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.