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Knob Creek Straight Rye Whiskey

Review: Knob Creek Straight Rye Whiskey   88.5/100
a review by Chip Dykstra (AKA Arctic Wolf)
Posted on August 21, 2016

It is no secret that I am a huge fan of Knob Creek Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey. In 2013, I named it my Whisky of the Year in my annual Rum Howler Awards, and since then it has become a staple of my whisky shelf. In fact, when I am asked by people to recommend a good bourbon to try, Knob Creek is invariably the spirit I am likely to name. This means that I was quite happy when the folks at BeamSuntory released Knob Creek Straight Rye Whiskey as an extension of their Knob Creek brand a few years ago.

I contacted BeamSuntory, Whiskey Ambassador, Matt Jones (Aka The Whiskey Chef) to provide me some information about the new spirit. He told me that the mash bill for Knob Creek Rye is 55% rye, 35% corn & 10% malt. The whiskey is blended from spirit which has been matured in new charred oak barrels for 5-9 years. For the Canadian market, the whiskey is bottled at a full 100 proof which is 50 % alcohol by volume.

Knob Rye SAM_2730In the Bottle 4.5/5

Knob Creek Rye arrives in the same rectangular bottle as its sibling whisky the Knob Creek Bourbon. The bottle has a wax sealed cork, and a funky label which serves to catch the eye in a retail setting. The bottle is easy to hold, the mid-sized neck is just long enough to make pouring easy, and the short ergonomic shape allows me to store the bottle easily on my whiskey shelf. The only flaw is light lettering (in relief) on the dark label which is almost impossible to read. I assume that whatever is printed there is not intended to be all that important.

In the Glass 9/10

When poured into my glencairn glass, the rye whiskey displays a lively copper colour. I tilted my glass and gave it a twirl and saw that a thick oily sheen had been deposited on the inside of that glass, and the crest which formed at the top held true for about half a minute before releasing some mid-sized droplets which formed slender legs.

The breezes above the glass are rich with cedar and oak spices, maple, and butterscotch toffee. Fruit-filled rye notes separate from the wood spice adding character to the breezes. Vanilla and baking spices (cinnamon, bits of clove, and dashes of nutmeg and allspice) wander into the breezes adding even more depth to the aroma.

As the glass breathes, the wood spice and wood tannin increase in strength, and if you are patient you can catch wiffs of milk chocolate and citrus zest in the air above the glass. Finally a light (almost mint-like) grassiness develops which gives the breezes above the glass a light herbaceous quality.

In The Mouth 53/60

The first sip brings a combination of intense wood spice, alcohol heat, and rich caramel toffee across the palate. A light but firm bitterness of rye and wood tannin dries the mouth causing it to pucker which has the effect of making me bring another sip to my lips. This second sip brings the rich sweetness of caramel and maple into focus only to have the sweetness quickly dissipate as wood spice and fruity rye again dry the palate leaving a lingering bitterness which starts the cycle all over again. With each sip, more is revealed as I now taste vanilla quite clearly as well as lightly sweet cinnamon buns and hints of orange zest and marmalade within the whisky. Those flavours are finally chased away by damp tobacco and hints of menthol.

Despite the high alcohol content, I can enjoy myself quite easily sipping the whisky, There is perhaps a touch more ‘new oak’ taste than I would prefer; but this is still one of the better American Rye Whiskeys I have tasted. The whiskey is also suitable for classic cocktails, and I have provided a very nice recipe below.

In the Throat 13/15

The spirit has a mid-length, dry finish which chases away the initial sweetness of the whiskey and accents its dry rye and firm woody notes. Despite a lingering rye-like bitterness the finish is pleasing with tobacco spice and hints of menthol playing a careful balancing act during the finale.

The Afterburn  9/10

I am pleased that Knob Creek Rye has lived up to the reputation established by its bourbon sibling. This is a full flavoured rye whisky with a firm woody bite. Although the whisky has that strong wood presence, the combination of a complementary caramel sweetness in the entry and a lovely rye bitterness in the finale makes the whisky’s journey across the palate a delight.

My final score is 88.5/100 making this a whisky which deserves to be sipped slowly such that its many nuances of flavour can be properly appreciated. Having said that, I also highly recommend the whisky for fine cocktails (see a recipe recommendation below).

You may read some of my other Whisky Reviews (click the link) if you wish to have some comparative reviews.


Suggested Recipe

Here is a delicious cocktail which in 1934 was named one of the Ten Best Cocktails by Esquire Magazine. Its history stretches even further back to 1898 when, as legend has it, the serving was created at the Locke-Ober Restaurant in Boston Massachusetts, to honour the election of Martin M. Lomasney to the state’s legislature. Apparently, it was the votes in Ward 8 which propelled Lomasney to victory hence the name of the tasty libation.

Ward 8 SAM_2732Ward 8

2 oz Rye or Bourbon (Knob Creek Rye)
1/2 oz Fresh Lemon Juice
1/2 oz Fresh Orange Juice
1 Tsp Grenadine (Sub Cran-Raspberry Syrup (here))
Maraschino Cherry (Sub Brandied Cherry)

Add the first four ingredients into a metal shaker with ice
Shake until the outside of the shaker begins to frost
Strain into a chilled cocktail glass
Garnish with a Maraschino Cherry

Enjoy Responsibly!

If  you are interested in more cocktail recipes, please click this link (Cocktails and Recipes) for more of my mixed drink recipes!


Here is what my scores mean:

0-25     A spirit with a rating this low would actually kill you.
26-49   Depending upon your fortitude you might actually survive this.
50 -59  You are safe to drink this…but you shouldn’t.
60-69   Substandard swill which you may offer to people you do not want to see again.
70-74   Now we have a fair mixing rum or whisky.  Accept this but make sure it is mixed into a cocktail.
75-79   You may begin to serve this to friends, again probably still cocktail territory.
80-84   We begin to enjoy this spirit neat or on the rocks. (I will still primarily mix cocktails)
85-89   Excellent for sipping or for mixing!
90-94   Definitely a primary sipping spirit, in fact you may want to hoard this for yourself.
95-97.5 The Cream of the Crop
98+        I haven’t met this bottle yet…but I want to.

Very loosely we may put my scores into terms that you may be more familiar with on a Gold, Silver, and  Bronze medal  scale as follows:

70 – 79.5    Bronze Medal (Recommended only as a mixer)
80 – 89.5     Silver Medal (Recommended for sipping and or a high quality mixer)
90 – 95         Gold Medal (Highly recommended for sipping and for sublime cocktails.)
95.5+            Platinum Award (Highest Recommendation)

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