What it is:
Knob Creek has, for some years now, been a staple of many bourbon diets. The entry level offering to Jim Beam’s Small Batch Collection, Knob Creek offers good flavors, 100 proof, and very good value for a top-shelf bourbon. It’s been the mainstay of my own bourbon shelf for the past several years. So it was not with a small amount of excitement and not without some pretty high expectations that I got to try the Knob Creek Single Barrel Reserve. I found this at the Jim Beam American Stillhouse gift shop for $47.99 after touring the distillery, but it should be in stores already.
Unlike the standard Knob Creek, the Single Barrel Reserve is bottled from a single barrel of Knob Creek as opposed to blending multiple barrels together into a batch before bottling. This can lead to slight nuanced differences from one bottle to the next, adding some variety between bottlings due to the conditions of the location in each warehouse in which the individual barrels are aged.
The Single Barrel Reserve, like its standard sibling, is aged 9 years. Unlike the standard, however, the Single Barrel Reserve clocks in at 120 proof (60% alcohol).
This bourbon is very dark, with copper and amber tones throughout. On the nose, there are extremely strong hints of caramel and smoke with a creamy vanilla undertone. It begs to be tried neat, so that’s what I did. The first finger pour produced an initial nutty flavor that developed vanilla notes on the middle of the tongue, and turned to a spicy and surprising cinnamon flavor on the back of the tongue. It finished long, with just enough burn, and the cinnamon seemed to linger long after.
For taste #2, I tried it over filtered ice. Surprisingly, this high proof bourbon does better neat. Initially, I liked the juxtaposition of cold bourbon with a hot-spicy finish. But as the ice melted a bit, the water actually dulled the cinnamon notes just a touch. That spiciness on the finish is where this bourbon truly shines, so I recommend drinking this neat despite its 120 proof.
The folks at Jim Beam have hit a homerun here. The flavors of the bourbon mixed with the spicy finish are a welcome addition to the Knob Creek line, and the promise of finding this regularly on shelves at under $50 is exciting. The only negative I can find in this bourbon is that it will make it extremely tough to go back to the standard Knob Creek on an everyday basis.
ModernThirst.com Score: 90 out of 100 points.
The ModernThirst.com scoring system is a standard 100 point system based on 4 categories, taken in order.
- Appearance: 15 points
- Nose: 25 Points
- Palate/Taste: 35 Points
- Finish: 25 points
- 95+ Epic
- 90-94 Excellent, Good representative of its style
- 85-89 Solid sipper
- 80-84 Drinkable, but potentially flawed.
- 75-79 Low quality, flawed, use as a mixer only
- <75 Rot Gut, avoid