It's September 2006 and I'm in Kentucky attending the Kentucky Bourbon Festival. On this particular sunny day, I'm at the Jim Beam Distillery enjoying a tour with Fred Noe, the Brand Ambassador and a member of the Beam family (seventh generation). As we tour the facility, we enter the dump house where they are drilling out the bung of bourbon barrels and dumping the contents in troughs. Fred hands out small glasses and advises that if we want a taste, just slip the glass under the flow of bourbon coming from the barrel. You didn't have to ask me twice and I filled up my glass. I still remember nosing and tasting Knob Creek at barrel strength and proclaimed out loud, "I would love it if you would bottle this at barrel strength". It was delicious bourbon. Translated down to the normal Knob Creek 9 year 100 proof, it just didn't capture my attention like the barrel strength version did and since 2006, I've only had one bottle of normal Knob Creek.
The news came out around mid summer of 2010 that Jim Beam was going to release a single barrel version but at the time, we really didn't know it was also going to be a higher proof. In October John Hansell did a review of the new Knob Creek Single Barrel Reserve 120 proof and rated it a 94. This is telling because the difference may not seem like much but it's actually two factors that set this apart from the normal Knob Creek Small Batch. Both version are 9 years old and of the same mashbill. Where they diverge is one being a single barrel and the other being a small batch. The single barrel is 120 proof and the small batch is 100 proof. To me, those are two big factors and the taste tells the rest of the story. Keep in mind, a single barrel of anything will vary from barrel to barrel so you may not get the same experience over multiple bottles. The small batch is supposed to have a more consistent flavor profile.
Color is moderate amber and very inviting to the eye. Nosing this bourbon it definitely has more complexity than the normal Knob Creek offering; aroma's of dried fruit, toffee, rye floral and oak. This bourbon has a very nice nose on it. Entry is bold, sweet with lively spice at mid palate. A nice mingling of flavors transitions to a finish that is actually quite long leaving a slight tingling on the lips. The finish fades to a creamy state with no bitterness. In the spirit of full disclosure, I have not been a fan of Jim Beam bourbon over the years and the only one that I can truly say that I like is a 1982 Jim Beam White. Well, that changed with this offering. The Knob Creek Single Barrel Reserve is a nice bourbon, pleasant to drink and is moderately priced at around $40. I feel the same way about this bourbon's price as I did the Makers 46; a little on the high side but still worth getting at least one bottle and give it a spin.