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Knob Creek Rye

Average score from 6 reviews and 8 ratings 85

Knob Creek Rye

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Knob Creek Rye

Knob Creek is a brand that Jim Beam produces in their Clermont, Kentucky, distillery. It is a so-called small batch bourbon that aims for the higher segment. Initially this was put out on the market as a 9 Year Old, but nowadays it no longer carries an age statement. Apart from the Original 100 Proof, there is also a Single Barrel Reserve, a Smoked Maple Bourbon (actually a liqueur) and a 2001 Limited Edition (released to celebrate the fact that Fred Noe took over from his father Booker). This Knob Creek Rye was first introduced in 2012.

Sweet nose on loads of vanilla, but upholstered with flowers on the hand hand, and nail polish remover on the other. Quite creamy and soft though. Toffee kicks in with a vengeance.

The spices arrive first on the palate (black pepper, cloves and a truckload of cinnamon), followed by caramel, honey and toffee. Somewhat drying on menthol.

That continues in the medium long finish: menthol and spices. This fades gently to leave the mouth dry.

Neat this is both quaffable and good, but I can imagine this being God’s gift to bartenders. Even I feel the urge to get to work with this on a nice cocktail.


So I'm sitting at O'Hare for 2 hours waiting to fly to Beijing for my wedding. This seemed like the most appealing thing to get tipsy on before a 14hr flight over the Pacific...

Sample is neat

Nose: A bit harder to distinguish smells when not using a glencairn. But I do pick up the rye grain. Reminds me of the rye toast my grandmother used to make. Some sweet caramel as well and some sugar coated pecans. Pecan pie.

Palate: Nice, loads of rye grain, accompanied by bready, nutty notes. Pecans, peanuts, cashews. Buttery rye toast. Also, it reminds me of some flavours I would get in a darker, malty beer. Lots of nutty, bready, malty flavours. More rich than spicy. Lots of oak. I can definitely taste the wood.

Finish: This is where things turn from malty and nutty to spicy. Rye spice lingers on the tongue for a nice long while. Good flavour transition.

Overall: I enjoy this one more than the standard Knob. Bigger flavours and a nice transition from rich and malty to rye spice. Glad I chose this one over the standard.

About Knob Creek Rye, something I've said several times over the last several years: Jim Beam Rye, which used to be the Yellow Label, went way downhill just before Knob Creek Rye came out. I conclude that the better barrels of Beam Rye were being saved for Knob Creek Rye. 10 years ago, in 2007, Jim Beam Yellow Label Rye, 40% ABV, was a tasty albeit dilute whiskey. It has not seemed a worthy sipper for the last 6 years. As for the more recent, about 3 years running, Jim Beam Pre-Prohibition Style Rye 45% ABV, that one has me scratching my head, because it somehow emphasizes the spice while almost completely losing the fruit. I would always much rather drink the Knob Creek Rye than either Beam Yellow Label Rye or Beam Green Label Rye. As for Beam's (ri)1, that one was like drinking water 10 years ago, but has had at least one wonderful batch since that time, around 2012. I wouldn't trust it to buy a bottle without a prior sample from that specific batch. In summary, unless someone is giving you a bottle of the 13 yo Booker's Rye ($ 300 list, now much more valuable), among the Jim Beam Ryes you will get a more predictably good result by sticking with the Knob Creek Rye.

Congratulations on the nuptials and the expansion of your family, that's many happy events to celebrate. Your whisky budget won't suffer as much as your sleep will, I don't mean that as a harbinger of doom, more just a reminder to be kind to your body beforehand.

Nice review, I haven't yet tried the rye yet, much like @OdysseusUnbound I have always enjoyed Knob Creek despite the batch variances and could go through a bottle with friends quite easily. I have always been jealous of all those single barrel store exclusives which seem to be fairly priced.


Knob Creek Rye was first released in 2012, and is the only rye whiskey made by Jim Beam sold at 50% ABV or higher. The reviewed sample was decanted 6 months ago from a bottle which was 80% full and open for 2 1/2 years. I have also sampled this whiskey several times from the bottle when it was newly opened. There is No Age Statement on this Straight Rye Whiskey, so we can assume that this is aged about 4 or 5 years. US Straight Rye aged less than 4 years legally requires an age statement

Nose: sharp-edged moderate intensity spice, cinnamon/cassia, nutmeg, cloves, and black pepper from rye grain. There is moderate dark fruit, plums and black raspberries in this long-opened bottle, and much more dark fruit than was evident when this bottle was first opened. This is a solid but not outstanding rye nose. Score: 21.5/25

Taste: strong flavours; Wow! there is so much lovely dark fruit on the palate, much more than when this bottle was first opened. This is a fairly common flavour evolution with straight US rye whiskey. In the early days the fruit was more tucked away and the spices were what were most evident. There is significant sweetness here, but you don't notise it much with all of that spice around. Scoring for this review is for the whiskey now, and the score is higher than I would have given when the bottle was first opened. Score: 22.5/25

