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Knob Creek Single Barrel Reserve 9 Year Old

Average score from 10 reviews and 12 ratings 89

Knob Creek Single Barrel Reserve 9 Year Old

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@casualtorture
Knob Creek Single Barrel Reserve 9 Year Old

This is Knob Creek Single Barrel 9yo. Purchased at Midtown Corkdorks in downtown Nashville about a mile from the Nelson Greenbrier distillery (Belle Meade). Barrel #3422 "hand selected" by the retailer, and they even provided a cool little map of where in the warehouse the barrel was located.

Warehouse: E Floor:5 Rick: Cove Barreled: March 15, 2008

Good marketing on their part. What are your thoughts on how much difference the location of the barrel in the warehouse makes?

Bottle has been opened for 5 days and is 90% full.

Nose: Starts with fruits. Apples, vanilla. Transitions to earthy tobacco, salted "country style ham" and slight bits of smoke and sawdust. Good balance and transition from sweet to savory.

Palate: First impressions to myself, and I quote my thoughts, "This is like licking a fresh oak plank thats been covered in butter and toasted." After further examination: Yes, the front end is like buttered, toasted oak. Also get southern style biscuits and a bit of smoke. This transitions to ripe stewed fruits. Red apple, rasberry and blackberry. The traditional bourbony caramel and vanilla are present here with the stewed fruits. There is a tad bit of spicy heat that adds yet another element here. Complex and impressive.

Finish: A long, see-saw battle of fresh oak and red apple skins lasting minutes later. Very enjoyable.

Overall: I'm impressed by this. Complex, great flavor transitions and balance. I did add water to a small pour but it doesn't do any favors so keep this one neat. This isnt a casual drinker. Savor and inspect this one and give it the time it derserves. Very drinkable at 60%. I have now spanned all of the Knob Creek line-up and this by far and away is the best of the bunch, as expected. I am enjoying this just as much or more as this year's Stagg Jr. At $41.99+tax this is a bargain!

@casualtorture, nice review, and I am with you with respect to my own experience of Knob Creek Single Barrel Reserve. A good barrel of KCSBR is as good or better than most batches of Booker's, despite the couple of lower %age points of ABV difference, and the decidedly lower price tag. I consider KCSBR to be a best buy in the whisk(e)y market at current pricing. I expect the price to increase, and that it is actually a little underpriced for what you get. For this reason I already have at least 4 unopened bottles of KCSBR socked away (at around $ 35 incl tax each, on sale). The quality control is all about the skill of the distiller who makes the barrel selection, so you never know for sure whether a given barrel/bottle will be just as good as the last one you loved.

Everybody in the industry says that warehouse location is a very big deal and makes a huge difference in the maturation patterns of bourbons. I doubt, though, that any of us aficionados would be able to well assess those differences without a lot of warehouse tasting experience which we are not likely to get.

@OdysseusUnbound

Some things are better as an idea. Some things sound great in theory, but don't always pan out in practice. (Insert communism/capitalism/marriage joke here) Knob Creek Single Barrel may suffer from the same trappings.

What is Knob Creek?

Knob Creek is produced by Beam Suntory at the Jim Beam distillery in Clermont, Kentucky. It is one of the four Jim Beam small batch bourbon brands targeted for the high-end liquor market. There are many references to Knob Creek as a "pre-prohibition" style of bourbon. What does that mean? According to their website:

What is Pre-Prohibition Style whiskey? In short: It’s whiskey that refuses to cut corners. But since you’re still here, we’ll give you the longer version. When the Prohibition was lifted in 1933, bourbon makers had to start from scratch. Whiskey takes years and years to make, but the drinking ban was overturned overnight. To meet their sudden demand, distillers rushed the process, selling barrels that had hardly been aged. Softer, mild-flavored whiskey became standard from then on. Full flavor was the casualty. But we brought real bourbon back. Over 25 years ago, master distiller Booker Noe set out to create a whiskey that adhered to the original, time-tested way of doing things. He named it Knob Creek. We age every batch in maximum-char barrels to pull every bit of natural sweetness from the oak. Then we bottle it at an uncommonly balanced 100 proof. Knob Creek is whiskey the way its supposed to be: full flavored. We make every drop count so that you can make every minute count. Without ever having to cut any corners.

