Whiskey Review: Knob Creek Single Barrel Reserve

By Will Meek / November 18, 2016
Knob Creek Single Barrel Reserve

image via Will Meek/The Whiskey Wash

Editor’s Note: A sample of this whiskey was provided to us by those behind it. The Whiskey Wash, while appreciative of this, keeps full independent editorial control over this article.

Back before I was interested in whiskey, a good friend of mine in Kansas City told me that Knob Creek was his drink of choice. Two pours nightly over an ice cube; perfect for both a summer porch and a Midwest winter fireplace. I shared one with him after a massive feast one fall, and looking back I now see that pour as the beginning of my appreciation for bourbon.

The Knob Creek brand has been around since 1992. Back then, small batch whiskey was in its infancy. As the craft spirits industry has exploded, the larger legacy brands are keeping up by offering a range of variants on the classics. As a whiskey lover, this is a welcome trend for me, and it has led to four Knob Creek labels (original Straight Bourbon 100 Proof, Straight Rye, Smoked Maple Bourbon, and Single Barrel Reserve). The parent company of the Knob Creek brand is Beam Suntory, which is best known for Jim Beam, and the Knob Creek products are all distilled and aged at Jim Beam in Kentucky. Other brands from the same production house are Booker’s, Baker’s, and Basil Hayden’s.

Knob Creek Single Barrel Reserve was first released in 2010 and promised to be a more intense version of Beam’s popular Straight Bourbon. There is no special grain bill or aging (it’s on wood for 9 years), so it’s as close as you can get to the purity of that product. Also note that the age statement on the original Knob Creek is going away in the near future, but will remain on this product. Knob Creek master distiller Fred Noe is the son of Booker Noe, who essentially started the label, and his notes for this product focus on an appreciation of the nuance of each unique bottling, so please consider that while reading below.

Tasting Notes: Knob Creek Single Barrel Reserve

Vital Stats: 9 years, 120 proof, $40 for a 750ml, no grain bill available

Appearance: Brilliant auburn, medium slow legs.

Nose: Neat, the aroma is pretty intense, with a nice blend of oak, navel orange, pencil, and vanilla bean, with a twinge of heat.

Palate: Neat, I first notice the medium body and heat, although it’s less than expected for 120 proof. It’s fairly sweet and rich, with notes of sweet corn, dark caramel, medium kilned barley. The finish has a stiff warming, with a very deep and sustained caramel and wood experience.

With a few drops of water the nose opens up significantly. The wood and orange notes dissipate and leave hints of flan, waffle, apricots, and fig. On the tongue it becomes smoother in some respect but also somewhat astringent, with more wood. The finish is drier but still significantly warm and long.

A more significant water addition really brought the nose together and was more fruit punch, caramel, and oak. The palate was still warm and somewhat astringent with a bit less of the sweet corn, and the finish was a bit brighter with a hint of grapefruit pith, and slightly solventy.

Final Thoughts & Score/Buy A Bottle:

Score: 82/100

Buy NowOverall this is an interesting way to get a more focused experience of the more popular Knob Creek bourbon. The aroma across all of the treatments was the best feature, and also the most complex and inviting aspect. The astringency along with the heat didn’t work together and it made more challenging to take additional pours.

It also made me appreciate the balance that their distillers bring through blending the 100 proof version. However, at the time of this writing, $40 for a reliable, cask strength 9-year-old bourbon is excellent.

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