Beam Suntory has just hit a new milestone with the release of Knob Creek 18-Year-Old Bourbon. The Knob Creek brand—a favorite bourbon of countless bartenders and whiskey nerds around the world—has produced some incredible bottles in its long lifetime, but this marks by far the oldest and, in many ways, rarest since it was created.
It’s unlikely there’s a bourbon drinker today who hasn’t consumed a Knob Creek product at least once. Knob Creek was one of the four original members of Jim Beam’s Small Batch Collection, which originally featured Booker’s, Basil Hayden, Baker’s and Knob Creek. Baker’s has since shifted to a single barrel product, though the distillery maintains it as a sort of grandfathered member of the group (we’d love to see that small batch product return to market, by the way).
In three decades, the Knob Creek brand has been the label to adorn a number of successful bottles, arguably none more so than the flagship 9-year-old that may be on your bar right now. The age statement briefly disappeared from this liquid during the worst of the bourbon “boom” (which we’re still in) but returned a few years ago as production began to catch up with demand.
Knob Creek has seen flavored releases, special cask finishes, single barrels and, in the last few years, age statements at 12 and 15 years (as with the Van Winkle family of bourbons, both the 12 and 15 are excellent, and it’s up to your palate which one is better). Indeed the whole portfolio has been pretty impressive over these decades, with standout Quarter Oak and Smoked Maple bottles giving the more renowned bottles a run for their money.
With Knob Creek debuting a limited edition 18-year-old bourbon, the Beam portfolio grows one step closer to matching that “other” famous line of bourbons everyone obsesses over.
18 years is a substantial achievement for any brand, but particularly for one as storied as Beam. Seventh Generation Master Distiller Fred Noe said in a statement that his father Booker Noe was, “ahead of his time in creating innovative expressions with big, bold flavors that defined pre-prohibition whiskey.” This new 18-year liquid is, “a nod to his vision and commitment to quality and craftsmanship, and I know this is a whiskey he’d be proud to serve.”
Proud is exactly what the Noe family should be. 18-Year is bottled at 100 proof, with a gorgeous reddish hue. The distillery claims aromas of brown sugar, caramel and oak, with sweet vanilla, baking spices, and caramelized oak on the palate. The finish is said to be warm and spicy, with hints of floral and fruit notes.
Beam Suntory hasn’t shared details on the volume of whiskey produced for this Knob Creek 18-Year-Old Bourbon release, but we assume the numbers are fairly small. It’s unclear from statements whether this will be a one-time or regular release, but if the 15-year is any indication, this isn’t the last time we’ll see the number 18 adorning a bottle.
For $170, it’s certainly worth you time to give it a try—particularly if you can find it for close to retail price. But even at twice retail, this 18-year will go toe to toe with a lot of other highly sought-after limited edition bourbons at higher retail and aftermarket price points, as well as lower ages.
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