Sour Mash Manifesto

Bourbon and American Whiskey

Knob Creek (9 Year) Small Batch and Single Barrel Bourbon Reviews

Knob Creek is an extremely popular and well made bourbon from the folks at Jim Beam. If you drink bourbon or American Whiskey, the chances are great that you have tried or heard of Knob Creek. It’s a 9 year old small batch bourbon (a batching of numerous barrels) that is a part of Jim Beam’s “Small Batch Bourbon Collection” along with Baker’s, Basil Hayden’s, and Booker’s Bourbon.

This past February Beam put out a very highly anticipated Knob Creek Single Barrel Reserve. It too is 9 years old and is a single barrel version of the small batch. Based on the below thoughts I’m pretty convinced it’s also from some very choice barrels. Enjoy the review!

Knob Creek Small Batch Bourbon, 9 Years Old, 50% abv (100 Proof), $32
Color: Deep Amber w/ glittering orange highlights
Nose: Burnt sugar and maple syrup dominate at first, then joined by dark dried fruits (particularly raisin quality), flint, and fresh oak. The oak influence is very prevalent in the nose of this whiskey.
Palate: Much like the nose, the small batch starts out with a sweet maple syrup entry as you bust through a crackle of hard caramel candy. Bitter char and sappy, wood resin intensifies almost as soon as the sweetness subsides. Things begin to quickly dry up as the spice takes over with cinnamon, clove, and black licorice playing the lead roles. The later third of the sip is an eruption of dry oak through to the finish.
Finish: Dry, lingering oak for days with some sweet and herbal notes. It’s worth noting, that while I didn’t detect it from the nose and palate, the empty glass (after drying) had a definite honeysuckle scent to it.
Overall: I can surely see why Knob Creek Small Batch has such a strong following. It’s a hefty bourbon with great sweetness, spice, and wood. With each tasting I grew to like it more and more. I would have preferred if the oak influence had been toned down just a bit, but I did enjoy the strong and hearty ways of this bourbon. Beyond just being a fantastic neat sipper, I am certain it would make a fantastic old fashioned or whiskey cocktail. The spice and oak really shines through.

Sour Mash Manifesto Rating: 8.3 (Very Good/Excellent)


Knob Creek Single Barrel Reserve, 9 Years Old, 60% abv (120 Proof), $40
Color: Deep Amber w/ glittering orange highlights
Nose: The family resemblance is definitely there, but the Single Barrel handles it’s business a bit more harmoniously in spite of 20% more alcohol. The nose is richer, fuller, more earthy and complex than the Small batch. Spicy cinnamon, mint, and floral notes are sandwiched between sweet maple syrup and a dry, clean oak. Leather and tobacco linger in the background.
Palate: This is a sticky, viscously textured bourbon with heaps of maple and marmalade livened with black pepper, clove, sweet spearmint, and a smoky oak quality (BBQ smoke). The char and barrel flavor is very prevalent, but in better balance with the other flavors than in the small batch.
Finish: Knob Creek Single Barrel Reserve finishes with sappy wood, mint, sweetness, and rising warmth that lingers.
Overall: This Knob Creek Single Barrel Reserve was a real eye opener for me. In fact it is superb. I expected a more intense version of Knob Creek at 20% more alcohol. While I got that to some degree (there is a family resemblance for sure as mentioned), the flavor delivery is so much better with the Single Barrel. This is a complex bourbon packing loads of great flavor in a more balanced package than the Small Batch. With only about an $8 upgrade in price, the decision for me is pretty easy. The Single Barrel is the hands down winner and a good value at the price. Please do note: As with all single barrels there most certainly will be some variance from barrel to barrel. However I have a pretty good feeling they hand selected the very best barrels for their single barrel offering.

Sour Mash Manifesto Rating: 9.0 (Superb/Outstanding)


  1. Excellent review (even without video). I’ve been a fan of Knob Creek Small Batch for a while (before I really started tasting bourbon, not just drinking it). I can get it at our local Sam’s club for ~$22 which I think is a great value. It does in fact make great cocktails. But is also pretty good sipping too. Not sure I’d pay more than $30 for it though. Most of the stores in my area have been very slow in picking up the KCSBR. I’ve only seen it in one store and there was only on bottle left. Didn’t pull the trigger though. Fingers still crossed my Sam’s Club will get it at <$30.

  2. Andy, thanks for the comment. Just to clarify I don’t have the MSRP for Knob Creek Small Batch. I put what I can find it for in my area. So just FYI. You surely might find it for less. Just FYI.

  3. Fantastic reviews, Jason. The review of the Single Barrel is making me thirsty as I write this. Man that sounds like some good stuff.

  4. the future maybe you could compare the Single Barrel to Booker’s. It seems like they would be kind of competing against each other.

  5. Texas, it’s great bourbon. I think you will enjoy it immensely. And that’s a great idea to compare to Booker’s. Even thought Booker’s is a small batch vs. a single barrel, the proof level is a much more even comparison isn’t it. That could be interesting.

