Did I miss the memo letting everyone know that the new hotness was putting your rye whiskey into a second new barrel for finishing? Sure, I ran across one this fall, but it was a distillery-only release. It came in half bottles that sold for $50 each. That was a company playing around and stumbling upon something good. Cool, right?
But then, I started seeing reports that Beam was doing something extremely similar as a limited release in the Knob Creek line. Two data points isn’t a trend, but it could be the beginning of a trend. I mean, finishing your whiskey in a second barrel is nothing new. People have been doing that for years. But finishing it in a second, new barrel? Well, that’s new. At least to my limited memory. I mean, barrels are expensive. And sure, the big guys can resell them for somewhere around the price they bought them for, but still that seems like a serious outlay of cash.
So what are they getting for that extra expense? Well, think of it this way. A new charred oak barrel is like a basket full of freshly ground coffee beans. They smell good, they are full of flavor and they impart that flavor to the liquid that is interacting with them. But once you use them? Well most of that flavor is gone. Ever been so tired that you accidentally made today’s coffee with yesterday’s grounds? Yeah. Barrels are kinda like that too. Only in this case, they are running that metaphorical coffee through a new set of grounds imparting even more of that flavor to the resulting liquid.
Hmmm…I wonder if that would work? I love coffee, it might be the one thing I love more than whiskey.
Anyway, the result for both of the double-barreled whiskeys from this week was to impart a richness that was lacking in the standard releases. After tasting each of them side-by-side with their respective standard release rye, I’d say that running these particular whiskeys though the barrel again definitely had an effect. But did in Knob Creek’s case, did it make it better?
Knob Creek Twice Barreled Rye
Purchase Info: $49.99 for a 750 mL bottle at Ace Spirits, Hopkins, MN
Details: 50% ABV
Nose: Black pepper, dried fruit, and cloves
Mouth: Spicy and sweet with black pepper, clove, cinnamon, apricot, maple, caramel, honey, and oak.
Finish: Spicy and warm. Medium length. Lingering cinnamon and clove along with a fruity sweetness.
Thoughts: This is good. I like it much better than the standard release Knob Creek Rye. Of course, since I am finding my self falling further and further out of love with the Knob Creek Rye, is that really saying anything? In this case, yeah, it is. Lately I’m finding standard Knob Creek Rye to be very grain forward and since there is a hefty portion of corn in there, unfortunately, one of the grains that is coming through the most is corn. That kinda defeats the purpose of a rye to me. If I want a high rye bourbon, I’ll buy one. When I want a rye, I’d rather have one that tastes more of rye than bourbon.
And in a way, this is also very bourbony. There is a lot of the bourbon-like sweetness coming through. Luckily, in this case it is in the form of maple, caramel and honey, not grain flavors. And that really does make a difference as I think the sweetness helps complement the typical “rye” flavors that you would expect in a rye whiskey. There is also a richness that is severely lacking in standard Knob Creek Rye. All in all, I’m a fan. At the price, I’m not sure I’ll be buying a second bottle. But I don’t regret buying the first.
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