2020 was a year filled with whiskeys that delighted on a number of fronts. From composition, to uniqueness, to availability and price, it seemed like this year of all years was one for the books. However none seemed to check off all of the boxes quite like Knob Creek Small Batch 12 Year Bourbon.
Knob Creek Small Batch has been a staple of the Jim Beam Small Batch Collection since its inaugural launch in 1992. Originally showcasing a 9 year age statement, Knob Creek Small Batch 9 Year was a mid-range bourbon that delivered a well-rounded sip with a reasonable price tag. However, in 2016 Knob Creek Small Batch lost its age statement. While many lamented the removal of the age statement, it didn’t noticeably impact the sip that line was delivering.
To the delight of many fans, 2020 saw the return of the 9 year age statement to Knob Creek Small Batch. However that wasn’t the only thing that 2020 brought to the iconic brand. Jim Beam also released a limited edition Knob Creek Small Batch 15 Year Bourbon, and made Knob Creek 12 Year a permanent extension of the brand. And what an extension it is.
Knob Creek 12 Year was certainly love at first taste. We were immediately impressed with its delicious flavors and just how drinkable it was, but also how it showcased all of the best aspects of the brand. With this release, Beam managed to laser focus on what some single barrels of the brand are famous for and produce it in a widely available small batch form and at a mass market price point. This is no small feat and should be awarded with applause and in our case, our highest accolade.
Compared to standard releases of Knob Creek Small Batch bourbons of the past, 12 Year delivers the richest flavor profile to date. It starts with an expressive nose full of classic scents, and its palate exemplifies what Knob Creek is capable of delivering when it rests for more time in the barrel. It's a quintessential classic bourbon, and is one that is easily enjoyable by all no matter how long they’ve been drinking whiskey.
Sure there were other bourbons that tasted great and could have taken first place. Last Drop Distillers XIX 1980 Bourbon was a near perfect assembly of flavors and only one of a few we've ever awarded 5 barrels, but out of reach for literally all but the 240 people who were able to buy a bottle. Stagg Jr. came in guns blazing again this year with Batch 14, but despite its fantastic flavor profile just didn't deliver the impeccable balance offered by Knob 12 Year. Others hit near perfection in some areas, but not all. What’s most impressive about Knob Creek 12 Year is the fact that this double digit aged stated bourbon checks off all the boxes with its manageable 100 proof, widespread availability, and an easy-to-swallow $60 price tag.
Above all else, Knob Creek Small Batch 12 Year Bourbon is a reminder that a whiskey doesn’t need to be a high octane barrel proof monster, a limited edition special release, or even a single barrel to offer a fantastic sip that is available year round. It’s these qualities that helped Knob Creek 12 Year continue to stand out in our minds the entire year, and why we named it our #1 whiskey of 2020.