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Knob Creek vs Buffalo Trace Bourbon: What’s the Difference?

Last Updated on December 30, 2022 by Lydia Martin

Bourbon is a crowd-pleaser, and deciding what bourbon to pick can sometimes be challenging—especially choosing between Knob Creek and Buffalo Trace. 

These brands continue to raise their bourbon standards, especially in their full-tasting notes, so drinkers find it difficult to choose between the two.

But really, which one is better? 

Discover the differences between Knob Creek vs Buffalo Trace in this face-off, and know which bourbon stands out more. Read on.

Knob Creek & Buffalo Trace Face-Off 

Knob Creek & Buffalo Trace Bottle on top of a table

Knob Creek was released in 1992 as a small-batch bourbon in Clermont, Kentucky, while Buffalo Trace started in 1999 in Frankfort, Kentucky.

Knob Creek has a richer and more complex flavor with higher alcohol content at 100-proof. But Buffalo Trace has smoother and sweeter bourbon at 90-proof.

Both use different proportions in their mash bills, but Buffalo Trace bourbon bottles are cheaper than Knob Creek.

Key Differences

History

Knob Creek Kentucky straight bourbon was first released in 1992 and is considered one of the first small-batch bourbons.

It was introduced by Booker Noe, Master Distiller at Jim Beam, as part of the Jim Beam small-batch bourbon collection. 

Meanwhile, Buffalo Trace’s flagship started in 1999.

It was created in honor of the ancient buffalo that made its path to the Kentucky River and corresponded to its historic distillery.

Distillation & Production

close up shot of column still

Knob Creek and Buffalo Trace use a column still for their distillation process.

But Knob Creek is produced in small batches of bourbon barrels and has a higher alcohol content.

Knob Creek is bottled at 100-proof, while Buffalo Trace is bottled at 90-proof.

Maturation

Knob Creek has a number 9 on its label that might pertain to its age.

According to its website, Knob Creek ages its small-batch bourbon in a minimum of 9 years and is bottled at 100-proof.

Unlike Knob Creek, Buffalo Trace doesn’t carry an age statement, and there are speculations on how long its age statement is. 

Some people believe it was aged for a minimum of 4 years, while others claim Buffalo Trace was matured for 7-8 years.

But one thing we know is that Buffalo Trace bourbon barrels are aged at least two years to comply with American law. 

Mashbills

mash bill

Knob Creek 9-year has a mash bill of 75% corn, 13% rye, and 12% barley, while Buffalo Trace doesn’t disclose its mash bill proportions but uses its Mash Bill #1 recipe. 

“Craftsmanship is core to Knob Creek…an insider’s perspective on the care and dedication that goes into creating our whiskey.”

– Fred Noe, Master Distiller

This mash bill is a low-rye recipe with 10% or less rye content at 90-proof.

Although Buffalo Trace doesn’t disclose its actual mash, it must have at least 51% corn by law. [1]

Tasting Notes

Buffalo Trace Bourbon

Bottle of Knob Creek Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey
  • Palate: It has lingering sweet caramel notes, vanilla, and chocolate, with hints of oak and spice.
  • Nose: Complex aroma of sweet molasses, vanilla, and hints of honey with baking spices and cinnamon.
  • Color: It has a deep copper whiskey color.
  • Finish: Warm medium-length finish with sweet notes of vanilla and hints of wood spice.

Knob Creek 9-Year Bourbon

Buffalo Trace Bourbon Whiskey on top of a table
  • Palate: It has rich oak and woody notes, black pepper, balanced sweet vanilla, and slightly toasted caramel hints.
  • Nose: Pleasant aroma of vanilla, light oak, and caramel, with hints of pepper.
  • Color: It has a copper to medium amber hue.
  • Finish: Long finish with oaky notes and finishes with lingering peppery, warming spice.

Ownership & Distillery

Beam Suntory, an American-founded Japanese company that produces well-known bourbons like Jim Beam and Maker’s Mark, owns Knob Creek.

Knob Creek is produced as small-batch bourbons from the Beam collection and distilled in the Jim Beam distillery in Clermont, Kentucky.

Buffalo Trace is produced and owned by the Sazerac company based in Louisiana.

It has its distillery in Frankfort, Kentucky, Buffalo Trace Distillery, the oldest running distillery in the US. [2

Price Point & Value

Knob Creek Bottles on a store

A 750ml bottle of Knob Creek bourbon is more expensive than Buffalo Trace.

Knob Creek 9-year costs around $39 (Drizly), while Buffalo Trace costs around $35 (Drizly).

Note: Price may vary depending on the liquor store.

FAQs 

Is Knob Creek smoother than Buffalo Trace bourbon?

No, Buffalo Trace is smoother than Knob Creek. Buffalo Trace is more welcoming on the palate than Knob Creek’s complex flavors.

Which is harder to find, Buffalo Trace or Knob Creek?

Buffalo Trace may be harder to find than Knob Creek due to state allocation and supply issues.

However, small batches of bourbons like Knob Creek 9-year are increasingly difficult to find because their demand exceeds the supply production.

Final Verdict 

This face-off battle between Knob Creek and Buffalo Trace is a close fight because of its quality and rich flavor—but we’ll give this round to Buffalo Trace.

Buffalo Trace’s soft mouthfeel and rich and smooth profile will welcome your palate. Plus, it is cheaper and perfect for those bourbon starters.

But for someone who likes a rich, full, and complex bourbon, you must go with Knob Creek. 

References:

  1. https://www.cnbc.com/2015/06/04/5-rules-that-make-it-bourbon.html 
  2. https://www.barrons.com/articles/buffalo-traces-new-bourbon-is-rich-in-color-and-history-01610398945 

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