  6. Great review.

    Yeah, Bookers vs. KCSB would be a really interesting one indeed. I’d always found Bookers to be a too hot for what it is — it had always seemed to me to be a hotter, more intense version of KCSB, without the unctuous body and depth you normally get in a really good cask-strength whiskey. Oh well, maybe my memory is fading on that. I guess I have to drink some more to say for sure.

  7. Great reviews! Where’s the video?!? I want my BTV! (Bourbon TV)

  8. Dave, you frankly described it perfectly for me. First off I’ve had Booker’s that was tremendous stuff. I’ve also had bottles that caused a, “This is Booker’s?!?!” reaction. So that inconsistency is first. Second, I wholeheartedly agree that this one has rarely delivered that beautiful syrupy mouth feel that most barrel strength whiskey delivers. The Knob did so. Perhaps not as much as the Four Roses Limited Edition Small Batch, but the Knob SBR has a much more unctuous quality. Booker’s has always lacked that chewyness.

    This is a great idea that Texas brought up. I’ll get on comparing them. We shall see how it fares.

  9. Well done, even-handed reviews Jason. I’ve bought a bottle or two of the small batch in my day, but Knob Creek’s more wide-spread availability in the market places it as a great go-to bourbon in airports and neighborhood bars. I’ve found Maker’s Mark to be more consistently found on a random bar shelf, but I will certainly choose Knob Creek over Maker’s if the bar stocks it; I love the spice and kick, add an ice cube or three on a hot day and I’m into it.

    For some reason, the single barrel hasn’t shown up in my go-to store yet, but I did run into a bottle on a night out the other week. Like you said, it was immediately recognizable as Knob Creek with a kind of fresh, flat smack up front, but definitely comes off as more precious than the small batch, with balance and detail.

    Great values, both of them, and when a name such as Knob Creek releases a true-to-form honey barrel product at such a modest price increase, it only does good things to their level of esteem with conscientious consumers.

  10. Checking in Houston the price difference is a bit more, ($26 vs. $38), but I think it will be well worth it.

    I am also looking forward to the Devil’s Cut as well. Glad Jim Beam is giving us some new and different stuff.

  11. @ Jason, I didn’t mean for it to sound like I was questioning the price you listed. I was giving my opinion on the quality/price ration for me personally. I believe the small batch is MSRP around $30 and the special reserve 10 more at $40. My experience with Knob is that they lose me at the suggested prices, as there are some many bourbons i like (and haven’t had yet) under that $30 umbrella. However at around $25, the small batch gets my attention.

  12. Andy I can see your point given EVSB is only $28 or so. I guess for me coming mainly from Single Malts, a top-notch single barrel for under $50 sounds like a bargain. I guess as long as Beam keeps selling a lot then they will pricing where it is.

  13. Joe Serapilio

    March 4, 2011 at 5:48 PM

    Jason,I recently had my first sip of Knob Creek single,and found it to be top notch.A dash of water opens it up immensely.Always keep the small batch around.Favorite restaurant& bar stocks it as well.

  14. Texas I’ve had no less than a dozen comparison requests for Booker’s vs. Knob Creek Single Barrel Reserve. I think we certainly have to do this now.

  15. Great! I guess the main difference between the two (other than Booker’s not being a single barrel) is Booker’s is 6-7 years old and Knob Creek is 9, right?

  16. Jason,
    Glad to see you’re going to compare KCSB vs Booker’s. I have a bottle of Booker’s unopened and will be picking up a bottle of KCSB soon to do my own taste test. Very much looking forward to yours. You have an excellent website here and your reviews are very well done. Thanks and looking forward to the Prichard’s Double Barrel too!

  17. Texas, that is correct on bookers. Though we don’t know the age for sure, it’s reportedly in that range. And of course the small batch vs. single barrel.

  18. I had a taste of the Single Barrel from a local liquor rep (it’s not available here in PA yet, but should be soon) and can say that it’s the most dangerously easy-drinking 120 proofer I’ve ever encountered. Good idea comparing the two side by side.

    One minor correction, if I may. The difference between the strength of the two is 20 proof, or 10%, not 20%, but worth the price difference in my book, regardless.

    By the way, I opened an 8 year old 1973 bottling of Bonded Beam with some friends to compare with Devil’s Cut today. Though the Devil is a spicier pour, all agreed they definitely share the same DNA, even nearly 40 year apart.

  19. Thanks Sam. I think the way I worded it was confusing perhaps, but the Single Barrel Reserve does have 20% more alcohol than the Small Batch. I think you are referring to the abv difference, which does move from 50% to 60%. That is a 10% increase in terms of A to B, but that increase constitutes 20% more than its brother. It’s confusing because of the whole abv vs. proof thing.

    Also, I am looking forward to trying the Devil’s Cut. I’m very skeptical to say the least. What did you think all in all?

