Craig Heap reviews Knob Creek 9 year old Kentucky bourbon
Knob Creek 9yo Kentucky bourbon
Jim Beam distillery
Approximate price £30 – 35
Knob Creek is made by Jim Beam in small batches, and is intended to be amongst their top, premium range offerings. The style is one of rich heritage, with a cuboid shaped bottle intended to replicate a bootlegger’s flask from the Prohibition era, and a label depicting a newspaper-print background, suggestive of the newspaper distillers once used to wrap their bottles. Although not unappreciated, you can dress it up all you like in the name of super-premium spirit; however, what reinforces their conviction is the big number 9 on the bottle.
As I’m sure you know, bourbon matures faster than Scottish whiskey in the hotter climate of the Deep South, so American whiskies and bourbons aged 2, 3 or 5 years are actually aged roughly twice that long, in comparison to their Scotch cousins. Aging bourbon for as long as 9 years is pretty uncommon, and could arguably be held up to a Scotch whisky of 17 or 18 years.
On the nose, the aroma is rich, sweet and smooth with a gentle woodiness, mellow charcoal, syrupy caramel, and hints of vanilla and apples. There’s also a slight undertone of solvent, and I must stress this odour profile was when sniffed from the bottle neck. In an old fashioned glass, many of these subtle aromas were lost and the solvent smell gained in power, which was somewhat off-putting. Either drink from a whiskey glass with a bulb body and narrow neck, or try not to sniff it.
On the tongue, you can taste all 9 years of its maturation. Bearing in mind this is 50% ABV, what should pack an eye-watering punch is deliciously smooth, with just enough bite in the finish. The taste is subtle and complex, with lots of intertwining flavours which are individually hard to pluck out but combine to make a fantastic tapestry. Initially, and then throughout, there’s a light woodiness, the mellow charcoal rising up on the tongue before giving way to green apples and vanilla. There’s a spice to the finish, nutmeg and clove, with a goodbye wave from the oak. However, the taste doesn’t linger too long on the tongue afterwards.
For me, the best serve is with ice. The slow release of water and the cooler temperature gave an extra edge to the flavour which wasn’t there when I sipped it neat, though taking it neat is no bad thing. Several neat measures slipped down easily and pleasantly, my head crystal clear before I stood up and realised I was a bit drunk.
I feel the website supports this view. In their recipes section they list ‘neat’ and ‘on the rocks’ as being amongst their favourite serves, as opposed to in cocktails – though cocktail recipes are provided. My personal bias will always be toward rye whiskey for cocktails rather than something as subtle as Knob Creek. Incidentally, you can download customisable labels from their website, so you can add a personal message to a bottle when presenting it as a gift. If you’re lucky and/or devious, it might seem as if you ordered a custom made bottle direct from the distillery.
Overall rating: 8/10