Knob Creek Small Batch – Review

Knob Creek Small Batch Background

Knob Creek Small Batch BottleKnob Creek Small Batch is named after the river that flows through Abraham Lincoln’s childhood home in Kentucky. It entered the market in 1992 as a small batch Bourbon as the Bourbon industry started to regain its footing after Prohibition. Distiller Booker Noe set out to create a Bourbon that resembled pre-prohibition bottling with a higher proof and more age than most bottles then on the shelves. Knob Creek Small Batch is bottled at 100-proof and aged 9 years.

There are two Knob Creek Bourbons with the 100-proof small batch reviewed here and 120-proof Knob Creek Single Barrel. Last year a flavored Smoke Maple Bourbon that has maple syrup and smoke infused with regular Knob Creek. Lastly there’s a Knob Creek Rye in the brand lineup.

Details

Aged 9 years. Bottled at 50%. Mash bill of 73% corn, 13% rye, and 10% barley. Paid $36 (Michigan state minimum price)

Aroma

Oak, Caramel, Vanilla. Buttery. Orange juice, citrus. Biscuit, bready. A little rye mint. Maybe some corn in there too.

Flavor

Oak. Light maple syrup. Caramel and sweetness that moves quickly to charred wood and alcohol heat. Hot cinnamon spice. Some bitterness and dry astringency in the finish.

Overall

Some bold flavors here. Wood dominates this one with some assertive oak and astringency. Also, seems a little hot and I prefer to water this down a bit. The flavors stand up well to water and dials down the wood a bit. Sweetness gets swept up in the oak and alcohol quickly, although lingers with some water. The sip finishes with a not entirely pleasant bitterness and dry tannic aftertaste. Beam has a particular flavor with their yeast profile. Once you hone in on it, you may like it or hate it. I don’t think it’s too prominent in the Knob Creek Small Batch due to the assertive flavors, but it’s still there in the after taste.

Adding this up, Knob Creek Small Batch claims to be a bold throwback to pre-prohibition. I can’t speak to that, but this pour has a lot of flavor in what I could imagine old school Bourbon to be like. I think the nuanced parts seem to yield to the dominate players, however. This Bourbon could probability stand up well as a mixer.

Price isn’t too bad. Knob Creek Small Batch seems to be widely available and I could see this bottle being among the better options in a bar not known for their whiskey. If you like bigger bolder Bourbons with more wood profile, you’ll probably enjoy this one, especially at this price point.

Knob Creek Small Batch Recommendation

Buy a Bottle – 3/5 Rating

(My 5 point scale: Pass, Try a Glass, Buy a Bottle, Buy Again, Shut Up and Take My Money – Bottle price is taken into consideration for recommendations.)

Buying Options and Further Research

If you’re interested in Knob Creek Small Batch, I’ll toss out some similar Bourbons to research. I call this a standard rye Bourbon and it’s a crowded field. Price wise and it’s similar to Woodford Reserve. For the wood profile, Elijah Craig 12 might be an interesting cheaper alliterative. Otherwise in the price range and rye profile Elmer T Lee, Russell Reserve, and Bowman Brothers are some more options. If you’re curious to explore the Beam flavor profile for less money, you could check out Jim Beam Black.

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Buffalo Trace Bourbon – Review

Buffalo Trace Background

Buffalo Trace BottleBuffalo Trace is the namesake brand of the Buffalo Trace Distillery, which was formerly called the George T Stagg Distillery. The name Buffalo Trace is a reference to paths created by buffalo. Early pioneers followed these paths as they explored westward and such a path is said to have led to the current location of the distillery. Hancock Lee is credited as the first to distill near this site, and Buffalo Trace makes a Bourbon with his namesake call Hancock’s President’s Reserve.

