Updated: Jun 19, 2020
Score: 9.5 / 10
Distillery: James B. Beam
Type: Kentucky Straight
How good can a store pick of whiskey be? I asked the same question recently on my whiskey podcast Po It Up and pitted a standard bottle of Buffalo Trace and Eagle rare against a store pick of Buffalo Trace and Eagle Rare. You can find that episode here. Standard bottles will offer a consistent nose, palate and finish whereas store picks are a great way to stray from that norm. I rated both of the store picks significantly higher than the standard bottles and especially with the Eagle Rare which I would put around a 9.2 because it had an amazing juicy watermelon flavor that was very unique. I recounted a story of a time I went up to the mountains in Steamboat Colorado and stopped into Central Park Liquors (seriously stop in if you’re near there) where I found a store pick of Buffalo Trace and a 15 year Knob Creek store pick for $49. That poor bottle of Buffalo Trace didn’t make it through the night since we were camping and imbibing as is tradition – I think that speaks volumes to how good THAT pick was.
As for the Knob Creek 15? I still have it (sits on the shelf as I type) and think it’s delicious. Its huge on the pepper flavors and has big spice – I found it quite enjoyable for a $49 score. This pick is extremely different from the standard Knob Creek expressions and it opened my eyes to an abundance of their store picks that are released frugally and frequently. Naturally when I heard one of my favorite shops – Argonaut Liquor in Denver – was getting a 14.5 year pick of Knob Creek, I ran down to the shop and picked up a bottle to try it out.
Nose: Huge waves of creamy vanilla. Oak, brown sugar and something juicy but spiced? Orange with clove. Ethanol is almost nonexistent for 120 proof.
Palate: Oily, slick and coats the mouth easily. Immediately fruity upfront (blackberry & plum) but quickly transforms into crackling spice (pepper), cinnamon and oak. Right after the spice there is an intense cherry flavor that took over and caught me off guard. Absolute cherry bomb on the back-end which is totally unique from other bourbons I have reviewed.
Finish: Dried oak lingers for a long time in the palate as a menthol cherry flavor slowly fades. Hints of orange rind, citrus and dry cinnamon caress the tongue. Juicy finish that is very lightly tannic.
S+ Sensational - The Pinnacle (9.5+)
A - AXEceptional (astounding) (9-9.5)
B - bravo (step aBove average) (8-8.9)
C - competent (7-7.9)
D - disappointing (6-6.9)
F - flush it down the toilet (fail) (5.9 below)
Notes: Availability? Uncommon. I have seen store picks and other bottles at many places, but they do sell out and go missing from time to time.