Nostalgia and hindsight make for one hell of a combination. It wasn’t long ago that folks were singing praise for Knob Creek Single Barrel picks sitting on shelves, some of them as old as 16 years. Yet bourbon continues to boom, and it was only a matter of time before producers would catch on. In the case of Jim Beam, they introduced Knob Creek 12-Year and 15-Year, a pair of semi-regular releases bottled at 100 proof. And wouldn’t you know it? Store and group picks crossing the double-digit age range essentially dried up with the introduction of these expressions.
Although I was fairly late to jump on the bourbon bandwagon, I still managed to find a pick in 2020 that barely crossed the 15-year threshold. The pick in question came from Nroman’s Liquors in Bradenton, FL. Barrel info is as follows:
Warehouse N, Floor 05, Rick 021, Barreled on 6/13/2005, Bottled on 6/24/2020
I’ve already sung plenty of praise for Knob Creek, but have yet to review any variant of their 120 proof Single Barrel expressions. That changes today. This will be the first of four Knob Creek picks I’ll cover, which I may or may not follow up with a review of a non-pick shelfer.
Nose: Positively potent. Upfront cherry while a dark, dry oak billows over time. Hints of that classic Jim Beam nuttiness are initially dwarfed by the lengthy barrel influence, but become more defining over time. Strong tobacco, vanilla, and some hot, salted toffee. Caramel brownies come to the forefront after sipping.
Palate: Full of flavor. Medium, drying texture. Big, leathery oak with some cherry. Dark cocoa and caramel. Clove and borderline licorice.
Finish: Expectedly drying and tannic, but it becomes earthy before long, taking the edge off. Drying sensation makes the licorice taste more like baked anise. Tapers off just a bit as it goes on.
It’s no wonder these high-aged Knob Creek picks were once all the rage. Although I initially found this pick too hot and overly oaky, it since turned into a rich and delectable treat that held up even during the final pours. Without spoiling my thoughts on the other picks I’ll be reviewing, the level of maturity on this bourbon has done wonders when compared to other Knob Creek Single Barrels. There’s an elevated level of depth, particular with the upfront flavors, which makes subsequent sips that much more enjoyable. If I had to nitpick, I’d say the finish tapers off a bit after such a strong onset of flavor, making the addition of water prior to bottling somewhat apparent. Yet that’s exactly what this critique is: a nitpick.
As I finish this Norman’s Liquors pick, I’m filled with a host of emotions. Ecstasy, regret, gratitude, I could go on. My experience ran a decent spectrum from neck pour to final pour, with my final thoughts provoking a slight, honest smile while reminiscing. I will dearly miss this bottle of Knob Creek. A large part of that is due to the covetable age statement, yes, but this pick is so much more than just its impressive statistics. Few bourbons have delivered anything close to the level of sensory exhilaration that this has, and when compared to the vast majority of bottles available these days, it only stands up as that much more impressive. A killer pick that handily did the Knob Creek brand justice.