Knob Creek Caps off a String of 2020 Releases With Its Oldest Bourbon Ever

Knob Creek 15YO Bottle
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The Knob Creek releases just keep on coming. It was only a few months ago the producer of small batch bourbons (under the Jim Beam umbrella) introduced a new 12-year bourbon to the brand’s permanent portfolio. That release closely followed the resurrection of a 9-year-old age statement for the brand’s flagship bourbon. Now the distillery has dropped its oldest age-statement liquid ever, a limited edition 15-year-old straight bourbon whiskey bottled at 100 proof.

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All this seems to bode well for Knob Creek’s supply chain. The distillery had to drop the 9-year age statement from its lineup back in 2016 as its bourbon stocks became stretched amid surging demand. Age-statement whiskeys are generally a blend of whiskeys of varying ages, but regulations dictate the age-statement reflect the youngest whiskeys in the blend. When demand outpaces supply, distilleries often alter their blends to include younger whiskeys, forcing them to change their age statements or drop them altogether.

It seems Knob Creek is confident it now has not only sufficient whiskey stocks in the warehouse to meet future demand for its nine-year-old age statement, but also enough older whiskey to add a 12-year old bourbon to its core range and offer up some of its 15-year-old liquid for sale, if on a limited basis.

Value-oriented consumers know Knob Creek as one of the best values in bourbon, at least in terms of bang-for-buck. It’s tough to beat the $30 price tag on its 9-year-old bottle, and at $60 the 12-year is more than reasonable next to comparable age-statement bourbons on the shelf. So why a 15-year-old bourbon? And at $99 a bottle, where does it fit within Knob Creek’s current offerings?

That’s a trickier question, as Knob Creek already offers single barrel selections—wherein retailers personally select a barrel that is bottled specifically for their store—that clock in at 120 proof, typically land in the 10-15 year age range, and often retail for around $60-70 or less. And its standard single barrel, which comes in at a minimum age of 9 years, also retails for less than $50.

But such comparisons only weigh dollar-for-dollar value as it pertains to maturation, and there are other metrics by which to measure this whiskey (and that’s not even accounting for the fact that $99 is still a pretty good deal for a whiskey of its age). Having spent a minimum 15 years in the barrel, this is an oak-forward whiskey both on the nose and the palate. Aromas of oak are the first out of the glass, but as it opens up you’ll get some caramel, baking spices, and a whiff of red fruit. The palate reveals pronounced oak again (and the associated vanilla and spice) but also toffee, caramelized brown sugar, and leather. Add a splash of water, and the lighter, more subtle notes shine though a bit more, namely cherry, a dusting of cinnamon, and even hints of white florals.

Whether you should pay up for the extra three years of maturation when the Knob Creek 12-year-old is already so delicious depends largely on your feelings about oak-forward bourbons, as well as how faithfully you subscribe to the notion that scarcity breeds value (this is, after all, a limited edition offering). But perhaps it really depends on how you plan to deploy it.

Chock full of baking spice, caramel, and toffee, this is an excellent dessert bourbon and would stand up admirably next to the cognac or scotch whisky you might otherwise pour post-dinner. And, given its oak-centric character, it would mix quite well in bourbon-forward cocktails that require a strong oak/vanilla/warm baking spice backbone.

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