If you’re a bourbon enthusiast, you’re probably familiar with the fact that Four Roses uses ten different recipes when making their whiskey. There are two variables that they play with to create different flavor sets. The first is the mashbill which features either a higher (35%) or lower (20%) percentage of rye. They also choose from one of five different yeast strains. Depending on the yeast used during fermentation, the resulting whiskey could feature fruitiness, spice, floral notes, or herbal qualities. The recipe code follows the format O [E/B] S [V/K/O/Q/F]
The annual Limited Edition Small Batch release is one of the rare cases where I’m happy that it’s not a single barrel expression. With ten recipes to choose from, Master Distiller Brent Elliott has a lot of different flavors to play with and most of the recipes blend together really nicely with each other. This year’s small batch release is comprised of 12 year old OBSV, 12 year old OESV, 16 year old OESK, and 19 year old OBSK. I rarely enjoy well-aged bourbon on its own as I often find it way too oaky and tannic for my taste. As part of a blend with younger whiskey, however, small amounts of really old bourbon gives the final result a layer of depth and enough oak to make for a nicely balanced final result.
Here’s what Four Roses had to say about this year’s release:
Non-chill filtered and bottled at a 111.4 proof, the 2020 Limited Edition Small Batch features four different hand-selected batches aged 12 to 19 years. These batches represent four of the distillery’s 10 distinct Bourbon recipes – a 12-year-old Bourbon from the OBSV recipe, a 12-year-old OESV, a 16-year-old OESK, and a 19-year-old OBSK. “Each batch in this year’s limited edition bottling is an exceptional whiskey that could have stood on its own as a single barrel offering,” Elliott said. “But in this case the sum is even greater than the parts – as together these bring a perfect balance of bright, vibrant flavors and aromas from the 12 and 16-year-old barrels combined with the oak tones and aged expressions from the 19-year-old batch.”
There are 14,040 bottles available which is unfortunately just a single bottle short of being a palindromic bottle count (someone has to hold distilleries accountable for these egregious oversights). This is a barrel proof release, but this whiskey clocks in at a reasonably accessible 55.7% ABV.
|Appearance||Amber with a hint of rust|
|Nose||Mint and rye spice jumps out first with a bit of aromatic oak behind it. Maraschino cherries, vanilla, caramel corn, slightly buttery, a hint of pipe tobacco and just a whisper of bubble gum.|
|Taste||Toasted almond, fresh herbs, black pepper, a much deeper oak than on the nose, hint of mixed berries, clove, fresh cut flowers. The rye influence is really present here.|
|Finish||A spicy and dry finish, lighter oak than on the palate though it’s still tannic, dried cherries, honey, leather, dark chocolate covered almonds. The finish is quite long and the spice and dried fruits are the last to fade.|
|Overall Thoughts||For me, this year’s Four Roses Small Batch LE is a rye-forward bourbon that features some fruit and oak under a layer of mint, vanilla, and herbs. The age is blended in well here though I typically find myself looking for something less rye heavy in this series. This is well crafted but doesn’t completely fit my taste preference in this case.|