Both Woodford Reserve and Knob Creek are incredibly popular, higher-end whiskeys. They have similar flavor profiles, price points, and appeal to the same market. That’s precisely why Woodford Reserve vs Knob Creek makes for such a compelling comparison. According to Forbes, Woodford and Knob Creek both cracked the top 10 of sales on Drizzly for 2020 – Knob Creek squeaked in at #10 while Woodford Reserve was the 3rd most popular bourbon.
In this Woodford reserve vs Knob Creek guide, we’re going to compare the subtle differences in taste, price, distilling, and more. Is Knob Creek better than Woodford Reserve? Which one is cheaper? How are they different? Let’s find out!
Woodford Reserve vs Knob Creek History
Before we get into the specifics of the actual whiskey, we’re going to discuss the history of these two companies to understand how they’ve reached the peak of bourbon sales.
Woodford Reserve History
Woodford Reserve is a relatively young whiskey brand. It was founded in 1996 by the Brown-Forman Corporation. However, the real history behind the brand is the distillery and land it sits on.
The Old Oscar Pepper distillery was founded in 1838 by Elijah Pepper. Over the next 150+ years, the distillery was torn down, renovated, sold, re-sold, sold again, and so on. Eventually, in 1993, The Brown Forman Corporation purchased the land and distillery with plans to hold on to it this time – they were a previous owner from 1941-1960’s, but sold it to a local farmer.
Upon repurchasing the land and distillery in 1993, Brown-Forman refurbished the distillery and set out to produce quality whiskey. Woodford Reserve was introduced in 1996 and has been a popular bourbon ever since. You can read all about Woodford’s relationship with the community and the Kentucky Derby HERE.
Knob Creek History
Knob Creek is just slightly older than Woodford as a brand as it was first introduced in 1992. Knob Creek is one of four small batch bourbons produced at the Jim Beam Distillery in Clermont, KY. Much like Woodford Reserve, there is a large corporation backing the production of Knob Creek – Beam Suntory.
Knob Creek is produced side by side with other small batch bourbons such as Booker’s, Baker’s, and Basil Hayden’s. All four of these are highly rated bourbons, so they must be doing something right over at Jim Beam.
Woodford Reserve vs Knob Creek Overview
Okay, now that we’ve covered some of the basic history, we can get into some information about the whiskey itself. Below, we’ll discuss the similarities and differences in aging, ABV, the mash bill, and more between Woodford Reserve vs Knob Creek.
Woodford Reserve Overview
- Owned By: Brown-Forman
- Distilled By: Woodford Reserve Distillery
- Age Statement: NAS (minimum of 4 years, although it’s said to be 6-7 years)
- ABV: 45.2%, 90.4 Proof
- Mash bill: 72% corn, 18% rye, 10% malted barley
Knob Creek Overview
- Owned By: Beam Suntory
- Distilled By: Jim Beam Distillery / Knob Creek Distilling Co.
- Age Statement: 9 Years
- ABV: 50%, 100 Proof
- Mash bill: 75% corn, 13% rye, 12% malted barley
Similarities & Differences
As you can see here, there are plenty of differences between these two whiskey, but they are subtle. Knob Creek is aged a couple years longer and it boasts a higher proof. The mash bills are also similar, the main difference being that Woodford has a higher rye percentage than Knob Creek.
Woodford Reserve vs Knob Creek Flavor Profile
This is likely the most important part of our Woodford Reserve vs Knob Creek comparison guide. What does Knob Creek taste like? What does Woodford Reserve taste like? Which is better? While this may be the most important part, it also happens to be my favorite. Time to pour myself a glass and answer these questions.
Woodford Reserve Tasting Notes
Nose: Oak, tobacco, honey, and vanilla
Taste: sweet honey and vanilla blend with rye spice. Fairly balanced.
Finish: There’s more spice and smoke on the finish than apparent in the nose and palate. Medium to long and smooth.
Knob Creek Tasting Notes
Nose: Leather, caramel, vanilla, light nutty aromas as well.
Taste: The nose transfers over to the palate. Nutty flavors are surrounded by caramel and vanilla. Pepper and very light fruit notes peak through.
Finish: There’s a bit more heat and pepper here, as is common with whiskey that starts breaching the triple digit proof. Still fairly smooth, though. Add a dash of water or an ice cube to make it a tad more mild.
Which is Better – Knob Creek or Woodford Reserve?
There’s no correct answer here as it’s a wholly subjective matter, but that doesn’t mean we don’t have opinions about it. Both whiskeys have a pretty standard bourbon profile, and we like them both. When it comes to drinking them neat or on the rocks, we prefer Woodford Reserve. We think it’s a touch smoother and like the higher rye content. However, Knob Creek – being a bit stronger – stands out more in a mixed drink.
Woodford Reserve vs Knob Creek Price
Probably the second most important factor (maybe even most important) in our buying decision is price. We take a look at the prices of both whiskeys in Total Wine stores across the country to determine an average price range. So, which is cheaper, Woodford Reserve or Knob Creek?
- Woodford Reserve 750ml: $28-33
- Knob Creek 750ml: $27-32
- Woodford Reserve 1.75L: $54-60
- Knob Creek 1.75L: $55-61
There really isn’t a price difference with Woodford Reserve vs Knob Creek. Much of the difference will come down to individual store and location, but you should be able to find a bottle of each for right around $30 and a full handle for $55-60.
With similar flavor profiles, quality, and price, the value of each bottle is almost solely dependent upon you, the one drinking it. Whether you’re buying it for yourself, or for a party, or as a gift, there really is no going wrong with either of these options. They are mid-shelf bourbons that are easily available at any liquor store in the country, so you shouldn’t have a problem getting your hands on a bottle.
Woodford Reserve vs Knob Creek Summary
Both Woodford Reserve and Knob Creek are very standard, yet quality bourbons. This allows them to be inoffensive. Very few people will call either a bad bourbon, but they also lack some uniqueness that is found in craft whiskey. In addition, they are fairly priced and widely available. It’s these qualities that continually put Woodford and Knob Creek at the top of bourbon sales every year.
Here at Barrel & Brew, we prefer to drink Woodford Reserve on the rocks, but think Knob Creek is better for mixed drinks and cocktails. Both brands do have other selections, and our favorite of them all may be the Knob Creek Rye, so don’t be afraid to try both brands and any of their offerings as they make quality whiskey throughout their lineup.
Woodford Reserve vs Knob Creek is almost as similar as comparing light beers such as Miller Lite vs Michelob Ultra. They are so similar that much of it comes down to marketing, tradition, habits, and some small personal preferences. Regardless, you can’t go wrong picking up a bottle of either Woodford Reserve or Knob Creek. For more, check out our review on Knob Creek 12 Year Cask Strength!