Review: Four Roses Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey / by Jason Hambrey

Four Roses 1.jpg
Virgin Charred Oak
A blend of 10 bourbon recipes produced at Four Roses
Distiller Four Roses (Lawrenceburg, Kentucky)

This is the base bourbon offered by Four Roses, a distillery who recently has won accolade upon accolade and is producing some of the finest bourbon available. Four Roses is an interesting distillery in that they utilize ten different recipes in their bourbon production. They have 5 different yeast types, and 2 different mashbills (recipes) which together yield 10 different recipes, all distilled and aged separately. This bottle is a blend of all 10 of these recipes, so complexity is expected.

So where did all this yeast come from? Most distilleries don’t use more than one type of yeast, and very rarely more than two. Originally, Four Roses was owned by Seagrams and the yeasts were split across 5 locations to produce different products for blending – in more of a Canadian style. However, we should be thankful, because when Kirin bought the company from Seagrams the yeasts were continued and the bad Seagram’s products coming out of the distillery were not continued. And, now, arguably, they are producing the best bourbon on the planet.

Review (2014)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2014

Nose: Very pleasant, light, and fruity – apples, cherries, peaches, and green grapes with a vanilla richness and a rye rumble in the background (which, at times, is a bit off-balance and bitter). Oak is ever so slightly present, providing a bit of a dry sensation to the nose, and I find this emerges more over time alongside an increasing weight of corn. I also find an interesting, almost sweet vermouth-like herbal quality to the nose. Well done.

Taste: Slightly sour, initially. It has a nice body which leads into a corn and oak flourish as the flavor fades into the slightly sour and spicy finish which includes a very light touch of smoke. At times, the corn combined with the light sourness provide for a slightly off-key effect, but otherwise there isn’t much wrong with this. It’s not very sweet, but the sweetness is matched very well to the body – which, combined with the nice feel of this whisky, is quite nice.

Finish: Cayenne pepper and cinnamon fade until we are left with light, buttery vanilla and a touch of oak, apple, and vanilla-tinged almond. It has a slight tartness and sweetness which are quite engaging, and the oak tannins provide nice feel.

My go-to for a budget bourbon based on what is present in Ontario (though Devil’s Cut is also not a bad one – but can be hard to find in Ontario). I like it especially for mixing – it’s soft and complex to go well in cocktails. The bright fruitiness and the play with the tartness and the spice also allow this to be decent as a casual sipper.

Recommended (81% of whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher).

Value: High, based on $27.

Review (2020)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: 1507066201201

  • Bottling Date: 2019

As with many four roses, the nose shows exceptional complexity for a bourbon which often are about big, strong flavours rather than subtle ones. It isn’t hard to get lots on the nose - golden delicious apple, dried apricot, marmalade, apricot jam, corn husks, baking spice, green grape, charred oak, pear, and vanilla. There is a touch of youthful oiliness, and, with many younger whiskies, this softens as the whisky airs out. The nose improves with time. The graininess really shines with time – it is nice.

The palate starts sweet, then a lot unfolds quickly – mixed dried fruit, fresh pear, Asian pear, sweet corn, hazlenuts, and a mix of oak and dried apricot on the end. Baking spices build on the finish, with vanilla lingering and slight tannins.

It’s layered, and complex. It is still a bit youthful…but it’s about as good as you can do for bourbon at this price.

Recommended (81% of whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher).

Value: High at $31. About as good as you can do for a bourbon at this price.