Finish: long, strong, spicy, and fruity. There's a little sourness and a little bitterness at the end, but not enough to ruin things. Score: 22.5/25

Balance: this Knob Creek Rye was solid when first opened, but is about 3 points better now, overall, after long air exposure. Score: 22.5/25

Total Sequential Score: 89 points

Strength: medium strength on the nose; strong thereafter. Score: 23/25

Quality: very good spice and fruit flavours throughout; a little too much sourness and bitterness on the finish. Score: 22/25

Variety: plenty of variety here. Score: 23/25

Harmony: very good on the nose and palate; fair to good harmony on the finish. Score: 21.5/25

Total Non-Sequential Score: 89.5 points

Comment: when first opened I found Knob Creek Rye to be about an 86 point whiskey. This one gains a lot with air. It is about time that Beam is finally selling a rye whiskey at 50% ABV. My next goal for Beam Rye: Old Overholt Barrel Proof. Here's hoping!

@Frost, there was never an age statement here, which reflects how totally taken off guard the US distillers were by the enormously increased interest in rye whiskey, both in the US and worldwide. It used to be just fewer than 10 years ago that most of the large US distillers would only devote one or two days per year to distilling rye whiskey. The big US distillers, with the possible exception of Heaven Hill, do not appear to have much stock in aged rye now. As mentioned above, this Knob Creek Rye is probably 4 or 5 years old. I doubt that many of the barrels included would be over 6 years old.

Booker's Rye sounds great!...and it will be the the first Beam Rye over 50% ABV in recent memory. I just hope that it is a regular release, and not a one-off. We need more barrel strength US rye on the market, and the Booker's 6-8 yo age range will work fine, just as it does for Thomas H. Handy Sazerac Rye.

@Victor thank you for a knock out review! You reminded me that I need to grab this expression. I know a place with a few tucked away.

Also, did this expression ever come out with a 9 year statement like the other Knob Creek line up?

Keeping the rye topic with JB. The Booker's Rye could be worth a look into too


In 1992, Jim Beam launched its Small Batch Bourbon Collection: Basil Hayden's, Booker's and Knob Creek. Knob Creek was a 9 year old; shortly after came their Small Batch, both bottled at 50% ABV. Knob Creek always had a high quantity of rye in the mash bill, so I guess it made sense for this small batch rye expression to come to market. Trivia note: Knob Creek is the Kentucky town where Abraham Lincoln's father owned a farm and worked at a distillery!

The colour is a coppery amber. On the nose, hot pepper, mint toothpaste (in a good way), oak, pencil shavings, cloves, candy floss and loads of vanilla. Unmistakably rye but a little too much of everything - not much subtlety here. A drop of water brings forward a maple quality, and a little smoke.

On the palate, lead pencil, cloves, toffee and again, loads of vanilla. Thin mouthfeel. A citrus tang - well, almost like Tang, kind of artificial but tasty. Water ups the heat a bit, which is nice.

The finish is a little too chalky, but long and full of spice…and vanilla. As you may have guessed, there's tons of vanilla here - a little too much. I love rye whiskey, and this takes on all of the classic elements, but it seems to hit you over the head. Sazerac is more elegant, High West more biting, and Canadian ryes such as Masterson's show much more depth and complexity (let's not even mention Handy). But you want a solid, good drinking rye, here you go. Raise a glass to Lincoln Sr. (good job, pops!)

Refreshing review - entertaining, informative and anything but vanilla.


Recently I've been able to get a couple bottles of American whiskeys down from Japan. One of them was KC Rye, which I've wanted to try for a long time. It’s generally considered a standard-issue rye, a good introduction to the style. A solid introductory rye was just what was missing in my cabinet. Before I venture too far into the world of rare, crafted, cask strength, connoisseur-type ryes, I might as well start off with the basics.

Nose: Grassy rye spice, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, sweet citrus, wet cedar, faint ginseng, and more rye. The herbal character keeps the nose from being too sweet. There’s a bit of a sting here, hinting at the respectable 50% abv.

Palate: Very smooth arrival. Creamy texture. Very solid rye flavours. Rye, grass, pine, earth, and damp wood, with cinnamon rounding it out. At no point does this become harsh, but it does have the quintessentially rye spicy tingle. Smooth.

Finish: Lingering rye spice, burnt caramel, mushrooms and charcoal, with wisps of spearmint just below the surface. Short to medium finish, but very pleasant.

I realize that this is very much a standard, mass produced, accessible rye whiskey in the States, but its exotic here in Taiwan. With so many rye whiskies out of reach, I’m not really in a position to compare and contrast them. However I can attest to the fact that this is good. For me; this is vastly superior to the standard KC. I find the standard KC decent and enjoyable, but it’s a bit syrupy for me. Apparently the Single Barrel is a strong presentation as well. Either way, the rye doesn't disappoint. I doubt it’s pushing any envelopes or adding anything new to the world of rye, but it comes off as an accessible, solid, rounded, and enjoyable whiskey.

