This 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.