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  • Writer's picturePeter Miles

Battle of the 9-year-old Single Barrels.



Elijah Craig (EC): Uncut, Single Barrel Straight Bourbon 9-year-old. (VA ABC Pick).

vs.

Knob Creek (KC): Barrel Proof, Single Barrel Straight Bourbon. 9-year-old.


Mash Bill: EC: 78% corn, 10% rye, 12% barley. KC: 75% Corn, 13% Rye, 12% barley.


Batch Size: EC: Single barrel # 6232786. KC: Single Barrel, not identified.


ABV: EC: 63.2%. Uncut. KC: Proofed to 60%.


Matured: Both: Nine years in a charred American oak barrel.


Cost: EC: $90/bottle, KC: $60/bottle


Color:

In this instance, almost identical. Both Mahogany: 1.6 (Whisky Magazine scale). Distinctly rich brown wood in appearance. Other selected single barrels may vary, of course.


Swirl:

EC: Well developed rim with very fine puckering, many thin ‘legs’ forming quickly and flowing down the glass.

KC: Broader and less distinct rim and wider legs, slowly drifting down the glass.


Nose:

EC: Immediate and powerful, with a deep and rich caramel aroma upfront together with some burnt sugar. Very impressive.

KC: Lighter but pleasant, some sweet caramel, with baking spices and mint chocolate aroma. There is a lot going on here.


Taste:

EC: Initially sweet, medium viscosity. Powerful, deep, luscious caramel flavor, very rich and almost chewy. Some milk chocolate along with baked cookie flavors emerge. A simple, straightforward profile. Think of a Twix Bar (Left Side). It flows over the tongue beautifully and coats well. Amazingly smooth and mellow considering the proof and providing a slowly developing powerful warmth with little fire or sharpness.

KC: Less sweet with a lighter body. Well balanced with caramel and some cocoa at first. A touch of wood tannins, hints of dark, slightly bitter chocolate emerge, along with some cinnamon and other baking spices. Heat develops more rapidly, and it is more intense than the EC, but still in line with the proof level.


Finish:

EC: Somewhat shorter than expected for such a rich flavor. Fades away gently, leaving just a hint of that burnt sugar lingering on the sides of the tongue.

KC: A little drier, woody, and a hint more astringent, but the complexity is appealing.


Verdict:

EC: If you like classic bourbon, you will not be disappointed. Straightforward, smooth, rich, and satisfying. Strong, but mellow. You will be reaching for a refill. Dangerously good. I will be nursing my bottle for a while and would not hesitate to buy another when I next get the opportunity

KC: This grew on me the more I tasted it. Quite complex and clearly different to the EC, this one deserves a place on the shelf. Ideal for those who like to be challenged by more ‘sophisticated’ taste profiles.


Recommendation: As and when you come across the EC Single Barrel full proof 9-yr-old, get it. It may be one of the best bourbons under a $100/bottle. However, in the meantime, given that the KC saves you $30 over the EC, I would recommend getting a bottle of that immediately and then spending the spare $30 on, say, some WT101.

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