Friday, 16 February 2018

Singles: A review of Knob Creek Single Barrel Bourbon

Is there a Citizen Dick reunion in the works?
Some things are better as an idea. Or as a memory. Being born at the tail-end of Generation X, I love grunge music, but I was never really a member of the grunge scene. I was 14 years old when Kurt Cobain committed suicide. I always liked Nirvana, but I was (and still am) more of a Pearl Jam fan. I remember seeing the movie Singles, and I'm pretty sure I liked it a lot, but I was probably late to the party. The angsty, somewhat aloof Cameron Crowe rom-com was released in 1992, and I'm sure I didn't see it as a twelve year old. I was probably sixteen when I finally saw it, and the fact that Pearl Jam, Chris Cornell and Alice In Chains all appeared on screen was probably enough for me to love it. But I re-visited it recently and, well, it was a bit underwhelming. It's not a bad movie, but it's not as thrilling as it was twenty-plus years ago. Some things sound great in theory, but don't always pan out in practice. (Insert communism/capitalism/marriage joke here) Knob Creek Single Barrel may suffer from the same trappings.

What is Knob Creek?


Knob Creek is produced by Beam Suntory at the Jim Beam distillery in Clermont, Kentucky. It is one of the four Jim Beam small batch bourbon brands targeted for the high-end liquor market. There are many references to Knob Creek as a "pre-prohibition" style of bourbon. What does that mean? According to their website:
What is Pre-Prohibition Style whiskey?

In short: It’s whiskey that refuses to cut corners. But since you’re still here, we’ll give you the longer version.

When the Prohibition was lifted in 1933, bourbon makers had to start from scratch. Whiskey takes years and years to make, but the drinking ban was overturned overnight. To meet their sudden demand, distillers rushed the process, selling barrels that had hardly been aged. Softer, mild-flavored whiskey became standard from then on. Full flavor was the casualty.

But we brought real bourbon back. Over 25 years ago, master distiller Booker Noe set out to create a whiskey that adhered to the original, time-tested way of doing things. He named it Knob Creek. We age every batch in maximum-char barrels to pull every bit of natural sweetness from the oak. Then we bottle it at an uncommonly balanced 100 proof.

Knob Creek is whiskey the way its supposed to be: full flavored. We make every drop count so that you can make every minute count.

Without ever having to cut any corners.

Clear as mud, right?


So 100 proof (50% ABV) is the standard for Knob Creek and the Single Barrel offering is a big, bold 120 proof (60% ABV). And while the standard Knob Creek 100 Proof Small Batch has recently dropped the age statement, the Single Barrel expression still guarantees the whisky is at least nine years old. I was a fan of the 9 Year Old Small Batch. I still enjoy the NAS, 100 Proof version. So how does the Single Barrel taste?
Tasting notes


  • Nose (undiluted): Toffee, vanilla, maple syrup and oak
  • Palate (undiluted): toffee, vanilla, sour cherry chewing gum, coconut and oak
  • Finish:  surprisingly short, nutty, more vanilla, coconut and oak 


Sipped neat, I would NOT have guessed this bourbon to be 120 proof. There is very little tongue burn or "prickliness" to Knob Creek Single Barrel. Adding some water brought out more oakiness, and made the whiskey surprisingly "hotter" and sharper. Drunk neat, the sweetness isn't overbearing or cloying, and it's pushed a bit further back when diluted. But the balance of this whiskey is just a bit "off". It tastes like a generic bourbon, with the toffee, vanilla and oak out of balance. The vanilla isn't gentle or floral, either. It tastes more like an artificial vanilla flavouring.


 Despite the 120 Proof, I prefered this one neat. But with the alcohol content being that high, Knob Creek Single Barrel is definitely a whiskey more suited to a single serving. It is NOT a session whisky. It works surprisingly well in an Old Fashioned, as the simple syrup, water and ice don't drown out the flavours present in this bourbon.


It's difficult to make any kind of definitive pronouncement on a single barrel whiskey. Each barrel is different, so the next batch could have completely different tasting notes. "Single barrel" is a bit of a catch-phrase that appeals to enthusiasts and purists. But as is often the case, it is not without its possible pit-falls. This bourbon was good. Not great, not surprising or incredibly unique. My first impression of it was "This tastes like bourbon". Obvious perhaps, but I was expecting more. Nevertheless, this is a quality product, and you probably won't be disappointed in it if you like bourbon. If at all possible, try before you buy.


Rating: 3/5 moustaches

Here's to cheating, stealing, fighting, and drinking.
If you cheat, may you cheat death,
If you steal, may you steal a lover's heart,
If you fight, may you fight for a friend, 
And if you drink, may you drink with me.

Slainte !

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