While not the most famous nor sought after Bourbon from Buffalo Trace Distillery, Buffalo Trace is the flagship brand chosen to share the name of the renamed distillery. Buffalo Trace was a collaboration effort from within the distillery from the flavor of the blended Bourbons to the bottle design. Current and legacy employees were brought in to help define the flavor profile, which is largely chosen from barrels within the middle tiers of the warehouses. Each new batch is ages about 8 years and made of about 40 or so barrels that are referenced back to the original.

Buffalo Trace Bourbon is a part of Buffalo Trace’s mash bill #1. Mash bill #1 is a low rye recipe and thought to be less than 10%. Other notable Bourbons with this recipe is George T Stagg, Eagle Rare 10 Year, and the Colonel EH Taylor line of Bourbons.

Details

No Age statement Bottled at 45%. Uses Buffalo Trace Mash Bill #1 which is less than 10% rye. MSRP – $24.99 (2016 Price)

Aroma

Fruity, pears. Corn flakes. Caramel. Some nail polish remover. Mild Oak. Smells light and sweet.

Flavor

Some harsh alcohols at the front end and again on the finish. Fruity, real nice sweetness. Light oak with a little char. Nice caramel and vanilla carries through the finish. Flavorful.

Overall

Buffalo Trace is a flavorful pour that for me is borderline really nice and fruity vs harsh fusel alcohols. Nice caramel flavors and mild barrel characteristics. Despite my issue with the acetone flavors there’s a lot to like here. A little water knocks down the rough edges enough for me and brings out more sweetness, but overall I think water hurts the drink.

Nice Bourbon, but the harshness hurts it for me. I’m admittedly more sensitive to the rough alcohols, so your mileage may vary, but it’s there. I certainly have no problem enjoying Buffalo Trace, but when it comes to pull down a bottle for a glass, I usually opt for something else. Price is pretty good on this, so no complaints there and I think this packs a lot of flavor compared to a number of Bourbon’s at this shelf level.

Interestingly, I’ve tried some private barrel picks and samples that I’ve really enjoyed. A single barrel may simply have less of that acetone I’m not liking. Or maybe simply I just prefer some of the barrels typically go into making a batch.

I would compare this with Eagle Rare 10 since it’s the same low-rye Mash #1 recipe out of Buffalo Trace and ballpark in price. Eagle Rare 10 to me is more enjoyable. Similar, I think, but the harshness isn’t there and as expected a little more barrel character. I would pick Eagle Rare 10 overall between the two and I think it’s worth the extra few bucks, but don’t stop that from at least trying Buffalo Trace.

Buffalo Trace Recommendation

Try a Glass – 2.5/5 Rating

(My 5 point scale: Pass, Try a Glass, Buy a Bottle, Buy Again, Shut Up and Take My Money – Bottle price is taken into consideration for recommendations.)

Buying Options and Further Research

This is a low rye Bourbon so there aren’t too many options available. If you can’t find this on the shelf or want to check out similar Bourbons, you’ll want to largely look at Bourbons made from Buffalo Trace’s Mash #1. In this price range, Eagle Rare 10 is a good bet. With a little more rye you could look at Wild Turkey 101 and progressively for a few bucks more check out Bowman Brothers Small BatchEvan Williams Single Barrel, or Elmer T Lee.

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Elijah Craig 12 Barrel Proof Blend – Review

Elijah Craig 12 Barrel Proof Blend Background

Elijah Craig 12 Blend BottleI’m a fan of both Elijah Craig 12 Year and Elijah Craig 12 Barrel Proof. The Barrel Proof is pretty nice stuff at high-proof and unfiltered, but it’s too hot for me. Drinking barrel proof booze is kind of nutty to begin with, but some whiskey for some reason is more enjoyable than others. Age I assume is one reason, but barreling selection and storage are others. Elijah Craig 12 Barrel Proof for me is close, but I prefer to cut it with some water.

When reviewing the Barrel Proof bottle I did some experimentation and decided I like it somewhere around 105-110-proof. In my review I noted some mixology with water to hit the mark. I was thinking of bottling up some so I could just pour and enjoy and then I heard about the idea of blending the regular Elijah Craig 12 with the Barrel Proof. So, that brings us to the Elijah Craig 12 Barrel Proof Blend.

