One of the key alternatives I turn to during the annual hiatus from beer is bourbon, which can be a tricky proposition these days. The market is awash in NAS NDP juice that goes for double the price of standard expressions from the big distillers (which, unlike the beer world’s big producers, tend to make the best stuff), and yet somehow still commands hype and even higher markups from retailers (I’m not even going to pretend secondary is worth looking at).
In that light, I hesitate to even mention it for fear of this stuff disappearing from shelves forever (a la Weller’s status as a Pappy alternative causing the entire line to get snapped up by taters and profiteers etc…), but Knob Creek 12 is a nice find. A tween age-statement, 100 proof bourbon with a modestly higher price* than the regular expression? This sanity can’t possibly last… and yet I bought this bottle two years ago, and I’ve seen it around sporadically ever since.
One of Jim Beam’s specialty products, this falls right into the sweet spot for the Kaedrin palate (i.e. a beer-attuned baby palate). I enjoy the occasional dram of cask-strength monsters, but the 100 proof suits this bourbon well and the 12 year is a noticeable upgrade over the 9 year. It’s special, but not so special that you need to save it for a special occasion, which you probably shouldn’t do anyway, but even less so for this. It’s my favorite bourbon acquisition over the last few years, and will be an excellent addition to the Infinity Bottle when the time comes (it will reduce proof and add age to the blend, which is precisely what it needs).
Knob Creek 12 Year Small Batch Bourbon – Pours a standard brownish orange color, moderate legs. Smells nice, lots of oak, wood shavings, some nutty aromas, sweet pastry, cookies, hints of caramel, vanilla, and baking spice. Taste has a nice proportion of oak and sweetness, but those other notes from the nose provide complexity – nutty, rich, some cookies, light caramel, vanilla, and spice. Mouthfeel is medium to full bodied, moderate alcohol heat, but quite approachable, even for my beer attuned palate. Overall, this is really great stuff and while the price isn’t “cheap” it drinks better than stuff twice as expensive… A-
Bourbon Nerd Details: 100 Proof, 50% ABV bottled (750 ml). Drank out of a glencairn glass on 4/1/22. Vintage: 2021.
Beer Nerd Musings: Knob Creek barrels are used to age beer frequently (though I’m not sure about the 12 year expression specifically). A few years ago, the BCBS Reserve was aged in Knob Creek (I never got a hold of that one, but the other Reserve variants have been fantastic). There’s a local bar, Teresa’s Cafe in Wayne, PA, that did a couple of Knob Creek single barrel picks that were great, and they donated the barrels to semi-local breweries like Troegs and Stoudts to make barrel aged beers. I should really get over there and see if they still have those single barrel KC bottles…
I’ve got a couple other bourbons in the pipeline, but not sure when I’ll get around to reviewing them, as the beer backlog is starting to pile up as well and we’ve been reviewing non-beer for a while now…
* Alright, I just checked, and the price increase is perhaps not as modest now as it was a couple years ago? Or maybe I just plain misremembered what I paid for it last time… Regardless, it’s still pretty reasonable given other 12 year olds on the market, which often push triple digit pricing…
2 thoughts on “Knob Creek 12 Year Old Bourbon”
I’m spending a week in Louisville for work at the end of the month, so I’m doing a deep dive into bourbon for July. Knob Creek is high on my list. I’ll keep an eye out for this one.
That sounds fun! I’m sure Louisville will have lots of stuff not readily available elsewhere too. I’m certainly not an expert in bourbon, but when I take a break from beer, it’s fun to dabble and I’ve always enjoyed Knob Creek… Best of luck in your bourbon adventure!