For most of my drinking adult life, I’ve been a vodka man. Mostly in martinis. Mostly Cosmopolitans á la Sex and the City. I may occasionally dabble in tequila or rum, but rarely beyond that basic trifecta. That is, until I tasted handcrafted cocktails with bourbon. Good bourbon. Mint Julep. Old Fashioned.
The thought of drinking bourbon, before I tried it, always conjured images of Rhett Butler in Gone with the Wind, or Brick in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. It was a Southern gentleman’s drink and was often enjoyed neat, a concept that, for someone who drinks alcohol with juice and shaken well over ice seemed a bit daunting.
But, to everything there is a season. And since my return from Charleston in early May, I’ve given Maker’s Mark a shot. I’ve had it in Old Fashioned cocktails, or with water and a king ice cube. I chalked this initial experimentation up as supporting the Kentucky economy, and I make a point to share that with my friend, Stacy, who was born and bred in The Bluegrass State. And for the recent Belmont Stakes, bourbon was the beverage du jour. But this time, it was something new.
As a testament to the power of advertising, I first learned of Knob Creek just last week as a result of seeing a sponsored ad emerge in my Facebook feed. That link took me to the company’s website, which is very engaging, and explains the way in which their small-batch 120 proof whiskey is made. I was also intrigued by the fact their Single Barrel Reserve variety is aged for nine years. I’m sure to most seasoned drinkers of this liquor, nine years is not very long in comparison to other fine liquors aged decades to perfection. But, to me, this sounded pretty good.
A quick trip to a local wine superstore yielded a bottle of Knob Creek Single Barrel Reserve. It’s price was in the high $30s, which seemed reasonable for something aged as it was. And, how apropos was it that we were going to give this a try while cheering on California Chrome at the Belmont Stakes on television. It was time for a taste test.
The fragrant brew has the coloring of liquid caramel. Taking in its bouquet, it is oak sprinkled with sugar, it offers a complex layer of flavors that coats the tongue, and burns very little. As it sits on the tongue, vanilla and a hint of smoke creep in, and I couldn’t help but imagine sitting on the piazza of one of the beautiful homes we saw on our recent trip to Charleston. Regardless of setting, I was amazed I was able to take in a liquor neat without grimacing.
As we watched the Belmont Stakes, I tried Knob Creek with water and a king ice cube. The same cocktail also pleased my palate later that evening as we watched, “Inside Llewyn Davis.” Watching a film set against the folk music scene of the early 1960s seemed an appropriate reason to have another sample of this liquid oaken glory.
And, because I don’t mind a sweet cocktail now and then, I would discover that replacing water with ginger ale produces a smooth, rich mixture that removes the sting of a summer afternoon, slows life down to a pace now only a memory, and conjures images of a simpler time. This is, for me, is the experience of Knob Creek.