Distilleries typically emphasis what they think makes them unique, and Four Roses Distillery has a few things going for it. The distillery itself is a cool looking Spanish Mission style architecture. The grounds were also very nice.
My tour consisted of a an introduction, a short video, a tour of the production facilities, and a tasting. Finally you walk through the gift shop.
The introduction covers the basic mythology of the Four Roses brand and uniqueness of its 10 recipes of 5 yeasts and two high rye mashes. Four Roses is also a little unique in that their warehouses are single floor buildings. In theory, the single floor aging generate less variation between barrels without any rotation between floors. The company story is the founder Paul Jones Jr named his Four Roses distillery after the love of his life. He had asked her to marry him multiple times and each time she said no. Finally he delivered an ultimatum that he will ask one more time and if she says no he will never ask again. She told him to meet her at a ball and he will give him his answer. At the ball he got his yes answer while she wore a corsage of four roses. Lastly, Four Roses Distillery has an interesting history from producing one of if not the best selling Bourbons in America to exporting its entire production. When current owners Kirin purchased the distillery, they agreed to reintroduce the distillery’s Bourbon in the USA under the Four Roses brand.
The group was then led outdoors where our guide pointed out the warehouses across the street that were once Four Roses warehouses back in the day, but was at some point sold to nearby Wild Turkey. We saw water that was diverted from the Salt river entering the facility for cooling. Outside is a nice Four Roses barrel display which makes for a prime photo op. We saw a truck filling with distillate that was presumably heading to Four Roses Cox Creek warehouse facility about an hour away. Our guide also pointed out a small shack where each grain/cereal shipment is samples for quality prior to acceptance. If I remember, they source their GMO-free corn from Indiana, barley from Minnesota, and rye from Denmark.
The tour of the plant was pretty interesting. The group was guided through the plant’s stairs and catwalks. We got to see the fermentation area where big cypress vats held beer in various stages of fermentation. We were invited to taste the fermentation, if we wanted. We were led around pathways with many visual warnings for steps and hot things. We saw the still, yeast tub, and tail box.
After the production tour we were led into a tasting room where we were taunted by some famous Four Roses Limited Edition bottles behind glass. Alas, our guide didn’t uncork any of that, but we did get to try their standard three bottles of Four Roses Yellow Label, Four Roses Small Batch, and Four Roses Single Barrel. After the tasting we got to keep a nice Four Roses rocks tumbler.
Finally we were released into the gift shop where we found many
Bourbon-themed trinkets and Four Roses branded merchandize. The prize though was the case of private Four Roses selection picked by then Master Distiller Jim Rutledge. When I was there in 2014, nine out of the ten recipes were available and all I can say is it was probably a good thing my wife was there to force some restraint. I picked up three bottles to round out my collection of all 10 recipes. I picked up a OBSQ, OESK, and OESV. All were very nice as anyone would expect.
Four Roses Distillery Tour gives a good look at the production process including the still and fermentation area. You get led through the production floor of the distillery. The down side is there’s no warehouse or bottling, but that is available as a separate tour at their Cox Creek facility. I you visit within 2 months, your distillery tour ticket gets you into the Cox Creek tour for free.
If I remember, the tour ran about an hour, including a short browse in the gift shop. The $5 price w/ tasting and a nice glass make it a good value and well worth the drive.
The gift shop barrel selection is a great reason to stop, however, if you call around to stores in Lexington and Louisville you can probably find similar store picks. Liquor Barn locations seem to usually have something. The picks all usually very good and can be $5-$10 or so cheaper than gift store bottles. Something to consider if you’re heading out there just for some barrel-proof goodness. It’s also probably worth calling ahead to make sure they have what you want stocked before making the drive.
Four Rose Distillery
1224 Bonds Mill Road
Lawrenceburg, KY 40342
Toured: September 2014