TASTING REVIEW: FOUR ROSES SMALL BATCH 

It was right there in plain sight the entire time. Many will recognize the famous Alfred Eisenstaedt photograph of a US sailor kissing a woman in Times Square on V-J Day in 1945.  But did you notice the moniker on the building in the background? Zoom in. Yep. It’s a Four Roses lighted advertisement that highlighted Times Square from 1938 – 1945.

Today, Four Roses is a powerful and unique bourbon brand; 70 years ago, it was a completely different story. The brand was purchased by Seagrams in 1943, and after tastes changed to lighter spirits, Seagrams relegated the brand to Europe and Asia. These were dark years for Four Roses, as the product at the time was a blended product and often mixed with grain neutral spirits, and was thus related to “rotgut” status.  

After being merged into Diageo in 2002, the Four Roses brand was sold to Kirin, the Japanese spirits giant, and the rebirth of Four Roses began. You’ll find 3 major products in the Four Roses lineup: Yellow Label (bottled at 80 proof), Small Batch (bottled at 90 proof), and Single Barrel (bottled at 100 proof). Today, we’re going to check out the fruity and floral Four Roses Small Batch.

Ten Recipes  

Many distilleries utilize a single mash bill or two, a common yeast strain, and vary the taste profiles by adjusting where and how long the barrels are aged. Four Roses takes a different approach.

The finished products can be a blend of two mash bills:  E = 75% corn, 20% rye, and 5% malted barley, and B = 60% corn, 35% rye, and 5% malted barley.

The mash bills are also married to 5 different yeast strains:

K – spicy, full bodied
Q – slightly fruity, spicy, medium bodied
O – floral (rose petal), spicy, medium bodied
F – herbal
V – delicate fruit, spicy and creamy

Two mash bills plus 5 different yeast strains create 10 different bourbon recipes. The Small Batch product is a blend of 4 of these recipes to create a spicy and floral mix of notes:

MashYeast
BK
EK
BO
EO

If you happen to pick up a bottle of the Single Barrel, you’ll note a 4-character code:

CodeDescription
ODenotes distilled at Four Roses Distillery
B, EMash bill (indicated above)
SStraight bourbon designation
K, Q, O, F, VYeast strain (indicated above)

So, next time you’re out and considering Four Roses Single Barrel, you can reference the codes above and choose your desired features.

Master Distiller Brent Elliott typically batches approximately 250 barrels together to make Small Batch. While the bottles don’t carry an age statement, barrels are typically 6-7 years old, and occasionally as much as 8 years old.  

The Tasting

The Four Roses Small Batch contains a blend of the 2 mash bills and 2 yeast strains indicated earlier.

Eye: Medium copper
Nose: Wood and oak, light floral notes, fruit, and caramel
Palate:  Oak, spice, and a velvety creamy mouthfeel.  Very smooth with notes of elegance – none overpowering – with a spicy dash of rye.
Finish:  Smooth, long, and mellow; not harsh in the least. Caramel and fruit notes with more oak and rye spice.
Overall:   Four Roses is a brand I enjoy having on hand. It’s not always in the cabinet, but I certainly enjoy it when it is. It carries a fine character and is very well balanced.  The fruity, floral notes are a unique one that sets Four Roses apart from many of the competitors.

The Yellow Label, at 80 proof, is fine product, but I feel the taste greatly improves as the proof increases. Small Batch is about 20% cheaper than its bigger brother – Single Barrel. For the money and its unique notes, Small Batch is a good value and a great warm-weather sipper.

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