The Four Roses Small Batch review
Company: Four Roses
Age: No Age Statement (rumored to be around 7 years)
Classification: Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey
Breakdown: A blend of 4 different mash bills. It’s not as simple as you might imagine
Price: c. £25-30
The origins of the Four Roses brand are somewhat sketchy to say the least. What is known is that the name was trademarked in 1888, but it is also claimed that it had been selling since the 1860’s. The distillery was built in 1910 and is based in Lawrenceburg, Kentucky, USA and features a Spanish mission style architecture, which is in fact listed on the USA National Register of Historic Places. Now don't say you never learn anything from the Gents!
The definition of small batch is generally used in very liberal terms in the whiskey world, but this really is small batch bourbon, only 4 (yes 4) casks are used in the production of each release. Four Roses is the only distillery which uses two mash bills and five proprietary yeast strains. This in turn produces ten different bourbon recipes. What is truly commendable to the producers of this whiskey is the transparency of ingredients used. We recommend that you look at the Four Roses website for a brilliantly crafted production process explanation Four Roses.
So if you clicked on the link above you will see that The first letter is always O and designates the production facility of Four Roses Distillery. Now you may be wondering (like Mav did) why does the letter 'O' stand for Four Roses?? Well it goes back to the days when the distillery was named 'Old Prentice' and the designated letter 'O' never changed after that. The second letter designates the mashbill which can be E (75% corn, 20% rye, 5% malted barley) or B (60% corn, 35% rye, 5% malted barley). The third letter is always S and designates the whiskey distillation, straight whiskey. The fourth letter designates the yeast strain, which can be V (delicate fruit), K (slight spice), O (rich fruit), Q (floral essence), or F (herbal notes). Please don't ask us to explain those ones as we have no idea how they came up with the representing letters for the yeast strain, they seem very random. Instead let's distract ourselves by sampling it ...
For this review we drank it neat in a Glencairn glass
What we got - fruit, flowers, spice, medicinal (Mr. Pie), caramel, wood
What they say we should get - Spicy, rich, mellow, fruity, hints of sweet oak and caramel
What we got - Intense burn at the start (but always a pleasant one) which sticks around, orange, apricot, with a hint of oak that follows from the nose
What they say we should get - Creamy, mellow, ripened red berries, rich, spicy, well-balanced, moderately sweet
What we got - long and the taste sticks around on the tounge
What they say we should get - Soft, smooth and pleasantly long
This drink is exactly what Four Roses want it to be. It's better than the standard 'Yellow Lable' offering (by a country mile) and not quite as good as the outstanding 'Single Barrel', but of course it comes at a much cheaper price than the 'Single Barrel' and that's the Small Batch's key strength. You will not find many better bourbon's than this for under £30. Trust us we've tried.
The Small Batch is a well balanced, easy going, and well-crafted offering at a fantastic price. An above average bourbon, and easily the Gents preferred mid-week sipper at the moment. Bourbon you won’t get bored with and it should always be in your collection. As you can see with the below scores the Bourbon Gents are both great fans of this offering. Add to that the beautiful care and attention Four Roses pay to their bottles and you have an equally well crafted outside to match the enticing liquid inside.
7 out of 10 - Mav
6 out of 10 – Mr. Pie