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Producer:  Four Roses Distillery LLC    Location:  Lawrenceburg, KY

Age:  Blended    Barrel(s):  American oak

ABV:  50%

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Producer:  Four Roses Distillery LLC    Location:  Lawrenceburg, KY

Age:  Blended    Barrel(s):  American oak

ABV:  45%

You probably glance at Four Roses when you’re in the liquor store, shopping for the New Shiny Bauble in American Bourbon, and think, “Oh, yeah…that old stuff.” Don’t beat yourself up. Four Roses has been around a long time and, yes, it was, at one time, the Whiskey your grandfather probably sat around and sipped. But, if you’re a craft beer fan and you’re as fond as most of us are of barrel-aged Stouts and Strong Ales, there’s a good chance you’ve already encountered the warmth and richness of FR and didn’t even know it. Fort George Brewing, of Astoria, Oregon, is one of my favorite NW breweries and Chris Nimz and crew put up a LOT of ales in real, wet, Four Roses casks. So, when I cracked seals on these two babies, I found flavors I knew very, very well.

As dazzling as Four Roses is as a background flavor for ales, it’s even better taken straight and neat; a mouthful of the classic flavors that are what made Kentucky Bourbon this country’s favorite Whiskey, in the first place. All of them explode on the tongue with rich caramel and vanilla and a woodsy, smoky tanginess that’s just haunting.

The Four Roses Small Batch and Single Cask are limited offerings, each sporting an impressive track record for awards and critical praise.

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4RoseSBSmall Batch has raked in some fairly slammin’ hardware:..

  • 2012 World Whiskies Awards; Best American Whiskey Bourbon 7 Years & under
  • 2012 Highly Recommended, 94 Points; Ultimate Spirits Challenge
  • 2010 Wine Enthusiast Best Buy: 96-100 Points
  • 2010 & 2008, Gold Medal; San Francisco World Spirits Competition
  • 2010, 2009 & 2008, Gold Medal, Exceptional; International Review of Spirits
  • 2009 Best Bourbon No Age, Whisky Magazine; World Whiskies Awards

…and it should have. This is creamy, woody, spicy, smooth as a still mountain pond, and oozing Bourbon-y goodness with every sip:  dark caramel, treacle, mint, baking spices, white pepper, anise, and a LOVELY oaky vanilla flavor that lords it over the whole thing. This was my first time sampling Small Batch but it will NOT be the last. Just one of the Modern Classic American Whiskeys.  98 Points

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FourRosesSBThe Single Barrel is Small Batch’s slightly bigger brother, a complex symphony of flavors and textures that arises from Master Distiller Jim Rutledge’s artful blending of different “vintages” to produce a Whiskey that’s then given additional age in a single barrel before bottling. This, too, has raked in the medals and critical praise…

  • 2012 Ultimate Recommendation, 95 Points; Ultimate Spirits Challenge
  • 2012 Gold Medal; San Francisco World Spirits Competition
  • 2010 Wine Enthusiast Best Buy: 96-100 Points
  • 2010 Strongly Recommended, 89 Points; Ultimate Spirits Challenge
  • 2010 & 2009, Double Gold Medal; San Francisco World Spirits Competition
  • 2009 Number 1 Bourbon; F. Paul Pacult’s Spirit Journal
  • 2009 Silver Award, No Age; International Wine & Spirits Competition
  • 2008 Gold Medal, 94 Points, Exceptional; International Review of Spirits

Mystery novelist Ace Atkins wrote about Single Barrel and I doubt that I could improve on what he had to say:

“…The bourbon was smoky and sweet with strong, pleasant notes of vanilla, and incredibly smooth. From the first sip it made me regret the ice. Things have changed quite a bit since Four Roses was considered bottom-shelf…The beauty of the Four Roses Single Barrel is the strength. Even a bit of water can’t dull the full volume of rich and complex taste. Mixing this bourbon with anything else should be a jailable offense…”

I completely agree.

Single Barrel is a tad stronger than Small Batch and maybe even a bit more varied on the palate, ladling out notes of cocoa and creme caramel and plums and pink peppercorns and Rainier cherries that perfectly express its titanic and alluring aroma. GLORIOUS Bourbon!  99 Points

Which of these I would say I prefer would depend on the day of the week, what type of rain we’re having in Seattle, and what sort of mood I’m in. It’s literally a coin flip and, of course, I firmly believe in Compromise: enjoy both. When it comes to great Whiskeys – and all the Four Roses offerings, even their basic Kentucky Straight, certainly fit that bill – I see no need to rule out anything. Single Barrel will, I promise you, make you rethink whatever you believed about Four Roses and Small Batch will seal the deal.




Speak yer piece, Pilgrim.

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