Four Roses Distillery Tour

Overview

Four Roses Distillery Sign
Four Roses Distillery Sign
Four Roses Distillery Filling a Fermenter
Four Roses Distillery Filling a Fermenter
Four Roses Distillery Active Fermenter
Four Roses Distillery Active Fermenter
Four Roses Distillery Fermentation Room
Four Roses Distillery Fermentation Room
Four Roses Distillery
Four Roses Distillery
Four Roses Distillery Tail Box
Four Roses Distillery Tail Box
Four Roses Gift Shop
Four Roses Gift Shop

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.

Bottom Line:

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

Larceny Wheated Bourbon – Review

Larceny Background

Larceny
Larceny

Every great Bourbon needs a great story, and as we know, sometimes these stories can stretch the truth if not be an outright fantasy. Old Fitzgerald was a fantasy of the best distiller (John E. Fitzgerald) making the best Bourbon in the land that most can’t buy. As it turns out, there actually may have been a John E. Fitzgerald, but he wasn’t a distiller. Fitzgerald was actually a Treasury agency working for the Feds. The new story goes that John E. Fitzgerald was charged with safeguarding stocks of whiskey, but he happened to have a taste for the brown stuff. He was known to have “sampled” barrels to the extent some barrels became pretty light. When these barrels were removed from the warehouses, staff called them Fitzgerald barrels due to the considerable loss.

Heaven Hill branded Larceny with this new legend.

Details

None, Barrels aged 6-12 Years Old. 92-proof. Wheated Bourbon. Paid $25.

Aroma

Brown sugar, nail polish, charred oak, fruity, cherries and bananas. Vanilla.

Flavor

Sweet up front with bunches of caramel and vanilla. Cinnamon. Some harshness sort of medicinal. Roasted corn. Some alcohol heat. Thick oak flavors with a little astringency. Nice thick mouthfeel.

Overall

Larceny is a nice Bourbon and given it’s wheated and a good price are bonuses. If you’re a fan of wheated Bourbons, that is Bourbons with a recipe of wheat rather than spicy rye, you don’t have a lot options that are both budget friendly and found on shelves. Larceny isn’t as widely available as many mainstream Bourbons, but where it is distributed it seems to be on the shelves.

Larceny is lively with some bite, but also carries some age with nice oak profile. The lively side I’m getting the roasted corn and rougher alcohols I usually get from younger Bourbons, but nice dulled oak profiles from more aged Bourbons. The first few sips I get a little harshness, but once I ease into Larceny the palate adjusts and it’s more enjoyable. If needed, a little splash of water helps. Larceny reminds me of a couple other Heaven Hill Bourbons I enjoy in Elijah Craig 12 and Henry McKenna Single Barrel. All have that Heaven Hill profile I dig, but have a little edge.

Being about $25 is a nice price for a quality Bourbon and certainly worth checking out.

Recommendation

Buy a Glass – 3.5 out of 5.0 Rating

(My 5 point scale: Pass, Try a Glass, Buy a Bottle, Buy Again, Shut Up and Take My Money – Bottle price is taken into consideration for recommendations.)

Buying Options and Further Research

If you’re looking to check out other wheated Bourbons in this price range, I’d suggest looking at Weller 12, Old Weller Antique, and Maker’s Mark.

Links & Other Reviews

 

Crown Royal Hand Selected Barrel – Review

Crown Royal Hand Selected Barrel Background

Crown Royal Hand Selected Barrel
Crown Royal Hand Selected Barrel

I walked into my usual whiskey monger and was greeted with the latest store selection. I was excitedly shown a fancy bottle of a single barrel Crown Royal with a box and nifty bag. Nice presentation, but Crown Royal? I’m mostly a Bourbon guy, so I was skeptical, but hey I’ll give a shot.

Crown Royal Hand Selected Barrel is actually pretty unique. My experiences of Crown is limited to the standard bottle that is typically a blend of up to 50 different whiskeys. One particular whiskey is their Coffey Rye made on a unique still named after its inventor Aeneas Coffey. The research says the Coffey Rye is one of the bolder component whiskey that goes into the other blends. From this Coffey Rye we get the single barrel expressions of Crown Royal Hand Selected Barrel. Also, worth noting the Coffey Rye used here is aged in new American oak and bottled at a ample 103-proof.