There. Clear as mud.

So 100 proof (50% ABV) is the standard for Knob Creek and the Single Barrel offering is a big, bold 120 proof (60% ABV). And while the standard Knob Creek 100 Proof Small Batch has recently dropped the 9 year age statement, the Single Barrel expression still guarantees the whisky is at least nine years old. I was a fan of the 9 Year Old Small Batch and I still enjoy the NAS, 100 Proof version. So how does the Single Barrel taste?

Tasting notes

  • Nose (undiluted): Toffee, vanilla, maple syrup and oak
  • Palate (undiluted): toffee, vanilla, a little bit of sour cherry chewing gum, oak and a bit of coconut
  • Finish: surprisingly short, nutty, more vanilla, coconut and oak

Sipped neat, I would NOT have guessed this bourbon to be 120 proof. There is very little tongue burn or "prickliness" to Knob Creek Single Barrel. Adding some water brought out more oakiness, and made the whiskey surprisingly "hotter" and sharper. Drunk neat, the sweetness isn't overbearing or cloying, and it's pushed a bit further back when diluted. But the balance is just a bit “off”. It tastes like a generic bourbon, but with the vanilla and oak a little too prominent in the mix. It isn’t a gentle, floral vanilla either. It tastes a bit like store-brand artifical vanilla extract.

Despite the 120 Proof, I prefered this one neat.

It's difficult to make any kind of definitive pronouncement on a single barrel whiskey. Each barrel is different, so the next batch could have completely different tasting notes. "Single barrel" is the type of marketing idea that appeals to enthusiasts and purists. But as is often the case, these seemingly great ideas are not without their possible pit-falls. This bourbon was good. Not great, not surprising or incredibly unique. My first impression of it was "This tastes like bourbon". Obvious perhaps, but I was expecting more. Nevertheless, this is a decent product at a respectable ABV. Try before you buy if possible.

That Pre-Prohibition talk out of Beam-Suntory has always remained unacceptably vague to me. Because they give no physical details that spiel just seems to me like so much vague marketing blather.

I have only one more comment, and it is my main comment: wait 3 months and try this bottle again. I doubt you will see it the same way.

@OdysseusUnbound, some bourbon requires its purchase in pairs. This might seem odd, but it is a situation that I have become familiar with.

If you like Booker's Straight From The Barrel stick with it and buy a few to get through the dry spells and you can avoid KCSB.

Now back to the purchase in pairs, not only do you purchase them in pairs, but you open them in pairs too! W L Weller 12 YO is an excellent example of this. By tapping each bottle consistently, you will find that you have two excellent half-fill bottles in a year or so. I've done this. It works. The duration of a year is only a suggestion, I've gone longer. n.b. this does not work for all whiskies.

@Nozinan

An unexpected irony: When I first encountered bourbons, my first purchase in 2013 was Booker’s and I was thoroughly impressed. Given its scarcity in these parts, sometime in 2014 (I believe) I decided to shore up my holdings with a bottle of Knob Creek Single Barrel. This was to be replaceable, less expensive bourbon to stretch my supply of the “good stuff”.

Since that time the KCSB 9 YO has been discontinued in favour of NAS, and though I picked up 2 last year “just in case”, In the past 3 years I’ve accumulated and tasted from at least 7 batches of Booker’s, finished 2 bottles, and some of the ones I bought (in Calgary or US) were cheaper than the KCSB… So much for cheap and replaceable. Not to mention OGD114 which is cheaper, I have more of (though not all here), and I like better.

I believe I opened it in 2014. I have progressed through the bottle slowly, gassing each time. There is a little under a third of a bottle left.

This expression is reviewed in my usual manner, allowing it to settle after which I take my nosing and tasting notes, followed by the addition of a few drops of water, waiting, then nosing and tasting.


