Tag Archives: Four Roses

Four Roses – Low Rye Private Selections – Review


Four Roses Private SelectionThis is a bit of a journey, but first, a quick background. The deal with the 10 recipes at Four Roses has been told many times, but it’s kind of critical for what is happening here. Four Roses makes 10 different recipes of 5 yeast and two mashes. One mash is 35% rye and the other is 20% rye with the difference make up with corn. Both are relatively high rye Bourbon recipes. Four of those recipes goes into the Four Roses Small Batch, OBSV goes into the Four Roses Single Barrel, and a combination of all 10 can be used for the Four Roses Yellow Label. Four Roses has a barrel program where stores and restaurants can select a single barrel of one of the 10 recipes and have them bottled up for their customers. In my opinion, these private barrels are one of the best bottles of Bourbon that you can actually walk in and buy.

My first goal was to collect and sample bottles of the 10 individual recipes. This write-up here looks at 5 of the recipes within the lower rye E mash. I’m still sampling the B recipe bottles. After I tracked down bottles of all the recipes, which took probably like 8 months or so and a trip to Kentucky, my next goal was to figure out which recipes I prefer.  What I’m wondering is which recipes I may like best so in the future I’ll know what to grab when I find it. I’d be happy to have any of these bottles, but if there are recipes I prefer I might as well focus on stocking up on those.

Each of one of these private barrels are pretty good. Four Roses screens samples before sending them out for selection, so we should all feel confident that no matter what every bottle should be a winner. Still, there’s a lot of variability between selections of the same recipe. I’ve experienced different opinions of the same recipe between different selections, so there can still be a factor of simply picking out an outstanding barrel of Bourbon regardless of recipe. Beyond the recipe, there are factors in barrel age, proof, and aging location. Even with all those other variables, I think there’s still a preference to be had in the recipe.

So, my first pass through this will be to figure which yeasts I like the most within the two mashes from the bottles I’ve gathered. The second pass will see which I like overall between those favorites. Then, I want to start looking at additional selections of the recipes I liked the best. I’m not sure how helpful this will be to others since your preference may be for a different recipe, plus you’ll likely not find the specific barrel selections outlined here. So, mostly this is just me documenting the journey for myself, but hopefully you’ll still find it interesting.


I’m not go into a full review of each bottle. What I’ve done is sample all five side by side and ranked them. My ranking was Good, Better, Best. I’ll include some notes about each and also details on the barrel, which might prove to be interesting eventually. What if it turns outs I prefer bottles from a particular warehouse? Or even a location within a warehouse? Or maybe upper, middle or lower positions on the rack? (Warehouses at Four Roses are all single floor, but they stack barrels six high)

Welcome to my rabbit hole. The Bourbon is tasty.



– Garry’s |  Wayne, NJ |10 yr |57.6% _ GW 39-3G

Fruity. Some graininess. Nice. Kind of neutral. Roasted flavors. Nice drinking. A little spice in the end.

– Four Roses | Lawrenceburg, KY | 9yr-7mo | 58.1% | HE 24-32
– Spec’s | Houston, TX | 9yr-2mo | 55.4% | KW 89-1N

Fruity. Lush. Bright Caramel, full body. Minty. Mild. Drying astringency finish


– Spec’s | Houston, TX |9yr-7mo | 59.5% | GE 5-3D

Caramel, light chocolate. Sweet Grassy, Minty, Spicy. Rye seems to come through. Tingly mouthfeel. Some bitterness in the finish

– Spec’s | Houston, TX |  9yr-11mo |54.4% | RN 85-1P

A little medicinal. Nice rye profile. After taste is little harsh


– Tippin’s | Ann Arbor, MI |10yr-5mo | BN 31-2K | 63.6%

Fruity, Spearmint, Fresh. Sweet. Caramel. A little acrid bitter alcohol in the finish. Something odd.


Again, these are all nice bottles. Issues seem be most apparent when tasting them in a lineup. If I find a bottle of one of the Best recipes, I’ll jump on it and add it to the bunker.

Next I’ll do the same rundown for the OBSx bottles and see what we get. And then I’ll stack up my favorites there against these OESV and OESK bottles for a final grudge match.

Creating a Barrel Proof Four Roses Small Batch Blend – Review #54

Four Roses Small Batch Blend Background

Note: Looks like i got the formula mixed up below. I haven’t retried the blend, but if you’re interested in experimenting, the correct formula should have been:

OBSK = 70g
OESO = 30g
OESK = 70g
OBSO = 30g

Four Roses Small Batch BlendSo, I’m a big fan of Four Roses. I can go back and forth on whether I like the Single Barrel better than the Small Batch. More times than not I’ll probably grab the Small Batch. I also really like their private barrel program. Stores can choose a barrel of one of Four Roses’ ten recipes and have them bottled up at full barrel strength for their customers. I’d argue these private barrels are one of the best thing going in Bourbon right now. At least for bottles that you actually find on the shelves.

