Decently made, if not spectacular. Kind of like the rest of the Knob Creek portfolio in that sense. Upside is reliable and widely available.
Notes: This is another line extension/variation on the by now almost venerable Knob Creek bourbon whiskey line but their first foray into a rye whiskey. Among one of the first premium bourbons lines brought out back in the 1990′s (among with Basil Hayden, Bakers, Bookers and in the Bourbon Collection) , Knob Creek also has their Knob Single Barrel Reserve , Knob Creek Smoked Maple Whiskey and of course the original Knob Creek. Knob Creek is owned by Jim Beam Brands and other reviews of some of their products can be found here. While Jim Beam has produced a lower end/value brand rye whiskey for quite a long time, there first foray into a higher end rye per se(disregarding the high rye bourbons of course) was the “(rī¹)” at a hefty price of about $60 at it’s launch a few years ago.
I’m going to go out on a limb here and say there is frankly very little difference between these two. I’d say about a 90-95 percent similarity between the two. I’m not saying that Jim Beam is merely switching labels or bottling a rye whiskey under two different labels but they are certainly close enough that anyone who is buying the is probably throwing away an extra $20 unless they want one for a collection or reference sample purposes.
Appearance: A deep patinated bronze in the bottle – yellow red almost golden winter wheat in the glass, flawless purity. Nice edge line on the glass when you swirl it, smooth layer of whiskey on swirling with scattered rivulets rather than legs developing – seems like a rye characteristic to have larger legs.
First Impression: A bit spirity when poured , it settles down rapidly. Rye spiciness with oak and pepper notes, dried fruit and leather, dried orange peel, nutmeg dried cherries. A somewhat complex bouquet overall, as it should be with a rye, but not overawing.
Taste: Nicely weighty body and mouth feel generating warmth wherever it touches. Dried dark fruits (think fruitcake, but drier) dried orange peel, apricots, hints of cherry, vanilla, oak pepper, leather, and cinnamon. Lingering spicy, slightly sweet finish with a notable dryness on the tongue and pleasant heat and slightly woody finish to it.
Drinks: Rye is, of course, the proper whiskey for a Manhattan. Bourbon was later substituted as Rye was on the brink of extinction for a number of years until recently, but Rye was the original ingredient.The Knob Creek Rye does not make a very inspiring Sazerac compared to a lot of the other ryes out there at present. It is decently made but not a compelling choice for a number of drinks. It was however a really outstanding choice for a Highball or Horse Neck using Vernors Ginger Ale for some reason it really sang, best Highballs and Horses Neck we ever made or had. Will keep it around just to make those. It also worked well with ginger beers, and we will continue to explore other recipes for it as we were so impressed with it’s performance with gingers – a bit of a niche, but well worth noting.
Bottle: Standard square flask shaped Knob Creek bottle of clear glass. Clearly labeled as Rye Whiskey on lower half of label ( which contains an upside down except of a 1935 Knob Creek newspaper as background). The bottle also sports a slightly odd side to back label also identifying it as Rye Whiskey. Black wax neck wrap and cork closure is relatively easy-to-open compared to some wax seals.
Cigars: Works well with Joya di Nicaragua or Dunhill – natural or Cameroon wrappers.
Other: Like an old friend, Knob Creek may have it’s faults but it is reliable and there at the bar when you need it.
Final Thoughts: Bit of a dud overall. Not nearly as expensive as the ri 1 by Jim Beam. Excellent value compared to the “(rī¹)”, but not so much compared to say the Sazerac 6 ( best buy/value IMHO) or a host of the craft and/or microdistlled ryes for about the same money or slightly more.
While I find the price a bit high (you can get a 6 year-old Sazerac for somewhat less money or the 18 year-old Sazerac for about twice the money when it’s available), its a decent rye and very approachable for novices even if the more advanced rye enthusiast find it a bit simple and light. Another advantage is with Jim Beam and now Suntorys marketing reach it will be just about everywhere, so at least you could find it easily.
Some information and tasting notes, but fairly shallow site altogether.