“See if I get away with it now that I ain’t as
Big as I once was, but I’m
Morphin’ into an immortal, comin’ through the portal;
You’re stuck in a time warp from 2004 though”
– Eminem (rap God)
The bottle sits in a wooden frame. It doesn’t slide out easily. You go to the back and find a latch. Release it. A small piece of material keeps the neck in place. You slide it backwards… carefully. Your hands shaking, but focused. At this price tag you don’t want any mistakes. The box is a nice touch. A definite upgrade from the 2001 Limited Edition Knob Creeks that dropped years back.
Your eyes catch the neck tag now. It reads:
“Honoring The 30th Anniversary of Knob Creek”
Did I read that right? 30 years? Eminem just turned 50.
Another lyric from the song I quoted comes to mind…
“I know there was a time where once I, Was king of the underground”
Let me take you back half a decade ago. Store picks of Knob Creek were plentiful. Some would touch 14- and 15-year-old age statements. These store picks became good litmus tests for how much your store really cared about what they were picking. Did the age they could claim on the outside of the bottle on the sticker matter more than the liquid in the bottle?
For many of my fellow Knob Creek fans the best store picks would come in that 10, 11- and 12-year range. Still people would go wild for anything with those higher ages on it. It has been a while since I’ve seen picks with these higher ages on them.
It would make sense that the team at Beam (see my rhyming skills?) has been planning high age stated whiskey that can be sold at higher price points. Did I mention that these store picks that could reach an age of 15 years often retailed for less than $50? The attractive price is why I often mention Knob Creek as an easy choice for those looking to get into high proof whiskey, or to bring a bottle to a party. The price on this one? $170, per the press release.
Maybe I’ve been quoting the “Willett rule” of $10 per year of maturation a little too much.
Time to open this up. I’ve always loved the black wax. The tall tab is a great shape design that allows you to grip and twist it as you find the ribbon underneath. I pull on the ribbon and it rolls around the neck while the wax cleanly separates along it. Perfection.
Why the long description of the bottle and it’s opening? A bottle like this should be an experience at the price you pay for it. I want to enjoy every single second of this $170 I’m about to savor.
The question is if I will like it? Onto the review.
Knob Creek Aged 18 Years – Review
100 proof (50% ABV). SRP of $170.
Color: Somewhere in the area between rust and bronze.
On the nose: I pop the cork. Synthetic. Darn. I always love a real cork. The opening almost always provides a gentle whiff of what lies inside. Sniffing the bottle, I’m not hit with much. I pour and look at it.
Warm oak. The warmth is a product of the gentle touch provided by baking spices, gingerbread, and dark fruit. A soft plum is the backdrop of this painting. The gingerbread is freshly baked and serves as the perfect complement.
In the mouth: That first sip went down fast. The legs in my glass are long. The finish is lasting. What was that?! I like Knob Creek. I love the family of whiskey. This is a new creature. The initial burn is a beautiful burst of flavor that quickly dissipates at the same rate you take it down. You return for another sip.
What are these notes, Matt?!? Get on with it.
Brown sugar, spicy oak and a creamy flavor come to mind. If Snickers had an oak spice in it; this would be it.
Big swigs push the wood spice to the roof of the mouth. It’s not minty, but the sensation resembles the results. It awakens you. It causes you to sit up in your chair. What did I just take in? It doesn’t have the pepper you find in coriander. It doesn’t border the soapiness of cilantro. It isn’t parsley, but rather a combination of tarragon and basil. It’s brilliant, and something I’ve yet to experience in a Knob Creek that still offers that creamy peanut/vanilla/caramel combo that we have all come to know and love.
The finish is as fantastic as the entry. The alcohol brilliantly keeps that woody sensation alive while letting the sweetness exist. Neither dominates as it fades, but rather they blend into one pleasant note that is as refreshing as I have ever had in a whiskey.
The age lingers long enough for you to think where you were 18 years ago when this was poured into barrels in Clermont, Kentucky. It allows you to reminisce about where you were in 2004. It is also here that I realize it doesn’t change back into baking spices, as so many whiskies do. The note stays the same and it doesn’t dare you to take another sip; mostly because it knows you will be back without any extra motivation.
This truly is one of those whiskies that stands out for having so much, yet nothing stands out. Nothing overpowers. If anything, the clean wood spice that borders on mint is the memorable flavor here. You concentrate to break it down and find classic Knob Creek flavors with something extra. For longtime Knob Creek fans that may feel slighted at the loss of mediocre 14 to 15-year-old store picks you will find almost no flaws here save for the price.
Willett released an 8 year wheated bourbon for $249 this year which Frank reviewed here and he also reviewed a Heaven Hill 17 year old that retails for $275 here. One he loved; another not so much. I’ll let you read about them, but it does make us wonder about the pricing of bourbon and where it is going.
I’ve always contended that when whiskey is brilliant, the price goes out the window. You will tell stories about it; you will tell stories about this one. This is only the second time I’ve ever awarded this score.