Whiskey Review: Rock Town Four Grain Sour Mash Arkansas Bourbon - The Whiskey Wash

Whiskey Review: Rock Town Four Grain Sour Mash Arkansas Bourbon

While I didn’t know anything about Little Rock, Arkansas-based Rock Town Distillery before doing this review, the company’s extensive product listing indicates they’re open to nearly any approach to making liquor, particularly whiskey and bourbon.

In a span of about four months last year, other reviewers tackled eight different kinds of whiskey from Rock Town: three bourbons, two ryes, and two hickory-smoked whiskeys, as well as their Fifth and Sixth Anniversary bourbons. Their selection also includes a series of flavored-grain whiskeys, a series of corn “lightning” whiskeys, and a Four Grain Sour Mash Arkansas Bourbon, the subject of this review.

Started in 2010 when founder and Arkansas native Phil Brandon decided to make it his full-time job, Rock Town boasts itself as the first legal distillery in Arkansas since Prohibition, sourcing its grain from within 125 miles of the distillery. They’ve since earned a bundle of awards, including a coveted mention in Jim Murray’s Whiskey Bible a few years ago.

The four-grain, sour-mash bourbon mash bill consists of 73% corn and the other 27% made up of equal parts rye, wheat, and malted barley, according to the distillery. That mash is soured by using some mash from the previous batch. It’s aged for four years in new, charred oak barrels, bottled at 46% ABV and sold for roughly $50 per bottle.

Rock Town Four Grain Sour Mash Arkansas Bourbon

Tasting Notes: Rock Town Four Grain Sour Mash Bourbon

Vital stats: Mash bill of 73% corn, 9% rye, 9% wheat, and 9% malted barley, and soured using some mash from the previous batch. Aged four years in new, charred oak barrels, 46%ABV and sold for about $50 per 750mL bottle.

Appearance: Light bronze in color with a hue on par with a typical ale.

Nose: The “sour” of this bourbon asserts itself from the first sniff with notes of lemon, green apple, hay, and a pinch of ginger. That eases into an earthier bouquet of oak, barley, bitter chocolate, and a touch of coffee.

Palate: The first sip starts out like a an earthy, mellow caramel – sweet but much more restrained than many bourbons. That quickly develops a very gentle green apple-like tartness, which is then gradually superseded by a building spiciness that comes on its heels, primarily tasting of clove and a bit of cinnamon. That spicy flavor gently grows as a sip sits on the mouth. Swallowing creates a brief pause in flavor which then yields to a wave of spice that sweeps across the mouth, potent but not overwhelming. That leaves a coating of gentle spice that hums throughout the mouth for a minute alongside a faint flavor of sweet, slightly sour apples.

The Takeaway

I find Rock Town’s Four Grain Sour Mash Bourbon hard to rate, because I like it in spite of itself. To break down that paradox, I found that the spicy characteristics of this whiskey tended to overwhelm the sweeter flavors too much for my taste. On the other hand, the dominant flavors did ebb and flow enough to make it a unique and engaging dram. While I give it points for that, it’s still not one I’d want to drink often.

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Aaron Knapp