Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Knob Creek Small Batch is a big dense chewy bourbon with tons of character

The anchor of the Jim Beam small batch collection (the lowest price, shortest bottle, longest posted age in the barrel and the biggest sales of any small batch bourbon) Knob Creek is a big substantial bourbon that oozes class and quality. It begs to be sipped neat and slow. It stands up to the best bourbons without embarrassing itself.
In the glass it's a rich spessarite garnet reddish orange with a tinge of henna. The redness is coming from the #4 char oak barrels. That's the darkest level of char. This char level shows up all over Knob creek - from the color to the nose to the last notes of the finish. Knob Creek's extensive time in the wood is a big part of its character and the fact that the wood was darkly charred is a big part of the wood's character.

The nose brings up toffee, leather, and bitter orange. Further nosing brings out vanilla, cream, and some earth mustiness - like forest floor leaves and loam. It's a complex, appetizing, and pretty sophisticated nose for a bourbon that some folks don't respect enough, in my opinion, because it's so universally available.

The initial taste on first sip is sweet with brown sugar and moassess. That's followed up by a big midpalate expansion spicy on the edges of the tongue with 100 proof and full of a sophisticated sherry quality. The finish is redolent with oak wood and a bitter orange note in the back of the tongue. There's char in the finish, vanilla, sandalwood perfume and a distant and pervasive backdrop of charcoal and creosote. You don't notice it at first but it builds up as you devour your glass. There's also a sour tang that shows up slowly over time that I have come to associate with Jim Beam. It's very subtle but it's the thread that binds the disparate Jim Beam stable together.

This is a big, rough, very masculine bourbon. It's a frontier cabin with leather, musket, and wood fire raging. It's also elegant and refined - to a point. I have no trouble recommending it - but have to point out that Elija Craig 12 has a lot of the same flavor profile (but more sweet and less char) for substantially less money. In any case, you'll have no trouble finding Knob Creek and once you start sipping I sincerely doubt anyone would regret any part of it even for a minute.


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