The idea of a Four Roses Small Batch Blend came when I reviewed the Small Batch I was left wondering how it would be at a higher proof. The Small Batch is bottled at 90-proof, while the Single Barrel is 100-proof. In that Small Batch review I linked to an interview of Jim Rutledge by Jason Pyle on YouTube. In there Jim basically told us the recipe for Small Batch. With this info, I pulled four private bottles of the shelf and got to work.


Four Roses Small Batch uses four of the ten Four Roses recipes. Two are the higher rye mash recipe and two of the lower split between two yeasts. The recipes are OBSO, OESO, OBSK, and OESK. In the interview Jim states the recipe is 50% of each grain recipe and then a 70/30 split between the yeasts. From his description of the yeasts I would call it 70% of the O and 30% of the K.  So, my trial Four Roses Small Batch blend looked like this:

OBSO (Tippin’s Market, Ann Arbor) = 70g
OESK (Four Roses Gift Shop) = 30g
OESO (Tippin’s Market, Ann Arbor) = 70g
OBSK (Tippin’s Market, Ann Arbor)= 30g


First some caveats here. We’re using private barrels, which means bottles likely won’t have a benchmark taste profile that you might get from a commercial release. Then these are single barrels so each will be a little different. And we have barrels ranging from 9 years, 8 months to 11 years 6 months, plus alcohol ranging from 56.7% to 63.6%. What I do here will likely be hard to replicate, so this is just for fun and not science.

To break things down, I felt the Small Batch was more fruity with strawberries and bananas. Also crisper. The Four Roses Small Batch blend was more oak, char, and roasted notes. Lots of fruit still, but seemed to take a back seat to the alcohol and barrel. Also not as bright. The Four Roses Small Batch blend also had a little perfume. I thought the Four Roses Small Batch blend had really nice oakyness and tannic mouthfeel and overall was very nice. The Small Batch though I felt was more nuanced allowing the more subtle flavors to bloom and was generally well put together.

I then tried adding some water to the Four Roses Small Batch blend and that brought out more of the subtle stuff I’m digging in the Small Batch. Overall I think a little water improves this glass. I’m not sure on the proof. I’d guess somewhere around 100-110-proof.


Blending whiskey is an interesting process. Sometimes the blend transcends the parts like with the Weller 12-Old Weller Antique/Pappy blend. Other times it subtracts like with the Elijah Craig 12/Elijah Craig 12 Barrel Proof blend.

So how did the Four Roses Small Batch Blend do? I’m coming away from this blend appreciating Four Roses Small Batch even more. The lower proof really seems to showcase these four recipes. I think there is something there with a little water, but I don’t think it’s worth the trouble. I’d say just go for the readily available bottle at a good price. And if you do gather these recipes in a private bottling, which you should, I would just enjoy them individually.

Now what if I had a different selection of bottles in these recipes? How would that work? That’s a good question for another time!

Does it Blend?

Don’t mess with a good thing

Four Roses Small Batch – Review

Four Roses Small Batch Background

Four Roses Small BatchIt’s hard to have a great Bourbon brand without some mythology. The official story is the company’s 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. Completely true or not, it’s a nice story.

Four Roses is an interesting operation. It’s unusual California Mission architecture, wooden fermentation tanks, and single story aging warehouses all make for a unique outfit. When Segram bought the distillery in 1943, it was a popular brand within the United States. The company shifted stocks of the good stuff overseas during the bad days of Bourbon in the 1960’s-1970’s. Domestically Four Roses brand became an inferior blended whiskey not made in Kentucky. In 2002 the company changed hands to Vivendi, and then Diageo, and then again to Kirin. Kirin discontinued the blended whiskey and began focusing on only straight Kentucky Bourbon. In 2004 Four Roses launched its Single Barrel product and began to reclaim its brand in the U.S. market. A couple years later the company expanded to introduce the Four Roses Small Batch.

Four Roses is also unique in their recipes. Usually a distillery will stick to limited mash bills for specific products and often a single yeast strain. Four Roses uses five different yeasts each lending a unique characteristic to the whiskey. And then the company produces two different mashbills. Both are relatively high rye at 20% and 30% rye contents. Using the different recipes allows Four Roses to obtain a unique character and consistency across its barrels of 10 different recipes.

Today the company sells three products in the United States and a few different bottlings over seas. Domestically there’s the standard Four Roses Yellow Label, which is a blend of all ten of their recipes blended together. Four Roses Small Batch here is a blend of four recipes and the Single Barrel is, well, a single barrel of their high rye and V yeast. Also Four Roses sells private barrels to retailers at full barrel strength. Finally there are two special annual releases of both the Single Barrel Limited Edition and Small Batch Limited Edition.


No Age Statement. Bottled at 90-proof. High-rye blend of four recipes. Paid $30.


Fruity, cherry. Caramel. Vanilla, Brown sugar. Cookies. Light corn.


Sweet caramel. Nice oak character. Thick woody resin. Vanilla. Black pepper.


