My 14-year-old daughter graduated from Grade 8 today, which is a cause for celebration. Not only for that, and not only for the huge academic improvements she's made over the last six months - but also for winning the Ontario Principals' Council Principal's Award for Student Leadership (Mentorship Award)! I was blown away, so hugely proud, in tears as she strode up in her new dress (and if you know my daughter, getting her to wear a dress at all is a monumental achievement).
To properly celebrate, I knew I had to open something that was a bit more personal than the usual bottle. While Pam and I were at Jim Beam Distillery in May, we bottled our own Knob Creek Single Barrel, with our own thumbprint on the wax. Unfortunately, I don't recall the specifics of the bottle - I know it is barrel strength (higher than 60% ABV), and I think it's older than nine years (but I'm not 100% sure). Pam took some better notes but we can't find them right now....but regardless, let's give it a try, and compare it to the standard Knob Creek Small Batch (50% ABV).
The colour is a dark reddish amber. Damp tobacco on the nose, with dates, rum raisin, plum, cinnamon, very dark chocolate, balsamic and toasted oak. Black soap. Mint and rosemary. Baked apple skins. Dark honey. BBQ smoke. Maltier with water. Enormously rich but with lovely subtleties.
Slightly sour on the palate, and extremely herbal (mint but also tarragon this time). Liquorice all-sorts, strong brewed coffee, vanilla bean and oak. Blood orange pith. Dark maple syrup. Very spicy. Dry mouthfeel. Water brings out more wood tannins and a pinot noir note. A real bruiser - maybe too much of one as the oak is very dominant.
The finish is long and deep with charred oak, beef stock, more dark chocolate and a hint of strawberry. I would have liked this to be slightly more subtle on the palate, but overall this is a bold, powerful and excellent bourbon. Despite the ABV (which I remember is 60+%) it really doesn't need water. Compared to the standard Small Batch, it is much darker (and redder), and stronger and oakier on both the nose and the palate (no surprise). I wish I could remember the specifics of my Single Barrel, though - if I ever come across Pam's notes, I will mention in the comments.