Review: Knob Creek 15 Is an Extra-Aged Beauty
The distillery’s biggest age statement release is an ideal winter sipper
What we’re drinking: Knob Creek 15 Year Old Bourbon, a limited-edition release from 2020 that just made its return
Where it’s from: A Jim Beam distillery small batch release (Basil Hayden’s, Baker’s and Booker’s would be the others), Knob Creek ages its pre-Prohibition style bourbon nine years and longer and at a high proof (with one exception, it’s 100 or higher). And you certainly have one of their distinctive rectangular bottles on your home bar cart.
Why we’re drinking this: Knob Creek (at nine years) is a staple in our drinks cabinet, so we were interested in tasting the distillery’s most mature age statement release to date. We dug the 12 Year when it came out, noticing more oak and leather notes. Would 15 be an ideal continuation, or would it stray too far from what makes this bourbon work?
For this extra-aged release, barrels were “pulled from prime locations within Knob Creek’s Kentucky warehouses that cater to advanced aging.”
Like the 9 and 12, the 15 Year release is 100 proof, which we’ve noticed time and time again seems to be the ideal ABV when it comes to bourbon. “When dad created Knob Creek, he was drinking a lot of Bottled in Bond whiskey — 100 proof was always the sweet spot and his measuring stick,” as 7th Generation Master Distiller Fred Noe tells us.
As for the advanced age, Noe thinks the juice can handle the extra time. “It takes a good seven years of aging just to start getting those vanilla notes that I associate with Knob Creek,” he says.
How it tastes: A much darker and deeper color than the 12, the 15 stands out simply because it provides a real amount of spice, even at a modest 50% ABV. The vanilla and caramel still come through (now with a bit of coconut), but notes of leather, tobacco and charred oak are also readily apparent.
It’s a bold release and ideal for winter, albeit also one that might suggest the upper limit for Knob Creek aging has arrived. “It’s a good sipper,” as Noe tells us. “But it doesn’t take over your palate. You can still enjoy it neat.”
Side note: A bottle of Knob Creek 15 was one of fourteen rare bottles donated by the owners of Carr’s Steakhouse to this week’s Kentucky Bourbon Benefit auction (on Tuesday, it sold for $1,040). The bottles were recovered at the restaurant, located in downtown Mayfield, which was decimated by the recent tornadoes. Proceeds from this week’s auction supported recovery and rebuilding efforts in Western Kentucky. Overall, the Benefit raised more than $3.4 million.
Where to buy it: Knob Creek 15 Year Old Bourbon is available nationwide at a suggested retail price of $99.99 for a 750ml bottle.
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