Wot’s this now? Another Bourbon in our 2019 Whiskey Advent Calendar? This is beyond the pale! My influence has gone too far! Or has it not gone far enough? Lets take a look at this cute mini bottle of Knob Creek Small Batch Bourbon and find out.
Knob Creek is brought to us by Jim Beam Distillery of Clermont, Kentucky. Jim Beam is probably the most famous and recognized brand when it comes to Bourbon. Well, other than Jack Daniel’s. Okay, let go with this: Jim Beam is probably the most famous and recognized brand when it comes to Kentucky Bourbon. The Jim Beam Distillery traces its history back to 1795, with a hiccup in the early 20th century caused by prohibition. The surname Beam plays a major role not only in this distillery but also in a few other distilleries around Kentucky, including Heaven Hill. Jim Beam was actually James B. Beam, and he was the person that got the business going again after prohibition ended.
The Knob Creek brand was originally introduced with this bottle: the 100 Proof Small Batch back in 1992. The 120 Proof Knob Creek Single Barrel joined the ranks in 2010, and the Knob Creek Rye joined the duo to make it a trio in 2012. In the past two years, we have seen a few special releases hit the shelves at our shop as well, mostly focusing on the Rye side of things. But this one is a Bourbon, so let’s stick to talking about that.
Jim Beam as a distillery and as a company (now part of Beam Suntory) makes many different brands of Bourbon. Knob Creek is one of its four Premium Small Batch Brands, the others being Booker’s, Baker’s, and Basil Hayden’s.
What separates Knob Creek from the rest is an oakier, fuller flavoured, bolder and more spice-driven style than its compatriots. It also is the only one of the four that has bottlings at 50 and 60% ABV, though Baker’s is typically bottled at higher than 50% ABV and Booker’s is usually above 60% ABV and varies from batch to batch.
As with all Bourbon, Knob Creek is made from a mash bill of at least 51% Corn and aged in heavily charred virgin oak barrels. Once upon a time, Knob Creek Small Batch carried a 9-Year-Old age statement on its label. In 2016, Beam Suntory announced that the age statement would be removed due to the current Bourbon Boom and a shortage of older stock to use. However, on June 13th of this year (2019), it was announced that the 9-year-old age statement would return to Knob Creek Small Batch sometime during the next year.
As for the mash bill used for Knob Creek Bourbon – there are a few conflicting numbers to be found when trying to find this out. The good news all the different ratios I could find come within 3-4% of each other. For the sake of argument (or perhaps agreement? let’s just go with what seems to be the most widely referred to ratio and say this: Knob Creeks Mash Bill is somewhere around 75% Corn, 13% Rye, and 12% Malted Barley. This is considered a ‘Low Rye’ mash bill and it would be the same used at the Jim Beam distillery for Baker’s and Booker’s as well. Basil Hayden’s uses the Old Grand-Dad mash bill, which is ‘High-Rye, with a touch less corn and rye making up 25-30% of the mash.
Enough of that nerdy stuff though. Does it really matter what the mash bill might truly be? Does the fact that it lacks an age statement on this mini bottle relevant if we are sure that they would be using 8 to 10-year-old Bourbon for it? Can numbers really define taste? Probably not, so let’s strip the wax off the top of the bottle and pour ourselves some to try!
Produced by Jim Beam Distillery in Clermont, Kentucky – the Small Batch version of Knob Creek is likely has an average age of 8 to 10 years old and is bottled at 50% ABV, Knob Creek purportedly uses Jim Beam’s ‘Low Rye” mash bill of about 75% Corn, 13% Rye, and 12% Barley.
Evan’s Tasting Note
Nose: Cherry liqueur, cinnamon hearts, sweet peach iced tea, nutmeg, cloves and mint, pan-fried bananas, toasted marshmallows, peanut brittle, leather and polished oak.
Palate: Boldly sweet and spicy, black tea, anise, cloves, nutmeg, cedar plank, sliced peaches, apples and cinnamon, buttery pancake syrup, vanilla, bitter dark chocolate and sweet chai tea.
Finish: Leathery and oak-driven with a touch of lingering pastry-like sweetness.
Comment: Lots of spice, wood and oak to be had in this bourbon, but it is balanced out by the sweetness. At 50% ABV, this is a very flavourful Bourbon that drinks well on its own but would also make a great dancing partner in cocktails.
There you have it! Our second Bourbon of the 2019 KWM Whisky Calendar – could there possibly be a third?!? Only time will tell because I sure won’t! Catch you on the flipside.
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