Jim Beam may have the most confusing pricing structure of any whiskey producer. The first expression that comes to mind is Booker’s, a batched and unfiltered barrel proof bourbon aged 6-7 years with a current starting price of $90. Meanwhile, Knob Creek Single Barrel is aged at least 9 years—with picks going as high as 16 years, barely proofed down to 120, and sells for around $45-$60. Adding further confusion is the roughly 7-year Baker’s, which went from a small batch to single barrel product while maintaining its 107 proof point and $50-$60 sticker price.
So not to be outdone, Jim Beam recently introduced a pair of new Knob Creek expressions: a 12-year and 15-year, both bottled at 100 proof. The former, which we’ll be looking at today, came with an asking price of $60 or so. The standard Knob Creek Small Batch (also bottled at 100 proof) carries a 9-year age statement and will set you back around $35. These factors all but beg the question: Does Knob Creek 12-Year justify either its price point or addition to Jim Beam’s headscratcher of a portfolio? Time to find out:
Nose: Immediate hit of peanut brittle followed by an ebb and flow of caramel, toffee, and brown sugars. A little cherry and vanilla occasionally arise, but they ultimately give way to more of a crème brulee personality. Oak influence feels dialed in to just the right amount, but does leave some dryness throughout the other notes. Almost gets fruitier after sipping, but settles on vanilla and rickhouse aromas.
Palate: Medium mouthfeel. Oak and a somewhat deep peanut and almond butter profile pair well together. Milk chocolate and hints of molasses with some vanilla extract.
Finish: Surprisingly short-medium. More almond butter, vanilla, and a slightly earthy oak note that’s neither sweet nor bitter. Light to medium roast coffee.
There are a couple directions I can take this review. On one hand, the additional aging over Knob Creek Small Batch is abundantly clear thanks to the exchange of dry roasted nuts for nut butter with a mingling of caramel and vanilla notes. I’m a bigger fan of Jim Beam products when they lean on the sweet and fruity side, and while Knob Creek 12-Year doesn’t dive head-first into sweet tooth territory, it comfortably lands within my realm of preference.
On the other hand, very little about this whiskey stands out in the grand scheme of things. Knob Creek 12-Year is the epitome of a solid bourbon and little else. Part of me wants to like this more than I do, which might be unfair considering the statistics and my final thoughts. A good age statement at a reasonable proof point from an established distillery results in a competent yet completely unexciting release. If the only thing one wants or expects is good whiskey with no curveballs to speak of, then Knob Creek 12-Year is a perfectly reasonable option.