After the dismal showing of that Kirkland (Costco) bottling of Beam bourbon, which I had hoped was a value bottling of Knob Creek, I found myself craving the real thing. The stuff may come from the same Beam distillery in Clermont, Kentucky, but it’s worlds different to my taste buds.
Knob Creek, a Beam brand, was created by bourbon legend and Beam master distiller Booker Noe in 1992. It’s aged longer than most bourbons (9 years), and bottled at a respectable 100 proof. It’s part of Beam’s “Small Batch” collection. See the link above for my thoughts on the “Small Batch” term.
Update 3/15/2021: I’ve re-reviewed this bourbon here.
Nose: Deeply caramelized sugar, heavy oak, molasses, and a maraschino cherry on top. This definitely benefits from a rest in the glass – the notes meld better and mellow. Now I get a little rye eucalyptus and pine sap, and some gentler malt and marshmallow notes.
Palate: Well rounded, with a spike of cherry tartness. Not cloyingly sweet, but barrel sugars and corn sweetness are evident. Still heavy on the wood, but the effect is bracing rather than astringent.
Finish: Long. A little of the pine sap comes back, along with corn-syrup candies (caramel corn), and a little drying wood tannin and some barbeque char. Little to no bitterness.
With Water: At 100 proof, this is intended to be mixed with something (water, ice, or vermouth and bitters). A few drops of water are effective at rounding off the edges and smoothing out the whole operation. I don’t detect any additional aromas or flavors, but the water doesn’t hurt, and does tame the burn.
Overall: A pleasant, forthright bourbon. It is oaked right up to the maximum of effectiveness (any more would be like chewing on bark), and delivers standard bourbon flavors with balance and without any off notes. Cheap enough (and the right ABV) for mixing, widely available, and robust enough to enjoy by the glass. You could certainly do worse than this for a house bourbon. Some of my best Manhattans and Old Fashioneds were made with Knob Creek.