Top critical review
WARNING: The bottle I received was NOT the award-winning 9yo, as advertised, but a "patiently aged" later version.
24 November 2016
The bottle I had was NOT the 9 Year old Knob Creek Small Batch as advertised, but a "patiently aged," no age statement version, and the quality, to my tastes, is worse. Not the award winning taste profile as also advertised above. As far as I know - and I've looked hard - the no age statement version has not received any awards; indeed, I cannot find any reviews of it at all.
Having since done some research, I discovered that in September the distillery announced KCSB was to lose its age statement, like some other American Whiskeys, in order to meet growing demand. It seems, however, that this no age statement KCSB has been available in Europe since earlier this year.
I wasn't aware of this change on the label until my wife and I had sipped our way though most of the bottle. One of the reasons for this is that the labels for the 9 Year Old had already removed the big "9" from the later KCSB bottlings (see misleading photo above), replacing it instead with the small red words "aged nine years'. These small red words now read "patently aged". Sneaky, eh?
What I did notice immediately, though, was a change in the nose and flavour of this old favourite of ours. Without getting too tasting note-y, the wonderful nose, in contrast, was much more muted than the 9yo, more barrel heavy, and the flavour also suffered from bitter wood flooding the palate too early and drowning out some of the zest the 9yo held on arrival. I have since been able to taste a true 9 year KCSB which confirmed that the bottling I purchased here was different drink from the one I'd been drinking for years. This is to be expected, considering what has happened to the market, and the adjustments some distilleries have had to make.
From what I've read, the no age statement KCSB should be a blend of whiskies younger and older than 9 years, which is consonant with my experiences of the contrast in nose and flavour between the two bottlings (even though the distillers have, understandably, claimed that the taste profile would remain the same.
It was still a decent drink, for sure, and I can get along with most Jim Beam Whiskeys (apart from the white label) but I would hesitate to buy another 'patiently aged' KCSB, if what was on offer in this bottle is anything to go by.
To be fair, maybe I got a bad bottle, or maybe the distillers are still trying to find the right balance - who knows.
One thing I am sure about, though: The 'patiently aged', no aged statement bottling should NOT be advertised as the 9 Year old ('aged nine years') with reference to all the awards that vintage accrued. This is misleading. I would not have purchased this bottling, if I had known.