KNOB CREEK SiB BOURBON
a barrel from Warehouse E, Floor 6, Rick 19, selected by MN Whiskey Fanatics (2020)
MASH BILL – 75% corn, 13% rye, 12% malted barley
PROOF – 120
AGE – 14 years 8 months
DISTILLERY – Jim Beam
PRICE – $62
WORTH BUYING? – so much yes!
When I opened this bottle, I didn’t plan on ever doing a post about it. I’d wanted to taste it against the Bardstown Bourbon Company Discovery #6, which featured a healthy portion of Jim Beam bourbon in its blend, providing that release’s predominant flavors. I theorized that a Knob Creek SiB at about one third to one half the price would be as good or better. To put that theory to the test, I uncorked this bottle, along with a 2019-03 Booker’s.
This SiB was one among a handful of ~15-year Knob Creek SiBs I’d gathered during that magical period in 2019 and 2020 when they seemed almost ubiquitous. Something was up. Jim Beam was getting their annual Knob Creek 12 Year and 15 Year releases up and running, and one must assume there were excess barrels that didn’t fit into the blending strategies at that point. They were released instead via the Knob Creek single barrel program. Fine.
Great, actually! Guessing it wouldn’t be an ongoing phenomenon, I picked up what I could—mostly from the San Francisco Bay Area where I live, and a couple, like this one, from elsewhere. This bottle is one of three remaining in my bunker. More recent Knob Creek SiBs I’ve seen have hovered pretty consistently around the 9-year mark, so that seems to be the new normal. Those are no slouch either! At $60 on average, 9-year Knob Creek bottled at 120 proof is among the best deals in bourbon—making these ~15-year releases arguably the best deal during that brief window of time when they were making the rounds.
So as I was reaching the final third of this bottle, I thought, this is so good, it deserves a formal tasting. Not because anyone can run out and get it. Not to make anyone upset that they can’t. But just because it’s good, and as a reminder to myself and any other bourbon fan that these weird moments in time come, go, and come around again. Next time it won’t likely be Knob Creek. It’ll be something else. So long as one isn’t fixated on the same handful of brands every season (I’m looking at you Weller) surprising and affordable deals will be found.
For example, anyone pick up a bottle of that Sagamore 8 Year Rye in late 2021? The exact same specs poured into a Willett bottle would have cost three times the price at least. It pays to know your mash bills!
So here we are, just over five weeks after uncorking and two thirds of the way into the bottle. These brief notes were taken using a traditional Glencairn.
COLOR – a rich range of oranges, from glowing to fiery
NOSE – rich cinnamon, rich oak, rich caramel, and a sprig of mint
TASTE – the rich theme continues, carrying on the notes from the nose and adding a syrupy dark chocolate, some pulpy orange peel, and with a heat that smolders without biting
FINISH – dark chocolate, orange peel, dense refined oak, a coolness from the mint accenting that smoldering heat, which now prickles just a bit
OVERALL – a masterpiece, of oak and chocolate in particular
I feel like a broken record. And I know for some people these older Knob Creek single barrels are too oaky. But in my estimation this MN Whiskey Fanatics pick is masterful. It’s as good as any unicorn I can think of. It’s more enjoyable than some recent Booker’s releases I’ve had (including that 2019-03) and that brand is now priced at $100.
If I were to nitpick I’d say that over several sips the finish gradually takes on a drying quality around the edges of my palate that’s not perfect. But for $62 I’ll take it. At twice the price I’d still consider it a value. Single barrels can be a gamble. And one can’t help but wonder when a spate of these well-aged barrels comes out—whether from Jim Beam, George Dickel, WhistlePig or whomever—if they are the rejects from some Limited Edition product soon to arrive. If that’s the case, fine.
Again—Great, actually! If this barrel is a reject, then it’s a tribute to the overall quality of Jim Beam whiskeys. It’s also a gift to bourbon fans. Nobody reading this will be able to find this particular single barrel at this point. But the Knob Creek single barrel program is still a thing, still a deal, and still worth the gamble.