Tag Archives: Four Roses

Four Roses Warehouse and Bottling Tour at Cox’s Creek

Four Roses Cox's Creek Warehouse and Bottling Facility
Four Roses Cox’s Creek Warehouse and Bottling Facility

The year prior we toured the Four Roses Distillery in Lawrenceburg, so when we were in Bardstown I wanted to be sure to see the other part of their operation in Cox’s Creek. Daily, big tanker trucks full of distillate make the drive from Lawrenceburg to the Warehouse and Bottling facility. The cargo is put into barrels and rolled into warehouses. When ready, those barrels are also dumped and bottled here.

One of Four Roses' warehouses
One of Four Roses’ warehouses

Four Roses opened a new visitors center here in 2014. Most visitors check out the distillery, but there’s plenty to see out in Cox’s Creek to be worth the drive. Cox’s Creek is just a short drive up from Bardstown and a few minutes from Jim Beam. We were planning to drive up to Louisville for the day, so we were there for the opening. It was a crisp fall morning and we were the only people ready for Bourbon at 9 AM, so we got a private tour.

We jumped into a big cargo van and drove to the barreling facility. Here they both fill new barrels and dump old barrels. Work was well underway so we got plenty of time to watch a lot of barrels be emptied. At Four Roses there are two lines where Small Batch and the regular Yellow Label are dumped. Selected barrels are lined up in a row, un-bunged, rolled, and then dumped into a trough. There’s a smaller trough for single barrel selections, whether done for the Four Roses Single Barrel or the Private Selection for stores or the gift shop.

Plate filter and chilling tank
Plate filter and chilling tank on the left

Once emptied, the Bourbon is transferred to a filtering process. While all the Bourbon is paper filtered for barrel sediment, all Four Roses Bourbon except for the Private Selection are also chill filtered. Chill filtering is the process of crashing the temperature of the Bourbon down to precipitate compounds out of solution. If this step isn’t done, the condition may happen in the glass when chilled with ice. Largely this isn’t necessary for Bourbon of more than 90-proof or so, but Four Roses processes all its standard product this way. Personally, I prefer non-chill filtered and a little haze wouldn’t bother me in the least.

Four Roses old bottling line
Four Roses old bottling line

From there, the bottling line is just the next room over. Four Roses is building a new bottling facility that will sit just behind this complex of buildings. The old line is very small and on the day we visited they were having issues with the labeler. From the sound and looks of things, I think everyone at Four Roses is excited for a new modern bottling line.

Looking down the center of a Four Roses warehouse
Looking down the center of a Four Roses warehouse

From the barreling and bottling area, we jumped back into the van and drove over to a warehouse. As I’ve written before, Four Roses’ warehouses are unique to other distilleries. Built by Seagram’s, the warehouses were intended to be a central hub for Bourbon made in Seagram’s various distilleries in Kentucky. The warehouses have a unique design of long single story buildings. Typically Bourbon rick houses are five or six stories high. In the Kentucky weather, each story is its own microclimate and it greatly affects the aging of Bourbon. Four Roses doesn’t have the same type of variation with a single story structure.

Racks in the warehouses stacked six high
Racks in the warehouses stacked six high

Still, there is a lot of variation to be found. While the warehouses are single floor, barrels are stacked six high. Even on the same floor, there are significant differences between the lower and upper barrels. With the Private Selection, you can observe this in the barrel proof with the lower barrels losing less water and resulting in lower alcohol and the upper with high alcohol content. Other changes are likely related to where barrels are stored. The warehouses are very large and central barrels likely experience less variation still than those nearer the walls.

What’s great about Four Roses is all this information is on their Single Barrel and Private Selections. You can know which warehouse by letter, the direction (north, south, east, west) the barrel’s nearest wall, which rack its on by letter and finally it’s tier 1-6. Between its 10 recipes and unique barrel aging, Four Roses says it’s happy to be so transparent because it’s confident no one can duplicate what they do.

After we had looked at enough full barrels, we got back into the van and headed to the gift shop. The tour ended with tastings of the Yellow Label, Small Batch, and Single Barrel. Along with the tasting, you keep to keep your glass, which is a nice heavy rocks glass with the Four Roses logo on the bottom. These are my favorite Bourbon glasses and you can only get one by doing the tasting.

Inside the gift shop they have the various Bourbon and Kentucky trinkets. The big draw is the Private Selection bottles available for sale. When we were there, long-time master distiller Jim Rutledge had just retired and there had been a run on barrels he picked. The distillery was sold out, but Cox’s Creek had a bunch. I picked up a bottle from Jim’s last barrel selection and one of Brent Elliot’s (the new master distiller) first picks.

