Bourbon whiskey is probably more in the spotlight now than it has ever been. However, this is less due to the fact that the spirit miraculously gained a fan base twice as big as the current one (although sales figures are developing well and more and more people are actually also interested in high-quality bourbon in Europe), but above all due to the smouldering trade and customs conflict between the USA and the European Union. Fortunately, however, this has not yet led to significantly higher consumer prices. (provided test product)*
But I don’t want to reflect or evaluate the – quite exciting – economic skirmishes about import duties here. Like a good bartender, I try to keep out of political debates, at least here in this blog (even though I once made a not-so-serious exception during my article about the Scofflaw cocktail). Instead, I would like to focus once again on a bourbon whiskey from one of the most famous houses in the context of that original American spirit: Jim Beam.
Founded in 1760 by Johannes Jakob Böhm of German descent, the traditional company, which at the time was still selling whiskey under the name Old Jake Beam, has an extremely high reputation when it comes to whiskey. Meanwhile, four different standard bottlings are offered for the premium segment, the so-called Small Batch series: the Baker’s, the Booker’s, the Basil Hayden’s and the Knob Creek (I have linked the ones I have already reviewed accordingly). The four bottlings differ in different aspects such as the barrel maturation, the alcohol content or the composition of the mash (see also the linked articles). Well, and today the Knob Creek Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey is supposed to be on my agenda.
Connoisseurs and observers of the bourbon market will probably know that a similar phenomenon happened to the Knob Creek as it did with the Basil Hayden’s: instead of the original age indication on the label (9 years for Knob Creek), no such age information can be found anymore. Instead, Knob Creek simply bears the imprint “patiently aged”. Whether one has really waited patiently or less patiently for the barrel maturation, I cannot say. Jim Beam tells very little about this, but they state that is is possible to produce the usual Knob Creek flavor without any problems, even with the addition of younger whiskeys. Nevertheless, Knob Creek is still said to be based on 9 years-old whiskey, even if there is no longer any legally binding labelling. The name was derived from the eponymous creek near the distillery and the particular region of Kentucky is called that way. It is the area where even Abraham Lincoln was born. Knob Creek is the best-selling bourbon in the small batch series, according to the company. Here, the style of a “pre-prohibition” acted as a model for the Knob Creek. It is bottled at an ABV of 50% vol. (100 % Proof – or Full Proof) and is priced at about 30 Euros.
Aroma: Here, a very spicy and vibrant bourbon is in my glass. The vanilla is nicely aromatic and complex. Notes of caramel reminiscent of crème brûlée, a little salted butter, rye, a little cinnamon and a hint of maple syrup add up to a pleasant oak spice.
Taste: The Knob Creek offers you a quite vigorous first impression on the palate! The 50% vol. bring plenty of aromas with caramel, cinnamon, a beautiful vanilla and lots of oak. Meanwhile, associations of cotton candy, some chocolate and an idea of cloves come to my mind. A spicy and full-bodied bourbon with verve! Perhaps not the ideal bourbon for beginners, but a great representative of its genre for all those who love bourbon!
Finish: long and dry with notes of oak, nuts and salted caramel.
The cocktail I would like to present here for the use with Knob Creek listens to a name that sounds all-American: Iron Ranger. But if you look at the recipe and the presentation, you’ll probably be surprised, because there’s more than just a little whiff of Tiki in the air. Although with the Mango Overboard I have introduced bourbon-based tiki drinks here in the past, this ingredient is and remains an exception in the Polynesian-inspired cocktail world. And of course you can also use a Knob Creek to prepare outstanding classics like an Old Fashioned, the Manhattan or a Mint Julep, but the Iron Ranger is also a real explosion of flavors! And Knob Creek is so powerful and spicy that it simply cuts an excellent figure in this drink. I came upon the drink this summer through an article on Imbibe. It comes from the Raised by Wolves in San Diego, California, where it was invented by Erick Castro. In terms of Falernum I opted for the Old Judge Falernum in the drink- and it worked very well! I have minimally reduced the sugar content of the original recipe.
Recipe “Iron Ranger”:
6 cl Knob Creek Bourbon Whiskey
2.25 cl lemon juice
3 cl pineapple juice
1.5 cl Falernum
1 cl sugar syrup
2 Dashes Angostura Bitters
1.5 cl crushed ice
Preparation: Shake all ingredients without additional ice (only the 1.5 cl of crushed ice are needed) in a shaker to dilute everything a little and melt the ice. Finally strain into a glass filled with crushed ice.
Garnish: Mint and cinnamon stick
Buying sources: Knob Creek can be purchased from Conalco, for example.
*The bottle for this review was provided to me by the Conalco Spirituosen UG. The fact that this product has been sent to me free of charge for editorial purposes does not – in any way – imply any influence on the content of this article or my rating. On the contrary, it is always an indispensable condition for me to be able to review without any external influence.