Wanted: a bottle of 14 year, 120 proof (nearly cask strength) bourbon, produced by one of Kentucky’s largest distilleries, for a price of $49.99. Better yet, make it a single barrel bottling.
Sound too good to be true? Not with the Knob Creek Single Barrel program and the latest Knob Creek Single Barrel selection picked by Auburn Spirits and Flight Club.
Those of you who have been around for a bit will recognize that Wichita has been blessed with many Knob Creek Single Barrel picks over the past few years. By our count, this may be barrel number ten for the Wichita community, with several others still to come this year.* Auburn Spirits previously picked a solid barrel in 2017 (called the “CCR” Pick), as did Flight Club with the Tom’s by Flight Club Pick.
(*Note: Rumors have circulated online that Jim Beam is discontinuing the barrel program through the end of 2019.)
Despite the appearance that these picks of Knob Creek may be prolific, a strong argument can be made that there is no better value in all of bourbon (and, possibly, all of whiskey). This can be argued despite the particular age and flavor of any of the 9-year-plus bottles (recall, the old bottle design included a “9 year” on every bottle, despite many being 13, 14 and even 15 years old). But add in that age, and a quality barrel, and these single barrels are a winner. Game over.
This past winter, Flight Club and Auburn partnered up to select a Knob Creek Single Barrel. Reinier Eijkhout (store manager at Auburn Wine & Spirits), Jamie Baalmann, Perry Young and I sat down and sampled three 14-year samples from Jim Beam’s Knob Creek kit.
Sample A: 127.8 Proof; Warehouse K, Floor 4, Rack 8, Tier 3; December 1, 2004 (14 Year).
Nose: Musty; sourdough bread; heavy cream corn sweetness that develops into molasses over time; green corn husk; cinnamon hot candy; nutmeg; stone fruit (peach/apricot); tobacco leaf; tannic oak. The heavy corn character on this stands out and is a bit off-putting.
Palate: Very “green” considering its age, yet somehow still tannic. Green corn husk; apricot; white sugar sweetness; cinnamon; tannic oak; cherry; salt.
Finish: Muted and short. Tannic; bitter sour green apple skin.
Overall: Not quite what we are looking for. This one seems to have past its peak, resulting an overly tannic experience.
Sample B: 133.7 Proof; Warehouse L, Floor 5, Rack 18, Tier 1; October 14, 2004 (14 Year).
Nose: Cinnamon, clove and other baking spice; forest floor mustiness; vegetal compost; malt; stewed cherry; dark chocolate; molasses; tobacco.
Palate: Creamy tobacco; dark fruit; tannins; salted chocolate; tea leaves.
Finish: Creamy and oily; dry blood orange; tannins; dry old oak sawdust; char.
Overall: An interesting and complex pour, with some very good tobacco notes throughout. However, this too shows a bit too much tannic character.
Sample C: 136.0 Proof; Warehouse L, Floor 5, Rack 2, Tier 2; October 15, 2014 (14 Year).
Nose: Plum; dried red fruit; tobacco; dates; allspice; apricot; custard; apple butter; maple syrup; rich oak.
Palate: Creamy. Maple syrup; salted chocolate; tobacco; dry oak; dry grass; dried apple chips; white pepper; baking spice.
Finish: Oak and more maple syrup; apple; tobacco; baking spice; white pepper; orange.
Overall: The overall clear favorite. Maple syrup at its finest! This certainly shows its age with dense wood notes including the tobaccos, oaks, and baking spices. But they are well balanced with the fruit notes and maple syrup notes throughout. This is certainly a bourbon for the oak and maple sweetness lover.
Flight Club and Auburn are thrilled to bring you Sample C. Whether you have tried other local Knob Creek Single Barrel picks or not, we think you should give this one a try. While many of these picks do share some flavor commonality, this one stands out as unique in those oak and maple sweetness characteristics. Pick up one today before this short supply is all gone.
Scott is a co-founder of Flight Club and a frequent writer and reviewer on the Club’s blog.