Every September, in commemoration of National Bourbon Month, the Four Roses Distillery in Lawrenceburg, Kentucky, releases a limited edition, small batch bourbon. The expression is a special release, and is not part of the distillery’s core range. When the supply runs out, the expression is gone forever.
One notable feature unique to Four Roses is the fact that the ages and the identities of the different distillates or recipes that go into the final blend are listed on the bottle. This bit of transparency allows the consumer to know exactly which of the distillery’s spirits are used in each year’s Limited Edition Small Batch and how that blend has changed in each yearly version.
American bourbon producers have historically used multiple yeast strains to create different aroma and flavor profiles from their mash bills. The Four Roses distillery, however, has the distinction of using five different yeast strains. Combined with two different mash mills, it gives the company 10 very different distillates that it can use for blending purposes.
Four Roses uses two different mash bills. The first mash bill consists of 75% corn, 20% rye and 5% malted barley. It is designated by the letter E. The second mash bill consists of 65% corn, 35% rye and 5% malted barley. It is de
signated by the letter B.
The five different yeast strains are designated by the letters K, O, Q, F and V
Yeast K produces a full bodied, notably spicy spirit.
Yeast O has a rose petal, floral quality. It’s medium bodied, with some spiciness, but less than that produced by yeast K.
Yeast Q is slightly fruity, with a medium body and a spicy character.
Yeast F is characterized by more dried herbal notes.
Yeast V is
also fruity, with a light, creamy, spicy character.
Every barrel at Four Roses carries one of 10 (four) letter codes. These are: OESK, OESQ, OESO, OESF, OESV, OBSK, OBSQ, OBSO, OBSF and OBSV.
The first letter is always an O, and indicates that the whiskey was produced at the Four Roses distillery. The second letter is either an E or a B, and refers to the mash bill used to produce the spirit. The third letter is always an S, and indicates that the spirit is a straight whiskey. Under US rules, to be designated a straight whiskey, a spirit has to be made using a mash bill containing only grain, must be distilled at less than 160 proof (80% ABV) and must be casked at a proof strength of at least 125 proof (62.5% ABV). The last letter corresponds to one of the five yeast strains utilized by the distillery.
The newest release in the Four Roses Limited Edition Small Batch Select is the 2019 version. This expression consists of a blend of spirits designated OBSV 21 YO, OESK 15 YO, OESV 15 YO, OESV 11 YO. This is the first time that the distillery has featured a 21-year-old bourbon from the distillery’s OBSV recipe. The bottling is non-chill filtered.
According to Four Roses Master Distiller Brent Elliott:
Our 10 distinct Bourbon recipes provide the ability to handcraft new and interesting expressions and with this year’s Limited Edition we found some exceptionally well-rested Bourbons in some of our higher aged barrels…Combining the delicate fruit flavors and light spice from our V and K strains resulted in a uniquely nuanced whiskey.
Four Roses, 2019 Limited Edition Small Batch, NAS, 56.3% ABV, 750 ml
The color is a rich amber. On the nose, there are sweet caramel notes, along with spice notes of cinnamon, creamy vanilla custard and a bit of clove, baked apple, orange zest, some raspberry and a hint of peach. The spiciness becomes more pronounced as the whiskey opens up. There are oak notes in the background, along with some elements of old, polished saddle leather.
On the palate, the whiskey is sweet, spicy, with a pronounced ginger pepperiness. There are flavors of wood spice, principally cinnamon, dried fruit, along with a well-integrated but a noticeable wet oak note. The higher proof is readily apparent, producing a noticeable burn at the back of the mouth. The whisky is very smooth, with an oily consistency and an obvious palate weight.
The finish is long, sweet and fruity, with a lingering pepperiness that steadily builds.
The addition of a little water brings out spice notes on the nose and adds an even smoother, creamy texture on the palate. Definitely a whiskey to drink on the rocks or with a little water.
The 2019 release will be available in limited quantities at the Visitor Centers at the distillery and at the bottling and warehouse facility beginning on September 21. Starting in October, it will also become available at selected retailers around the country. A total of 13,440 bottles will be available.
This is a superb whiskey. The 2018 Limited Edition went on to win World’s Best Bourbon at the recent World Whiskies Awards. The 2019 is even better. It offers intense, nuanced complexity and is priced at $140 per bottle—given its age, very reasonably priced.
Appearance 9/10, Nose 28/30, Palate 28/30, Finish 28/30, Overall Score: 94/100