Editor’s Note: This whiskey was provided to us as a review sample by Four Roses. This in no way, per our editorial policies, influenced the final outcome of this review. It should also be noted that by clicking the buy link towards the bottom of this review our site receives a small referral payment which helps to support, but not influence, our editorial and other costs.
Four Roses! The mix and match of bourbon recipes to create seemingly endless combinations and permutations of flavor. Four Roses 2021 Limited Edition Small Batch has dropped. From time to time (or as Forbesreports, every September) Four Roses’ master distiller, Brent Elliott, hand-selects a few exceptional barrels to make this bourbon.
Four Roses combines two mash bills with five proprietary yeast stains to create 10 distinct bourbon recipes; each of them has unique flavor characteristics. It can get a little reminiscent of a Myers-Briggs. I needed a memory refresher, myself. Luckily I could refer to my 2018 self who reviewed the Four Roses Yellow Label and wrote up a decent primer, which I will crib from below:
Each recipe is described by a four letter “code.” This indicates the production facility, the mash bill, the spirit type, and the yeast strain. The first and third letters remain the same: “O” for Four Roses, and “S” for straight whiskey. The second shows which one of two mash bills is used: the “E,” or low-rye, which is 20 percent rye, 75 percent corn, and 5 percent malted barley; and the “B,” which is 35 percent rye, 60 percent corn, and 5 percent malted barley. The last letter of the code reflects the yeast strain: “V” (delicate fruit), “K” (slight spice), “O” (rich fruit), “Q” (floral essence), and “F” (herbal notes). This helpful infographic from Four Roses might help.
Their 2021 Limited Edition Small Batch features a 16-year-old Bourbon from the OBSV recipe, a 14-year-old OBSQ, a 12-year-old OESK, and a 16-year-old OESV. It is non-chill filtered and bottled at a 114.2 proof.
And in other news: Good luck finding a bottle. But if you are a fan of lotteries, you can get your chance to snag a bottle here.
Four Roses 2021 Limited Edition Small Batch Bourbon (image via Four Roses)
Vital stats: 114.2 proof; about $150; non-chill filtered; see above for alphabet soup mash bill.
Appearance: Shiny new penny copper. Warm, rich, burnished—with ruddy undertones.
Nose: The smell on this is as pleasing as a plump cat’s purr on your lap. By that I mean to say it’s inviting and a little mysterious and also familiar. It smells like bourbon, like a good and quality bourbon. Hints of plum, caramel. Subtle. That fresh paper smell of a hardcover book you have been dying to read from a favorite well-respected and yet utterly readable author.
Palate: Coming in hot! This is a high-proof whiskey that arrives as piping hot as a legally forewarned fast-food coffee. It tastes like gulping a ginger tea before it cools off as it travels through your esophagus. It has some spice, not like a holiday or fall spice. More like black peppercorn spice. I am a woman who takes her bourbon neat 99% of the time, and I was sprinting to the freezer for ice. Good thing I did: That brought out undertones of blondies, blueberries, and pancakes. It’s got the overall sweetness and vibe of a good solid, sip-this-in-the-library-with-good-folks kind of bourbon.
I’ll never turn down Four Roses, especially for a limited offering like this one. They are experts at their craft. But it also tastes like its check engine light is going to pop on anytime. Meaning: Make sure you’ve got something to prevent overheating.
A decade ago, I traded a 5th floor walkup in Hoboken, NJ for a house in SE Portland and remain grateful for the swap. Portland’s a great whiskey town: It fits the weather and my general mood (even improves it sometimes). I enjoy exploring the many shades of brown liquor...