Since its introduction in 1992, Knob Creek has stood as a reliable and high-grade bourbon — if a fairly sleepy brand. Knob Creek offered a 9 year old age statement until 2016, when Beam was forced to remove it due to shortages of stock. Meanwhile, myriad line extensions (including a rye) and special editions hit the market, leading some to wonder if Beam was abandoning the base spirit as it chased after higher-dollar releases.
That wasn’t the case, fortunately. Last year, Beam said the 9 year old statement would be returning to Knob Creek in 2020, and the 12 year old version of Knob Creek, previously released as a limited edition in 2019, would become a permanent part of the lineup. (A 15 year old Knob Creek is also coming soon, and we’ll be reviewing it in short order.)
And so with all that, Knob Creek is back, baby! And to celebrate the relaunch of KC9, we’re taking a fresh look at the brand’s two permanent-edition flagship bourbons — Knob Creek 9 Years Old and Knob Creek 12 Years Old.
Is Knob Creek today as good as it was a decade ago before it lost its age statement — now that it got its groove back? Let’s find out.
Knob Creek Bourbon 9 Years Old (2020) – Immediately familiar, Knob Creek 9 hits the nose with a burly heft, offering a gentle smokiness and a thick smear of barrel char. Notes of dark chocolate and nutmeg added intrigue and depth, with some really inviting aromatics. The palate is rich and immersive, the Knob Creek we’ve come to know and love for years. Caramel, vanilla, and butterscotch are all in effect, though Knob Creek’s trademark heat — at 50% abv — gives it all a cayenne kick. Some mint notes emerge on the finish, though you’ll want a drop or two of water if you want to temper its classically hot conclusion. All told, Knob Creek is wholly back as a clearly top-shelf offering — and it’s still an insane value. 100 proof. A / $30 [BUY IT NOW FROM CASKERS]
Knob Creek Bourbon 12 Years Old (2020) – Now that Knob Creek 12 is in the permanent lineup, it’s easier to judge this in comparison to Knob Creek 9 rather than as a one-off rarity. On the nose, it comes across as distinctly fruitier and spicier, still plenty woody but tempered by more of those nutmeg notes and — as Drew wrote last year — a sunny candied apple character. The palate dials that back a little, with ample barrel char on the tongue, tempered by notes of cinnamon, brown sugar, and a toffee character. It’s quite a bit more austere than the 9 year old — which is to be expected — and as with its little brother, it finishes on the hot side. I like it just fine, but I don’t think it’s heresy to suggest that the 9 year old expression is better balanced and, at less than half the price, a better buy all around. 100 proof. A- / $55 [BUY IT NOW FROM CASKERS]