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Knob Creek Rye

Accessible Rye...

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@hunggarReview by @hunggar

10th Nov 2013


  • Nose
  • Taste
  • Finish
  • Balance
  • Overall

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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.

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Victor commented

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.

8 years ago 0

hunggar commented

@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.

8 years ago 0

Victor commented

@hunggar, no, reluctance to go back to a brand after a bad experience is very understandable. I don't like Wild Turkey at 40% abv either.

8 years ago 0

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