Review: Knob Creek Rye 7 Years Old (2023)
It’s been over a decade since we last reviewed Knob Creek’s flagship rye whiskey, and there’s ample reason to revisit it now. As of March 2023, the previously non-age stated rye now carries a seven year age statement, the first since its national launch in 2012.
That’s a noticeable change for a widely available and competitively priced rye marketed toward cocktail enthusiasts and bourbon fans alike. Distiller Jim Beam doesn’t disclose the mashbill but calls it “high corn,” clearly aimed at appealing to a bourbon drinker’s tastes.
How does the new look Knob Creek Rye — retailing for $37 at 50% abv — stack up?Let’s dive in.
It’s leathery and sweet on the nose, with the sweetness running a tad darker than butterscotch — think hot praline. There’s some rye spice that’s not overpowering, and more than a touch of fruit. Crisp green apple, raspberry, and chocolate coated cherries bring up the end as a nice compliment to the traditional rye spice. Note this doesn’t run very far into herbal territory as so many high-rye versions do (like MGP’s famed 95% rye mashbill). On the nose, there’s a lot for bourbon lovers to recognize and enjoy.
That spice is much more pronounced in the mouth, with paprika and both red & black pepper hitting early. There’s a distinct, flavorful sweetness here I would call more honey than caramel; this ultimately tastes like a spicy Bit O Honey candy. And — characteristically for Beam — there’s enough oak to fit the age statement, even at 100 proof. However, those fruitier notes fall just a bit flat on the tongue, and I found myself searching for more. Overall, there’s a nice balance between sweet and spicy, but I would have welcomed something fruitier and/or more floral to give even more depth to the palate.
The finish isn’t terribly long but certainly not “where did that go?” short. It’s all warming rye and baking spices on the way down, while the honey candy lingers toward the front of the palate. There’s also a touch of bitter cocoa on the back of the tongue. At the very end of a sip, the spice takes center stage over the sweet, so much so that I worry this might turn astringent at a higher proof. A few drops of water — which I’m generally slow to add to a 100-proofer — brings the finish into greater balance between those two predominant flavor categories.
Knob Creek’s Straight Rye Whiskey 7 Years Old is a bourbon drinker’s rye that puts its spice on full display, especially at the finish. And it certainly tastes richer than how I remember the non-age stated version (already a serviceable pour).
Marketed to be the go-to for neighborhood and home bars alike, it will hold up in a cocktail and is perfectly enjoyable neat (or with a drop or two). In threading the needle between memorability, enough spice for any cocktail, and value, Knob Creek has done an admirable job with this 7-year-old rye.
A- / $40 / knobcreek.com
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