the finish.  The finish was warm and long, with cinnamon sticks, caramel and herbs.  8.5/10

Sample 2 was bottled at 125 proof.  This one was a bit sweeter on the nose.  Dark chocolate, dried figs and carmelized sugar led to  hints of dark fruits, oak and spice.  Taste-wise, burnt orange peel and vanilla start things off.  Soon after, some bittersweet dark chocolate, cigar, cherry jam and oak spice develop.  Like Sample 1, things start to become a little dry as the finish approaches.  The long finish features hints of sweet oak, molasses and spice.  9.10

As expected, there is some variation between barrels.  The two samples sent were quite delicious in different ways.  Both feature a fair amount of oak, which is part of Knob Creek’s DNA.  I didn’t find these two samples over-oaked, but like Knob Creek 2001 Batch 1, they just about hit my threshold for oak in a bourbon.  The first sample came across as good as any Knob Creek Single Barrel I’ve had, but not necessarily better.  The extra couple of proof points stood out in the second sample, coming across as a bit bolder than the 120 proof Knob Creek Single Barrel.  I’d easily reach for more of Sample 2 if I had more.

My hope is that quality control is strictly implemented when it comes to barrel selection.  Whether or not it’s “good value” is not a question I can answer for you.  Personally, I think this new release is worthy of purchase, though you’re really paying for a couple of extra proof points versus the 120 proof of the standard KC Single Barrels.  I don’t think Beam Suntory is going to release subpar or over-oaked barrels for this release, but I know some barrels are going to be better than others.   Based on what I tasted, I think Knob Creek 25th Anniversary will sell better than last year’s 2001 release.  Bottom line:  If you’re a fan of Knob Creek, I’d recommend seeking out a bottle of Knob Creek 25th Anniversary when it starts hitting shelves in June.  

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

Knob Creek Single Barrel – Maisano’s Fine Wine & Spirits

One of my favorite things about single barrel whiskies is that several brands offer store picks.  This can be a good thing or a not-so-good thing.  It all depends on the palate of the person picking the whiskies, and the quality of the barrels being offered.  A few months back, I helped a local store pick out some barrels of bourbon.  It was a fun experience, and once they get delivered to the store, I’ll post some notes here.  In the meantime…

Maisano’s Fine Wine & Spirits in Ocean Springs, Mississippi offers a variety of single barrel whiskies hand-picked by owner Jonathan Maisano.  I was down there a couple of weeks back.  After a great talk with Jonathan (the man knows his whiskey and wine), he kindly offered me a sample of his Knob Creek pick that had just been delivered.  So, I thought I’d post the results of my tasting here.  This is my first review of a store pick whiskey, and it definitely won’t be my last.  

This bourbon is 9 years and 4 months old.  That’s right in line with the standard bottling of Knob Creek Single Barrel, which I find to be the best value in the Knob Creek lineup.  Bottled at 120 proof, this one carries some weight.  And that’s to be expected.  The nose is full of slightly burnt caramel, grilled corn, almonds, and dark chocolate.  Vanilla becomes a bit more full in character with some airtime.  Taste-wise, an initial hit of fresh orange refreshes the palate, followed by concentrated caramel, light herbs, cigar box, and a touch of barrel char.  The finish lingers for a good long time.  Warming. Leaves behind peanut butter and molasses notes.

Nice pick!  It seems a touch more complex than the standard KC single barrel.  Maisano’s has it priced at right under $48.  If you’re in the Ocean Springs area, definitely make at stop at Maisano’s.  Jonathan has a wide selection of barrel picks.  If this Knob Creek is any indication of his palate and ability to pick barrels, you’re in for a great time.  8.5/10

Thanks to Jonathan Maisano for the sample!  

Knob Creek 2001 Bourbon Review

Knob Creek 2001

The standard 9-year-old, 100 proof Knob Creek is a solid pour.  Then came its higher proof, single barrel brother.  That expression came in at 120 proof and proved to be much more than just “a little stronger”.  It’s packed with so much flavor.

So, when Jim Beam announced a limited edition, 14-year-old version of Knob Creek I couldn’t contain my excitement.  About 36,000 bottles (roughly 12,000 bottles per batch) of Knob Creek 2001 are being released, which isn’t a lot by any stretch of the imagination.  You’ll find three batches of Knob Creek 2001, each with a slightly different flavor profile.  Batch 1 favors the sweeter caramel and vanilla notes, while Batch 2 leans towards the oakier side of things.  In the middle of the two batches lies Batch 3.

Knob Creek 2001 has no inherent age statement on the label, but it is a 14-year-old bourbon distilled in 2001, hence the name.  Jim Beam Master Distiller Fred Noe said this whiskey is just shy of being 15 years old.  This limited release carries an SRP of $130.

In an attempt to do something a little different, I’ve posted my first impressions of Knob Creek 2001 on Youtube.  You can watch that video below or jump past that for my full tasting notes.

For the most part, my first impressions were echoed in this separate tasting.  The nose has big notes of slightly burnt caramel, concentrated vanilla bean, honey roasted peanuts with hints of old leather jacket.  Old dusty oak is present the entire time but never overpowers.  The entry starts with an initial burst of sweetness provided by the caramel and vanilla combination.  A wave of spicy cinnamon sticks and cloves takes over the mid-palate alongside some Jim Beam nuttiness.  The smallest touch of burnt orange peel pops up afterwards.  That old, tannic oak found in the nose ramps up throughout the entire tasting experience, peaking at the dry finish.

Knob Creek 2001 feels richer and more refined than the standard offering, which seems a tad anemic next to this.  This is Batch 1, which is supposed to be the sweetest of the three batches.  As I said in the video, this batch is about as oak-heavy as I’d want Knob Creek to be.  Any more oak will throw the whiskey out of balance.  If I’m buying, I’d reach for Batch 1.  While not the best value for the price (Knob Creek Single Barrel carries that honor), Knob Creek 2001 is quite an enjoyable bourbon and comes with a recommendation.

(Note: A review sample was provided by the company behind this whisky free of charge.  The opinions written are my own.)