Classification: Straight Bourbon
Company: Beam Suntory
Distillery: Jim Beam
Release Date: September 2019
Mashbill: 75% Corn, 13% Rye, 12% Malted Barley
Color: Golden Honey
MSRP: $50 (2019)
Knob Creek Quarter Oak is the latest limited release in the Knob Creek line. To create Quarter Oak, Beam Suntory ages their standard Knob Creek for a minimum of four years in a quarter cask (13 gallons versus a standard whiskey barrel’s 53 gallon capacity). Then a small amount of this quarter cask aged Knob Creek is blended with standard Knob Creek bourbon to create the final product. Blend ratios were not released by Beam Suntory. See the company press release for more information.
At the forefront, rich honey and oak mingle together with vanilla, leather, cinnamon, mixed dried fruit, and brown sugar hiding behind. There’s a surprisingly stronger amount of ethanol than expected for a 100 proof bourbon. Despite this, the nose is layered and nuanced bringing forth a really nice balance of sweet and dry flavors. Subtle, yet full of flavor - sans the stronger presence of ethanol which holds back the nose from being really great - it’s a good introduction and foreshadows what’s to come.
While ethanol plays a prominent part in the nose, its impact on the palate is less so, and this whiskey sips as expected for a 100 proof bourbon. It has a lighter mouthfeel and one that allows you to roll it around in your mouth without impedance by the ethanol. Notes of sweet cinnamon syrup, heavy dry aged oak, sugared figs, dried peaches, and vanilla cream are prominent. Much like the nose, the palate is a nice interplay between sweet and dry flavors.
Knob Creek Quarter Oak shines the most in the finish and really distinguishes itself from regular Knob Creek in this portion of the sip. A pleasant warming heat carries through for the entire finish. The flavors are straightforward, mainly showcasing rich oak, leather, a flash of syrup, and a hint of cinnamon spice. The finish ends on a long, dry oak note topped with baked cinnamon bark,and pepper that lasts and lasts. It’s a great way to cap the sip off.
Compared to Knob Creek Small Batch, Knob Creek Quarter Oak delivers a deeper, richer flavor profile thanks to the additional contact that the whiskey had with the quarter casks. The presence of dry oak and leather flavors and sweeter notes, in particular, a consistent cinnamon flavor that is present throughout the entire sip. Since only a small percentage (according to Beam Suntory) of the Knob that was aged in the quarter cask is blended back in with standard Knob Creek, you’re most likely getting a very skewed ratio of standard Knob Creek to Knob Creek Quarter Oak in the mix.
Yet that small ratio has a large impact. One can only imagine what this would taste like if Beam Suntory released Knob Creek Quarter Oak unblended and straight to the bottle. The large amount of craft distilleries that use quarter oak barrels gives us a slight preview, and also understanding why Beam Suntory didn’t go this route. Still it would be interesting to see what a fully aged Knob Creek turns into after being barrel finished in a quarter oak barrel for an additional four yer.
Knob Creek Small Batch is a really great value for what it is at only $35. For $15 more, Knob Creek Quarter Oak delivers a nice variation from the standard small batch that seems to add a nice amount of depth to flavor. It’s not on equal footing with some of the other limited releases that came out in 2019, however, coming in at only $50, most people won’t be bothered by this fact either. For the price though, you’re landing right in the range of a Knob Creek Single Barrel, which delivers a more robust 120 proof pour and is usually a great sip at a fantastic value. All things considered, $50 is a fair price for what Knob Creek Quarter Oak ultimately delivers.
Knob Creek Quarter Oak's additional time in wood elevates Knob Creek Small Batch through a deep rich flavor profile.
Knob Creek Quarter Oak is a nice addition to the Knob Creek line. It improves on the standard Knob Creek Small Batch, yet doesn’t wow you like some of the Knob Creek Single Barrels can. The overall sip is well balanced and delivers a nice mix of sweet and rich dry flavors, especially between the predominant cinnamon and oak found throughout. The price is fair considering, and its relative availability makes it an easy limited release for many to experience. If you’re a fan of the Jim Beam Small Batch Collection, and Knob Creek in particular, this is a release that you’ll want to track down.
The sample used for this review was provided at no cost courtesy of Beam Suntory. We thank them for the sample and for allowing us to review it with no strings attached.