By Richard Thomas
The most interesting twist in the dubious Great Bourbon Shortage storyline is how Jim Beam has consistently defied it these last few years. The first act of defiance was in 2019, when it was announced the the flagship Knob Creek brand would return to its roots as a 9 year old expression after four years as a No Age Statement (NAS) whiskey. Soon after carrying this out in 2020, Jim Beam introduced a 12 year old expression, and that was followed by a 15 year old.
Concurrent with Knob Creek adding middle aged expressions to the regular line-up, Baker’s–long the sleeper of Jim Beam’s line–saw some love and was repackaged as a single barrel. The start of 2022 saw Booker’s age statements unofficially (and perhaps temporarily) move from six to seven years old. And now Jim Beam has announced the cherry on top: Knob Creek has gotten an 18 year old expression.
The pour is a bronzed tint of amber, leaning pretty far from the red, with a nose that runs with toasty wood. That said, the aroma here is far from over-oaked. The leathery, tannic, spicy elements certainly lead in the scent, but they don’t overpower and drown the sweet base of the bourbon.
The palate opens sweeter than the nose, bringing the old, woody and bourbon base sweet aspects of the whiskey into proper balance, and in a way that is better balanced, mellower and better defined than in the previous rungs of the Knob Creek ladder. I wouldn’t say KC has gained in sophistication with age, but certainly maturity. The brown sugar and vanilla sweetness has taken on a ripe cherry note, and the addition of earthy cocoa and nougat really takes that toasty edge off the hoary, leathery oak layer that lead on the nose.
The finish opened with a candy corn note, but that disappeared almost immediately, swapped out with a mild spiciness. This fades out to mint before disappearing.
The official price is $170.