The Great Beer and Whiskey Brother’s Single Barrel Showdown: And the Winner Is…

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.


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 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:

I can’t wait for my next challenge!  And thanks to my friends in Northern Idaho at Selkirk Abbey, I don’t have to.  More on that later this week!



Tags: , , , ,

Categories: review, Whiskey

Join the Madness

Like beer? Like whiskey? Like goofing off? Follow Us!

20 Comments on “The Great Beer and Whiskey Brother’s Single Barrel Showdown: And the Winner Is…”

  1. January 3, 2012 at 3:09 pm #

    I’m psyched to see you finish this competition, Don. There are no real losers here, except for folks who can’t get the Willet, which might be the both of us. But them again, everyone knows we’re losers already!

  2. Don
    January 3, 2012 at 3:11 pm #

    Aint it the truth, Brother…Aint it the truth…

  3. oliver klosoff
    January 3, 2012 at 3:35 pm #

    I can’t wait for someone to age their Russian Imp…wait, I’ve gone too far.

    I’ll be damned, this is a whiskey blog too.

    • Don
      January 3, 2012 at 3:54 pm #

      Ha Ha Oliver! Yes, Whiskey does reside here as well. You will be seeing a lot more of it shortly. Stay tuned!

  4. January 3, 2012 at 3:44 pm #

    I got a bottle of Willett Pot Still Reserve for Christmas and have been blown away by it. I can only imagine how good the special barrel purchase is!

    • Don
      January 3, 2012 at 3:57 pm #

      Beau, all I can say is I wish they sold this stuff in Idaho! It would be a regular on my shelf! And what a cool Bottle!

      • John
        January 4, 2012 at 3:56 am #

        Had the Willet Pot Still Today and found it lacking. Nice start but no middle and a quick fade on the finish. It wan’t bad but not as good as a Blantons or even a Old Weller Antique.

        • Don
          January 5, 2012 at 11:55 am #

          Well John, that is no real surprise, you are very hard to please when it comes to your Bourbon. However, I think that Willett is a great brand, and one that does a lot of things well. Plus at 130 barrel proof, this stuff is spectacular.

  5. January 3, 2012 at 3:56 pm #

    Nice to see this showdown come to a close, Don! And I’m very intrigued by your next challenge. Any hints? Or maybe you just gave one. A Belgian showdown perhaps?

    Couple of local craft beer news items today that I’m sure you saw. Sockeye Brewing is breaking ground on its new Fairview and Cloverdale location and Barley Brown’s head brewer Shawn Kelso is moving to 10 Barrel Brewing and will champion their Boise expansion.

    • Don
      January 3, 2012 at 4:00 pm #

      I saw both stories and it is great to see beer gaining a bigger hold here in Boise! Very encouraging. As far as a hint, all I can say is it will be the toughest challenge for my whiskey palate to date!

  6. January 4, 2012 at 1:30 pm #

    I like Knob Creek’s regular bourbon, but now I have to worry that I am not experienced enough for the Single Barrel Reserve.

    I used to think that I was Right for Grape Nuts but they turned me into a cereal killer.

    • Don
      January 5, 2012 at 11:57 am #

      Don’t be afraid Brendan, just if it is a little too intense add a little water, and you’re set! KC stands up to water nicely, and it can help to smooth out some of the rougher edges.

  7. January 4, 2012 at 8:22 pm #

    Whew…..I was sitting on pins and needles……ok, not really. I have to admit, the Willett was a bit of a ringer. Big flavor profile, minimal heat and long lingering finish. It’s one of my favorite. For anyone visiting KY, please do stop by Kentucky Bourbon Distillers and say hello to Drew. Hopefully the gift shop is open so you can purchase some treats. One last thing, for those that can get Vintage Bourbon 17 (another KBD product), it contains some delicious, aged, wheat bourbon. Very tasty if you can handle the price.

    • Don
      January 5, 2012 at 11:59 am #

      I knew it from my first taste that this was a ringer. However, it is a fair comparison. If it is available it can be drank, and being from a single barrel was the only criteria I had to enter the competition. 😉

  8. Kyle
    January 4, 2012 at 10:57 pm #

    I vote for a Scotch showdown…. after all Scotch is distilled beer!

    • Don
      January 5, 2012 at 11:59 am #


  9. Kyle
    January 5, 2012 at 10:34 pm #

    Not to push the subject, but you could take a challenger from each of the main regions Islay (islands), Highlands, Lowlands, and Speyside. Single malt of course. Would be a good excuse to buy more whiskey!

    • Don
      January 6, 2012 at 12:28 am #

      I don’t need an excuse Kyle, I need money!

  10. January 6, 2012 at 9:34 am #

    Making my occasional rounds of a family-owned store in southern DE, I bought their last bottle of Willet. I couldn’t believe it.

    Better than having my chest explode. After the holiday, my clothes don’t fit well anyway.

    • Don
      January 6, 2012 at 9:57 am #

      So, I take it that you liked it. Glad I could help you find a good whiskey. Enjoy 🙂

Leave a Reply to oliver klosoff Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: