Another whiskey release signals the inevitable changing of the guard among distilleries as Four Roses Bourbon presents its first limited-edition whiskey under master distiller Brent Elliott. Called Elliott's Select Barrel Strength, it is 14 years old.
Elliott, formerly the facility's director of quality, succeeded the master distiller of 20 years, Jim Rutledge, in September of 2015. Rutledge, who had officially retired, recently announced a new venture, J.W. Rutledge, which tentatively plans to make Bourbon and rye and use crowd-sourced funding.
The new whiskey uses one of the 10 combinations of mashbill and yeast that distinguishes Four Roses. Called OESK, the code indicates a grain formula of 75 percent corn, 20 percent rye and 5 percent barley (E). The yeast (K) is described as rendering whiskey with light spice and caramel. The O designation is for Four Roses and S for straight whiskey (aged in new, charred oak barrels). As a single-barrel, it is bottled in a varying proofs, around 100.5 to 120.7.
A former owner, Seagrams, took its straight whiskey out of the U.S. market in the 1950s to focus on blended whiskey and sell straight whiskey in foreign venues-particularly Asia, where it is very popular. Eventually, starting with Kentucky and Indiana, the straight Bourbon was reintroduced in America and now sells in all 50 states. The brand is now owned by Japan's Kirin Brewing Co.
Four Roses Elliott's Select Barrel Strength (variable proof, tasted at 116.8°or 58.4 percent alcohol by volume; 14 years old; $125 a 750-milliliter bottle)
APPEARANCE: Very orangish amber, chubby legs.
NOSE: Lots of caramel, maple and honeysuckle with underlying white chocolate.
PALATE: In the mouth, it's a mix of sweet, round, fruity and spicy flavors. Comes on with vanilla and caramel, then expresses meaty fruits like peach and pear. A quick turnaround brings a tingling spiciness with cinnamon, nutmeg and a dash of pine. Hints of olive oil continue the experience.
FINISH: The ending, proceeding from the spice on the palate, is a little breathy at first, but then becomes rich and round with caramel, toffee and maple. Many curtain calls.
CIGAR PAIRING: Liga Privada Único Serie Dirty Rat (Nicaragua; 5 inches by 44 ring gauge; $14.50; 89 points; June 2016 Cigar Aficionado) A near-black petit corona whose lush draw delivers a chewy, medium- to full-bodied smoke full of licorice and sugary notes before an earthy finish. We looked to the like spiciness of the components to push this pairing, but it was really the whiskey's sweetness that made it sing. The Four Roses brought out the welcome sugary quality on the Liga Privada even earlier—making it less of the Dirty Rat than the name implies. The cigar gave up some of it earthiness quickly to the deal, giving the whiskey an even more well-rounded quality.