8.5

Knob Creek 10 Year Rye Whiskey Review

Drink Reviews whiskey
Knob Creek 10 Year Rye Whiskey Review

I take a little offense, now and then, to the way rye whiskey has a tendency to be marketed. Because bourbon sucks all of the air and the energy out of the room when talking about American whiskey in general, rye can sometimes feel uncomfortable in its monolithic shadow. And because there’s a sizable percentage of the American whiskey drinkers out there who consume bourbon and more or less nothing else, that lack of curiosity sometimes leads to rye whiskey’s marketing revolving around bourbon, like a celestial body orbiting its star. This results in oh-so-many pitches or bits of marketing copy akin to “Oh, this is a rye for bourbon drinkers,” rather than simply celebrating the style for its own merits. And yet, there are indeed those rare instances where I’m tasting a new rye and legitimately do think “Hey, this would have a deep appeal to bourbon geeks.” And the new Knob Creek 10 Year Rye Whiskey is definitely one of those instances.

This is a permanent new addition to Jim Beam’s Small Batch Knob Creek lineup, weighing in at the usual 50% ABV (100 proof) of the core Knob Creek lineup, but bumping up the age statement modestly, from the already generously aged 7 years of the flagship Knob Creek Rye, to a full 10 years in newly charred oak. The company thus calls this their first extra-aged rye (for Knob CreeK), though Beam has recently also experimented with extra-aged versions of Old Overholt as well.

For the Knob Creek brand, it’s the latest in the lineup’s evolution toward proudly embracing age statements as a guiding ethos. The American whiskey boom of the 2010s led to some storied brands losing their age statements, the flagship Knob Creek Small Batch Bourbon among them. That 9-year age statement was then regained by Knob Creek Small Batch Bourbon bottles from 2020 onward, even as the company introduced its first statement beyond that, the particularly tasty Knob Creek 12 Year Bourbon. Subsequent special releases have pushed things even farther, in the form of Knob Creek 15 and Knob Creek 18. On the rye side of the spectrum, meanwhile, Knob Creek Small Batch Rye had always been a non-age-stated product until 2023, when the company unexpectedly made its 7-year age statement official. It would not be surprising to find that this permanent 10 year rye addition was effectively the spiritual counterpart to Knob Creek 12 Year Bourbon, as they share a similar price point. Note that this could imply even further aged special releases, down the line.

As for this new expression, though, let’s get to tasting.

On the nose, I’m getting orange peel and citrus zest, and green tea with ribbons of honey. Sweet herbal notes hint at the rye grain, though the overall “rye” punch in the profile is a bit more on the subtle side. This probably shouldn’t be all that surprising, given that they’ve taken a Kentucky-style, 51% rye whiskey and then subjected it to another three years of barrel aging, leading to a profile that has become more defined by the wood. To that effect, there is both charred and more toasted oak character aplenty here on the nose, and as it sits it begins to open up in more layers of sweet oak and slightly funky, musty woodiness. A little coffee implies a depth of roastiness here.

On the palate, Knob Creek 10 Year Rye Whiskey features a pretty full mouthfeel, and sweet and expressive flavors. I’m getting caraway and seeded rye breaded, toasted dark, joined by charred oak, sweetened espresso, pepper and vanilla. Perhaps there’s even a trace of molasses here, from time to time? Regardless, I am enjoying the sweet-char combination, which lightens up a bit at the end with some creamy milk chocolate. The rye character is present enough to appreciate, but there’s no denying that the oak sort of rules the day here. Ethanol is quite nicely integrated, which is the sort of composure you expect from an extra-aged Beam product.

Not that this is a bad thing. This is a very tasty, oak forward and sweeter Kentucky-style rye, with the kind of wood-derived char, vanilla and sweetness that I genuinely do think would appeal to the average bourbon drinker more than most rye whiskey. It should make a good premium addition to Beam’s ever-expanding rye whiskey catalog, and it will be interesting to see if this is just the first step in an entire series of ever grander (and more expensive) limited edition rye whiskey releases. As is, the $70 MSRP is a more than fair asking price for a segment (extra-aged rye) that often commands top dollar.

Distillery: Knob Creek (Jim Beam)
City: Clermont, KY
Style: Kentucky straight rye whiskey
ABV: 50% (100 proof)
Availability: 750 ml bottles, $70 MSRP


Jim Vorel is a Paste staff writer and resident brown liquor geek. You can follow him on Twitter for more drink writing.

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