Chris KelleyThe Drink: Knob Creek Rye

The Comic: Animal Man #29 published by DC Comics

The Drink
Whiskey distilling within the Beam family can be traced all the way back to before the Civil War with what they called “Old Tub.” In 1892, the distillery was given to Jim Beam and his brother-in-law. Just like many other distilleries, Prohibition shut down all production of whiskey. Just before Prohibition, bourbon had reached it’s all time high of quality and popularity. After it’s repeal, it was difficult for some distilleries to reopen. Those that did had to be very financially responsible. They had to either age their whiskeys for shorter periods of time or resourcefully blend their different whiskeys. This resulted in Americans developing a taste for softer, easier to drink whiskeys.

In 1933, the distillery was rebuilt in Clermont, Kentucky and shortly after the James B. Beam Distilling Co was born. This is also the time in which the whiskey became known as Jim Beam. In 1954, a second distillery was opened in Boston, Kentucky. Jim Beams grandson, Booker Noe was appointed the Master Distiller. With his passion for bourbon and his larger than life personality, Booker quickly became a legend. Booker’s expertise in the craft led him to another bold innovation for the company.

Booker Noe wanted something different. He didn’t want your run of the mill bourbon. He began hand selecting barrels that he felt had a very unique flavor and kept them unfiltered. He would take the whiskey directly from the barrel and bottle it for special occasions. Word of these “private stock” barrels spread and received incredibly positive feedback. He had revolutionized the industry and created the first Small Batch bourbon. This resulted in the birth of Booker’s Bourbon and the Small Batch Bourbon Collection. By 1992, this collection had several brands including Booker’s, Baker’s, Basil Hayden’s and, of course, Knob Creek. The first Knob Creek expression released was the 100 Proof in 1992. Booker Created Knob Creek, named after a creek that runs just south of the distillery, as a reminder of bourbon’s past. It was his way honoring the strength, flavor and patience of pre-prohibition bourbon.

I’ve been a fan of Knob Creek for a while and just recently had a chance to try their rye. It has a light golden, amber color to it. The nose is a bit spicy with hints of oak. The palate is full of vanilla and caramel followed by that rye spice. The finish is warm and spicy with hints of vanilla. Bottled at a full 100 proof, this is surprisingly easy to drink and I absolutely loved it. It’ll cost you anywhere between $30-$40. I know I can’t wait to buy myself a bottle.

The Comic
Since the beginning of the New 52, Animal Man has stood out as one of the best titles published by DC. Written by Jeff Lemire with art by Travel Foreman, Steven Pugh, Rafael Albuquerque and even Jeff Lemire himself, Animal Man has been a fantastic read from start to finish. It’s a superhero/horror comic with family at it’s center. Being a very family oriented person myself, this struck a chord with me right away.

Issue #29 marks the end of this title and sends it off in perfect fashion. Finally there is peace in The Red and Buddy Baker, aka Animal Man, has suggested that Shepard and Socks become the new Totems. He vows to be the avatar of The Red, but only if his daughter, Maxine, is left alone. They all agree and he returns home to his family. The middle section of the book is a story told by Maxine to Buddy. It’s a wonderful, heart wrenching recap of everything the Baker family has been through up to this point.

It was great to see Travel Foreman back even if it was only for a few pages. His unique art was one of the things that drew me to this book in the first place. He translates the emotion felt by Buddy and his wife Ellen as they settle in back at home so well. You almost feel the pain and loss when looking at their faces. Lemire drew the entire story sequence told by Maxine. His art, as usual, is absolutely stunning. His pencils along with Jose Villarrubia’s colors are perfect to tell Maxine’s story. It showcases his loose style in this storybook like section that tugs at your heart strings. The final page in this sequence is emotionally devastating and beautiful. It shows Maxine smiling at her big brother Cliff who is waiting to once again spend some time with his family.

Jeff Lemire made me genuinely care about Buddy, Ellen, Maxine and Cliff. He brought the characters to life and, even in the most extraordinary circumstances, made them relatable. It’s a story of life, love and loss. It’s the story of a family who will do anything to protect each other. I’ve always said that to me, family is the most important thing in my life. I know the Baker family feels the same way.

Thank you for an incredible story, Jeff Lemire.

Thanks for reading,
Christopher Kelley

Chris Kelley is Matt Baum’s cousin. We try not to hold that against him.