Class: Kentucky Straight Rye Whiskey
Reviewer: Andrew Owen
Full disclosure: I am a fan boy Knob Creek Rye small batch. Readily available at $25-30 and carrying a hefty 100 proof, it has served faithfully as my "House Rye" and primary cocktail whiskey for some time now. So when I heard late last year that Beam-Suntory was going to release a 115 proof single barrel rye on the Knob Creek label in early 2018, it became one of my most anticipated new releases. Now the time has come, and for a very-reasonable-in-today's-insane-whiskey-buying-climate $48, a bottle Knob Creek Rye Single Barrel has made its way into my hands.
In case you are unfamiliar with the ownership and distilling landscape of American whiskey, there is no such thing as the "Knob Creek Distillery" that the bottle lists on its back label (this practice is not uncommon in American whiskey). Rather, Beam-Suntory (aka Jim Beam) owns the Knob Creek label and uses it as a mid/upper tier option in its portfolio. Knob Creek, along with Booker's, Baker's, Old Grandad, and the several Jim Beam labels, as well as a few other whiskey brands, is distilled at the Beam distillery in Clermont, Kentucky. This single barrel (remember, no two barrels are exactly the same) was hand selected by the fine folks at Ace Spirits in Minnesota, a fantastic whiskey haven that I would heartily recommend to anyone in the area. With the cork popped and the whiskey settled down in the glass, let's get into some tasting notes.
- Barrel number 5722
- No Age Statement (likely 7-9 years)
- The mash bill of Knob Creek Rye is technically a secret, but consensus by most folks puts the rye content at 51-55%.
- Bottled at 57.5% ABV (115 Proof)
Nose: Thick and hearty, the aroma is a trio of cherry, rye spice, and peanut brittle. Further dissection reveals sticky toffee, fresh tobacco, maraschino cherries, and cinnamon red hots. Altogether its quite appealing, and after a rest in the glass the ethanol tickle is virtually non-existent.
Palate: Mild entry burn that quickly subsides. Like the aroma, the best way to describe this dram is "hearty". Spiced cherry, orange liqueur, sticky toffee, allspice, and peanut brittle all develop harmoniously. On the tail end, a hint of vanilla frosting comes in. Great balance between sweet/fruit/spice.
Finish: Bold! Brown sugar, bread pudding, cinnamon, and candied cherries. As it lingers, the cherry loses its sweetness and starts to verge towards bitter and citrusy.
Should you add water? No, not with this one. Time in the glass (a good 20-30 minutes) is all it needs. Water thins out the mouthfeel on this one, and totally drowns out the fruit notes.
Buying Recommendation: Must Try! This specific barrel really does taste just like the small batch rye with greater concentration and complexity of flavors. For under $50, this bottle is a fantastic value and will battle with Pikesville Rye as my go-to sipping rye. As whiskey prices continue to trend upwards and new release ryes in particular are commonly carrying $100+ price tags, in my opinion this release is a huge win for the consumer, and Beam-Suntory deserves a ton of credit for it.
The Rating Scale
At WBSE we use a true 100 point scale for scoring to allow whiskeys to further differentiate themselves (as opposed to a letter grade scale where 90% of whiskeys fall between 78-92). This allows you to more easily compare scores between different whiskeys. Here is how the scale breaks down:
1-49: Varying degrees of bad
60-69: Better than average
90+: truly exceptional
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