Knob Creek Small Batch 9-Year Scoresheet & Review

Many casual drinkers probably don’t realize just how prolific brands like Jim Beam actually are. Bottles bearing the Clermont distillery’s name are easy enough to discern, but Jim Beam plays host to many others as well. Consider their parent company, Beam Suntory, and Jim Beam’s prominence becomes that much more explicit. Today, however, we’re focusing on Knob Creek, the effective flagship of Jim Beam’s original small batch collection, which includes Baker’s (now a single barrel), Booker’s, and Basil Hayden.

The positively pervasive preference for premium bottlings these days has naturally influenced my content, since I’ve reviewed Knob Creek 12-Year and 15-Year but neither the 9-Year Small Batch nor the Single Barrel. Knob Creek takes its name from Knob Creek Farm, where Abraham Lincoln once lived, calling it his “earliest recollection.” The line was introduced in 1992 and held a 9-year age statement before briefly (and I do mean briefly) going NAS around 2019. It’s since gone through more bottle touch-ups than Wild Turkey 101, presently retains the 9-year age statement, and retails for around $30 or so.

Nose: Oily peanut essence; classic in Jim Beam. Charred wood joins to bring out a more distinctly dried and roasted nut quality. Expected light brown sugar and dry vanillin notes abound, but it’s more earthy than sweet. Maybe a dark, dehydrated fruit note that reminds me of angostura bitters. More caramel and overall balance after sipping, possibly at the expense of some personality.

Palate: Full mouthfeel with moderate viscosity. Earth, wood, and light brown sugar. Slightly smoky oak comes out as it develops more sweetness than the nose lets on. Honey and faintly grassy corn on the mid-palate.

Finish: Becomes chewier over time with toffee, vanilla, and honey roasted peanuts. Nice woody rickhouse essence hangs in the background without feeling tannic.

Revisiting the entry-level Knob Creek has driven home how on-the-fence I often regard the brand as a whole. The profile is, unsurprisingly, right in-line with modern Jim Beam expressions. Serve this alongside the likes of Old Tub or Jim Beam Bonded and the overlap is undeniable. Knob Creek understandably benefits from further aging when compared to its peers, yielding added depth and richness without feeling overdone in any direction. The relatively dry profile that’s characteristic of many Beam bottlings is present here, making it a solid choice for popular cocktails.

What this ultimately translates to is a solid, middle-of-the-road option with good availability and strong statistics to boot. Getting a 100 proof bottle aged at least 9 years for $30 or so from an established distillery is truly staggering. Much of this has to do with the state of bourbon in 2022, where age statements are largely being saved for premium bottles. This is where Knob Creek’s flagship shines the brightest. As for the bourbon itself, there’s little to complain about, even if the profile isn’t quite to your liking. I say this as an someone who feels mostly indifferent to this small batch. Yet just because I’m not partial to something doesn’t mean I can’t see others feeling more enthusiasm. And Knob Creek 9-Year Small Batch, despite my relative apathy, is very easy to see being a crowd favorite for the right reasons.

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