Four Roses Single Barrel Review

Class:  Kentucky Straight Bourbon

Price:  $35-40 U.S. Retail

Along with its bottom shelf "Yellow Label" and mid-shelf Small Batch bourbons, Four Roses also releases a more premium level single barrel bourbon year-round.  Note that this is different from their barrel proof single barrel bottles.

As you may recall from the small batch review (linked above) or from any previous knowledge of Four Roses that you have, they use 2 different mash bills and 5 different yeast strains to produce variations of their bourbon.  While the Yellow Label and Small Batch are composed of blends of barrels that contained different combinations of mash bill/yeast strain, the standard Single Barrel is always bottled from barrels that contain the OBSV combination.  (A more thorough breakdown of the combinations, as well as the letter designations, can be found in the Small Batch review).  The "B" designates the high rye mash bill, and the V designates the yeast strain that is said to impart delicate fruit notes.

Remember that single barrel whiskeys inherently contain more purchasing risk than a batched whiskey, as each individual barrel will have its own unique features.  The whole point of blending barrels into batches is to create a standardized flavor profile that overcomes any unique factors (whether good or bad) in individual barrels.  So, even though all Four Roses Single Barrel standard release bottles are OBSV, yours may taste slightly different than mine if it is not from the exact same barrel.

One important factor peculiar to Four Roses among its bourbon distillery brethren is that all of its warehouses are single story, whereas pretty much every other major (and minor) bourbon distillery utilizes aging warehouses that span several stories high.  This is especially important to note in the Single Barrel review, because it standardizes what are typically two huge variations in aging warehouses with multiple floors - humidity and temperature.  A barrel on the 8th floor of a warehouse will age much different than a barrel on the 3rd floor because of variances in temperature and humidity between the floors.  Having all of your barrels on the same floor eliminates this effect, and in theory, leads to more consistent flavor profiles among barrels.  This leads us to the conclusion that Four Roses single barrel bourbons should taste more similar to each other and contain less purchasing risk than single barrel bourbons by other distilleries.

Notes

  • From Warehouse NS, Barrel 2-1B (south side of Warehouse N, rack 2, tier 1, 2nd barrel in the tier).  Here is a great article regarding how to decipher these.
  • Mash bill of 60% corn, 35% rye, 5% malted barley
  • No age statement (allegedly around 7-9 years old)
  • Bottled at 50% ABV

Nose:  Initially sweet.  Round and full corn syrup.  Dark caramel and vanilla frosting.  Some cinnamon, nutmeg and allspice.  Nice warm ethanol tickle wards me off if I get my nose too close.  After a rest the aroma becomes noticeably drier, and the rye spices take center stage.  Some mint creeps in as well.  Delightfully sweet and spicy, like a spice cake.

Palate:  Very spice-forward upon entry.  Nutmeg, clove, cinnamon, allspice.  Caramel custard and creamy vanilla follow the spice.  Reminiscent of cinnamon/brown sugar cookies.  Most noticeably, the mouthfeel is thick and VERY creamy.  The body of this dram takes it from good to very good.

Finish:  Sweet caramel and rye spice.  Vanilla frosting.  Nose to finish, the flavors are very consistent.  Some bitter charred oak tannin notes linger as the flavor fades away.

Score:  86/100

Buying Recommendation:  Buy it Now!  This bourbon is, in my opinion, the poster child for high quality "spicy" bourbon (which comes from the high proportion of rye in the mash).  I really love where this bourbon sits, price wise.  It punches well-above most of its $35-40 peers, which makes it a pretty great value.  It clocks in at 100 proof which makes it very durable whether enjoyed neat, on the rocks, or in a cocktail.  Overall, this bourbon meets every criteria I have for a "shelf staple".  I typically rotate it with EH Taylor Small batch  or Wild Turkey Kentucky Spirit (when I find it on sale) to occupy that $40 bourbon slot in my cabinet.

The Rating Scale

At WBSE we use a true 100 point scale for scoring to allow whiskeys to further differentiate themselves (as opposed to a letter grade scale where 90% of whiskeys fall between 78-92).  This allows you to more easily compare scores between different whiskeys.  Here is how the scale breaks down:

1-49:  Varying degrees of bad

55:  Average

60-69:  Better than average

70-79:  solid/good

80-89:  excellent

90+:  truly exceptional

All thoughts and opinions expressed are original to the author of the review or article. We are in no way paid to express any specific opinion about any specific company or product.

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Publisher

All Time Favorite Whisky: Balblair 1990 2nd Edition

Daily Drinkers: Russell’s Reserve Single Barrel, Springbank 10 Year

A former craft beer enthusiast, Andrew fell in love with whiskey after tasting a pour of Laphroaig 10 year and being amazed that such a flavor could exist within a liquid. With a college background in biochemistry and a passion for history, Andrew quickly grew to love the science of whiskey making, the history of different distilleries, and the exploration of flavors within a dram. To Andrew, whiskey is more than just a drink; it is a fascinating mix of art and science – an intricate beauty to be pondered and appreciated. Besides this, Andrew has found that a nice bottle of whiskey has an amazing ability to bring people together and unite people from all different backgrounds together as friends.

While Andrew can be found drinking any style of whiskey from any region around the world, he has a particular affinity for spice-laden bourbons and coastal scotches. Besides drinking whiskey, Andrew also enjoys weight lifting, road biking, and cooking.

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