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Knob Creek Single Barrel Reserve 9 Year Old

It seemed like a good idea at the time

3 780

@OdysseusUnboundReview by @OdysseusUnbound

13th Feb 2018


  • Nose
  • Taste
  • Finish
  • Balance
  • Overall

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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.

Related Knob Creek reviews


Victor commented

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.

4 years ago 1Who liked this?

paddockjudge commented

@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.

4 years ago 1Who liked this?

OdysseusUnbound commented

@paddockjudge I wish I had purchased my Glenfarclas 12 as a pair (after I traded the off one that is). That whisky has gotten much better with time and air.

4 years ago 3Who liked this?

OdysseusUnbound commented

@Victor With the WT Rare Breed and the Four Roses Small Batch opened as well, I doubt this KC Single Barrel will be gone any time soon. I will revisit this periodically to see how it develops.

4 years ago 1Who liked this?

paddockjudge commented

@OdysseusUnbound, get the fill level below the shoulders before you back-shelf it. It will open better, if it does...single barrel and all that stuff...

4 years ago 2Who liked this?

Jonathan commented

I love the KCSB, but my first impression was different that yours. I found the rye to be almost too sharp,much less fruity than comparable whiskies. But that sharp rye is what kept me coming back, especially with a few drops of water. I don't see th rye in your tasting notes. Maybe the barrel pick that you ended up with is an outlier?

4 years ago 0

OdysseusUnbound commented

@Jonathan There was no rye to be found in this whisky. At least not yet. Which is odd, since I found the Small Batch 9 Year Old had a pronounced rye bite, which I love. There is also not much fruitiness to be found here, other than a brief sour cherry note...

4 years ago 0

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