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Jim Beam vs Knob Creek: Which is the Better Bourbon? (2022)

Last Updated on August 9, 2022 by Lydia Martin

At first glance, both Jim Beam and Knob Creek may look like completely different bourbons. One is a mainstream label, widely available in retail shops with a cheap price point to boot.

On the other hand, Knob Creek is a more elusive brand geared towards high-end whiskey drinkers. 

Both bottles have more in common than you think. Here’s an in-depth comparison between Jim Beam vs Knob Creek so you can decide which one to try. 

Comparing Jim Beam & Knob Creek 

Choosing Between Jim Beam & Knob Creek 

Many bourbon aficionados would be surprised to know that Jim Beam and Knob Creek are owned by the same company and produced in the same location. 

Both labels are owned by Beam Suntory and produced in the same locations. Knob Creek is part of Jim Beam’s small-batch bourbon collection targeted at the more “sophisticated” drinker.

The other labels in this collection include Booker’s, Baker’s, and Basil Hayden’s. [1

Both labels are fermented using the same recipe and matured side by side in the same rackhouses.

If you were to assume that the same juice would be inside the oak barrels, you wouldn’t be completely wrong. But, like with the rest of the whiskey industry, it’s much more nuanced. 

When choosing which drinks to add to our home bar, our team likes breaking it down to the following criteria: aroma, flavor profile, and price point. 

Key Differences 

Key Differences 

History & Origin

Jim Beam is one of the world’s oldest and best-selling whiskey brands. It was founded in 1795 by the Bohm family (who eventually changed the spelling of their name to Beam), German natives who emigrated to the United States. 

Johannes “Jacob” Beam was a farmer who began distilling whiskey in the style that would eventually become bourbon. He began selling his first corn whiskeys by 1795, which he called Old Jake Beam Sour Mash. 

So, where does “Jim Beam” come into play? Well, James Beauregard Beam managed the family business before and after the Prohibition Period. They rebranded their whiskey to Jim Beam at this time, and the rest is history. 

On the other hand, Knob Creek was heralded by Master Distiller Booker Noe. He coined the term “small batch,” referring to his uncut and unfiltered spirit. The label’s first release was in 1992. 

Fun fact: did you know that Jim Beam and Booker Noe are related? Booker Noe is the son of Margaret Noe, Beam’s daughter. He is the sixth-generation Beam in the family. 

Production & Distillation Process

Production & Distillation Process

Jim Beam has two locations in the Bluegrass State: one in Boston and the other in Clermont.

As far as we know, both spirits are being produced in both distilleries. They also utilize modern column stills for the production process. 

Maturation

Jim Beam is matured for four years inside charred oak barrels. 

On the other hand, Knob Creek uses much older barrels. They used to only use nine-year-old whiskey barrels, but they dropped that label temporarily in 2016 due to shortages in supply.

In 2019, they happily announced that the aged whiskey would recommence in 2020. [2

Mash Bill

Both brands use a traditional corn-heavy mash bill made of 75 percent corn, 13 percent rye, and 12 percent malted barley. 

Age Statement & Alcohol Proof 

Age Statement & Alcohol Proof 

Jim Beam carries no age statement, but according to their website, the barrels are aged at least four years before it is bottled at 80 proof. 

Knob Creek boasts of a big, black number 9 on its label. The whiskey is patiently aged for at least nine years inside new, charred American oak barrels before finally bottled at 100 proof. 

Ownership & Distillery

Both brands are owned by Beam Suntory, the third largest distilled spirits producer worldwide.

They are being produced and bottled in two locations: the Booker Noe Distillery in Boston, Kentucky, and the Jim Beam Distillery in Clermont, Kentucky. 

Tasting Notes 

Tasting Notes 

Jim Beam 

  • Palate: It still has plenty of that grainy taste from the mash, alongside black pepper, caramel, and vanilla. 
  • Nose: It has leather, oak, and raisins on the nose.  
  • Color: It has a burnt amber color. 
  • Finish: It has vanilla and toasted almonds notes in its finish. 

Knob Creek 

  • Palate: It is much smoother on the palate, with heavy charred oak barrel spices. The nine years it’s spent aging did plenty of good to how it ultimately tastes. Chewing will bring traditional notes of sweet vanilla, cinnamon, brown sugar, and black pepper on the palate. 
  • Nose: The nose is rife with toffee, buttery caramel, cinnamon, raisins, and honey. 
  • Color: It has a beautiful light brown color. This spirit is much heftier, with legs that cling beautifully to the sides of the glass. 
  • Finish: Lingering notes of sweet vanilla, black pepper, and dark chocolate make their way to a long and satisfying finish. 

Price Point & Value 

Price Point & Value 

Jim Beam is one of the cheapest bourbon whiskeys at less than $20 per 750ml bottle. 

On the other hand, Knob Creek is more expensive, costing around $35 for the same size. 

We believe that the latter is more expensive because it uses older whiskey. 

Jim Beam & Knob Creek Common Prices

Bourbon Size Alcohol Proof Average Price
Jim Beam Bourbon  750ml 80 Around $15
Knob Creek Straight Bourbon Whiskey 750ml 100 Around $35

*Average prices are based on Drizly online. Prices may vary in local liquor shops.

FAQs 

Which bourbon is better for sipping, Jim Beam or Knob Creek?

Knob Creek is a better sipping bourbon than Jim Beam. We have always found the latter to perform better in cocktails — it doesn’t have enough depth as a sipping drink.

Conversely, the years Knob Creek’s spent aging inside the barrel has lent a gorgeous diversity in flavors and aromas that translates well to a great sipping bourbon. 

Is Jim Beam better for cooking than Knob Creek bourbon? 

Yes, Jim Beam is better for cooking than Knob Creek. Something we like to consider when it comes to using whiskey for cooking is its price tag — we don’t want to use an expensive bottle for something that we’ll only cook down.

The label still has traditional flavors that translate well when used in many dishes. 

In Conclusion 

In this battle of Knob Creek vs Jim Beam, Knob Creek takes the cake. 

Knob Creek is one of the best sippers we have tried so far — their 9-Year-Old expression is one of our favorites as drinks for special occasions. This bourbon whiskey tastes better because it has to, with all the hard work Booker Noe’s put into it. 

On the other hand, Jim Beam is a bit lacking in experience and depth, but we don’t believe it’s trying to be anything more than it is.

It’s also a great choice for its price point, whether drunk neat or mixed into cocktails — just don’t expect to be blown away. 

References: 

  1. https://www.gearpatrol.com/food/drinks/a36688708/small-batch-bourbon-whiskey/
  2. https://www.gearpatrol.com/food/drinks/a595274/knob-creek-bourbon-whiskey-age-statement-returning/

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