Rounding out the older bourbon releases I acquired in June is Knob Creek’s new limited release, a 15 year old Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey bottled at Knob Creek’s traditional 100 proof.
While this is a limited release, it is more widely available than most, including Knob Creek’s 25 Anniversary, which was bottled at cask strength and was 13 years old. Much of the bourbon world has scoffed at this $100 bottle, mostly due to the fact that you can find some Knob Creek Single Barrel store picks at 14 years old and 120 proof. However, it must be remembered that only some of the hotter barrels of Knob Creek are above 120 proof that can make it in the single barrels, which are typically stored in the middle of the warehouse based on the store picks I have seen. What about the barrels stores at lower levels that aren’t above 120 proof? I imagine that is what is in this bottling.
The other thing to note as a frequent buyer of not just bourbon but all manner of whiskey, once you hit the fifteen year mark, it will cost you $100 or more. Time is money, so to speak. And when it comes to Kentucky bourbon, bottles in the fifteen year and older club include Elijah Craig 18, Pappy Van Winkle, Eagle Rare 17, and then occasional one offs like certain editions of Old Fitzgerald and Old Forester Birthday Bourbon. Stuff that is stupid hard to get. The other thing is, that when bourbon gets this old, being in first fill casks, yes, there is going to be oak on this. Maybe too much for your palate. But, that is the point of aging these whiskies that long is for the oak influence. Moreover, other than the Resilient bottling I reviewed recently, I really can’t think of a cask strength release of this high of an aged bourbon. 107 would be the highest proof I have found for a bourbon aged over 15 years, and that would be Pappy Van Winkle.
So, let’s see what we have. The color is a beautiful dark burnt copper, with flecks of mahogany. On the swirl is a nice film with long medium legs that are very slow moving much like the Wild Turkey Master’s Keep 17. On the nose is a traditional Knob Creek profile with which I am familiar since Knob Creek Single Barrel is one of my go to’s, but with a ton of caramel and cinnamon. On the palate, wow, vanilla, cherries, caramelized sugar, English pipe tobacco, and lovely baking spices. And then the massive oak, adding some dryness to this otherwise juicy bourbon, which begins to dominate on the finish along with the baking spices. The finish is extremely long and takes about 40 seconds before it begins to fade. Medium syrupy mouthfeel. The proof on it is just right as multiple Kentucky chews on this bourbon are warranted to appreciate all of the flavors. Again, this is quite similar (to my palate anyway) to the Master’s Keep 17. Not quite as elegant, but it is definitely hitting on the same flavors.
This review is not going to have wide agreement in the bourbon world, but this is the best Jim Beam made whiskey I have ever had. And I have had them all, multiple times, and this is just amazing. I know this bourbon has its naysayers, but if you like cherry and oak on your bourbon, this is a must have especially at this price point. While the Knob Creek 12 year old is very good, it is just hinting at the wonderful flavors found in the 15 year old. Do I enjoy an older Knob Creek Single Barrel store pick with cherry notes at 120 proof? Yes, but they aren’t as elegant as this on the palate or as complex.
I was definitely surprised by this bourbon. I did not expect this would be that good, and that I would prefer it to Knob Creek Single Barrel store picks. I love high proof stuff, but sometimes around 100 proof is good for older whiskey so you can really savor it. I highly recommend this one, and can’t wait for those that comment on my posts to tell me how wrong I am, while I sip this and just enjoy it.