Price – 750 ml – $33.99 – (www.shoppersvineyard.com)
Method – 2 ice cubes – two fingers of alcohol in 8 oz. rocks glass
Rating – 86-100 – standard rating scale for wine and spirits
Knob Creek was one of the Bourbons that was recommended to me by almost everyone when I was asking for my first suggestions. It was also my first 100+ proof whiskey, so the difference of a stronger glass of whiskey was something that struck me immediately. At this point I’ve had my bottle for about 9 months and it’s nearly gone, so I have a bit of experience with this specific dram.
Knob Creek is one of the Small Batch Bourbons put out by Jim Beam and sons, and the only one I currently own. I’ll try to get a few others and add it to the list fairly soon.
The packaging and bottle is very retro. Thick black wax coats the neck and cork of the bottle, and the label is made to look as though it was printed on old newspaper. This is one of my girlfriends favorite bottles, visually. I find it to be a little plain and uninteresting, especially when it sits on the bourbon shelf next to bottles like Angel’s Envy and Blanton’s.
The nose of this whiskey is a little underwhelming for me. I get a bit hit of alcohol in the nose followed by sweet cloves and a bit of molasses. Overall, however, the nose is mostly burn and very little scent profile even after adding a bit of water and letting it open for a few minutes.
Where this whiskey is underwhelming on the nose, its a bit overwhelming on the palate. I really have to let it open up for a while, and can not drink it neat at all, but once I put it on the rocks, and let it chill, it mellows out the burn enough to make it enjoyable. The first hit that you get in a heavy burn on the tip of your tongue, but the sweet maple and molasses notes that follow make it worth the wait. There is a slight oak flavor that follows the sweet hit, but it decends quickly into a strong metallic alcohol flavor. However, this doesn’t kill the flavor entirely, even though the alcohol comes through in a major way, its not altogether unpleasant.
Overall, it’s a good dram, but not a great one. One thing I will say about this particular whiskey is that as a shot, this whiskey is great. Even though it has a good amount of burn when drinking on the rocks or neat, as a shot it goes down smooth and beautiful. This last bit definitely added a point or two in the end.
Official Website: http://www.knobcreek.com/
Handcrafted in limited quantities, Knob Creek® is aged nine years to fully draw out the natural sugars in its charred white oak barrels. As a result, this exceptional, full-bodied bourbon strikes the senses with a maple sugar aroma, distinctive sweetness and rich, woody, caramel flavor with a long, smooth finish. Made at 100 proof and created to reflect the flavor, strength, care and patience that defined pre-prohibition whiskey, Knob Creek® is perfect straight or cooled slightly with one or two ice cubes.
Like the bourbon, the packaging pays attention to the details. With a bottle reminiscent of a bootlegger’s flask, it embodies the unpretentious, handmade look and feel of turn-of-the-century bourbon. The observant eye will notice newsprint scrawled on the label—harkening back to the decades-old custom of wrapping bottles at the distillery in newspaper.
Combined in different proportions, corn, rye, and barley malt represent the unique bourbon recipe. All the grains are grown in America and are carefully sampled and tested before they are unloaded, to ensure they meet stringent quality standards.
The grain is ground into meal and combined with Kentucky limestone water and “set back,”—a portion of previously distilled mash—is added to each batch. The set back plays an integral role in the mashing process, to ensure consistent quality and flavor. Once the grain, water, and set back are mixed, it is heated. The temperature in the cookers is then lowered and ground barley malt is added. The malt converts grain starch into the sugars needed for the next step in the distillation process, fermentation.
When mashing is complete, the sugar-laden mash is cooled to the appropriate temperature and pumped into fermentation vessels. Set back is added again in a step called topping off, to maintain the highest quality consistency. Finally, select yeast, which has been cultivated continuously since Jim Beam himself isolated it after Prohibition, is added. The strain of yeast is unique and produces some of the special flavor components that characterize Knob Creek® Bourbon and the rest of The Small Batch Bourbon Collection®. Upon adding the yeast, natural fermentation begins. This typically takes three to five days, converting the sugar to alcohol in an unhurried natural process. The result is called distiller’s beer.
The distiller’s beer is transferred into the first distillation column, which is appropriately called the beer still. The distiller’s beer enters the beer still and descends through perforated plates. Simultaneously, steam rises from the bottom of the still up through the plates, stripping alcohol from the beer, creating a vapor. The alcohol vapor leaves the top of the beer still and goes through a condenser that cools it into a colorless liquid called low wine. The low wine is delivered to the doubler, a second still where it is heated and converted again to a vapor that is collected and condensed. The product of this second distillation step, called doubling, is high wine or white dog. By law, high wine can be no more than 160 proof, or 80% alcohol by volume. Though it has a strong grainy flavor, it already has some of the aroma and flavor notes that characterize its specific brand. In the cistern room, the high wine is reduced to 125 proof (or less, depending on the product) with pure, non-mineral water.
By law, bourbon must be aged in a new charred container (barrel) and cannot be entered into storage at higher than 125 proof. Barrels are filled with the clear whiskey/high wine and are stored in rackhouses for aging. The temperature in the rackhouse cycles with the seasons, causing bourbon to breathe in and out of the charred barrel. Each natural cycle in and out of the wood adds to the rich red-amber color and the distinctive taste and aroma of the bourbon.
Bottled at an honest 100 proof like all good bourbons were a century ago, Knob Creek® Bourbon is aged nine years, giving it the distinction of being aged the longest of the Small Batch Bourbons. This extra aging allows it to absorb more of the sugar in the wood, giving it a slightly sweeter taste and nose.