Nose:

Neat – At first it’s very closed. No surprise since it’s been gassed for who knows how long. With time, swished around the glass and covered, it starts to open and become fruity, with gentle caramel and vanilla. A little dusty. Maybe a hint of menthol. Apple Schnapps? No, apple pie filling made from granny smith apples with just a little sugar and cinnamon. The longer I nose it (it’s been a good 20-25 min) the more I like it. For 60% it’s quite gentle on the nose. 22/25

With water – No change in the nose.

Taste:

Neat – Strong wave of flavour all over my mouth with the first sip. Minimal alcohol nip. There is lots of caramel and vanilla, a little bitterness (in a nice way, pepper maybe?) on the development. 21/25

With water – The flavours are the same but become slightly richer. (21.5/25)

Finish: medium sweet on the finish with a hint of menthol. It doesn’t last too long and I get a mild dryness at the end. 21/25 With water, the menthol is slightly more prominent.

Balance: This is a nicely balanced dram. Not too complex, but definitely pleasant and drinkable. 21.5/25

Score: Neat - 85.5/100 With Water: 86/100

Total Score based on experience and enjoyment: 86 /100


I like this. If Booker’s or OGD 114 were around (not to mention a BTAC) I would probably go there first. That’s probably why this bottle has lasted almost 3 years and may yet last another 1-2.

I think it is more balanced and presents better than the EH Taylor I just reviewed. So if I had to choose one (barrel) of the two, I would choose this one.

I really want to try this one. I had a bottle of the standard 9yo and it was decent. I want to see how this one stacks up in comparison.

@Nozinan, I am guessing that the substituted NAS Knob Creek to which you are referring is the standard Knob Creek small batch. So far all of the Knob Creek Single Barrel Reserve I have seen still maintains the 9 year age statement.

KCSBR can be fabulous. Yes, the barrels DO vary. As @Benancio says, a good barrel of KCSBR can be as good or better than the best batches of Booker's...at a much lower price, so far.

@casualtorture, better pick up your bottle of KCSBR before it loses the age statement or the prices go up. I consider KCSBR to be one of the relatively few underpriced whiskies out there. I stocked up awhile ago, with 3 or 4 spares on hand. For value/quality for money in Beam bourbons my suggestions are: Beam Black Label, Baker's, KCSBR, OGD114, OGD100, and Booker's (at old prices).

@WhiskyBee

From the folks at Beam, Knob Creek Single Barrel is an example of how a whiskey can be greatly improved by increasing the ABV to near-cask strength. It has roughly the same flavor profile as the standard Knob Creek 9 yo—which, at 50% ABV, isn’t exactly kid stuff—but upping the volume by 10% results in a gutsy wallop of fiery candies and corn. I like the standard 9 yo, but I’ve always found it a little bland on the palate and rough down the gullet. For the single-barrel version, ABV could well stand for Abundant, Bountiful, and Vigorous.

I prefer this stuff with a healthy dollop of cool water, although I can take it neat in small sips. Terrific on the tongue when neat, but more complex in the finish with water. Your call.

Nose: Fire, cinnamon, and vanilla when neat; water elicits loads of citrus fruits, caramel, honey, and whiffs of leather and rye. The honey overwhelms everything, but nicely so, after a five-minute sit.

Palate: Rich, thick, and loaded with corn—all sorts of corn, in fact. Yellow and white corn of the sweet and supersweet varieties and a warm bowl of high-end popcorn as well. (As I live in Valparaiso, Indiana, with Orville Redenbacher’s farmlands just down the road, I know my popcorn.) There’s plenty of quality oak, vanilla, nutmeg, and fresh-from-the-oven peanut brittle as well. It teeters on the brink of over-sweetness, but never goes over the edge.

Finish: Long and luscious. Smoky wood, rich chocolate fudge, caramel, rye, and a whisper of mint at the final fadeout. I seem to get a slightly unpleasant note of ethanol with every other sip, but it’s something I never noticed until tonight. Perhaps my tongue is playing tricks on me tonight, but it’s enough to knock a point off my score.

Knob Creek Single Barrel has replaced Booker’s as my favorite in the Beam bourbon lineup. It’s a little on the bold side for an everyday bourbon (give me Elmer T. Lee for those purposes), but it’s a fine choice for special occasions—even with its everyday price tag.

