So im not much of a bourbon guy. I generally stick with single malts. But I've had the urge to branch out and try more American whiskey. I figured Knob Creek 9 would be a good place to start my rebirth since it is pretty mainstream and people seem to enjoy it. And Hank from Breaking Bad seems to favor it. Good marketing JB. I'm drinking it neat.
Nose: Sharply alcohol forward at first. Also caramel, chocolate, fudge and after time banana bread.
Palate: Alcohol backs off (thankfully). Starts really sweet with more caramel. Also brown sugar, cinnamon, and then a rush of tingly chili spices on the tongue. I really enjoy the spice, it really sets this apart from most single malts.
Finish: Medium, hot finish. After the spices die down the banana bread returns to round things off.
Overall: I still would say i'm a single malt guy. But this was enjoyable and in my 45-50% preffered abv range (although i seem to enjoy stronger whisky more and more). I look forward to continue branching out. JB says this is 50% corn. What do you guys speculate makes up the remaining recipe?
@casualtorture, I had lots of internal reactions when I read your review.
First, yes, bourbon as a class tastes a lot different from barley-malt whisky, because its grain composition, distillation process, and wood aging are completely different. Its main flavours are from new oak and rye (5% of the time wheat instead of rye) grain, whereas barley-malt whisky is flavoured from barley grain flavours, some re-used oak flavours, and often additions of peat, smoke, brine, and wine-cask flavours. Spice flavours are common in both new oak barrels and also in rye grain. They are also present in lesser amounts in re-used oak for the aging of barley-malt whisky. So yes, something like Glenfiddich 18 yo can get a lot of spices from the re-used oak barrels over the course of 18 years. But the spices from new and used oak, and from rye grain, are not precisely the same spices. Of course, there is more new oak aging with malts nowadays, and "first fill" (i.e. first re-fill) barrels, which still retain some of the new oak qualities, are very common now.
Second, experience with whisk(e)y-drinking of all kinds leads most, but certainly not all, whisky drinkers to become more and more tolerant of higher alcohol content whiskies. One who likes the flavours in whisky usually likes them more when they are more concentrated, as they are when water is not added to dilute what was originally in the barrel.
Third, about (standard) Knob Creek bourbon and batch variability. I've seen a lot of batch variability in it. I've had standard Knob Creek that I would have rated around 79 points, as you have, and I've had standard Knob Creek that I would have rated at 92 points. I don't buy standard Knob Creek because of that large variation in experiences I've seen from it. So far, I've only seen great barrels from the sister product Knob Creek Single Barrel Reserve, 120 proof, so I trust that one a lot more. Standard Knob Creek Bourbon used to have a 9 year age statement in some markets which Beam Suntory has recently removed. They claim to be able to maintain the taste standards without using all 9 year old liquid. Can they? Maybe. But something has to be lost sometimes as a result, I would say. The Single Barrel Reserve is for the time being retaining the 9 year age statement.
Fourthly, Knob Creek Bourbon is standard Jim Beam mashbill. Here's a link to a blob which posts common bourbon mashbills:
As you can see, this blog reports a mashbill of 77-13-10 for the standard Beam bourbon mashbill. Rye is so potent in flavour that even 13% rye content completely overshadows tasting any of the flavours of the 77% corn content. The same is true of the dominating flavours coming from new oak aging. If you age a 100% corn whisky even for 4 years in charred new oak barrels it becomes very difficult to taste any of the corn. Malted barley in the mix for bourbons and American ryes is only for the enzymes they generate. Like corn, barley has mild flavours which disappear into the background when paired with new charred oak and/or rye grain. You can really never taste barley in a standard bourbon or American rye.
Fifthly, try 20 or 30 American whiskeys before you start to make generalisations about them. Each and every one of us had a first malt, a first blended Scotch, a first bourbon, etc., which was at that time 100% of our experience with that respective genre...and we took that 100% of our experience very seriously. Your ideas will in all probability continue to change a great deal with experience. After that horrid bottle of Johnnie Walker Red Label I bought 30 years ago I could have pontificated, "Scotch is terrible. I don't like Scotch, and I will never drink it again." But somehow I didn't do that. I knew that it was a big world, and there were more and different experiences to have. So I had many additional experiences, and do not now judge "Scotch" on the basis of that bottle of Johnnie Walker Red Label. Truly, with a lot of experience you will see that you will sometimes get a shitty bottle from what you considered a sacred and reliable brand, and a very good bottle from a brand which you generally found to suck.
Your words ring true about making generalizations. I could not drink malted whisky until 10 years ago; even then, a top flight Irish was my gateway single malt. I was making the wrong selections. Bushmills 21 YO was responsible for my "eureka" moment. I had always enjoyed Ballantines and JW Black on ice, but standard release bourbon and long-aged Canadian whisky were my favourites, sipped neat or splashed with water.
Since joining Connosr 6 years ago, I have embraced the fascinating world of single malts. Excellent guidance from some very generous enthusiasts has helped to make this an enjoyable experience.
I encourage whisky lovers to explore all categories of whiskey and to become familiar with as many grains as possible. Blend and vat your own creations, learn about ratios and recipes, share with like-minded enthusiasts, but don't pass judgement quickly. I was a whisky drinker for 30 years before I discovered single malts. Does anyone remember Little Rascals and the HE-MAN WOMAN HATERS CLUB?...yep, girls were yucky at one time...sure am glad I didn't stick with that notion.