This past Spring, Suntory Beam elected to drop a few ultra-luxury whiskies into the active marketplace. The one that drew the most (not entirely positive) attention, was the $300-$400 Booker's Rye. Allegedly a once-in-a-lifetime release, the rye was very good and something I'd recommend for 1/4th of its price. Along with the rye, Beam also released three batches of 14+ year old 2001 Knob Creek bourbon. Note, that these were batches and not single casks, nor were they released at full strength. The batches were labelled "Limited Edition" but Beam did not offer information about the batch sizes, though I have seen bottles online with numbers over #9000. The pricing of these "Limited Editions" started at $130, or 4x the price of the regular 9 year old small batch**, and 3x the price of the 9 year old 120 proof single barrels.
With all this taken into consideration, I ignored the press releases and reviews of these Knobs. But then thanks to a fortuitous sample swap with Mr. The Whiskey Jug, I received a sample of Batch 1. Of course from the moment I received the sample, I've been looking forward to drinking it. If it's half as good as Booker's Rye, I'll be impressed.
Brand: Knob Creek
Distillery: Jim Beam Distillery
Location: Clermont, Kentucky
Mash Bill: 77% Corn, 13% Rye, 10% Malted Barley
Age: 14 years (2001-2016)
Barrels or Bottles in Batch: ???
ABV: 50% ABV
(Thanks to Josh P. for the sample!)
Lots of oak on the nose, which is to be expected from a 14yo American whiskey. Enjoyable combination of fruit, candy, and earthy things. Hazelnuts, grilled pears, black cherry syrup, vanilla frosting, gumballs, dried apricots, clay, and a hint of pine. The palate has a bit more heat to it than expected. It has the dark cherry thing going on, a bit of rye spice, and a big peppery bite. It's slightly leathery with a sea salt note. This all sits on a nice spread of Nutella. Its finish of a good length, full of rye spice, fragrant oak, and salt. A pleasing lack of sweetness.
WITH WATER (~45%abv)
Now the nose has loads of milk chocolate. I'm thinking Twix Bar and all its parts. Then raisins and vanilla bean. Candy shop. The chocolate grows darker with time. Some subtle changes in the palate. More (tart) cherries, less heat. A little earthy and tannic, but not mouth-drying. Never gets too sweet. The finish keeps its length, growing slightly sweeter though also picking up a touch of bitterness to balance it out.
Because of the product's price and hype, I wanted to hate this bourbon. But I liked it, a lot. There's a very good complexity to it at 100 proof. At 90 proof it's a rounder better drinker. The quality is comparable to the better barrels of Blanton's, has a similar rye content, and should appeal to Blanton's fans. I like it much more than the regular 9 year old small batch (of which I have more experience than the single barrel) Knob Creek, and it doesn't have the oak and heat problems I often find in Booker's Small Batches. I would absolutely buy a bottle of Knob Creek 2001 Limited Edition Small Batch #1 if it were half its MSRP. $65-$70, yep. $130+, nope. If any bottles of this batch remain anywhere, I recommend doing a bottle split with your bourbon buddies, that way no one's pitching in more than $40 for a few drinks. Or... *he squints to find a silver lining* ...it's probably a bargain compared to Booker's Rye.
Availability - ???
Pricing - $120-$200
Rating - 87
**And just like that...it's gone. Knob Creek Small Batch has now dropped its age statement. So the KCSB goes the scotch route: NAS for the masses, age statements for the wealthy.