Process

For this experiment I made up two blended samples at 50/50 and 60/40 of Elijah Craig 12 and Elijah Craig 12 Barrel Proof. I also mixed up a sample of Elijah Craig 12 Barrel Proof and water. Alcohol on these are about 113.6-proof, 109.7-proof, and about 110-proof for the water.

I let these sit for about two weeks and then sampled them side by side over two days. I also prepared a fourth sample with water on the spot without any befit of “mingling.”

Results

Right off the bat, 50/50 was still too hot for me to enjoy. I prefer lower alcohol on this Bourbon and I picked both the 60/40 and water samples over the 50/50. The 60/40 and water samples were similar, although I preferred the sample cut with water. I felt it had more depth and added complexity. I’m not sure I would notice if the glasses were standing on their own, but side by side to me the difference was clear. It had more of the dark and roasted characteristics and to me was overall more enjoyable.

Lastly I compared the two water samples and I couldn’t discern much difference. It didn’t matter whether the Barrel Proof was cut in the glass or bottled and allowed to mingle.

Closing

I was surprised by this, although I guess I shouldn’t have been. I was expecting blending two versions of Elijah Craig 12 would give me something interesting, but really it seems to just dilute the best parts of the Elijah Craig 12 Barrel Proof. While still at the same proof, adding some water I found retains more of that great uncut and robust flavors than mixing in a large percentage of the cheaper Elijah Craig 12.

Also, I couldn’t tell any difference in how the Barrel Proof was cut with water. In the glass seems just as good as bottling it up. So, while bottling up a batch might be convenient, there was no flavor difference.

Does it Blend?

Nope. Just cut Elijah Craig 12 Barrel Proof with water in the glass and enjoy.

Jim Beam Black – Review

Jim Beam Black Background

Jim Beam Black BottleJim Beam Black is aged 8 years, which is actually a conventional age for upscale Bourbons. The label call this double aged meaning it’s aged twice as long as its flagship Jim Beam Original Bourbon.

The Beam family has made Bourbon since 1740’s going back seven generations. The company began in 1795 and only halted production during Prohibition. The company has a wide portfolio and Jim Beam Black is one the premium bottling of the Jim Beam brand. The Beam brand is part of a larger holding company that makes popular Bourbons such as Bookers, Knob Creek, and Maker’s Mark. Suntory bought the company in 2014.

Details

8 Year age statement. Bottled at 43%. Mash bill of 73% corn, 13% rye, and 10% barley. Paid $25 (Michigan state minimum price)

Aroma

Charred oak. A little smokey. Caramel. Oranges and bready. Kind of smells like a home-brew shop.

Flavor

Sweet and light with some nice caramel flavors. Some tartness. Nice oak char. Thin and crisp. A little hot cinnamon and spice in the finish with alcohol warmth.

Overall

I find Jim Beam Black easy drinking and refreshing, although it’s light, thin, and a kind of flat. It’s got decent flavor, but maybe a little under powered. Not tons of character or depth, but it hits some notes well and I find it solidly OK. The Beam yeast is distinct and it comes through here. I seem to interpret it as a citrus kind of orange juice plus toast thing in the nose and some yeasty aftertaste in the finish. Seem like a polarizing flavor profile. You’ll probably like or hate it, I suppose, but it’s unique.

Price on Jim Beam Black is good and it’s a decent Bourbon.  It’s got some nice age to it and an affordable entry standard rye Bourbon. If you like the original white label Jim Beam, I’m sure this will be a nice upgrade. Or if you’re curious about trying out a nice quality Beam bottle without spending much money, this should give you a nice introduction to the flavor profile.