I’m a Four Roses fan, so this was a must stop for me, but it’s also worth making the drive if you’re around Bardstown or checking out Jim Beam. I’ll be curious to stop by again some day to see their new bottling line and get some more glasses.

Visited September 2015

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

Four Roses Yellow Label Bourbon – Review

Four Roses Yellow Label Background

 
Four Roses Yellow Label
Four Roses Yellow Label

Four Roses Yellow Label is the entry of the three regular Four Roses Bourbons. Second is Four Roses Small Batch and third is the Four Roses Single Barrel. Four Roses Yellow Label is an 80-proof Bourbon that a blending of their 10 straight Bourbon recipes. Four Roses Yellow Label is also younger than the other bottles, said to be about 6.5 years or so.

The wide array of recipes makes Four Roses unique, but also unique is how they age their Bourbon. They use single floor warehouses rather than multi-story buildings. Generally temperatures vary widely from floor to floor of a warehouse so by keeping all the barrels on the same floor should reduce variability from barrel to barrel. But, Bourbon being Bourbon, there are still a lot of variations between barrels regardless, so Four Roses utilized its 10 recipes to hone in on a consistent product.
While Four Roses Yellow Label is a lower 80-proof, it still packs surprising amount of flavor with its high rye recipes and unique yeast characteristics. I think it’s distinctly Four Roses, but the blending of many of their recipes makes it harder than the Small Batch to put your finger on individual characteristics from their private barrel selection.

Details

No Age Statement. Bottled at 80-proof. High rye mash. Paid $20. 

Aroma

Fruity, charred oak. Carmel. Distinctly Four Roses. Minty. A little perfume. Red berries. Smells bright, fresh. Mild vanilla.

Flavor

Sweetness up front. Vanilla General fruitiness, caramel. Nice mild rye presence. Thin and finish quickly fades to a lingering residual char/roasted flavors.

Overall

With the lower proof, mild flavor, but still assertive rye character, I think Four Roses Yellow Label makes for a good cocktail mixer. Good flavor, but won’t over power. I’ve also made Bourbon Balls that turned out pretty nice along with some other stuff in the kitchen. Just drinking straight, Four Roses Yellow Label isn’t the most exciting dram. Lighter proof and younger than other Four Roses bottles, but still some great Bourbon for the price.

Recommendation

Buy a Again – 4.0/5.0 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 Yellow Label is a high rye Bourbon and other similar Bourbon that fit this price range could be Old Grand Dad BiB, Redemption Bourbon, and Bulleit Bourbon.

Links and other Reviews

 

Four Roses – High Rye Private Selections – Review

Background

Four Roses Private Selection
Four Roses Private Selection

This is the second post in my look at Four Roses’ 10 different private barrels. I’d suggest checking that post on the lower 20% rye recipes for the background on this effort and how I stacked those 5 recipes.

In this post I’ll be looking at the even higher 35% rye recipes. It’s interesting to compare how the same yeast came across in the two recipes, although certainly barrel selection also plays a part.

Process

As I did last time, I’ll rank the recipes towards my preference and put in some notes for each. My goal isn’t really to review these as I expect different batches will move the needle either way a bit. My intent is just to determine which recipes I think I like best so I can seek those out in the future.

Note: The recipes with more than one bottle listed are sampled from all those bottles.

Continue reading Four Roses – High Rye Private Selections – Review

Four Roses Small Batch Limited Edition (2014) – Review

Four Roses Small Batch LE 2014 Background

Four Roses Small Batch Limited Edition 2014
Four Roses Small Batch Limited Edition 2014

Four Roses Small Batch Limited Edition/LE 2014 is the latest annual release of Four Roses’ special Small Batch. Each year Four Roses selects a special version of its Small Batch bourbon using a blend from 10 of their different recipes. The recipes are different from the standard Four Roses Small Batch, which is mixture of OBSO, OBSK, OESO, and OESK barrels. Also different is the Limited Edition is a barrel strength bottle where the standard Small Batch is at 90-proof.

This year’s Four Roses Small Batch LE 2014 is bottled at 55.9% / 111.8-proof. The selected barrels are OBSV @ 13 years, OESV @ 12 years, OBSF @ 11 years, and OBSK @ 9 years. So, technically this is a 9-year-old bottle, but consists of Bourbon of up to 13 years old.

Continue reading Four Roses Small Batch Limited Edition (2014) – Review