Monday 20 October, 2014

Do You Need The 2014 Four Roses Small Batch Bourbon?

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Everybody out there should know my love and admiration for Four Roses’ Jim Rutledge… You don’t? Oh well, it’s out now. There are many fine cult bourbons out there (and many phonies) but Rutledge’s Four Roses to me is consistently the most interesting, just by dint of the variety he’s able to create with five […]




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four-roses-2014LESmallBatch_Front_USEverybody out there should know my love and admiration for Four Roses' Jim Rutledge... You don't? Oh well, it's out now. There are many fine cult bourbons out there (and many phonies) but Rutledge's Four Roses to me is consistently the most interesting, just by dint of the variety he's able to create with five yeast strains and two mashbills. Scientist? Artist? Clearly, a bit of both.

Four Roses' standard releases are fine enough (even their yellow label, for my money, stands up as one of the better blended cask spirits widely available anywhere), but of course in the modern Bourbon-craze era, there is ever demand for more and different and dorkier and rarer. And so, the Small Batch series. It's a great opportunity for a master blender to play with ingredients and show the range of expression.

Having said that, 2014's Small Batch still caught me by surprise. After 2013's win as American Whiskey of the Year by Whiskey Advocate, expectations were obviously high--and demand. 4R is releasing some 11,200 bottles this year (up from 6,500 last year and 4,000 in 2012), certainly opening up the debate of what constitutes "small batch."
A blend of four ages/yeast strains (OBSK 9 year, OBSV 13 year, OESV12 year and OBSF 11 year) as detailed in
Bourbonr blog's review here. Rutledge clearly decided to take a very different direction from 2013, using four strains vs. three, and a much younger average barrel age (though it's still a minimum 9 yrs). It comes in at a hefty 120.3 proof. Hoodaddy.

4Roses' tasting notes offer "Aromas of light orange zest, glazed maple and fresh spearmint. The flavor profile includes orange citrus and mellow hints of honey, which are expertly mingled with a palate of mild cloves and cool mint..."

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Here's what I found:

Amber-ruby color.

Nose was certainly very alcohol-heavy (no surprise) with sharp sweetness, brandied orange peel, caramel, iodine and maybe a trace of cilantro? (Betteridge noted Olive Oil--I get that, in retrospect)

Mouth: Rye clearly dominates this very spicy blend, very peppery from the start, with tobacco, toasted nuts, and hearth in the midpalate, roasted corn, pretzel salt and delicate fruit flavor, perhaps persimmon, peeking through in the finish.

Of the various tasting notes online, I concurred most with The Bourbon Babe's review here although Jack Bettridge's Cigar Aficionado notes are also worth looking at.

My personal preference leans toward less spice than this, but I could see it being a huge hit--perhaps even a "gateway" spirit--with fans of Scotch from Islay and other Maritime-influenced regions.

Released mid-September, Four Roses 2014 Small Batch retails at $99.99 per 750-milliliter bottle.


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