Sunday, September 4, 2011

Four Roses Small Batch

A well-timed retweet of @4RosesBourbon brought me a free copy of brand ambassador Al Young's Four Roses: The Return of a Whiskey Legend, just in time for Bourbon Heritage Month. Having heard a little about the reintroduction of Four Roses in the U.S., I happened to have [most of] a bottle of Small Batch on hand -- a good thing, because reading is thirsty work.

That a brand can go from best selling to unsold, from right up there with Coke and Ford to right down there with New Coke and the Ford Edsel, in a few decades is not news. (Maybe not surprising either, in hindsight, when you switch from a straight bourbon to a blend with 60% grain neutral spirits.) The unusual angle on the Four Roses story is that, even when it wasn't available in the U.S., it was still being made here, for export to Japan and Europe. (Is it ever a bad business decision to let people buy what you make?)

Favorite factoid from the book: Best Product Placement, 1945, for the "Four Roses" Times Square sign visible at the top of Alfred Eisenstaedt's iconic "VJ Day, The Kiss." I also found out about the Mellow Moments Club, and have since signed up to join (though I may not be quite as mellow as the ideal member).

The book even gives away the Four Roses recipes, for use by the home distiller. Two different mash bills --
  1. 75% corn, 20% rye, 5% malted barley
  2. 60% corn, 35% rye, 5% malted barley
-- are crossed with five different proprietary yeast strains --
  1. V - delicate fruitiness
  2. K - slightly spicy character
  3. O - rich fruitiness
  4. Q - floral essence
  5. F - herbal
-- for a total of ten different casked bourbons. The casks are put up in single-story warehouses, and then mixed to make the different Four Roses products.

The Small Batch that I have on hand is a blend of four bourbons -- sources say it's the K and O yeast strains crossed with both mash bills, which is consistent with the label's promise of "a mellow symphony of sweet, fruity aromas and rich, spicy flavors." (The "small batch" part comes in from it being made in batches of about nineteen barrels.)

For the nose, I get sweet melon and butterscotch, with a hint of cherry syrup (reminiscent of Bunratty's Potcheen, in fact). The palate is balanced (by which I mean I mostly taste bourbon) and sweet, with some oak notes; the cherries others find came out for me after several minutes with a few drops of water. The finish is a little spicy, with the rye growing if you give it time.

1 comment:

  1. Awesome review. I haven't tried the small batch expression but it sounds lovely. Excellent value.