It’s fair to say that I’m guilty of buying more than my share of the “latest release” bourbons, without knowing exactly what I’m getting myself into. None may hold truer than my personal fascination with Jim Beam’s Knob Creek line of bourbons. From the 2001, to the 25th Anniversary, to the Quarter Oak, to one of now many Rye releases, to even the now dozens of single barrels that have hit our region, I find myself constantly grabbing the latest that Knob Creek has to offer. Why? Well, I’ve yet to find much disappointment in the line, although I can say that the pricing of some of the earlier limited editions have left something to be desired.
When the Knob Creek 12 Year came out, I passed by it several times in several states over the course of several months. Why? Well, it was around $60, at 12 years, and 100 proof. We have had probably a dozen 13-15 year store pick, single barrel Knob Creeks in our area at 120 proof, and around $45. How could this possibly be a good buy?
Despite my best intent, I gave in. This past week, I picked one up, and sat down to try it against some of its Knob Creek brethren.
Knob Creek 12 Year (100 Proof)
Nose: Brown sugar and caramel; toffee; sweet, sharp oak; crisp apple and orange citrus; cherries; strawberry jam; tobacco; light peanut Powerful, yet without any of the acetone that you can get out of both the regular small batch and many of the single barrels. (3.5/5)
Palate: Caramel and molasses; vanilla; crisp apple; creamy orange citrus; fresh sawn oak; chocolate; leather; toffee. Rich and thick, as if this was not diluted in the least. (4/5)
Finish: Long and creamy. Caramel; toffee; citrus; lingering chocolate and cocoa, slightly but not overly tannic or drying. (3.5/5)
Overall: This is extremely enjoyable. Really, this is about everything I’d want from a traditional Knob Creek. It isn’t a blow-you-away old single barrel (like some of those bursting with tobacco or leather notes), nor is it another try at something a little off-profile (like the quarter oak). But it is so much more than the just average $30 shelfy. Instead, it is a perfectly easy to drink, well balanced, well aged, full flavored whiskey. I’m glad I picked it up. (4/5)
Value: As compared to today’s non-Beam bourbon market, $60 for a 12 year age stated bourbon at 100 proof is to be expected, if not a bargain. But given that there still appears to be an abundance of 12+ year store pick single barrels of Knob Creek still around for the $40-$50 range at 120 proof, its hard to justify this price tag. I’m torn. I’d recommend this to others even at this price, but its hard to justify Beam’s pricing strategy. (2.5/5)
Comparison: For a little fun, I grabbed the Knob Creek 2001 Limited Edition that I still had on my shelf. This was released in 2016 at a retail price of around $120-$140. Several batches were available, and this particle bottle was from Batch 3, and came in at 100 Proof. It is a 14 year age-stated bourbon. Our previous review of this compared to some other Knob Creeks can be found here. The 2001 clearly had more age too it, both in terms of color and flavor. But the 2001 missed the crispness that make the 12 year shine. Both had there share of tobacco and leather (more so in the 2001), as well as fruit and nut, but the 12 Year is the one I’d probably reach back for. To prove this theory, I drank these two pours blind. The 12 Year was easily distinguishable. For me, it wins out in a head-to-head, but likely I would have scored the two the same in an “overall” score. Value, however, is much greater in the 12 Year, despite the low score it receives above.
“This is extremely enjoyable. Really, this is about everything I’d want from a traditional Knob Creek.”
Scott is a co-founder of Flight Club and a frequent writer and reviewer on the Club’s blog.