The next few reviews are devoted to Four Roses’ regular releases: their yellow label, single barrel, and small batch. This post covers the latter. (Thanks to the Baddish Group for the sample.)
I remember hearing great things about Four Roses bourbon when I ventured outside the world of Jack Daniel’s years ago. It wasn’t until recently that I started paying attention.
Four Roses has a long, interesting history. In a nutshell, they’ve been around since the late 1800s. By the 1930s, it was the number one selling bourbon in the US. Seagram’s bought it and decided to stop selling the popular bourbon here and sold it only overseas. Here at home, they instead sold a blended whiskey with the name Four Roses. Apparently that stuff was described by the current and long-time Master Distiller of Four Roses Jim Rutledge as “rot-gut”. After several new owners in the late 1990s – early 2000s, Japanese beverage company Kirin bought them in 2002. Rutledge bought back all the horrible tasting Four Roses blended whiskey, dumped it, and began selling their bourbon back in the US. There are articles that provide much more depth on the subject if you’re looking for more, like this one.
Four Roses has two mash bills (one with 20% rye and one with 35% rye) and five different yeast strains, each giving a slightly different flavor. In essence, they distill ten different bourbons. Their small batch contains a blend four of those bourbons.
How is it? Coming in at 90 proof, Four Roses Small Batch bourbon smells fantastic. You get a nice depth of aromas, from caramel to a little fruit, and even a little anise or licorice. It’s a sweet bourbon. I get a lot of that caramel sweetness up front, followed by some spice. It falls a little flat compared to the nose. It feels a little velvety and light. The finish lasts a little while, but doesn’t linger.
This $30+ bourbon is fantastic. It’s well rounded and light, and I found it quite refreshing with some ice. If that’s what you’re looking for, try it.