Crown Royal Hand Selected Barrel is available only to stores buying a single barrel. Crown Royal Hand Selected Barrel started a slow rollout late last year in Texas and has since expanded to other states. Interestingly, apparently it’s not yet available in its home country of Canada.

Details

Bottled at 103-proof.  No age statement. Thought to be made of 64% corn, 31.5% rye, and 4.5% barley. Paid $55

Aroma

Earthly, butterscotch, spearmint, fruity with some mango and pineapples.

Flavor

Mild and sweet. Lots of bananas, brown sugar. Cinnamon. Vanilla. Oatmeal and maple syrup. Sawdust. Grapefruit.

Overall

In short, Crown Royal Hand Selected Barrel seems like breakfast in a whiskey glass. This isn’t a big bold whiskey and I’d guess it’s either not aged very long and/or aged gently in cold Canadian climate. Also, if I were to guess, I’d say Crown Royal Hand Selected Barrel drinks below its 103-proof both in flavor and strength. On the backend it has some heat, but generally is pretty mild and enjoyable.

So, Crown Royal Hand Selected Barrel isn’t going to blow you away in flavor and punch, but it’s a unique offering. It’s an interesting example of what’s being made in Diageo’s Gimli, Manitoba distillery and also pull out the more flavorful components going into the widely popular Crown Royal.

I’m more of a Bourbon drinker and I’m not fully on the bandwagon of Canadian rye whiskey. If you prefer rye and enjoy other whiskey coming from Canada, Crown Royal Hand Selected Barrel should be in your wheels house. For me, however, the price seems high to be a regular bottle. I’m happy with the purchase and learning about Coffey Rye, but I probably won’t be going back for more.

Recommendation

Buy a Bottle – 3.0 out of 5.0 Rating

(My 5 point scale: Pass, Try a Glass, Buy a Bottle, Buy Again, Shut Up and Take My Money – Bottle price is taken into consideration for recommendations.)

Links & Other Reviews

Old Forester 1870 – Review

Old Forester 1870 Background

Old Forester 1870
Old Forester 1870

Bourbon lore has Old Forester as the longest selling brand of Bourbons and the first to be sold in pre-packaged bottles. George Garvin Brown was a pharmaceuticals salesman and partnered with his brother JTS Brown to begin buying Bourbon barrels and packaging them in sealed bottles. As a practice, they would buy multiple barrels and “batch” them together to be bottled. The batching helped to create a more consistent product compared to the variations found in individual barrels from multiple distilleries. The practice of both batching for consistency and bottling for consumer protection made Old Forester an innovative brand among consumers.

Old Forester 1870 is a tribute to this batching and the first in what appears to be a Whiskey Row Series of releases. Brown-Forman created Old Forester 1870 by pulling together barrels from three different warehouses across three different days of production, similar to how the “original batch” was made. I’m not sure how this really varies from modern practices, which is basically the same thing. Unless it’s a single barrel product, all Bourbons are batched together across a variety of barrels to create a consistent brand. The only difference is Old Forester 1870 is a small batch Bourbon (an ambiguous term of its own) vs the standard Old Forester brands.

Details

No Age Statement. Bottled at 45%. Thought to be standard Old Forester mash bill of 72% corn, 18% rye, and 10% barley. Paid $45

Aroma

Brown sugar. Vanilla, Fruity bubblegum. Caramel apples. Cherries. Oak. Some baking spices.

Flavor

Sweetness is kind of candy-like. Brown sugar and vanilla comes through. Fruitiness too. Oak is firm with a little astringency. Barrel char. Finish is a bit sharp.

Overall

I like Old Forester and if you’re a fan I think you’ll also like Old Forester 1870. Old Forester 1870 is distinctly Old Forester profile, but better. I’ve reviewed Old Forester Signature and enjoyed that as both a nice Bourbon and a good value. I think Old Forester 1870 is more interesting and nicer on the palate. I think Old Forester 1870 is specially sweeter, softer, and just generally more pleasant.

The tricky part is Old Forester 1870 costs basically twice as much as the mentioned Old Forester Signature. I pulled out Old Forester Signature to taste side by side and I don’t think Old Forester 1870 is 2x better to justify that price. Old Forester 1870 is a nice Bourbon, it’s just that relative to the rest of the shelf it’s a little over priced. Also Old Forester 1870 is apparently not bringing anything too novel with its “original batch” marketing. At best, it seems a nice selection of some choice Old Forester barrels at a modest price. And with enough availability to actually be found on the shelf. So, if you’re an Old Forester fan, this bottle should be calling for you. If not, you might be happy checking out Old Forester Signature first.