Very nice review, @hunggar, as always. It is not just Canadians living in Taiwan who have limited selection of US Rye whiskey available.

I doubt that one American in 200 has ever tasted a drop of straight rye whiskey outside of a cocktail. Rye's US "renaissance" is very recent, mostly in the last 4 or 5 years, and is a phenomenon almost exclusively of bartenders and connoisseurs. The average Connosr member in Timbuktu who has never tasted a US rye whiskey knows far more theoretical information about US ryes from reading on Connosr than does the average US drinker of hard spirits.

Finding solid representative US ryes, excluding the 40% abv ones, is not easy. This Knob Creek Rye from Jim Beam is very recent, only a little more than a year old, and before that Beam was not selling any standard line rye whiskeys at 50% abv or more. Wild Turkey's 101 Rye is currently out of stock and unavailable in the US and most other places. That leaves Rittenhouse Bottled In Bond as the only main line large production US rye at 50% abv or more in circulation. So, @hunggar, the Knob Creek Rye is currently half of that 50% abv US rye market market by my count.

Maybe try some Russell's Reserve 6 YO Rye from Wild Turkey at 45%...and of course I wouldn't pooh pooh Sazerac 18, also at 45%...and there is also the standard 6 YO Sazerac Rye. Dan Murphy's in Australia still has some Wild Turkey 101 Rye in stock. Talk to @A'bunadhman about that one if you are interested.

This is a connoisseur's site, after all, so I don't see any problem with your going right to the top with juice like Willett Family Estate bottles and Sazerac Antique Collection Whiskeys. But don't expect the next bottle of Willett Family Estate Rye or Bourbon to taste just the same as did the last one. They are all individual.

The 40% US ryes can be good, but it takes a really good batch to compensate for the dilution factor. In recent years they have been just so-so, and on the weak side. I also think that Beam is upselling the best barrels of Jim Beam Yellow Label Rye into the Knob Creek Rye. I would LOVE to see a 50% version of Old Overholt in the future.

I am glad that you are enjoying your Knob Creek Rye. It is a very solid high quality addition to the rye repertoire.

@Victor: Good suggestions. As much theoretical knowledge as I may have, I have very little genuine experience with rye beyond recognizing it as an element in bourbon. My Willett 3 yo is great, but it's not the most 'accessible' rye. I brought it to a tasting with locals, and I think the sharpness caught them a bit off guard. I think the KC is a better introductory dram for me to share out here. Works out well, though... more Willett for me. ;)

I've been considering a bottle of the younger Saz. The 18 is apparently stellar, but a bit out of my price range. The over $100 price tag is usually single malt territory. The Russell's reserve is not one that I had considered before; I'll be sure to look into it. I have to admit that when it comes to Wild Turkey... I'm not sure. I've never had their rye, but I bought a bottom shelf WT once upon a time and I have never felt compelled to buy another since. A silly bias, perhaps.


Never again will you doubt that good whiskey can come from a bottle with a screw-cap. The nose on this is deceptive; subtle, sweet, and genial. Then the first sip comes along and you feel like you were just sucker-punched. It is bold and brawny with big rye flavor, oak, and cayenne pepper. 100 proof with no apologies. With this offering, Knob Creek has joined the rye whiskey craze with style; I hope they stick around.

Jim Beam has been making the largest quantity of US rye whiskey for a long long time. Knob Creek Rye is the LOOOOOOONGGGGG-time-in-coming of Beam putting out a rye at 50% ABV or greater. A few short years ago, maybe 3 or 4, Jim Beam 40% ABV Yellow Label Rye was quite tart and delicious,...then it dulled down a lot...maybe because of pressure to produce more rye product, maybe because the cherry-picking of barrels had already begun for this Knob Creek Rye...because that is exactly what I think that this Knob Creek Rye at 50% ABV is, bottles from the cherry-picked barrels of what would have been Beam Yellow Label Rye, left at a more healthy 50% ABV, and not dumbed down to 40% for the mass market. Knob Creek Rye is very VERY good rye whiskey, and it will get higher than an 87 mark from me when I review it.

Beam had been slow to respond to strong competition in the US rye whiskey market, but this Knob Creek Rye is a solid benchmark product for them going forward.

Victor, Thank you for your remarks, they are valuable as always. Jim Beam Rye was my introduction to the rye world 6 or 7 years ago, and I remember it being much better than it is today, but not by a huge margin. Knob Creek is a welcome addition to the market, and certainly a go-to rye for the price, but as far as my palate is concerned I cannot rate this on par with Whistlepig, Masterson's, or even Willet. I look forward to reading your review!

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