Knob Creek Small Batch Bourbon (9 year) Revisited

I’ve been an on-and-off friend of Knob Creek, and a mostly fair weather friend to Beam products in general. I’ve always liked Knob Creek’s age-stated 9 year-old although judging by what I wrote seven years ago in that link, the quality has dropped a bit (or I’ve gotten jaded, which is possible). I really liked Old Tub from Beam, which is still the deal of the century if you can find some. Still, most Beam bourbons give me a distinct off-note that’s somewhere in between engine grease and bitter vegetation, like chewing on grass.

On this, the anniversary of the Covid-19 lockdowns, I decided to write about my constant companion throughout: The Knob Creek Small Batch (9 year) 100-proof Bourbon. Is it good bourbon? Not particularly. But it is cheap, it is reliable, and it was the largest bottle of bourbon I could grab at my last Costco run before the lockdown descended. I look back on that time, now, and picture myself and my 1.75 liter bottle of Knob Creek like the weary be-ragged traveler, picking through post-apocalyptic rubble for canned goods and ammunition, followed by his trusty mutt sidekick. I would cradle my giant bottle of Knob Creek, knowing it was the one thing that would relieve me of the tensions of a day of trying to work-at-home while my kid tried to do Kindergarten-at-home 20 feet away. The one solace after counting our rolls of toilet paper and doing ration calculations in my head. My constant companion through the end of the world as we knew it.

I’ll repeat, though. This isn’t great bourbon. It’s serviceable bourbon, and it’s cheap, and it came in a freaking giant bottle that lasted me for a great deal of the past year. It made many Old Fashioneds, and I saluted its empty bottle like the grave of a comrade-in-arms. We went through a lot, together, me and my bottle of Knob Creek. Here’s to you, friend.

Nose: Leather (or maybe leather conditioning products…), unsalted peanuts, corn syrup, and light brown sugar. The nose tickle is prominent, but the aromas are tame. There is definitely a faint Beam-esque vegetal/grassy note, which (along with the peanut / peanut shell aroma) grows as the whiskey rests in the glass.

Palate: Thin body. Slightly bitter barrel char and mildly sweet corn syrup hits the tongue first. After a moderate tongue burn there is cinnamon red-hot candies, bitter charcoal, and dry astringent oak.

Finish: Medium length. Even drier than the palate. The wood and charcoal remain, but little else. Fades without evolving.

With Water: A few drops of water reveal a circus peanut aroma (which is actually banana-flavored candy). The palate also becomes a little livelier. Water is fully optional here.

Overall: A very middle-of-the-road bourbon which verges on dryness. It has the Beam family curse house character vegetal/grassy flavor, but it’s mild and in the background. Still, none of the other flavors come much to the fore. This is mixing bourbon or (if you’re in a pinch) whiskey-in-glass-and-consume bourbon. Don’t think about it too much. It makes very functional cocktails.

I’m marking this “Not Recommended” because I’ve had better Beam products and in fact better bourbons in this (very low) price range. Don’t be put off, though, if you’re buying this for mixing. It excels at that!

Also, if you are picking through the rubble of a post-apocalyptic wasteland and find a Costco-sized bottle of this in the debris, may it serve you as well as it did me.

Knob Creek Small Batch Bourbon (9 year) Revisited
50% ABV
ScotchNoob™ Mark:
Price Range: $23 - $28 (per 750ml)
Acquired: (1.75L bottle) Costco, San Jose, CA, $45

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  • It’s funny; this review highlights some of the differences I perceive with our respective palates. I like that KC is on the “drier” side of the spectrum. I don’t get a ton of vegetal notes, but I do get some nutmeg and caramel without excessive sweetness. I’m not a huge fan of Buffalo Trace precisely because I find it cloyingly sweet. I agree that KC is great for cocktails, precisely because you’re often adding sweetness, like simple syrup, to an Old Fashioned or a Whiskey Sour.

    • Knob Creek 9 yr is right up there with my favorite Bourbons like Weller 12, Elmer T. Lee, Russell Reserve 10 yr…
      Your taster is off. Knob Creek 9 has a unique complex Bourbon heavenly taste. Obviously everyone has different tasters, what is great for one is trash for another.
      I also love Elijah Craig Barrel Proof & Blood Oath #5. I take all reviews with a grain of salt.
      I have deep roots from Kentucky since 1783 & I’m Scots Irish.
      Take care, Jim

  • While I agree that Knob Creek isn’t great bourbon, I find it to be a good bourbon. Certainly good enough to enjoy sipping on it’s own with the addition of a few drops of water. I get a fair amount of rye spice in the flavor, and while there’s not a great deal of complexity, there’s also nothing really offensive about it either. I don’t struggle with Knob Creek as I do with so many bourbons in it’s general price range. Like you said, it’s very serviceable.

  • You keep saying KC is “middle of the road” even at the price but never say what you like better at that price. Truthfully, while it certainly isn’t Weller 12 year old, I find it quite good, especially for 30 bucks. If it’s good enough for Stone Barrington, it’s good enough for me.

  • Not bad stuff, probably a notch below Old Tub in the Beam lineup according to my palate. One previous poster commented about taking all reviews with a grain of salt and I completely agree. I also agree with the old adage that states that there is no such thing as bad whiskey, some whiskeys just happen to be better than others.
    Cheers to all.

  • Knob Creek 9 year is one of the best bourbons you can get in the under $40 price range and the author of this review is an fkin idiot and has no idea what he’s talking about. I’ve was a bartender for 22 years and have tried everything out there from cheap to expensive and it is a well accepted FACT in the bourbon community that KC 9 yr is a great bourbon especially at $35 a bottle. Go on any YouTube Bourbon review channel and they all agree with me 100%

  • Continued……

    I also find it interesting that your previous review of this back in 2014 was a “must try” and now it’s a “not recommend” even though it’s the same stuff no better and no worse then in was in 2014. Get some experience rookie you are out of your league.

    • You must be fun at parties. If you’ve been a bartender for 22 years you should know that tastes are subjective. You’re welcome to your own opinion, as am I to mine. I wrote in the above review why I downgraded this. In my opinion, the quality has dropped since 2014. This has been the case with many whiskies (not just bourbons), as demand over the past decade has outstripped the supplies set down in oak, and especially the supply of cherry barrels.

  • I’ve recently started my bourbon journey after being a scotch guy, and am learning I really like Jim Beam and Wild Turkey products. KC9 should be a no brainer… But yeah I don’t love it. It’s about $40 by me, and for $22 I think normal Jim Beam Black blows it away. I recently tried Jim Beam Single Barrel at about $37 and loved it too.

    I even had KC12 and it’s good, but $60+ is just too much. Maybe it’s more than JB Black punches way above its weight class, and less that KC is bad haha.