Jim Beam Black Recommendation

Try a Glass – 2.5/5 Rating

Buying Options and Further Research

Jim Beam Black is a standard rye Bourbon, so we have a lot of options. In case you can’t find this bottle or want to research similar Bourbons at this price, I’d suggest looking into Elijah Craig 12, Wild Turkey 101, Old Forester Signature, and Evan Williams Single Barrel. If you want to go a little more upscale on the Beam flavor profile, check out Knob Creek Small Batch.

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Maker’s 46 – Review

Maker’s 46 Background

Maker's 46 BottleMaker’s 46 is Maker’s Mark Bourbon finished with French oak staves. Maker’s 46 is aged just like Makers Mark, but after six years it’s dump and then returned to the barrel with the staves. The staves are “seared” or heavily toasted and not charred. Treatment of the staves is called Profile 46, which is where we get the Maker’s 46 name. The goal here for Maker’s Mark was to make a unique product without negatively disrupting an already stressed Maker’s Mark inventory.

I covered the history of Maker’s Mark in that review, but for here what you need to know is this is a wheated Bourbon. This means it uses wheat and not rye as the secondary grain. The recipe was derived by Bill Samuels Sr. through some bread baking. He and his wife would try different recipes that they thought would make a flavorful and easy drinking Bourbon. There is also a Stitzel-Weller connection as Pappy Van Winkle provided help with his recipes. Stizel-Weller produced wheated Bourbons of their own with the Pappy, Weller, and Old Fitzgerald brands.

Currently the company is undergoing expansion with third still. This will increase distilling capacity by 50%. The expansion seeks to replicate their existing setup to maintain character and quality. Maker’s Mark did a similar expansion to two stills in 2002.

Details

No age statement, but said to be about 6 years old. Bottled at 47%. Mash bill is 70% corn, 16% red winter wheat, 14% barley. Paid $40 (state minimum price).

Aroma

Werther’s Originals. Butterscotch, caramel, vanilla. Oak. Rich and sweet.

Flavor

Caramel, toffee, butter. Toasted oak is really coming across as butterscotch to me. Cinnamon and vanilla. Sweet and rich. Alcohol warmth in the finish with a touch of astringency.

Overall

It has the bones of Maker’s Mark with its rich sweetness, but a lot of other stuff going on. The char I liked is still there, but a bit more fleeting I think with these new bolder flavors. Lots of new character here with the oak staves. As I said this comes across as butterscotch to me. If you like Maker’s Mark but found it boring, this should address that niche.

I feel like Maker’s 46 is distinctly different and I wouldn’t describe it as a Maker’s 2.0, or an upscale Maker’s. If Maker’s Mark is the one Bourbon you really enjoy, Maker’s 46 should make a nice detour. If, however, Maker’s Mark is one of a number of Bourbons you like, Maker’s 46 should have to stand on its own against a crowded shelf of contenders.

Maker’s Mark to me was a borderline Buy a Bottle decision. My primary complaint was I felt it was too sweet for me and a bit dull. Maker’s 46 is still too sweet, but more interesting in character. That’s good. Unfortunately it’s also much more expensive. I think I prefer the more simplified original with the cheaper price tag. The stave process is interesting and brings a lot of flavor, but ultimately I’m not a big enough fan of the original to pay for a similarly sweet experience with that added character. On the flip side, Maker’s Mark is already one of only a handful of wheated Bourbons, so it’s unique in that regard. This process makes for an even more unique product and definitely worth at least trying out.

Maker’s 46 Recommendation

Try a Glass – 2.5/5 Rating

Buying Options and Further Research

As I said Maker’s 46 is a unique product in a subset of Bourbon, so it doesn’t have any peers. It’s the most expensive wheated Bourbon I’ve reviewed. The closest option is Maker’s Mark itself for about $10 less. So, really this comes down to I think taste preference and willingness to try something different. If you’re looking get into a wheated Bourbon, I would highly recommend trying a Weller 12, Old Weller Antique, or Maker’s Mark. Larceny is another good option from Heaven Hill. If you’ve had those and want to expand your wheated horizons or simply want to try something different, give Maker’s 46 a spin.

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