Knob Creek Rye Whiskey Review

Knob Creek Small Batch Rye Whiskey
Knob Creek Small Batch Rye Whiskey

The rye whiskey category has been on fire. Last year Bulleit Bourbon launched a rye that literally doubled their sales of whiskey. Many other contenders have entered this space with a wide range of offerings at a wide range of quality levels. Rye grain is expensive and difficult to deal with. On its own, rye grain gets extremely thick and sticky during fermentation, and tends to consume a disproportionate amount of space as it bubbles and foams. Chris Morris, Master distiller with Woodford Reserve, considers his 100% rye offering in his Master’s Collection Series to be one of the most challenging things he’s done yet.

To be considered a rye whiskey, you need to use at least 51% rye grain in your mash. Many of the rye offerings on the market stick to this equation, as rye becomes easier to deal with the more corn you use along with it. Unfortunately, in many cases, using so much corn tends to overtake some of the more delicate qualities of a rye, mainly the light floral and subtle spice notes. Rye whiskeys are often spicy, but not delicate.

Knob Creek Small Batch Rye Whiskey (50%, $39.99) comes from Jim Beam, which has played in the rye space before with R1 Rye Whiskey. With R1, Jim Beam focused more on deep, sweet cinnamon notes and less on the lighter rye spice. R1 also came in at a whopping $50 a bottle. Now with Knob Creek Small Batch Rye Whiskey, Beam has come back to the rye space with a completely different approach, strategy, and price point.

The rye grain is the complete focal point of this amazing whiskey. Immediately from the nose you can pick out the fresh, light rye aroma. Even though this whiskey is 100 proof, there is absolutely no fire or burn on the nose. Underneath the rye notes is a nice sweet cinnamon along with an undertone of oak. Everything here is in perfect balance. The entry is soft and supple, with no blast of heat or spice to cover up the lovely floral rye. From the soft, light floral rye tones you get a slightly herbal note, followed by deep, sweet cinnamon, caramel, and a beautiful integration of oak.  Everything comes together perfectly in the mid palate and none of the flavors get lost. Toward the finish this whiskey picks up a little heat and some nice spice, but not enough to overtake the light floral rye spice, the cinnamon, or the oak. The finish is long and flavorful. Rye flavors are clear, present, and dominant on the finish and linger with a light tingling on the tongue for a very long time.

It’s so refreshing to see a company celebrate the complete range of flavors that rye can deliver. Knob Creek Small Batch Rye Whiskey delivers such an amazing taste experience that it clearly ranks among the best rye whiskeys on the market. It’s also one of the easiest 100 proof whiskeys we’ve had the pleasure of drinking. To top it all off, $39.99 a bottle for this super whiskey seams like an absolute steal, especially compared to Beam’s previous R1 offering.  The biggest problem with Knob Creek Rye is its availability. It’s slowly rolling out in markets across the US, and when people discover it, we expect inventory to be quickly snatched up. It’s hard to think of a more enjoyable sipping rye that is more approachable than this one. Simply superb.

  • Padraic

    I tried the R1 when it first came out, and was underwhelmed, particularly for the price, but this sounds both exciting and pretty affordable, can’t wait to try it! Thanks for the review!

    • Thanks for your comment. This is just the right whiskey at the right time and at the right price. It’s sure to be a smash hit.

  • Scott Geisler

    Isn’t rye already prominent in Canadian whisky like Crown Royal? I know Rye has heritage in American whiskey but shoot, let bourbon be bourbon and Canadian be rye (or vice versa)!

    • While rye is used in the mix of many Canadian Whiskies, the percentage of rye they use is often very small and the regulations about how much you have to use is much looser. Rye Whiskey is its own category outside of bourbon and requires 51% of the mash to be rye (vs bourbon which requires it to be 51% corn). I think your point is fair when you have rye on the market that are ONLY 51% rye and/or who are so close to bourbon in character that the rye listing on the bottle may just be a marketing catch. When you do taste the Knob Creek or other excellent rye like Russell’s Reserve 6 Year Rye and Woodford Reserve Master’s Collection Rye, the argument for having an American Rye category is pretty strong.

      This is not to say that Canadian Whiskey should be dismissed. The category often gets looked down on and there are some very nice spirits in that category which deliver a very light and soft taste experience akin to some of the Irish Whiskies.

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  • Alec

    Looking forward to it! I did pick up a bottle of the r1 after the price fell to 25.00 and i found it to be more of a combination of bourbon and rye. Basically a bourbon background with some rye spice in front. I enjoyed it.

    Do you know what area’s this is currently available ? I heard it goes national in July

  • M

    With eagerness, I purchased a bottle of Knob Creek Rye. I am a rye man with a considerable liquor cabinet including Sazerac 18 and 6 year old. Bulleit.
    Redemption Rye. Russell’s Reserve. Catoctin Creek Organic Roundstone Rye, Rittenhouse 100, and others.
    Even Overholt. I love the taste of rye. Knob Creek Rye lacks the basic and essential taste of rye. It does not taste like a rye whiskey. It tastes like a corn whiskey, like a bourbon. It is bitter and sour. I regret the $36.99 I spent on this product. Never again.

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  • Paul

    Stone Barrington love’s it ! lol