@WhiskyBee, it is great to see you reviewing again! Welcome home.

Personally, I regard standard Knob Creek Small Batch and Knob Creek Single Barrel Reserve to be two entirely different animals. I've found standard Knob Creek to be rather batch variable: some batches have been excellent, others not really very good. Knob Creek is a BATCH WHISKEY, an averaging out of a number of barrels. Knob Creek Single Barrel Reserve, on the other hand, is the best of the best barrels, barrels which are good enough to stand on their own, and don't need to be averaged out for effect. It is always great to drink your bourbon at 60% abv or more, rather at at a lower strength, but the single most important element regarding what makes Knob Creek Single Barrel Reserve great is BARREL SELECTION.

My own reviews of Booker's and Knob Creek Single Barrel reflect exactly what you have expressed in your review: I liked my bottle of KCSB even slightly better than my bottle of Booker's. BUT, as an ongoing brand observation I am certain that for me Booker's and Knob Creek Single Barrel Reserve are very close in quality and in my affection, and that which I would prefer at any given time would be determined by the exact barrel of KCSB, the exact batch of Booker's, and the particular mood I am in.

Thanks, @Victor. I've been lurking around here regularly, but I haven't participated much because I've not been drinking as much! I'm gradually getting back into all things whisky, however.

I haven't been aware of batch variation in the Small Batch, mainly because I've been nursing the same bottle for more than a year. No basis for comparison. It's decent, but it's never been a go-to bourbon for me. (That would be Elmer T. Lee, which I can't find anywhere anymore. Store clerks have told me it's been discontinued, but the Buffalo Trace website says otherwise.)

I finished a bottle of Booker's several weeks ago. Now you've convinced me to buy another one. Like you, my preference for KCSB is slight. I rate Booker's at 90, so I'll gladly put another bottle on the shelf.

@SquidgyAsh

As many folks who know me are aware of Knob Creek 9 year old is the whiskey that made me fall in love with both whisky and whiskey. It's the spirit that started me on my journey.

When it came into Australia I knew I needed to pick up a bottle, and I did, very happily. However the 9 year old single barrel, bottled at 60%, also came in, albeit in extremely limited quantities, I knew that I'd also have to pick up a bottle of this, especially given the fact that all of my American friends were telling me how much better it was then just the normal Knob Creek.

A very long day today, spent chatting whisky with newly made friends, and Knob Creek came up. I'd ended 2013 on the 9 year old and after the conversation today I knew I needed to crack open the single barrel.

So after a nice hot shower (who the hell takes a hot shower in Perth in the summer?! I mean seriously!?) I sat down to an episode of Justified, one of my favorite new TV shows, pulled up Facebook to do whisky related stuff, and cracked the bottle.

Into one of my trusty glencairns it goes, and I give the glass a look and a nose. It's oily, clinging to the glass with thick legs that slowly ooze down, and the nose hits me.

It's an aroma that I haven't smelled in forever, but brings back childhood memories. What the hell is that?!

BUTTERED POPCORN!

Oh that's awesome, and following the buttered popcorn are ripe cherries, red vine licorice and then the buttered popcorn resurfaces.

Caramel, Ooodles of vanilla, heaps of cinnamon, rye, nutmeg, brown sugar, maple, the nose is Knob Creek on steroids. It starts off sweet, but as the whisky opens up in the glass the spices really start to shine.

Time for a taste though...let's see how the palate holds up.

Delicious!

First the buttered popcorn, caramel, charred oak, vanilla, red vine cherries, then heaps of rye and spices, cinnamon and nutmeg, and a hint of leather. Again the whisky starts off sweet then goes quite spicy, especially with rye.

For myself the 60% was extremely mellow, with no intense burn.

The finish is long, intense, sweet and spicy, and as it tapers off the cherries linger on and on.

My friends in the states had informed me that this was by far the better bottling of Knob Creek and I'm pleased to see that they were indeed correct. This is an excellent bourbon, one that I'd love to have on my shelf all the time.

Price point runs around $110 to $120 in bottleshops over here, but can be difficult to find as in this shipment into the country there were only 1200 bottles.

Now if you'll excuse me I do believe I need another bottle of this.

