Cigar Aficionado

New Limited Editions from Four Roses

Four Roses is stepping up its Limited Edition Small Batch collection with its second expression of the year, due out in September. The new whiskey joins the Four Roses 100th Anniversary Special Edition released in April for the distillery’s centenary. Both are uncut and non-chill-filtered.

The newest expression melds three of the Four Roses 10 Bourbon recipes, based on two separate mash bills and five proprietary yeasts. The casks were aged a combination of 15, 11 and 10 years. Approximately 3,600 bottles will be released. The 100th Anniversary Special Edition is made from 17-year-old single barrel whiskies, all picked from the same style of whiskey. That bottling includes about 2,300 bottles.

The whiskies used in the mixed edition include 15-year-old OBSV, 11-year-old OBSK and 10-year-old OESK. The lettered designations refer respectively to a grain recipe of 60 percent corn, 35 percent rye and 5 percent malted barley using yeast strain V, the same recipe with yeast strain K and a 75 percent corn, 20 percent rye and 5 percent barley recipe using yeast strain K. The company describes the first as delicate fruit, spicy and creamy, the second and the third as spicy and full bodied.

Master distiller Jim Rutledge decodes the yeast codes thusly:

V - Light delicate fruit
K - Spice
O - Rich and full-bodied fruit
Q - Floral essence
F - Herbal essence

(The “S” in each of the whiskey codes stands for straight whisky—new charred oak barrels, no coloring, no additives except water. Four Roses no longer makes blended Bourbon).

The 100th Anniversary taps the OBSV used in its standard single barrel expression, but the whiskey is aged longer and bottled at barrel strength (which is in the range of 110 proof) instead of the normal 100 proof.

Four Roses is unusual among Bourbons in that it ferments with a variety of different yeast strains. The use of varied mash bills is not as uncommon in the Bourbon world, but the rye content in “B” is. It is the highest rye percentage used. Jim Beam’s Basil Hayden and Bulleit Bourbons are close rivals.

Despite being made in Lawrenceville, Kentucky, Four Roses had been released in very limited quantity in the United States in the past four decades. The company has stepped up distribution in recent years to include 31 states. The whiskey has an avid following abroad, especially in Japan where it offers a wider variety of styles. Four Roses, once a product of Seagrams, is now owned by Kirin Brewery Company of Japan.

Those familiar with the standard Four Roses Yellow Label will be surprised at how much more full bodied and the new bottlings are. We tasted the Limited Edition Small Batch at 110.6 proof and found it at once alluring and mysterious. It is another great trophy for Bourbon enthusiasts and a fine cigar accompaniment that will reveal many hidden flavors.

Tasting notes

Appearance: Deep amber, slow thick legs.

Nose: Spicy with honey and creamy vanilla.

Palate: Starts with intense spice, including licorice and cloves. That gives way to candied fruit—especially cherry and nectarine—nuts and caramel before the spice rushes back in filling the top of the mouth with a kind of mintiness.

Finish: Goes on and on, returning to the fruit flavors and bringing along the honey hinted at on the nose.