Knob Creek Single Barrels have undergone four label changes since 2017. In 2017, the bright, cartoonish label offered next to no information on the product aside from the fact that it was 120 proof. That switched when Beam-Suntory began to have additional information of warehouse, barrel date and bottling date marked on the front label.
Then in early 2021, the bottle grew larger in size, gained a funky “wavy glass” appearance and finally got wax that didn’t flake off when you handled it.
But it’s not entirely without warrant as the bourbon inside has also undergone a similar current of change. Those early bottles from 2017 and before weren’t thought to be much older than the 9 years old that was advertised. But with the addition of a label that held much more information at the bottom of the bottle, single barrel pickers saw that they could get barrels that were aged up to 15 years old.
This was the golden era of Knob Creek Single Barrels and represented some of the best value you could find. However, one of the biggest headlines of 2020 (I’m pretty sure I’m right about that statement) was that the teenage barrels were all used up and Knob’s age statement fell back down to around 9 years old again.
But 9 years old is nothing to sneeze at for a 120 proof bourbon priced around $50. These still represented fantastic value that very few other distilleries could match. I got to help pick this barrel on my birthday last year because I stopped into Rural Inn at the right time. So even though I’m a bit biased on it, my notes and score will still be as unbiased as I can make it. Here are my notes:
Nose: The scents are undeniably Beam as soon as I put the Glencairn to my nose. That classic nutty scent smothered in caramel dominate throughout. There’s a blanket of vanilla scents that soften it all up. Buttery toffee adds more complex sweetness while seasoned wood notes show off the age. There’s very little not to like here.
Palate: Smoldering spices give way to a bit of heat which should be expected at this proof. The old 15 year old barrels would’ve swapped that spice with more tannins, but it’s still a fine tradeoff to me. Oak and caramel are front and center on your tongue the whole time.
A little bit of peanut brittle plays in the background. A nice hint of chocolate really rounds out the flavors nicely while vanilla cupcakes offer contrast. The mouthfeel is moderately viscous, but pleasant nonetheless.
Finish: Oak and tobacco leaf are detected first as the finish definitely shows off the barrel influence throughout time. Cinnamon spice and a tiny bit of peppermint keep the back end smoldering for a while, which isn’t a bad thing! The sweetness dies down a bit, being replaced by a more “burnt” caramel character.
Not as rich or flavorful as other single barrels of Knob Creek, this one checks the boxes of all things that people like about the label. Lots of sweetness, some oak and a moderate amount of heat that tells you that you’re still alive.
One has to wonder if 9 years old is almost too young to develop some of the really unique flavors that older 14 and 15 year Knob Creek Single Barrels seemed to pull out of the wood. Still, this pick is a solid bang for your buck at $55.
I personally always stop to look at the label and the specs whenever I see a pick like this setting on a store shelf. More times than not, these get passed over by enthusiasts that are new to bourbon because they’re chasing fancier labels. But the real enthusiasts know how great these all are and will buy accordingly. Knob Creek picks consistently deliver what you want from a bourbon time after time.
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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