The best value in bourbon these days, in terms of price per year aged, has to be Knob Creek Single Barrel picks. Regular Knob Creek Single Barrel bottles have always worn a 9 year age statement on the label but in the past couple years, we’ve seen more and more of this label’s single barrel picks that approach the 16 year threshold. The fact that a distiller is releasing an older, high-proof bourbon is not something new, but the fact that they’ve kept the price at roughly the same retail price of $50 has definitely caught the eyes of enthusiasts everywhere.
Bottled at a rather strong 120 proof, you simply can’t find this sort of value anywhere else. But in the past 10 months, store owners started to notice that they were receiving more 11 year old barrels and less 13 to 15 year old barrels in their sample choices. Does that mean that these teenage barrels are drying up? It is unknown yet, but in the meantime, Knob Creek thinks that these 11 year old barrels have reached peak maturity and are ready for bottling.
Del Mesa Liquor, out of San Diego California, recently picked one of these 11 year old single barrels and has bottled it with a Maury Povich/Lie Detector meme sticker on the back. Did they find a classic Beam barrel for their pick or did they find an off-profile barrel to roll the dice on? There’s only one way to know! I sampled this neat and in a Glencairn.
Nose: The nose has that traditional Beam-funk of toasted nuts that leads the way into some very traditional caramel and vanilla scents. But then I start to get some buttery baked apples and pears, much like what you’d taste in a cobbler or strudel. Speaking of baked goods, I’m surprised by the slight grainy-ness, kind of like fresh cornbread, that I’m getting on the nose. It is not a youthful grain-forward note, but is interesting to find here for the age. And for being so old and bottled at such a high proof, I’m surprised that the oak is as faint as it is, but it still integrates nicely.
Palate: The palate is pure dessert deliciousness. There’s loads of Payday Candy Bar and vanilla cupcakes with a buttercream frosting. There’s also some cinnamon and coffee grounds (which is always a great note to find in bourbon!) to amp up the spice side. Speaking of spice, there is a peppery bite that was sure to come with the high proof, but it’s very well controlled with all of the sweetness going on.
Finish: A nice, spicy finish that sees plenty of black pepper flakes and heat. But there’s a sweet, toffee-like aftertaste that sticks around for a while. There’s also a decent amount of oak and rich pipe tobacco. Finally, if you wait long enough, you’ll notice the sweet and bitter notes of cocoa powder resting on your tongue.
Overall, this is a great barrel pick that leaned towards more of the classic Jim Beam/Knob Creek profile. There were a few uncovered diamonds like the coffee grounds and the buttery nose and palate that really helped increase the delicious factor.
Overall this was a great pick by Del Mesa and shows that not all Knob Creek barrels are created equal. For all of the bourbon enthusiasts that think that the best Knob Creek bottles have to be aged above 14 years old, I would suggest you take the time to taste these younger ones because you never know what you’re missing.
1 | Disgusting | Drain pour (Example: Jeffers Creek)
2 | Poor | Forced myself to drink it
3 | Bad | Flawed (AD Laws 4 Grain BiB, Clyde Mays anything)
4 | Sub-par | Many things I’d rather have (Tincup 10 year)
5 | Good | Good, solid, ordinary (Larceny, Sazerac Rye)
6 | Very Good | Better than average (Buffalo Trace, OGD BiB)
7 | Great | Well above average (Old Ezra Barrel Proof, Old Weller Antique)
8 | Excellent | Exceptional (Michter’s Barrel Proof Rye, Four Roses Barrel Strength)
9 | Incredible | Extraordinary (GTS, 13 Year MGP or Canadian Rye)
10 | Insurpassable | Nothing Else Comes Close (William Larue Weller)
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