Recommendation

Buy a Bottle – 3.0 out of 5.0 Rating
(My 5 point scale: Pass, Try a Glass, Buy a Bottle, Buy Again, Shut Up and Take My Money – Bottle price is taken into consideration for recommendations.)

Buying Options and Further Research

I enjoy the mentioned Old Forester Signature. Beyond that, other standard rye Bourbons around this price worth looking at include its cousin Woodford Reserve, Knob Creek Small Batch, Baker’s, Angle’s Envy, Wild Turkey Kentucky Sprint, and John J Bowman.

Links & Other Reviews

Grand Traverse Cask Strength Rye Whiskey – Review

Grand Traverse Cask Strength Rye Whiskey Background

Grand Traverse Cask Strength Rye Whiskey
Grand Traverse Cask Strength Rye Whiskey

Grand Traverse Distillery is based out of Traverse City, Michigan where they have a couple tasting rooms. Currently they said they’re not retailing their whiskey widely since it’s in short supply, so you most likely need to visit the distillery or one of their tasting rooms. They make all their whiskey themselves and have been at it for about eight years.  They promote themselves as a farm to bottle operation sourcing all their grains/cereal from local farms.

Grand Traverse Distillery has three main whiskeys with Ole George, a 100% rye whiskey, a Bourbon made of 20% rye, and a Cherry whiskey which is their Bourbon with infused Michigan cherries.

Another Whiskey reviewed here is a limited release cask strength rye whiskey. It’s aged 6 years and made with 60% rye and 40% corn. Their first batch, which I’m told was actually a single barrel, is non-chill filtered and uncut 116-proof.
I tried Ole George, the Bourbon, and the Cask Strength Rye and came away buying this bottle as my favorite.

Details

No Age Statement. Bottled at 116-proof. 60% rye. $45 for 375-ml. 

Aroma

Minty. Pine needles. Baking spices, cloves. Vanilla. Cough syrup. Sawdust.

Taste

Minty, sawdust. Vanilla. Caramel. Sweetness. Graham crackers. A little cola. Lively. It has some heat. Some astringency in the finish.

Overall

Grand Traverse Cask Strength Rye Whiskey is pretty tasty with some of that raw rye and sawdust flavors I pick out on younger rye whiskey. I compared to some other barrel proof rye whiskeys with a 2-year-old and 4-year-old bottles from Willett Family Estate. I was hoping to get a nice reference point, but they’re actually all pretty different other than for being high proof rye whiskeys. Differences in age, recipes, and perhaps aging bring different things to the table. If I were to guess, I think I’d figure Grand Traverse Cask Strength Rye Whiskey tastes like younger than 6 years, which could be an interesting contrast in aging in northern Michigan vs closer to the Mason-Dixon line.

Grand Traverse Cask Strength Rye Whiskey brings spicy bold flavors that emphasize the rye. In the background, a sweetness comes in the finish for a pleasant sip.

It’s encouraging to see new distilleries’ product come to age and hold a lot of promise. Grand Traverse Cask Strength Rye Whiskey is a treat, but not a rye I’d regularly pull down off the shelf. Forget the fact there are only so many bottles out there to buy, the pricing makes this an exclusive bottle. The mentioned Willett is basically half the price for the volume, and there are a number of quality rye whiskies out there for even less, even though not barrel-proof. This is a challenge with new craft distillers doing interesting things on a different scale, but I think it’s still appropriate to not evaluate up-starts in a bubble from the rest of the industry.

Ultimately, my reviews are about quality and value. I’m told a second batch is in progress and I’d be curious to see Grand Traverse Cask Strength Rye Whiskey maybe at older age to take off some rougher edges, but then again that’s part of the character here. Still, Grand Traverse Cask Strength Rye Whiskey is a good whiskey in quality, however, with the pricing I’m going to go strictly by my scale and recommend making the trip to try a glass.

Recommendation

Try a Glass – 2.5 out of 5.0 Rating

(My 5 point scale: Pass, Try a Glass, Buy a Bottle, Buy Again, Shut Up and Take My Money – Bottle price is taken into consideration for recommendations.)

Links

Grand Traverse Distillery

 

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