I’m Four Roses fan boy, so I call this is one of my favorites. I go back and forth between preferring the Four Small Batch and Four Roses Single Barrel. Sometimes it’s just a mood thing depending how much rye I want in my glass. Four Roses Small Batch I think is a good price for the Bourbon, so I think it certainly qualifies for a week day sipper. To me it has an upper shelf taste with a mid shelf price.

Four Roses Small Batch uses four of Four Roses ten bourbon recipes. It’s a split of both its high and low rye mash recipes and the O and K yeast strain. What’s interesting is the Four Roses Single Barrel isn’t one of these four recipes, so it truly is unique from the Small Batch bottle.

Four Roses Small Batch is bottled at 90-proof which makes for a nice sipper. I think at the lower proof more of the subtleties of the yeast and mash can come through, which further separates it from the rest of Four Roses’ higher-proof offerings.  I recently tried recreating the Four Roses Small Batch using different private barrels, and I think I still like this one better because of those subtleties. I certainly enjoyed the most recent Four Roses Small Batch Limited Edition, so I think there is a barrel-proof combo out there to be had with the right bottles.

I think this is a solid 4.0 Bourbon and I’ll bump it up for a nice price value. Four Roses Small Batch will definitely have a permanent place on my shelf.


Buy Again – 4.5 / 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

Four Roses Small Batch is a high-rye Bourbon so looking at similar Bourbons in this price range, I’d suggest checking out Bulleit, Redemption, and Ridgemont Reserve. For me the Four Roses Single Barrel is $10 more and worth also checking out.

Links & Other Reviews

Four Roses Single Barrel – Review

Four Roses Single Barrel Background

Four Roses Single BarrelFour Roses Single Barrel is distilled at the Four Roses Distillery in Lawrenceburg, KY. They brew two separate grain bills, one with a 35% rye and the other a 25% rye. Although one is lower percentage rye, Four Rose’s recipe are still much higher than typical Bourbons.

Back in the day when Seagram was making a lot of Bourbon they had many different yeasts used in different distilleries. Four Roses Distillery was one of these distilleries. The goal was to bring a level of consistency between distilleries utilizing different yeast profiles. As the Bourbon industry declined, Seagrams shut down distilleries and some of those yeasts made their way into production at the Four Roses Distillery,

Today five of those yeasts remain in production, which with the two mashes give Four Roses 10 distinct recipes. These recipes allow Four Roses to achieve a higher level of consistency, like with Four Roses Yellow Label, and also a distinctly different product like in Four Roses Small Batch.  Another interesting option is to get a barrel-proof version of each of the 10 recipes through a Four Roses Private Selection.

Reviewed here, Four Roses Single Barrel is a standard release that always uses the same recipe. The specific recipe used is OBSV, which is their 35% high-rye mash and their V yeast strain.


Warehouse GW Batch 55-3R. OBSV recipe of 60% corn 35% rye, and 5% malted barley. Their V yeast strain is said to provide a fruity character. Bottled at 50%. No age statement. $42 Shelf Price. (2016)


Oak. Fruity cherry, pears. Caramel. Sweetness. Maybe some honey. Vanilla and Cinnamon. Adding a little water seems to bring out the fruitiness and sweetness.


Spicy, cherry fruit tartness, A little drying astringency in the finish. Toasty, maybe a some licorice. Oak seems fairly assertive. Sweetness seems to turn on as you sip. Spiciness and alcohol dance on the tongue and holds on through the finish. A little sweeter it seems with water. The oak seems to scale back. Spice is still prominent.


I’m a Four Roses fan, so I love the Four Roses Single Barrel. One thing that’s great about Four Roses is they give you a lot of info about the Bourbon in the bottle. If you want to have some fun, you can try barrels from different warehouses and tiers. Four Roses code their warehouses by letter and direction. So, this bottle came from the west side of Warehouse G (GW). Four Rose’s warehouses are also single story warehouses, which is very unique, and they stack the barrels six high. This barrel is a center cut barrel on the 3rd tier and the R or 18th barrel in the row.

Endless fun.

Anyway, Four Roses touts the word mellow, which in no way should be confused with “smooth.” Smooth, to me, is toothless and boring. Mellow is dangerously easy to drink and Four Roses Single Barrel has that. I love the big minty rye spice, fruitiness of the yeast, and mildly chocolate/coffee roast flavors from the charred barrels.

Some days it’s a toss up whether I like Four Roses Single Barrel or Four Roses Small Batch better. They’re both similarly good, but still significantly unique. For me, the Four Roses Small Batch is $10 cheaper, so I think that’s a good place to start and maybe a bottle to pull down more regularly.

Four Roses Single Barrel Recommendation

Buy Again – 4.5/5.0 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

I like to offer some options for similar Bourbons around this price. Feel free to investigate other reviews for further research.

The most obvious is the mentioned Four Roses Small Batch. Bulleit is an interesting option since up until recently it was distilled at Four Roses. Rumor is it’s a younger version of the five high rye recipes. Ridgemont Reserve, Breckenridge, Basil Hayden, and  Bulleit 10 Year are more high rye Bourbons worth checking out.

Four Roses Single Barrel Links & Reviews