@MCM No batch or barrel code is listed on the bottle. However considering that I've got freshly arrived bottles of both the standard 9 year old and the 9 year old single barrel, cracked open within a week of one another, I can guarantee there is a huge world of difference between these bad boys! The standard is good, the single barrel is brilliant!

@Paddockjudge glad to hear someone else has also picked up on the buttered popcorn! It blew me away, so awesomely delicious! Yeah the $100+ price tag and extreme scarcity does make this whisky guy a sad panda.

@Systemdown it is incredibly delicious! I'll have to send you a sample of both of these bad boys and my newly favorite bourbon, Elijah Craig 20 year old single barrel! And definitely glad to send you the samples! :D

@SquidgyAsh - I know what you mean by buttered popcorn and caramel. I recently had a sample courtesy of @Jonesz - it blew me away! As good as this bourbon is, it brings tears to my eyes when you mention that a bottle is $100+ U.S./CAN.

@MyLoSyRo

Woah! This is a great experience. I have had Knob Creek Single Barrel ($52/750ml) for the past two nights, and both times about 4oz over a spherical ice ball. The initial nose has substantial alcohol burn (expected at 120 proof) that noticeably tapers off after about 5 minutes and allowing it to breathe/cool off a bit. I find vanilla toffee alcohol to be prevalent on the nose.

The first sip smacks you in the face (in the best way possible) and has a warm, cinnamon pepper peanut brittle burn that warms you mouth and chest like one would expect red-hot embers to; this rapidly becomes more subdued and dares you to take another sip.

The second mouthful is a bit more tame with the vanilla sweet cinnamon pepper toffee that lingers nicely- the alcohol burn exits fairly rapidly with the flavor lingering endlessly. Exhaling through the nose engulfs your entire head in this flavorful experience.

3rd sip, which is eagerly anticipated, settles you down an comforts you into knowing that there are many more to come.

The finish, in my opinion, is much tamer than expected for its strength. The alcohol doesn't overpower the flavor and there is very nice balance. Salivary glands kick into action as you continue to experience the lingering flavors. I am thoroughly enjoying this- Knob Creek Single Barrel reinforces why (we) drink bourbon. It is challenging, bold, satisfying, balanced......awesome.

If you have not already done so, give it a try.....it's got balls! (Thanks for reading and I hope this served you well)

My bottle did not have a barrel or lot number on it and I paid $32 for it in Chicago. I have seen private barrels from Binny's with barrel info on it just not the standard single barrel bottle. Great bourbon, one of my favorites at this time.

Just got my first bottle of this a few weeks ago - I agree with your "woah!" I've always liked standard Knob, but this just outclasses it handily - easily worth the extra $10 (esp. since I've been adding a touch of water to bring the proof down a bit - get an extra glass or two our of the bottle). The added richness here brings it into better balance with all the oak than standard Knob.

@apachearrow

I'm glad we're starting to see more of these single barrel offerings from bourbon producers. This one happens to be bottled from barrel #59, not sure how much they'll vary by barrel. Added a teaspoon of water.

@Megawatt

Knob Creek was the first whiskey I really took a shine to, so I was excited at the prospect of a new version. This single-barrel expression is also aged 9 years and bottled at 120 proof.

After adding some water I put my nose up to the glass, trying to pick out specific aromas from the general "bourbon smell". The first impression I got, strangely, is of a musty cellar. Deeper in the glass there are sweet spices and that old smokey leather smell. Very rich, deep, expressive. Hot and oily. After a few minutes in the glass some lighter floral notes start to develop. Becomes sweeter and less musty. Very nice.

It prickles the tongue with cinnamon heart flavour, then that earthy/vegetal note that made me think of cellars. Robust and mouth-coating. Nice development from spicy to sweet to oaky. The finish is incredibly long and maintains all the flavours, leaving a lasting impression.

Overall I'm thrilled with this whiskey. It is fun to sip at full strength and feel the burn but it really shines after a bit of water is added. Tastes a touch more refined than the Small Batch version to me.

I've always enjoyed the standard KC 9 yo as a nice sipper at a restaurant (not too complicated, but a pleasing profile that is smooth and sweet, but not boring) when I have been in the US.

