This limited-edition rye from Knob Creek beat the odds to rise to number two by flexing its muscle to impress tasters from both the U.S. and the UK. Superlatives were in good supply: intense, massively chewy, huge, very bold, aggressive. This 9 year old, unfiltered, cask-strength bottling simply presents heaps of flavor for a fair price. Caramel-drizzled flan, charred marshmallow, and honey-roasted peanut aromas lead to mouth-filling flavors of tropical fruits, citrus oil, and peach nectar. Lemony bright with cinnamon and peppery spice galore, it’s surprisingly drinkable at proof, but water really unpacks the flavors. Number 2 in the 2018 Top 20
This new single barrel expression of Knob Creek tastes very similar to the original “small batch” Knob Creek (when brought down to the same alcohol level). If anything, it’s slightly drier, more elegant, not as heavy on the palate, and more sophisticated — but I am reaching here. The similarity is a good thing, because I really enjoy the original expression. Keeping in mind that no two barrels are exactly alike, your decision to purchase the single barrel might just come down to whether you want to pay a little more for a higher strength version, and whether knowing that it might taste a little different than the standard small batch bottling excites you. This is a stylish, big, broad-shouldered bourbon with a thick, sweet foundation (nutty toffee, pot still rum, maple syrup) peppered with spice (cinnamon, but also vanilla and evergreen) and dried fruit. Dry, warming, resinous finish. (Incidentally, I would rate the small batch within a point or two, and the tasting notes would be very similar.)
Dripping with caramel and tingling with spice, this is a blockbuster whiskey that delivers across a spectrum of flavors. Maple syrup, sugar in the raw, and caramel-drizzled flan highlight the aroma, while the palate turns fruity and tropical with the sweet drive of peach nectar, grilled fruits, and pineapple upside-down cake. At the same time, it’s lemony bright, warmly spiced, tremendously rich, and oh-so-good! Pour on the water and enjoy the ride!
Think caramel bomb. Once you pass the crème brûlée, caramel chew, and other variations of the confectionary, vanilla custard, pumpkin, toasted pecan, raisins, light German chocolate cake, praline, tobacco, cigar box, sandalwood, and earth surface. It’s mouth-coating, covering every inch, tingling from the palate’s roof to the back of the neck. The incredibly long finish sits there with caramel. The only knock here is that caramel can be overwhelming, but it’s also bourbon’s staple note. (New Hampshire only)
Wonderful opening of cigar humidor and tack room, it presents vibrant caramel and vanilla, but really shines with complex fruit, spice, and nuts. Baked apples, canned pears, blackberries, and strawberry jam meet white pepper, followed by roasted walnuts and honey. Then resounding nutmeg appears, with slight hints of smoke, chipotle, and earth. The long finish rekindles the caramel note from the beginning. Must-have sipper.
Knob was one of the first bourbons I had when I started taking whiskey seriously, and it’s still a kicker. No-nonsense, flint-hard nose: slickly-polished oak furniture, cinnamon stick, cracked rye, wet cornmeal, hard candies. Bang! A lean whiskey that gets in your mouth and explodes with rye spice and cinnamon candy, a sharp wedge that opens you right up. The finish echoes: oak, a dying fire, clean and almost crisp. Emphatic, bright, and swift. Value Pick
Knob Creek 25th Anniversary Single Barrel (barreled 2/11/2004), 60.9%
Bourbon/Tennessee | $130
When the caramel train comes, it rarely returns after such strong earthy notes of roots, hay, and soil. It’s the same story in the next round: first, pan-fried sweet potatoes and parsnips dominate; caramel returns with vanilla, allspice, and white pepper. Then the odd but welcomed combo of campfire-smoked marshmallows and gingersnaps just before a long caramel finish. Very unique.
Knob Creek Quarter Oak Kentucky Straight Bourbon, 50%
Bourbon/Tennessee | $50
A portion of this limited-release straight bourbon is aged in new charred oak quarter casks, which enable more contact with the wood. The nose offers vanilla, licorice, dried herbs, red fruit, confectionary sugar, iced tea, and orange peel. A chewy palate shows off the oak influence, and has notes of spice, chocolate-covered candied oranges, blackberry compote, cinnamon, and peppercorns. Drying oak on a finish of dark cherry, chocolate, orange, and cola.
Booze candy from Beam? More like bacon in a glass: the sweet smokiness invaded my dining room (definitely the last tasting of the day). Richly smoky-sweet, with a clear balance of maple over corn; like a rustic breakfast of bacon, pancakes, and whiskey! The maple’s restrained and authentic, the 45% keeps it from being too sweet, and there’s plenty of good bourbon flavor here, especially at the finish. Lush, tasty; if you have to do flavors, here’s how.
Gentle notes of lilac, sweet perfume, and rye bread are underscored by orange blossom, spearmint, and blueberry. Heaps of spice—clove and cinnamon hearts candies—will delight rye fans, as the mix of berry fruits and lively spices really comes to life with water, revealing bitter citrus pith, black pepper, vanilla, and a finish of generous char and tobacco smoke.
There’s a marriage here, one of perfect harmony; fruit, floral, spice, sweet, and expressive toasted oak. Then the broad genres become specific: the fruit is cherries; the floral, a hint of lavender; the sweet, an array of toffee, caramel, and vanilla, until its spice complexity kicks in, showing allspice, white pepper, Spanish anise, and nutmeg. Its proof never shows, but the medium finish is just a touch short to make this truly special. (New Hampshire only)
Knob Creek 25th Anniversary Single Barrel (barreled 2/11/2004), 62.5%
Bourbon/Tennessee | $130
At first it’s a smorgasbord of cotton candy, vanilla, caramel, tapioca pudding, honey, and salted caramel. Then spice-bomb reality sets in with nutmeg, cinnamon, anise, and ginger. Finally, the spice gives way to caramel over cornbread, malt, and Cinnamon Toast Crunch. The medium finish ends what was developing into a great whiskey; alas, much is to be desired.
Unlike the Knob Creek bourbons (which are 9 years old), there’s no age statement with this new rye, which tastes relatively younger. It’s bracing, vibrant, and spicy. (The rye contribution is unmistakable.) Cinnamon spice and crisp mint dominate, with charcoal, botanicals, ginger, nutmeg, honeyed fruit, vanilla, and caramel. Warming spice finish. Its dynamic personality should shine in cocktails, but from a sipping, drinking neat perspective, I wish it was a little older like its siblings.
Highly anticipated, this release offers freshly-popped kettle corn, cinnamon, nutmeg, oak, hints of fruit and floral. Then it feels unbalanced, a bitter woodiness hiding hopeful flavors. Once the wood disappears there’s caramel, vanilla, and baking spice over heat. A drop of water corrects the dominant oak and gives this a sipper’s chance.