Well, this has taken me far longer than I anticipated, but at last I have found the winner of our first ever Single Barrel Showdown. I left off in the middle of round two, with one challenge left. That was the upstart new single barrel bourbon from Beam, Knob Creek Single Barrel Reserve vs. Evan Williams Single Barrel. This match pits the 120 proof buzz saw that is KCSBR against the relatively tame and some would say pedestrian 86.6 proof EWSB.
Although it is lower proof the EW is a formidable opponent, with its smooth, mellow, easy drinking attitude. It is at home on a lazy summer afternoon, or as a winter warmer. It’s pear and floral flavors go down easy and are well balanced. It is a good bourbon, and not too challenging for the beginning palate.
On the other hand you have the over the top, and hot Knob Creek Single Barrel Reserve. This bourbon is like trying to drink fire that then explodes in your chest. It is not for the faint of heart and all but the most experienced Bourbon drinkers might want to tame this beast with water or ice, or both!
This is a very heat forward bourbon with sweet cherry notes and some barrel caramel flavor, but mostly it is heat and finish. Under the heat are complex flavors of tobacco, vanilla, and leather. They are layered and add to the intriguing qualities of this newest beam product.
In the end complexity usually wins the day with me. While the EW is a good solid bourbon, and has pleasing qualities, it is a very one dimensional whiskey that offers little in the way of layered flavor or barrel complexity. So I must again declare the Knob Creek Single Barrel Reserve the victor.
So our Championship stage is set with the Willett Special Barrel Purchase versus the Knob Creek Single Barrel Reserve. The refined gentleman vs. the punishing pugilist.
THE FINAL SHOWDOWN
First off, let me say that this has been a great time. I have learned a lot about single barrel bourbons, and have had a great time with these match ups.
Our final match is between the two biggest heavy weights in the field. The 120 proof Knob Creek Single Barrel Reserve and the Willett Special Barrel Purchase weighing in at 130 proof.
You couldn’t ask for a better final. It is like a heavy weight version of Sugar Ray Leonard with his smooth footwork and biting technical delivery vs. Mike Tyson and his absolutely manic flurry of punches and blood and teeth.
The Willett is so smooth and bigger than life, but at the same time refined and complex. Tasting a progression of flavors of plum, tobacco, leather, caramel and vanilla before the big and long lasting finish that lingers in the chest for what feels like hours! It is a true champion.
The KCSBR is unapologetically aggressive with its heat forward flavor profile, complex although muted flavors and big finish. Everything about this bourbon is big and in your face! Benieth its brash exterior is where you can see it does its thinking and is actually a very complex fellow.
In the final analysis I think I am more of a James Bond hero type, rather than a Bruce Willis shoot em up bang bang Yippie Kay Yay Motha fucka kind of guy. So for me and my palate the Willett Special Barrel Purchase wins the day! I want to thank my buddy Greg over at Bourbondork.com for sending me the sample that I have been sipping sparingly throughout this competition. If only I could get this stuff here in Idaho! What a grand time that would be!
So the winners bracket looks like this: