By Richard Thomas
Knob Creek has long been a staple of premium bourbons: nine years old, 100 proof, very reasonably priced. Whereas stablemate Booker’s saw a line expansion with limited editions, Knob Creek was expanded with regular releases like the Rye and the Single Barrel.
Rumors began circulating last year that Knob Creek was about to get another new expression, this one an extra aged version. The rumors were confirmed in February, and now Knob Creek Vintage 2001 is finally here.
As the story goes, the stock used for Knob Creek 2001 was laid down by current Master Distiller Fred Noe in 2001, during his apprenticeship to his father and then-Master Distiller Booker Noe. Hence, the distillation date/vintage rather than the age statement, which would read 14 years. The bourbon was bottled in three separate batches at the Knob Creek 100 proof (50% ABV) standard. Like the other Knob Creek bourbons, it comes from the Beam low rye mashbill of 77% corn, 13% rye and 10% malt.
In the glass, the bourbon has a bright and clear, golden amber appearance. The liquid lies thick and rich in the glass, giving the glass a coating that only reluctantly yields up its legs.
The nose is classic Knob Creek: barrel char and deep vanilla, sprinkling with ginger cookie spices and citrus zest. It’s a rich scent, one that is full-bodied without being bold, and is thus a touch more sophisticated than the standard Knob Creek and certainly moreso than the ballsy, potent Single Barrel.
The flavor leads with dry oak, with a toasty rather than charred aspect, with steady currents of cinnamon and vanilla running straight through. The cinnamon spice turns almost minty with some time. The liquid sits lightly on the tongue, and this despite leaving a lasting coat in the mouth. After a sip or two, I started picking up the slightest fruity note, like a few drops of cherry juice added late for good measure.
The finish runs long and warm, and starts out dry and spicy but gradually winds down to just the spiciness.
Knob Creek Vintage 2001 isn’t quite what a year’s worth of buzz and speculation in enthusiast circles built some up to believe it would be. Instead, five extra years in the cask made the bourbon a clear progression up from the standard Knob Creek Small Batch. It’s nice, and pulls back on the boldness of the Knob Creek line to introduce a sense of restraint and poise.
The production run for Knob Creek Vintage 2001 is huge for a limited edition of this type. This year’s Four Roses Elliott’s Select Single Barrel, for example, is 10,000 bottles altogether. Each of the three batches of Knob Creek Vintage 2001 is 12,000 bottles, for 36,000 total. So, this one ought to be easy to find for a time, and the price point is $129.99