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Knob Creek 2001 LE Batch 1 Review

Knob Creek 2001 LE Batch 1 Review

Background

Knob Creek 2001 Limited Edition is the one of the latest releases from Beam Suntory as well as the latest addition to the Knob Creek brand. Booker Noe laid down the barrels that would eventually become this release in 2001 before handing over the reigns of the Knob Creek brand to his son, Fred Noe. Three different batches of KC2001 are being released each with different flavor profiles: 

  • Batch 1: Higher in sweet notes and wood spice
  • Batch 2: Higher in oak and tannic flavors
  • Batch 3: Midway between batches 1 and 2

While this bottle does not sport an age statement Beam has stated that the age is "more than 14 years." Likely there is some bourbon in the batches that is 15 years old but by law they must state the age of the youngest bourbon. So instead of just saying "14 years old" or disclose the blend percentage Beam has opted to state the distillation and bottling years on the forward label. Fine. But just to be clear "Distilled On" and "Bottled On" dates do not constitute an age statement

Details

Cost: Suggested Retail is $130 - Sample provided by Knob Creek (Beam Suntory).

Distillery: Jim Beam Distillery - Clermont, Kentucky. 

Proof: 100

Age: NAS but according to Beam older than 14 years. 

Mashbill: 75% Corn / 15% Rye / 10% Barley 

Batch: 1

Tasting Notes

Pour: 1 oz pour neat in a Glencairn

Nose: Wood varnish, leather, light wood spices, oak, stewed apples and pears, cinnamon

Palate: Oak, cinnamon, white pepper, nutmeg, light orchard fruit. 

Finish: Warm with an immediate follow into nutmeg, and white pepper. Lingering oak astringency. 

Score: 2.5/5

Thoughts

Knob Creek 2001 for me could be summed up in one word - oak. A healthy dose of oak was my expectation going into this review however I was not expecting total domination. If oak forward and drier bourbons are your jam then this LE release is for you. According to the fact sheet provided to me by Beam's marketing dept. batches 2 and 3 are supposed to be even more oak forward. Note that this review was crafted around tasting notes from batch 1 which is supposed to be sweeter. 

The KC2001 lacked all the traits that I have come to love in beam products over the past couple of years. The wood sugars seem to have been completely depleted resulting in a scale that tips all the way to the dry side rather than a balanced sweetness. And where is the beam nut funk that I have come to love so much? Sadly no redskin peanuts, cashews or peanut butter to chew on. Also, the first pour of this was on the hot side especially for a 100 proofer. This resulted in me leaving the second pour to air for an extended period of time before sampling. 

A whiskey that is so completely different from any other beam product that it might as well be from a different distillery. Seriously - this doesn't bear any resemblance to any of the other products in the Knob Creek lineup. So why release it under the Knob Creek label? It makes business sense to release a new product under an established brand name. It will make consumers feel more comfortable spending $130+ on an LE from a brand they have come to trust rather than a new brand or label entirely. On the other hand it feels deceptive to release a product that is so far out of band with the existing brands flavor profile. However this is nothing new - Buffalo Trace/Sazerac has been doing it for years with the Colonel E.H. Taylor brand. 

On its own I am not a huge fan of the KC2001 and will not likely be purchasing a bottle especially not for $130. That being said, I could see this vatting really well with a Knob Creek Single Barrel Reserve 120. The extra age and oak would probably blend well with the higher proof and sweet nature of the KCSBR 120. A touch sweetness and beam nut funk could really push this to the next level. 

So why release this product and why now especially considering Booker's Rye is dropping at the same time? I think Beam is essentially honoring the passing of the torch from Booker Noe to Fred Noe via liquid time machine. Booker's Rye was supposedly one of the last whiskeys that Booker laid down before passing. Knob Creek 2001 was started by Booker and finished by Fred. Both are some of the oldest products released by Beam and each tells a different story. The end of one man's career and the beginning of another. As far as marketing goes this is probably the sincerest form of honoring two great distillers. And if I'm going to have marketing shoved down my throat (which is impossible to avoid if you like bourbon) I would rather have these kinds of stories than the fabricated schlock that has become ever so popular in the industry.

Finally, I have come to questions Beams business strategy in releasing 4 different LE whiskeys in the month of May. The Booker's Rye will likely go quickly considering the estimated release is only 6000 bottles. However, all three of the KC2001 batches are being released simultaneously. Subourbia is estimating the total release of all 3 batches to be around 38,000 bottles! I'm no Cyril Figgis but it would seem Beam is releasing around 44,000 LE bottles all around the same time. Why? Why not stagger these releases through out the rest of the year or even release one batch of KC2001 annually? I don't think Beam got the memo that limited releases are supposed to be exactly that - limited. The general consensus in the bourbon community is that KC2001 is going to sit on the shelves for a while especially at $130 each. I agree. Beam needs to pump the brakes. 

Recommended: Elijah Craig 12 (Age Stated), Evan Williams Single Barrel Vintage 2004 

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