WARREN BOBROW (this article was first published on July 12, 2012)
Knob Creek Rye Whiskey is a new release from the Knob Creek Distillery in Clermont, Kentucky. This is so new that it isn’t even on their website yet (distribution began in March 2012 in limited markets).
The handsome green and black label is set against the signature rectangular bottle. It reads, “Hand-bottled in limited quantity for superior taste and smoothness. Small Batch.” I like the next line, which reads, “Patiently aged.” The label does not reveal how long the rye has been aged but my research shows that it has been patiently aged for nine years.
Recently there was a drought on Knob Creek Bourbon and the distillery steadfastly refused to release any of their specialty bourbons any earlier than was specified for each variety. Time in the cask takes time to make such expressive whiskies.
I love rye for the cinnamon elements. It mixes well with others. I love rye whiskey in my mint juleps primarily because the sugar and the mint do not mask the sturdier flavors in rye. My mint juleps are stronger than most – perhaps not stronger in alcoholic content, but certainly in flavor. The rye adds a spicy characteristic to the sweet mint concoction. Dare I say that all mint juleps should be crafted with rye instead of corn whiskey?
The spicy characteristics of this rye in conjunction with the charred oak barrels make for a mélange of flavors not usually available in “common” bourbon whiskey. Rye has power and grace!
I’d like for you to try drinking your rye whiskey- any rye, not just the gorgeous Knob Creek Rye, straight in a brandy snifter. Marvel at the sweet oak that drips down your throat. The soft, warming vanilla flavor from the charred oak barrels reveals itself. There is a certain character of the Knob Creek Rye that sets it apart from other rye whiskies on the market.
The Knob Creek is not made in a chemical factory like one “bourbon-style whiskey” I tried the other day. It’s amazing to me that in the mass market, distilleries have become more akin to pharmaceutical companies by the amount of micro-management the distillate goes through before hitting the bottle. Knob Creek is not in any rush to bring a lesser line to market. They know the essence of patience.
My experience with rye goes back to the mid-1980’s, when I first tried rye whiskey. I was living in Charleston, South Carolina, working in the restaurant business as a cook and going to Johnson and Wales for culinary school. I didn’t have much free time between work and school to play around with liquor, nor did I have the money to experiment.
Any whiskey, much less rye, was so far out of my realm of what I knew… I was still drinking Finlandia and soda with a lemon wedge. Pretty light in the flavor world. This was the drink of my years in Portland, Maine, and other than beer, it was my go-to. An easy buzz- some citrus to give much needed vitamin C and soda water to quench my young thirst.
It took moving down South to discover there was a world out there of flavor, starting with bourbon! (And moving on to rye, and…)
Tasting Notes for the Knob Creek Rye
The Flavor: White flowers and deeply charred stone fruits give way to sweet vanilla notes. Scents of sugared ginger abound along with little splashes of rye goodness. I envision a honey-pot filled with wildflower honey and fermenting Whiskey. Although not candy sweet in any way, there are hints of one of my favorite tootsie roll pops- the grape flavor. This sweetness might be from the cask.
I’m not sure but I’m suddenly craving a corned beef sandwich on rye with a slathering of deli mustard. The rye element is in the forefront of this gorgeous evocative, rare and profound slurp.
The Heat: The label reads 100 Proof; but I find that the heat of the alcohol is graciously melded into the background of each slurp. It does not taste hot, nor does this Whiskey overpower, it holds you in its embrace- beguiling, charming and eventually finishing as a tangy plate of Jewish deli meats like tongue, pastrami and corned beef. This is what rye does for me, it makes me HUNGRY….
The Character: Sophisticated and charming, but please do take care, it is 100 proof! (Even if this doesn’t taste 100 proof)
Endgame: Try the Knob Creek Rye in a mint julep alongside a nicely fatty, hot pastrami sandwich on rye. Don’t forget a smear of chopped chicken livers and some thousand island dressing!