Four Roses Small Batch Background
It’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.