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Knob Creek Single Barrel Reserve 9 Year Old

Brash Beauty

0 791

@WhiskyBeeReview by @WhiskyBee

20th Oct 2014


  • Nose
  • Taste
  • Finish
  • Balance
  • Overall

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Distribution of ratings for this: brand user

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.

Related Knob Creek reviews


Victor commented

@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.

6 years ago 0

WhiskyBee commented

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.

6 years ago 0

Benancio commented

@WhiskyBee. KCSB and Bookers are a couple of bulldogs. @Victor is right, sometimes you find a KCSB that is out of this world. When that happens run straight back to the same liquor store and buy 3 more. I go back and forth with these two, I love them both. You have the exact same problem most of us have, Ginger or MaryAnn?

I like you review. Keep comparing them.

The wife and I took a picture on the park bench with the Orville statue. Great popcorn.

6 years ago 0

Pudge72 commented

KCSB will be my next bourbon acquisition in Ontario. A relatively excellent value at $55!

6 years ago 0

WhiskyBee commented

MaryAnn, absolutely. Ginger is too high-maintenance.

I'm on my second bottle of KCSB, both from the same store, both presumably from the same barrel. So now I've got a dilemma for next payday: KCSB or Booker's? (Actually, I'll probably replenish my supply of Uigeadail, as I refuse to be without it. But don't get me started on batch variation when it comes to Oogie.)

Were you in town for Popcorn Fest? Let me know if you visit again and we'll have a dram together at Pikk's Tavern.

6 years ago 0

Benancio commented

@WhiskyBee. The wife has Aunts in Valpo and Michigan City, retired school teachers. We had a few beers at Pikk's and beakfast at George's Koffe Kup in Kouts. We get up there every five years or so. I'll let you know the next time we head north. If you ever make it south let me know.

6 years ago 0

hunggar commented

I like the rye, but I agree with you that the Small Batch is nothing special. But if the Single Barrel can hold its own against the almighty Booker's, this is something I've gotta try! Thanks, @WhiskyBee.

6 years ago 0

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