I'm crossing fingers that the Ontario inventory of the KCSB holds out until I can pick up a bottle in the near-ish future.

@dbk

Jim Beam White Label is the best-selling bourbon in the United States (after recalling the fact that Jack Daniels doesn’t technically qualify as a bourbon), but the Jim Beam mash bill is used for several other brands of whiskey. In particular, Old Taylor, Old Crow, and three of Beam’s “Small Batch” series—Baker’s, Booker’s, and Knob Creek—are also based on this tried and true recipe.

Over the last few months, I have tasted Baker’s, Booker’s, and Knob Creek Single Barrel alone and against one another in order to discover their commonalities and their distinctions. The differences among them are subtle, perhaps more so than I would like; still, each is quite good. I reviewed Baker’s some time ago (connosr.com/reviews/bakers/…), and here I review Knob Creek Single Barrel.

The nose has a deep note of cocoa overtop of cherries, peppermint, and cinnamon. It is oaky, yeasty, and buttery. Altogether, it is something of a sweet-and-savory dessert.

The palate is slightly astringent, hot, and spicy, with orange peel, chocolate, banana, and a streak of molten cinnamon running through its core.

If Baker’s is the cashew brittle and Booker’s the candy bar of the trio, then Knob Creek Single Barrel is dark chocolate. It is dry and deep, slightly bitter and subtle.

@Victor

Knob Creek 9 Year Old Single Barrel Reserve is the select single barrel version of the standard Knob Creek Jim Beam Small Batch Bourbon. Knob Creek shares the standard Beam medium rye mashbill with the Beam White Label,Black Label, Baker's and Booker's bourbons. The Knob Creek Single Barrel Reserve is bottled at 120 proof, in contrast to the standard Knob Creek which is bottled at 100 proof

Nose: fragrant honey, caramel, spice, and vanilla

Taste: intense caramel, intense spices, lots of vanilla, very sweet, with strong bass oak notes. This is very rich and delicious. The flavours are smooth and easy at 60% ABV

Finish: Rich, long, and deep. The spice, wood, and caramel remain like the hot embers of a warm fire keeping the house toasty for hours...

Balance: I didn't expect that Jim Beam would surprise me anytime soon, but this bourbon truly surprises me. Even though it is another variation on the theme of the standard Beam mash bill, it is to my palate the best of the entire Beam product line, being the richest in flavour of all of them. There is nothing wrong with Knob Creek Single Barrel Reserve and everything right. I highly recommend this one to anybody

@Benancio, I've only owned one bottle of the Knob Creek Single Barrel Reserve, which was really excellent. I've tasted several batches of Booker's, including the Booker's 25th Anniversary Limited Edition. In general I rate Booker's and Knob Creek Single Barrel very close to one another in points. The KCSBR I've had has been a little more dense and lush than the Booker's (it is aged 9 years, compared to 6-8 years for the standard Booker's), but I can't say that I've sampled more than that one bottle. I think that the definitive comparison would depend upon the specific batch of Booker's or the specific barrel of Knob Creek SB Reserve being sampled. That said, Booker's is at a little higher ABV, which I like,...BUT, Knob Creek Single Barrel is, at US domestic prices, a steal of a good deal for the money. Really I think that on average KCSB will be the equal to Booker's, but that it is more likely that there will be a lesser barrel of KCSB once in awhile than that there will be a lesser BATCH (easier to blend to style)of Booker's. I think that it is hard to go wrong with either one of them.

@Robert99 and @Benancio, yes, Knob Creek Single Barrel Reserve and Booker's should be both from just the same grain mashbill. I expect that the yeast used is just the same here, as well.

What differentiates them? Probably just 1)the way that the barrels were selected. Single Barrels have to stand alone. Small Batch barrels can accomplish a taste profile through blending and compromise. Whether or not there is anything specific in the taste profiles which Jim Beam is consciously seeking by which to differentiate these two product lines is not to my knowledge revealed by them, 2) the relatively minor differences in ABV, and 3) the specific barrels chosen in each case, which are the ones we taste, and the ones which define the respective products

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