Bourbon: Four Roses Single Barrel, 100 proof, NAS.
(GE-17-1P = Warehouse G (East side); 17th rack; tier 1; 16 barrels deep in the row)
Distillery: Four Roses Distillery, Lawrenceburg, Kentucky.
Amber with deep orange tint.
Spice balanced with sweetness of fruit and vanilla.
Balanced honey, vanilla, toast and cinnamon, with heat – not just warmth. A splash of water or a single large ice cube (my preference) opens up new layers of fruit, grains and oak.
Long, complex and satisfying.
You can’t go wrong with Four Roses. One of the many unique facts about Four Roses (although this is old news for anyone who knows about Four Roses) is that they have two different mashbills and five yeast strains, which therefore allows Four Roses to make ten distinct bourbons under one roof. Four Roses “Yellow Label” uses all ten recipes, Four Roses Small Batch uses just a few, and because it’s “single barrel,” Four Roses Single Barrel is just one recipe.
Here’s how Four Roses describes its five yeast codes:
V – Delicate Fruitiness
K – Slight Spice
O – Rich Fruitiness
Q – Floral Essence
F – Herbal Essence
The standard Four Roses Single Barrel uses the “B” mashbill and the “V” yeast strain, but with a little bourbon hunting you can find and compare it with private selection single barrels that are cask strength and that often use different recipes.
Early this Fall I had the pleasure of participating in Four Roses Single Barrel Private Selection where, contrary to the standard OBSV Single Barrel, all ten barrels used the “E” mashbill (75% Corn – 20% Rye – 5% Malted Barley). We of course tasted these ten selections cask strength, and the bottling will be at cask strength. Whichever barrel we selected, it was guaranteed to be distinctive when compared to the standard Four Roses Single Barrel.
Here are my most memorable notes from each of the ten barrels:
1. OESV; 9 years, 5 months
· Big nose, great warmth, nice balance of spice and fruit.
2. OESV; 9 years, 5 months
· Hotter at first, spicy nose, really long finish, opened up nicely with a splash of water.
3. OESQ; 9 years, 6 months
· Spicy long finish.
4. OESQ; 9 years, 5 months
· Unexpected flavors. Sweeter than the others.
5. OESK; 9 years, 8 months
· Light nose but spicy, also a spicy finish.
6. OESK; 9 years, 8 months
· Best of the group. Started sweet, finished spicy and opened up great with a splash of water.
7. OESO; 11 years
· Similar nose and taste to #6, and I was surprised to see that it was a different yeast strain and different aging. Less sweet and longer finish that #6, however.
8. OESO; 11 years
· Spicy nose followed by great taste of spice and fruit. Opened up with a splash of water.
9. OESF; 10 years, 3 months
· Soft nose followed by heat on the front mellowing out to candy sweetness.
10. OESF; 10 years, 3 months
· Strong nose and really hot, spicy taste and finish.
All ten of these barrels had similarities to the standard Four Roses Single Barrel, but I was happy that we were limited to the “E” mashbill because I knew that we were trying something different. On the other hand, I can’t say enough good things about the standard Four Roses Single Barrel. It’s a bargain in the mid-$30 range (and I recently found it on sale under $30), and I prefer it over many $40-$50 bourbons out there. I’ll keep buying the OBSV Single Barrel, although I can’t wait for our OESK to be bottled, and I have another private barrel selection bottle of OBSF (10 years, 8 months and 117.4 Proof) that I’ll open and compare to the OBSV and OESK, and for good measure I’ll include the highly-praised 2013 Limited Edition Small Batch. I can’t wait…
In the meantime, my recommendation is that you look for private barrel selections and buy that along with a standard OBSV Single barrel, and compare the two. If you can’t find a private selection at your local store, I’d still recommend that you buy two bottles of OBSV, making sure that you get bottles from two different barrels. Open both and enjoy the subtle differences found from each barrel.
Score on The Sipp’n Corn Scale: 4.5
The Sipp’n Corn Scale:
1 – Wouldn’t even accept a free drink of it.
2 – Would gladly drink it if someone else was buying.
3 – Glad to include this in my bar.
4 – Excellent bourbon. Worth the price and I’m sure to always have it in my bar.
5 – Wow. I’ll search high and low to get another bottle of this.