I love me some Four Roses; not the flagship bottle or the regular small batch, but the single barrel, single barrel cask strength store picks, and their limited editions. The Hokus Pokus barrel pick last year was truly one of the best whiskies I have ever had.
A behind the scenes contributor to this blog, Mike Bonin, was in Kentucky at Four Roses for the first day’s release of the 2019 Four Roses limited edition. He got in line at 3:30 am and managed to score a bottle.
Four Roses has gone from bourbon made for Japanese export to a desired bourbon among American bourbon drinkers.
But, to me, there was a huge gap in quality in taste between their standard release and small batch bourbons and their higher proof limited edition offerings. To bridge that gap, Four Roses is now bottling their Small Batch Select, with four of their different bourbons in the mix, aged six to seven years old, at a respectable 104 proof.
Non-chill filtered as well, which is great. The only sad part is that as Four Roses is rolling out this new product line, it has only been released in a limited number of states, and Louisiana wasn’t one of them. So, I had to go to extreme and illegal measures to get this bottle, buying it on the secondary market and having it shipped to me illegally. Oh, no, wait, I didn’t. I just ordered it off an online wine and spirits brokerage at $50 a bottle (and yeah I bought two) and had legally shipped to me. But more on that in a later installment of The Bourbon Future Series.
Color is a delightful burnt orange. On the swirl are beautiful oily long legs. The nose is extremely inviting; baking spice, floral notes, a bit of lavender, vanilla, fine Latakia pipe tobacco. On the palate is so much more of the same, with the tobacco note being accompanied by black pepper, cinnamon, lavender and herbal tea, some slight leathery notes, all playing like a wonderful descant over Four Roses traditional bourbon flavors. The mouthfeel is medium-full bodied, kind of like medium rare steak. The finish is lovely and lingering, with the rye spice and floral notes just dominating your palate.
This is a delightfully done bourbon. Very much an homage to their limited edition bourbons; it has so many subtle flavor notes that it really is a bourbon to be explored. Mike Bonin told me today he frankly prefers the standard Four Roses Single Barrel bottling to the Small Batch Select as a value proposition based on price. I get that he is right about that on one level. Four Roses Single Barrel is pretty awesome.
But I think the Small Batch Select has something going on that is different than the single barrel, because of the very interesting flavors.
I would put it this way. If I have had, or indeed, am in the middle of, a rough day, and you want a top quality bourbon as a reward for just surviving that day, that has a wonderful flavor profile, Four Roses Single Barrel is that bourbon and I order it all the time at Spirits, a local restaurant and bar. But if you want a very bourbon nerdy whiskey to explore some very interesting complex flavors that inevitably make you think as you enjoy it, the Small Batch Select is definitely that.
To clarify, I can get Four Roses Single Barrel all the time and it is awesome. But I am glad I mail ordered two bottles of Small Batch Select. I look forward to the day where this bourbon is generally available as having a bourbon this complex available to everyone is definitely a positive in the bourbon market.