This is the Blaum Bros. 12-Year Cask Strength Oldfangled Knotter Bourbon. And wow, that is a mouthful (no pun intended)!
I started seeing this bourbon popping up in blogs and review sites quite frequently starting early last year, and the general consensus seemed to be this was a very limited and high quality product. Admittedly, I was very interested in this product from the start because of the hype, the fact that I had no experience with an Illinois whiskey, and because the juice in this bottle was sourced from MGP in Indiana. I know some bourbon aficionados don’t approve of the concept of sourcing bourbon, but I have always been a big fan of MGP’s distilling prowess and many of the exceptional finished products that can be traced to this distiller (particularly those from Boone County 1833, New Riff, and Belle Meade).
As for this product, the Blaum Bros. are not afraid to let people know, this is the “oldest straight bourbon whiskey we never distilled.” And after tasting this bourbon, I personally think that they should be proud to make that statement because they sourced an exceptional bourbon, aged it appropriately, and delivered a very flavorful and complex bourbon.
The Blaum Bros. Distilling Co. was founded in Galena, Illinois in 2013 by two brothers who share a love for whiskey. According to their website, they are currently offering a variety of whiskeys, including a straight bourbon, the Knotter Bourbon, and the Oldfangled Knotter Bourbon, as well as moonshine, vodka, and gin. I don’t have any plans to be in Illinois any time soon, but this distillery is definitely on my list the next time I am in the area.
The mashbill on this bottle is not disclosed, but I am guessing it is the usual high-rye mashbill from MGP which is comprised of 60% corn, 36% rye, and 4% malted barley. This bottle was aged for 12 years and comes in at 110 proof (55% abv). I found this bottle up in Nashville at the retail price of $89.99, but a quick Google search reveals prices in excess of $200.
Appearance – almost a blood orange amber. This is definitely a barrel strength bourbon!
Nose – the nose is initially very soft with light traces of ethanol, but it really opens up with time. It presents a nice balanced mix of caramel, baking spices, toasted oak, light peppercorn, and a bright fruit profile, consisting mainly of citrus and crisp green apple.
Palate – this bourbon presents as creamy and smooth, with the heat you expect from a high-proof bourbon. There is definitely rye spice that remains throughout the sip, but it balances nicely with the high-proof and does not overpower the flavors of caramel, toasted oak, vanilla, and baking spices, particularly nutmeg and cinnamon. A little water obviously softens the burn on this bourbon and brings out additional sweetness of dried fig.
Finish – the finish is medium-long, with dry, bitter oak, the same baking spices but with heavier cinnamon, the spiciness of white peppercorn, and some remnants of golden honey. The high proof definitely leaves your mouth feeling warm and ready for the next sip.
Overall – this is a quality bourbon. The Blaum Bros. went to a great distiller, sourced some excellent bourbon, and then aged it to maturity at their facility, resulting in a complex, flavorful, and very drinkable bourbon. I really enjoyed this bourbon and I look forward to trying this bottle again in a few months to see how it changes over time. If you can find this bottle for retail, or close to retail, I recommend adding it to your collection.