By Jake Emen
Knob Creek holds a special place in my heart and on my palate, perhaps more so than any other whiskey. As I shifted from my younger era of the-cheaper-the-better whiskey drinking, dominated by a certain fella named Jim, Knob Creek was what first captured my attention as “the good stuff”, and at the same time, it wasn’t priced out of reach, either. (Of course, Knob Creek is produced by Jim Beam, but nevertheless, the two brands are worlds apart.)
Since then, I’ve continued to be a frequenter of all things Knob Creek, and so I was quite excited to get my hands on the just released Knob Creek Smoked Maple.
Can one of the most trusted names in bourbon produce a flavored expression while retaining the original qualities which set it apart from the crowd to begin with? That’s the issue at hand here, so let’s see what we have.
On the nose you get maple, brown sugar and a charred molasses, as well as honey and a touch of spice. Take a sip and notice an almost creamy, viscous mouthfeel, with strong maple flavors which are offset a touch by hints of smoke and oak. The finish is short, just a bit sharp and warm, with a soothing honey sweetness as the taste of maple syrup remains on your lips.
It’s fall in a glass. Close your eyes, and watch the red and orange leaves meander gently to the ground, swaying in the wind, football on the television, chili on the stove.
Add ice to Knob Creek Smoked Maple, and you’ll find a lighter, crisper quality, with more of a sharp bourbon bite. The finish though brings the hidden sweetness right back, offering an intense, rich maple which stays with you from sip to sip.
Compared to other maple whiskeys I’ve had, such as Tap 357 Canadian Maple Rye Whiskey, Knob Creek Smoked Maple does distinguish itself. Its maple characteristics don’t dominate or mask the smooth quality of the bourbon beneath.
It’s also worth noting that Knob Creek Smoked Maple, bottled at 45% ABV (90 proof), may still be touted as a “straight bourbon” since the added flavors were post-distillation, and are disclosed on the bottle.
This is a bourbon to sip on after dinner, and it’s surely suitable to share a dram with whiskey novices and connoisseurs alike. This fall, grab a good book, find a leather chair and a fireplace, and pour yourself a glass of Knob Creek Smoked Maple. You won’t regret it.
Could there be more experiments and flavored bourbons from Knob Creek in the future? There are no solid plans in place, but Jim Beam master distiller Fred Noe has commented that it’s a possibility if Smoked Maple enjoys the same success as Knob Creek Rye.
Knob Creek Smoked Maple will just now be working its way onto your local retail shelves, so keep an eye out over the coming weeks and months if you fancy a try. It has a suggested price of $30.99 for a 750 ml bottle.