I finally got my hands on a sampling of the newest release from Jim Beam’s Small Batch Collection, Knob Creek Single Barrel Reserve. Like the very popular Knob Creek Small Batch, the Single Barrel Reserve is aged 9 years. However, the Single Barrel Reserve is bottled from a single barrel, and it is also bottled at 120 proof (60% abv). I have reviewed the Small Batch already on this site, and I am not a big fan of it, especially at a price point over $30. I was anxious to see if the Single Barrel Reserve smoothed over the powerful oak that dominates the Small Batch. I am happy to say that Knob Creek Single Barrel Reserve is a big step up from the Small Batch.
The first thing you will notice about Knob Creek Single Barrel Reserve is the rich, auburn color. This whiskey is very dark, which is indicative of the high alcohol content. The nose is full-bodied, with a good balance of sweetness and oak. There are notes of maple syrup, brown sugar, and viscous caramel balanced by powerful, dry oak. The palate starts sweet with the same brown sugar sweetness from the nose, but it moves towards spicy, peppery oak at the back of the palate. This whiskey is very full-bodied, indicative by the almost chewy mouth feel. The finish is lengthy, but especially oaky. Some of the sweetness and richness of the nose lingers for a while, but the peppery oak from the back of the palate dominates the finish, leaving a prickly wood spice for a good while.
Overall, Knob Creek Single Barrel Reserve definitely smoothes out some of the problems of Knob Creek Small Batch. However, the oak still dominates the whiskey, which is not my favorite taste profile. This is a very good whiskey, especially if you love an oaky whiskey. However, for my personal palate, this is not the bourbon for me. It is only a few dollars more expensive than the Small Batch, so between the two Knob Creek offerings, I would definitely buy the Single Barrel Reserve. My grade: B/B-. Price: $40-45/750ml. This is a nice whiskey to warm up in the winter, but it is a high price tag to pay for my standard sipper.