Jim Beam’s superpremium Knob Creek is branching out with a new expression—this time a rye—fashioned by the seventh-generation distiller Fred Noe. Noe, the great-grandson of Jim Beam, has again proved his mettle as a creator of fascinating spirits, this one a beguiling concerto of sweet, spicy and savory flavors.
The Knob Creek Bourbon was originally created by Noe’s father—Booker—20 years ago when Beam put together its Small Batch Bourbon Collection. Last year, Beam released a 120-proof, single-barrel version that Fred Noe tailored by following the basic tenets of the original Knob Creek (taking whiskey that fit the taste profile from central areas of the warehouses after nine years of aging), but picking specific barrels for their special flavors.
The newest expression is a rye whiskey, a category that is made similarly to Bourbon (aged in new, charred oak barrels), but uses a grain recipe that is mostly rye as opposed to Bourbon’s corn majority.
Jim Beam has long made rye whiskey at its Kentucky distillery, both under its own label and as Old Overholt, a brand originated in Pennsylvania. In 2008, it also introduced (rī)1, a lighter rye expression.
The new Knob Creek Rye has some similarities to the Bourbon version. They are both 100-proof whiskies, and the packages share the familiar rectangular shape and black wax sealing on the cork. However, the Bourbon version shows an age statement of nine years while the rye does not name an age. Both whiskeys are explosively full-bodied. The rye has been rolled out into limited markets since yesterday and will be nationally released in July.
While the new rye is flavorful and complex enough to easily be enjoyed on its own or on the rocks, bartender Mike Neff, owner of Ward III in New York City, developed a variation of the Manhattan cocktail with this Knob Creek, which we also recommend.
Knob Creek North by Northeast
2 1/2 parts Knob Creek Rye
1/2 part Dolin Sweet Vermouth
3 cardamom pods
Muddle the cloves and cardamom in the bottom of a glass. Pour in Knob Creek and let site for one minute. Add vermouth and stir. Serve with a lemon twist.
(Tasting notes on next page)
Knob Creek Rye Whiskey (100 proof or 50 percent alcohol by volume, $35.99 for 750 milliliters)
APPEARANCE: Deep amber color that verges on caramel and copper. Gives up its thick leg begrudgingly.
NOSE: Both by scent and taste, this whiskey behaves like a flavor safari, moving through a host of sensations. The bouquet begins with fruit and hard candy and morphs into hints of leather and olive oil. Then come caramel, cinnamon graham cracker, maple candy and oak woods.
PALATE: The same rollercoaster ride continues in the mouth as the whiskey introduces itself with honey and butter rum on the tip of the tongue. It then explodes with spice into the roof of the mouth with cinnamon and bracing flavors, almost like mint and eucalyptus. As it calms, out come savory notes, including nougat, mixed nuts, caramel and maple.
FINISH: The end is almost a tape loop of the beginning experience as the parade repeats itself. And this song will stay your mind, probably into the next day.