The Return of a Bourbon Legend

Knob Creek 9-year-old is back in the saddle.

Knob Creek Small Batch Bourbon $47

One of the most compelling things about getting into bourbon is just how new it all is. I didn’t mean the spirit per se—people have been drinking versions of bourbon for centuries—but the relatively nascent sector of high-end bottles. How nascent? Well, I still vividly remember when I first saw a bottle of Knob Creek appear on the shelves of my local liquor store 25+ years ago. It was unlike anything I’d seen. Small batch and bespoke was theretofore the purview of pricey single malt Scotch. If you wanted a fancy bourbon you might spend a few dollars more for a bottle of Maker’s Mark, but that was about it. But here was something in a square bottle that actually had an age statement proudly on its label: 9 years, not an insignificant amount of time to mellow out—especially in the bourbon world.

You probably know the rest. Knob Creek and a few of its Beam brethren (Booker’s, Baker’s and Basil Hayden) went on to change the esteem the drinking public held for Kentucky’s greatest export. And of the three, Knob was always the stand out—so much so that by the 2010’s they were having problems supplying their thirsty fans. That’s the problem with long-aged whiskies—any decisions you make won’t be proven right or wrong for almost a decade. And the good folks at Beam must have underestimated just how much Knob Creek people wanted…and they began to run out. It wasn’t exactly a disaster—in a pivot (well before the term was used incessantly) they, circa 2015 or so, quietly removed the 9 year age statement from the bottle, allowing them more leeway with what they used to make Knob Creek. I can’t say that quality actually suffered, but there was no doubt that the magic 9 that drew me to the bottle in the first place was nowhere to be seen.

Well, it’s back, baby. Starting this month you’ll see the return of the classic 9-year old Knob Creek, albeit in a cool, new retro-inspired bottle. We presumably can thank the good people at Beam circa 2011 for their foresight. It’s still a wonderful deal—under $50 for anything over 8 years be it Scotch, Irish or Bourbon is a steal—and it’s still at it’s trademark 100 proof, topped with the ever-present wax seal. Seems appropriate to raise a glass to resurrection.