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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.