Knob Creek is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year. The force behind it, Jim Beam, has been distilling since 1795, but Knob Creek is an entirely different beast.
We’ve all grown accustomed to seeing super-premium bourbons at the liquor store. Whether it’s a something small batch or even single barrel, they are a common sight. That wasn’t the case back in 1992. Thankfully for those of us who love a great bourbon, Booker Noe (how cool is that name?) took it upon himself to create the category. Fast forward twenty years, and while my wallet isn’t all that appreciative, the rest of me is. I like to think even my liver enjoys processing hand-crafted bourbon more than your everyday hooch.
Knob Creek Small Batch was the first of its kind. It’s aged for nine years, which is a long time for a bourbon. For those who don’t know, the wild temperature swings in Kentucky cause whiskey to age twice as fast as it would somewhere like Scotland. This gives Knob Creek a great woody flavor, but the main thing that always jumps out at me is how big the flavor is. This isn’t just a few nice flavors smoothed out to appease the masses. It’s 100-proof, bold, sweet, and smells like delicious maple sugar. There’s a reason it’s the number one stunner seller, and it’s because they don’t pull any punches. You either like it or you don’t, and they don’t really care which. Actually, I’m sure they’d prefer you like it.
Not to be outdone by dear old dad, Fred Noe (He should really go by Freddy) decided to create the next iteration. First released in 2011, the best way I can describe Single Barrel Reserve is like Small Batch on crack. Because multiple barrels aren’t used to even out the flavor, there is quite a bit more complexity in the Single Barrel. There’s an extra vanilla flavor that makes it incredibly smooth, which at 120-proof definitely surprised me. It also offers up a bit of smokiness that makes be want to sucker someone into going on a cigar run. I typically add a few drops of water because it really opens the bourbon up and exposes the intense flavor, but if you really want to show off, it’s certainly drinkable at full strength.
After the success of Single Barrel Reserve, Fred Noe has looked to capitalize on the heaven sent revival of rye whiskey. Given that Knob Creek is modeled after pre-Prohibition whiskey, this seems like the logical move. The Rye is in limited release now, and will see a full roll-out in July. I’ll be sure to come back to it before then to give you the essential info.
Other super-premium bourbon include Basil Haden’s, Bakers, Bookers, Elijah Craig, Old Fitzgerald, Evan Williams, Woodford Reserve, Russell’s Reserve. They say imitation is the greatest form of flattery.