Review: Knob Creek 15-year

I remember when Knob Creek removed its age statement a few years back. It really seemed like forever ago. Then again, anything pre-COVID-19 feels like forever ago. The distillery, Jim Beam, just didn’t have enough aged stocks in its warehouses to keep up with demand. And they weren’t alone. Other brands either became extremely allocated or dropped age statements to maintain their supply. The bourbon boom certainly was, and is, in fully swing.

Fast forward to 2020, and Knob Creek not only announces the return of the 9-year age statement, but it also added a 12-year-old bourbon to its core lineup permanently. By all accounts, Knob Creek is doubling down on age statements.

And they’re not done.

Enter Knob Creek 15-year-old, which recently started hitting shelves. The limited edition bourbon comes in at 100 proof like other small batch expressions of Knob Creek. Enter controversy. There’s always controversy. You kind of have to expect it these days. Online, a number of KC fans are upset this 15-year-old expression isn’t bottled at a higher proof. Their reasoning – Knob Creek Single Barrel is bottled at 120 proof. In some cases, Knob Creek store picks are bottled at 15 years and available for less than the $100 asking price of this limited edition.

Here’s my take – Knob Creek bourbon is traditionally 100 proof and it wouldn’t make sense to change that for its limited edition releases. I use the same reasoning for Basil Hayden limited edition releases. “Oh, but it’s only 80 proof.” Yes, but so is the standard Basil Hayden. These small batch limited edition expressions are extensions of the flavor profile of the standard release. Part of that includes the traditional proof of the brand. In the case of Knob Creek, that’s 100 proof. Sure, the 25th Anniversary edition of Knob Creek was bottled at cask strength, but remember that was a single barrel and not a batched whiskey.

Moving on to the important bit – how does it taste?

Damn good. You almost expect this to be an oak bomb, but it’s not. The nose brings hints of dark caramel and molasses, cinnamon, clove, and vanilla bean in addition to sweet oak. A little airtime reveals a touch of dried fruit. The palate aligns very closely to the nose with hints of darkened, almost burnt caramel, followed by charred marshmallow, some fruit and baking spice, and earthiness – think tobacco. All this layers on top of a light bed of toasted oak. The medium finish is warming, with charred red fruit, toffee, and sweet oak.

This 15-year-old bourbon is a damn fine example of an older Knob Creek. All the aromas and flavors presented here are luscious, complementary, and more importantly delicious. A couple of marks come off for the thin mouthfeel when compared to the standard 9-year-old Knob Creek. My guess is this is probably due to any filtering used to remove some of that oak flavor. Nonetheless, this is a very tasty, enjoyable bourbon, and an easy recommendation.

Thanks to Knob Creek for the sample. As always, all thoughts and opinions are my own.

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