Knob Creek Cask Strength Rye Whiskey Review
Lots of heat and heavy on the rye, but ultimately lacking in complexity.
Type: Rye Whiskey
Distillery: Knob Creek Distillery
Age: Not exactly stated, but roughly 9 years (Barreled in 2009 and released in 2018)
Gold with a copper tint.
There's definitely some heat here as cinnamon and pepper hit me up front. I get quite a bit of oak and barrel char as well, which I did not expect with the rather light appearance of the liquid. Beyond the spice, there's some vanilla and caramel to sweeten things up a bit. It's not an overly complex nose but it's pleasant. The alcohol definitely lets you know this is a cask strength pour. If using a standard rocks glass, you're going to want to let it sit for a bit before diving right in.
The first sip is a bit aggressive. It's hot, though not overly so, but there are some bitter, tannic characteristics on that first sip. I'm also greeted with a healthy dose of rye spice. Getting past the more bitter elements, there are notes of caramelized sugar with vanilla. I also get a lot of oak. I'm surprised at the amount of oak coming through, much like on the nose. The heat really doesn't dissipate much on further tastes like with some whiskeys, and it can be tough to isolate some of the more nuanced flavors due to all the pepper and cinnamon heat. Adding a splash of water helps cut through the heat a bit and lets the sweetness come through. With the water I get a new hit of creamy sweetness, almost like a vanilla coffee creamer. Even with the water added, the rye and pepper can't be silenced and come forward at the end.
The finish is long, warm and echoes the flavors from the palate. There's nothing new showing up on the finish, but the flavors that are there linger on and on.
I'll be upfront in admitting that ryes are typically not my favorite whiskeys. I think rye is harder to do well than other forms of whiskey. This is not a bad rye, but I do think it's a little one-dimensional. I just can't find anything special or unique going on here. Even as somebody who prefers cask strength and barrel proof whiskey, it's hard to get past the heat on this one and into the sweeter elements. When a cask strength whiskey is really extraordinary, it's smooth enough that in my experience, even beginners can enjoy it. In this case, I think the spice may be tough to get past for those that aren't accustomed to cask strength whiskey. That being said, the flavors that are common in rye are big and bold in this bottle. It's a decent expression of a classic rye whiskey. If that is what you typically reach for, you'll be happy with this bottle. For somebody like me that usually prefers bourbon to rye, this one was a little bitter and focused too much on heat at the expense of flavor.