Wathen’s Single Barrel v. Knob Creek Single Barrel Reserve: And the Winner,By the Narrowest of Margins, Is…


Here it is, the last of the first round matchups!  And I think that it is fitting that this was the absolute closest match so far.  You might think that it would be one sided with the New Knob Creek being so close to barrel strength and all, but it was by no means lopsided.  The Wathen’s is a finely crafted 94 proof beauty that delivers time and again.

So the stage was set for the final show down of round one.  I did my usual where I started with the lower proof bourbon first, that way my palate isn’t fried by the time I get to the second shot.  The Wathen’s Single Barrel is a lovely little bourbon that has a nice vanilla and light fruit nose.  It has a medium mouthfeel and was slightly oily with a few legs standing on the edge of the Glencarin.  Its flavor was great.  Light fruit up front with a caramel vanilla mid palate and slight burn and good finish that lasted about 30-45 seconds.  This is a well crafted whiskey that deserves all the accolades it receives.

The Knob Creek SB Reserve is a different creature.  I had never had it before, so I didn’t really know what to expect.  This isn’t your Dad’s Knob Creek.  It is a raw and unabashedly aggressive bourbon that comes in at 120 proof and you feel every one of them!  This whiskey was a bit of an enigma however, within its rawness it was very layered, and had an unexpected refinement, once you made your way past its chainsaw heart.

As you can see the pour was nearly identical to the Wathen’s.  I actually took a twist tie and looped it over the rim of the glass for the Knob Creek so I could tell which was which.  The Knob was a little thinner than the Wathen’s.  Not as many legs on the glass, and this was reflected in the mouthfeel.  It did a good job of coating my palate but was a touch dry on the way down.  It did however numb my tongue for about a minute after I drank it, as the finish is Huge, as you might expect.  The flavor of this whiskey is very interesting.  I starts out quite sweet, and has that familiar Knob Creek cherry and oak flavor.  Then it shreds your mouth with a 1000 little cheese graters.  Not really, but it does have a BIG burn and a LONG finish.  I’d give this guy a good 2 minutes on the finish, and after I finished it, I could taste and feel it for the rest of the night until I went to bed!

What really took me aback about this version of KC is that it had layers of flavor.  There was an order in the chaos.  I found as I drank it I picked up on different flavors, cherry, caramel, pear, vanilla, apricot, tobacco, leather.  They just kept appearing and fading back.  It was this complexity that ultimately tipped the scales in Knob Creek’s favor.  I have to declare it the winner, by a nose.  The Wathen’s is an excellent bourbon, and on a different night I might declare it the winner, it was that close, but on this night beneath the stars on my from porch, Knob Creek Single Barrel Reserve pulled out the win.

So we are into the quarter finals!  Here is the bracket now.

 I’m headed out of town for a week, so the quarter finals won’t start until I get back.  Until then…Keep in Good Spirits, and Keep the Good Spirits in ya.



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Categories: review, Whiskey

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8 Comments on “Wathen’s Single Barrel v. Knob Creek Single Barrel Reserve: And the Winner,By the Narrowest of Margins, Is…”

  1. August 19, 2011 at 3:06 pm #

    When do you start the consolation tourny for the losers so you can pit them against each other and then have a true best of two tastings champion. Just to be sure 😉

    • Don
      August 19, 2011 at 3:46 pm #

      Single elimination John.

    • Don
      August 19, 2011 at 3:47 pm #

      I might do some sort of overall ranking on the last post, just for fun.

      • John J
        August 23, 2011 at 6:40 pm #

        Well I’d do it just to drink more…hrmphhh… I mean so I can prove without a shadow of a doubt the veracity of the tournament and my truly in depth research.

  2. ScottG
    August 19, 2011 at 3:08 pm #

    I’ve always wanted to ask…what does leather taste like? I can understand detecting it in the nose, but I just don’t get where it comes in the taste. I’ve never tasted leather.
    I’ve enjoyed this contest, though. I moved into single malt while living in England and pretty much just use bourbon for mint juleps, but your descriptions have piqued my interest.

    • Don
      August 19, 2011 at 3:46 pm #

      Obviously Scott, you never played outfield in Little League, or you would know exactly what leather tastes like! It is kind of smoky, a little salty, and has a meaty aftertaste. I know because when I was 9 I used to stand out in Left Field and chew on my mitt! Bourbon is a great drink, as are many single malts too. But Bourbon is whiskey for the masses and is quite a bit less expensive than scotch. Plus with Scotch it is hard to know what you will be getting, I’m not a fan of the real peaty stuff, but it is always a crap shoot. I never know if I will like it or not.

  3. Ben
    August 23, 2011 at 3:31 pm #

    This is the first one you’ve done where I’ve tasted both recently, and I respectfully disagree. Not that I don’t like the Knob–it’s a big step up from regular Knob Creek for sure–but Wathen’s is a personal favorite. One thing about Wathen’s–compared to other bourbons, I feel like it varies quite a bit bottle to bottle. Two bottles ago I found it to have a sort of nutty flavor in the finish, and the newer one I have is more forward with spice and citrus notes. Both are really good, though.

  4. August 24, 2011 at 6:17 pm #

    Another nice write up Don. I’ve got the KC 120 and at first I liked it but then it became less appealing over time. Not sure what happened. To me the Wathens from a number of years ago was very good but became less so more recently. So, here’s the rumor which I have YET to confirm so take it for what it is. Wathens = Beam juice. I bought a couple bottles in KY last year and one of my traveling companions looks at me and says “you that’s just Beam in the bottle…..”. Who knows but I do know the profile has definitely changed over the last 5 years.

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