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  • Writer's pictureJoseph Bourbon

Knob Creek Single Barrel Cowley's 2023 Pick

I confess that each time I taste it, I say to myself, “Why don’t you keep this around a little more often?”. So it was easy to respond to a text from my sister-in-law when she mentioned that her local Piggly Wiggly grocery store (yes, that’s a real Midwestern name) in Wisconsin had a special bourbon on display. I asked her to go ahead and grab a bottle for me as she headed south to join us on the beach. 

The Original Small Batch 

The premium brands of the Beam lineup include Booker's Baker's, Basil Hayden's, and Knob Creek - the original small batch bourbons when it was introduced in 1992.

The brand draws its name from "Knob Creek", which runs near the Beam Distillery in Clermont, Kentucky. Legendary Master Distiller Booker Noe created the Knob Creek brand to reflect the strength, flavor, care and patience that characterized pre-Prohibition style bourbons. The bottle's rectangular shape is styled after a bootlegger’s flask, with labeling that is similar to the old custom of wrapping bottles in newspaper at the distillery.

The Tasting

This particular store pick from Cowley’s Piggly Wiggly, located in Milton, Wisconsin, began with the signature Beam (and Knob Creek) mash bill of 75% corn, 13% rye and 12% malted barley. It was distilled on 1/15/2014, aged on the 5th floor of warehouse P in rick 044. It was bottled after more than 9½ years on 8/14/2023 at Knob Creek’s single barrel standard of 120 proof. 

Color:  Ochre with a host of thin, wispy legs around the inside of my Glencairn glass.

Nose: Brown sugar, caramel, Cracker Jack snack mix, and toffee covered peanuts. Like some of the other single barrels from Knob Creek we’ve enjoyed, it doesn’t give away its high proof nature.  

Palate: Rich and flavorful, with sweet brown sugar and caramel balanced by savory notes of toasted oak and dry, rye spice. It is here that this store pick reminds us of its proof, leaving my tongue tingling.

Finish: An exceptionally long finish with vanilla, toasted oak, and baking spices that takes several minutes to completely fade. 

Overall: I may have added another bourbon hunter to my team. Store and single barrel picks are some of my favorite bottles to enjoy. While mass production and the blending of hundreds of barrels can deliver a uniform, consistent product, it’s here that bourbon’s true character can be enjoyed. In terms of “bang for your buck”, these higher proof bottles can stretch your dollar, whereas lower-proof whiskeys can fade away in ice or a cocktail.

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