Jim Rutledge is leaving the industry “on a high note,” as he put it on a recent press release. This year’s limited edition Four Roses Small Batch is his swan song. It’s being presented as a tribute to Rutledge. The barrel strength bourbon (108.5 proof) features a blend of different bourbon recipes: 16-year-old OBSK, 15-year-old OESK, 14-year-old OESK and an 11-year-old OBSV. You can read more about all 10 Four Roses bourbon recipes here. Last year’s Limited Edition Small Batch was much younger, featuring a blend of bourbons aged between 9 and 13 years.
The nose starts off with a some alcohol vapor. Then I can describe the nose as prominently fruity, herbal and slightly floral. I get berries, honey, dill, vanilla, and caramel. In terms of floral, I can’t name a specific flower, but more or less the essence of the floral aisle at a garden shop. Official tasting notes mention “fresh magnolia”. Let’s go with that. Taste-wise, a wallop of cinnamon spice starts things off, followed by a slight dill note (could be the high rye), a touch of oak, creamy vanilla, caramel and candied orange peel. The finish is long, with oak, vanilla and a hit of mint on the backend.
What we have here is a beautifully crafted, complex bourbon, full of traditional bourbon flavors as well as less common ones. There’s lots going on here, and it mingles together wonderfully. My one slight nitpick is the initial whiff of alcohol. It’s a little strong right up front, but that’s somewhat expected for a barrel strength bourbon. Letting my glass sit for a couple of minutes made this pretty much a non-issue. The finish really has a big prominent mint note, which was the perfect end to a great expression from Jim Rutledge and Four Roses.
Four Roses Master Distiller Brent Elliott said “I couldn’t think of a better way to toast Jim’s exceptional career.” I completely agree. This release will hit shelves mid-September and kicks off the annual wave of autumn limited bourbon releases. Highly recommended.