After busting open the boutique bourbon business in the '90s with their small batch collection, nothing new came out of Jim Beam for a decade or more, save the occasional commemorative bottle of Maker's Mark (a separate, but Beam owned distillery). Suddenly last year, though, the sleeping giant of American whiskey seemed to awake from its slumber.
First, without press or fanfare, Beam released a six grain bourbon for the duty free market. Then came the much publicized Maker's 46. This year, we've already gotten two new Beams on our shelves: Jim Beam Devil's Cut and Knob Creek Single Barrel, a single barrel, high proof version of the popular 9 year old that is the cornerstone of the small batch collection. I recently had a chance to sample the new Knob Creek.
Knob Creek Single Barrel, 9 years old, 60% abv ($40)
This has a big fat candy nose with caramel, chocolate and some honey and maple notes. It smells like a candy bar! Big corny flavor. Yes, this is definitely in the Beam family, no doubt about that. Even at a higher strength, it's got that light, sweet, corny flavor. Oak starts to come out mid-palate and sets in for the finish, though that corn syrup is still there too. I'd say this is a solid step up from the regular Knob; the extra abv gives it some heft, and I'm sure they are picking for barrels with some strong notes, but if you're not generally a fan of the Beam flavor profile, I doubt this will make you into one.