  20. Yeah…duh! I think I had too much fun with the tasting today!

    I actually liked the Devil’s Cut, as much for the additional spice as for the increase in proof. I think it’s worth a try for any of us so inclined. The new E.H. Taylor was there, too, and was excellent, but not necessarily at the reported $70 price point. Damn nice package, too.

  21. I had the Knob Creek, single Barrel, nine year old- 120 proof (although it doesn’t seem like it)- by chance. I was in the hotel bar at the Omni Orleans hotel in New Orleans, while my wife was at a conference there. I had time to relax and just enjoy a drink while looking out of a big picture window in the French Quarter. They didn’t seem to have much of a bourbon selection there, but the bartender said that the KCK 120 had just come in, and he was offering it for the regular KCK, at the same price- so what did I have to lose?! (I don’t really like the basic KCK.) Anyway, it was very very tasty. It was “smooth”, which I usually don’t like, but the flavors and high ETOH content all worked well together. As one of the other readers suggested, I would compare it favorably to Booker;s. (I don’t think it reaches the exploding flavors of George T. Stagg- my favorite- and obviously not its alcohol content, but it is a contender and definitely worth a try.

  22. Tyler, this one is easily one of the best released of the year so far. A fantastic bourbon indeed. I agree with you in relationship to Stagg.

  23. Ford Shacklett

    July 17, 2011 at 11:06 PM

    Jason, I am a novice drinker – even though I’m in my fifties! For years I did not drink at all. Then a curiousity about spirits hit me a few months ago, whiskey in particular. I just wanted to say I’ve learned alot from your site and appreciate your efforts!

  24. Ford, thank you kindly for the comment. I appreciate your visiting the site and glad to hear you’ve learned some stuff. Cheers to you!

  25. This is my favorite go-to bourbon at the moment. Knob Creek has it all, flavor, substance, bite. Ever since I had my first shot of it in a hotel bar, I was hooked. It is just amazing. Before KC I was basically a Makers Mark guy, for its easy drinking. I like my bourbons sipped neat or shot, only occasionally in a glass with ice. KC is way ahead of JIm Beam’s other products with I am not a big fan of. (Of course, I still have yet to try Bookers!) KC has a strong vanilla nose, woody, oak, and some spice in it. The taste is upfront and powerful, and I LOVE the LONG finish it has! Also, it leaves a rather pleasant vanilla-like taste unlike some other bourbons whose finishes are too quick and have unpleasant aftertastes. Knob Creek small batch is perfect for sipping or shooting, just the way I like it. I am so excited to try the new single barrel version. To me KC is a perfect middle ground for me between Wild Turkey (which I find too harsh and rye-heavy) and Makers (which can be a tad too mild at times). It really is dangerously drinkable. Oh yea, and its 100 proof, which few mainstream bourbons are these days, and which is how they SHOULD be. I bet the single barrel is even better than small batch, but just have to drink responsibly! 🙂

  26. Ron, thanks for the comment! Appreciate you contributing!

  27. First off, this is a goto site for me and I really appreciate the quality of your reviews.

    I just wanted to comment on the nose from an empty, or dry, glass; honeysuckly as you said. With the KCSB, I notice this WAY more than any other bourbon. After finishing a pour, the nose from the empty glass is great – way different than the nose of the pour, and prevalent enough that it’s noticeable from several feet away. Really odd, but I assume it’s the alcohol evaporation blended with the residue on the glass. Anyhoo, good stuff.

  28. Lanny, thank you fro the comment. Good insight on nosing the glass once the whiskey is emptied. It’s also fun to sniff the glass the next morning – the maple sugars and deep notes are usually even more powerful. Cheers to you.

  29. Tthe single barrel is really a very good bourbon. i purchased 2 bottles while in Lexington, KY last week. Straight there is just too much of an over powering alcohol taste, but diluted to about 100 with a little cool water it is very very good. Still Pappy 20 year old is my favorite (over the 23 of which I have a 1\4 bottle still left). Love to find some more 20 but i can’t find it anywhere. maybe i will be in Lexington in the fall at release time.

  30. Mark, thanks for the comment! I enjoy both as well.

  31. This is my new daily drink. I love the alcohol warmth and the rich flavor. I really miss being able to buy the William Larue Weller and Pappy 15 yr.

  32. Knob was my fist ever bourbon and I fell in love, one of my cabinet regulars, cant say a bad thing about it other than its overly sweet

  33. Jason, We did a month’s worth of side by side tastings of Knob Creek 100p (9y) and Jim Beam Black 8y (80p) in September. We were thinking we would find quite a bit of family resemblance in the two Beam bottlings, mostly thinking they differed in terms of proof alone. Found some surprise there, especially in diluting pours of the Knob Creek down to 80p. . We’re thinking now that the barrels used for the Black label 8y batching must include less heavily charred barrels and probably barrels that were aged in much cooler warehouse locations than those for KC. The intensity and spectrum of aromas and flavors is stunningly different between the KC and JB8. There’s a near absence of sappy quality in the 8y, and much less maple and smoke too. Learning as we go, and appreciative of your tasting notes as always.

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