Standard Knob Creek is a good go to pour if you find yourself somewhere without a large selection of bourbon. We all know the places, you hope they have something good but it’s just Maker’s Mark, Jim Beam, Knob Creek and god forbid Jack Daniel’s. Luckily for those of us that appreciate bourbon, Beam Suntory (the people who make Knob Creek) has another offering specifically aimed at Bourbon enthusiasts: Single Barrel Reserve. Standard Knob comes in at 100 proof and is a small batch which means it is a blend of multiple barrels in order to achieve the best taste and consistency. The Single Barrel Reserve, like the name implies, is a single barrel, which literally means it comes from one barrel instead of being a blend of multiple barrels. They also up the proof from 100 to 120 proof which gives it stronger flavors and aromas plus the obvious higher alcohol content.
To take it up a notch further I managed to get my hands on an ABC Fine Wine & Spirits store pick from barrel #3359. This means that ABC sent one of their representatives to the distillery and had them sample anywhere from five to fifteen different barrels and pick the one that they felt was best. Then ABC purchased the entire barrel and the contents of this “Honey Barrel” are only sold at ABC liquor stores. Most of the time I find that store picks are a step above the standard offerings and this is no exception.
First off you notice the color is much deeper amber brown than the standard Knob Creek and most other bourbons, this is due to them adding less water to the final product to achieve 120 proof and the fact that it spends nine years in the barrel. Next up is the nose, I get the familiar twinge of alcohol since it is 120 proof but once it opens up that evolves into warm vanilla and caramel with maybe a hint of dried figs. The palette is more satisfying than the nose in my opinion, not as oily as I expected it to be but still very pleasant. Dark fruit and a slight vanilla come through for me with what I would call a cinnamon roll flavor towards the end. Finally the finish is long but once again not as long as I expected from a 120 proof bourbon. It starts with the vanilla and caramel but once you swallow, it changes to black peppercorn and charred oak before smoothing out and simply leaving you feeling warm and fuzzy while your mouth begs for another sip.
All in all I would have to say this is my favorite variant of Knob Creek and one of my favorite whiskeys that Beam put out, second only to Booker’s.