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

Virgin Charred Oak
Blend of OBSO, OBSK, OESO, and OESK Recipes
Distiller Four Roses (Lawrenceburg, Kentucky)

Four Roses distillery uses 5 proprietary yeast strains, and two mashbills (recipes), to produce 10 different bourbons which it produces and ages separately and then blends into their bourbons. This whiskey, Small Batch, is created from 4 of these recipes. These are the OBSO, OBSK, OESO, and OESK. The first two -“OB” recipes – utilize a high-rye mashbill: 60% corn, 35% rye, and 5% malted barley. The second two – “OE” recipes – utilize a lower-rye mashbill: 75% corn, 20% rye, and 5% malted barley.

The flavour impact of yeast – a fundamental ingredient for any sort of alcohol production isdemonstrated clearly in the different bourbon offerings by Four Roses. As for the yeasts, the two used in Small Batch are the Four Roses “O” (OBSO,OESO) and “K” yeasts (OBSK,OESK). The “O” yeast, according to Four Roses, contributes “delicate fruitiness” to the whiskey, while the “K” yeast contributes “slight spice” to the whiskey.

Review (2014)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2014

Nose: Some very nice honey plays into this one, and it is one of the first things I notice. Dried corn also seems to be quite present at the front of the nose, and there’s a slight background creaminess as well. Caramel, rich vanilla, and fruit – cherries, pears, – with a slight rose-y floral edge too! As for spice, there’s some fennel and black pepper. Some of the earthiness comes out in both the oak and the corn – as you can read, this is nicely complex and all the elements play very well together, and there’s loads of wonderful subtlety. Very enjoyable.

Taste: Sweet, with some dried corn coming through front and center along with some light fruitiness -cherry particularly, and a bit of grapefruit – and a tinge of a yeasty flavour as well. Some nice, lightly earthy oak toward the end as well. There’s some nice spice too – some cinnamon, sweet star anise, and some other light baking spices. There’s also a bit of an almost vegetal note to this – or perhaps herbal – mint, I suppose, but with a qutie vegetal characteristic beyond the lighter, menthol note. The grains are brilliant, too – you can taste the corn, and the candied nature of the rye is there very nicely. And a bit of a background cola note too. The movement and balance work well – sometimes the grassiness of the rye is a bit out of place, but it is minimal.

Finish: Light oak, dried corn, apple, cherry juice, caramel, cinnamon, …with the lightest bitter tinge which is ever-so-slightly detracting. The finish is quite full in terms of feel, and slowly fades and unpacks – and it is still fairly sweet. The oak also has a freshly charred and smoky quality which I very much enjoy. Also, overall, quite rich.

I find this whiskey very easy to drink, and it slips down without much of an issue. It’s light, fresh, fruity, with some light spice too. The oak, the soft fruit, and the floral nature of this bourbon – very very nice, and most definitely recommended. It also tends to get better the more you drink it....

Highly Recommended (48% of all whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher).

Value: High, based on $40.

Review (2019)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: ~2019

The nose has coconut, dried fruit, potpourri, and slightly smoky and oaky. The palate is slightly spicy, with a nice dried fruit character and a rich corn core. The finish is full of baking spice, fruit, tobacco, and oak which eventually dominates. It’s a rather short review, but I really wanted to have another go at this to see if I still liked it as much as last time – and I do.

Highly Recommended (49% of all whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher).

Value: High, based on $50 CAD - even better in the USA where you can find this for around $30 USD.