Each year bourbon fans look forward to the latest, special single-barrel release from industry stalwart Four Roses. This year was no different, with the 2014 Limited Edition Single Barrel launching in late May, and still available from high-end whiskey dealers.
To make "regular" Four Roses products, like Four Roses Small Batch or Yellow Label, distiller Jim Rutledge expertly blends together barrels of consisting of slightly different mash bills, time in barrels, specific oak types, and from different parts of the brand's warehouses to create the brand's signature flavors. Each of 10 styles of bourbon are secretly coded using four-letter assignations to track them and aid in blending. When it comes time to create the annual Single Barrel product, Rutlidge samples the different available whiskies and decides on a different coded part of the blend to highlight. This year it was time for 11-year-old "OESF" barrels.
Sold at barrel strength, the product varies from bottle to bottle in proof, and thus slightly in flavor. The sample we received was 60% ABV (120 proof). Strong stuff, but filled with complex aromatic and flavor notes. On the nose it's rich with the influence of the barrel: Caramel, vanilla, dried apples, toasted oak and marzapan. On the mouth at full strength, there's certainly a bright burn, but there is also a strong flavor profile, particularly sweetness at the tip of the tongue, full tannins inside the cheeks, and a full-bodied complex build of almond, toffee, polished leather, with hints of herbaceousness and light cigar towards the back of the mouth. A long finish is filled with dried apricots, plums and raisins.
Cut it with a little bit of water (I used the cap of the small sample bottle), and the nose softens and rounds, with an emphasis on caramel and chocolate, vanilla and apricot. On the palate, softness and roundness pervades with the brash brightness of the alcohol subdued with even just a few drops of water. Here the full-bodied nature of the spirit shines and sweetness gives way to rich dried fruits, oak, and spice. Because bottles vary by proof, sip it first neat, before testing it with additional drops of water. Results may vary.
In tribute to the brand's 125th anniversary, each bottle includes a toast submitted from a fan during Four Roses' "Year of the Toast" online campaign. Frank Wheately of Louisville, KY entered the winning phrase with, "If I could age like bourbon, I wouldn't mind getting old."
This is a bourbon lover's bourbon, exemplifying the category, while absolutely creating its own spot in the cosmos. We're sad to see the small sample is completely gone as we finish this review… Till next year!
Four Roses Limited Edition Single Barrel Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey has a variable proof (depending on the barrel and bottle) of 108.3 and 127.6 proof (54.1 to 63.8% ABV). Approximately 5,000 bottles were released, with an SRP of $100.
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FTC Disclaimer: The author sometimes receives product samples for review, which carry no cash value and cannot be re-sold, and sometimes attends press events such as lunches or cocktail parties, designed to promote a given product. The author is not paid by any alcohol manufacturer, retailer or distributor, or provided compensation apart from revenue from an assigning publishing company for editorial publication. Opinions are the author's own. By the way, you should be 21 or older to read this page. Author received a 100 ml sample of this nectar and is already scheming on how to skip his cable bill for a month to buy a full bottle...