Jim Beam Bourbon Whiskey is the top selling bourbon in the world. However, the finest whiskey in the Beam catalog is their Knob Creek offering. If you’re a bourbon fan, you don’t look for the lightest option available to you. Big bold flavor and something you can taste is your mission. ‘The Kentucky Hug’ is what they call that warm boozy sensation you feel with every balanced sip.
This quintessential small batch bourbon has an aging process that takes the better part of a decade — making that hug a little longer than other bourbons.
When bourbon comes off the still it’s clear, but I’m sure you knew that. It’s the barrel interaction that gives it 100% of its color. Beautiful bourbon is our official national beverage and 96% of it comes from Kentucky.
This is a uniquely American product. In 1964, Lyndon. B. Johnson, a Texan, proclaimed that bourbon was to be the official spirit of these United States. He saw the U.N. bestow that honor for Cognac in France, and the same for Tequila in Mexico. Americans always historically drank bourbon, so it was claimed as our official spirit. During prohibition, Mexico and Canada also produced a version. We had been making it for 200 years, so to claim it as ours meant that President Johnson was finally defining it.
American made bourbon must be 51% corn and aged in unused white oak barrels. You might enjoy the flavors in bourbon more than you actually know. Rum, scotch, tequila, beer, hot sauce, coffee and maple syrup, are just a few products that have popularized the market of second use bourbon barrels.
Globally, you can distill to 190 proof for whisky and 160 proof for bourbon. Knob Creek doesn’t distill anywhere near 160. The reason for that is to retain all those flavors that have become the hallmark of the Knob Creek brand. The higher you distill, the more you reduce flavor and aroma. By U.S. regulation standards, if your product coming off the still is colorless, flavorless and odorless ….it’s vodka.
Knob creek is distilled at 130 proof. It’s important to note because barrel entry maximum for bourbon is 125. Water is the only thing you can add to a distillate before it’s barreled — water, wood, grain, yeast, time and love.
The innovator of the small batch collection at Jim Beam in Clermont, Kentucky is the sixth generation Master Distiller, a gentleman by the name of Booker Noe. Bookers, is the namesake of his bold unfiltered whiskey. He also created the Basil Hayden brand; they’ve been making small batch whiskey for 30yrs in Clermont.
Booker Noe’s grandfather is Jim Beam. This family has been producing bourbon since 1795, almost as long as the U.S. has been a country. For the Knob Creek project, they wanted to make bourbon in the vein of those that Beam himself talked about existing before Prohibition.
In the 1970s and 80s, Americans began drinking less and less bourbon whiskey, it was proofed lower at 80 back then to taste more like watered down like Canadian or Irish whiskey. Pre-Prohibition whiskey is around 100 proof by comparison, and that’s what Booker wanted to get back to. In an era where deproofing whiskey went down to 90 then 80 how much flavor can you get that low?
The way Booker liked to taste it was known as the ‘Kentucky Chew’. This simple method starts by tasting with your eyes first. Hold it against the light looking for gold and amber tones. This is an indicator of interaction with the barrel. The way to taste is to smell your skin to reset your nose. Part your lip instead of smelling alcohol let those ethanol vapors pass then take a whiff…now you smell bourbon.
With the first pass you get smoke and oak with nuanced vanilla caramel sweetness. The nuttiness present in the taste is reminiscent more of the shell or the husk. Nothing about bourbon is short or clean.
Knob Creek Single Barrel Reserve Bourbon
It was the seventh generation of the Beam family led by Fred Noe that wanted to try this approach. Familiarity with the warehouses leads to knowing where the sweet spots, the money barrels are. These would be the ones that speak to you and need to be celebrated individually. A single barrel might have notes of pipe tobacco, cherry soda or caramel corn. These are flavors you might not want to blend off. Knob Creek Single Barrel is guaranteed to be at least 9yrs old and non-chill filtered.
Knob Creek Straight Rye Whiskey
This is one of the first whiskeys made in the United States. As we settled into colonies corn didn’t grow in the Northeast Region. In places like Pennsylvania, Maryland and New York rye was the native grain and corn was not. Rye grew plentiful when early Americans like Jacob Beam arrived. Corn based spirits didn’t appear until after the Revolutionary War.
Rye is a spicier grain by nature. With a 75% rye to corn ratio, Kentucky Style Rye is a punch in the nose. The corn kicks in and allows the rye to create big spice without falling flat.
Knob Creek Small Batch Rye
It’s the rounder, non-aged statement whiskey of the collection. If you enjoy bright fruit flavor this is your jam. Non-filtered, cask strength alcohol molecules are fatter than water molecules. Adding a drop of water to your glass is the way to get deeper and in between them.
-For those who worked in restaurants before you know when something has been ‘86’d it comes from that bourbon path that says bourbon wont be good that much longer when it gets to 86 proof.