Cream of Kentucky Initial Release, Disappointing

Sorry for delay here… I’m releasing it over a year late… I just was hoping that it would get better, and it improved mildly, but not enough… here we go:

Seems like  a lot of bloggers got a free bottle of this one… I bought it on bottle-spot secondary for $160… I guess I’m not getting a lot of love from the free bottle Bourbon Gods these days… But allows my conscious to be clear when I write these reviews.  I never got into it for the free booze anyway…

Bright copper color. Bottle is fairly generic and the plastic wrapper around the top seems cheap to be honest. Juice looks great in the glass.

First crack was heat and a lot of it.

After letting it sit for a while you still get a lot of heat but it’s moderated. Really nutty nose, almond butter, toasted pecans, Reese Peanut Butter cups… afterwards graham crackers and all-spice.

Mouthfeel is ok but not great, it starts out ok but fails to last and the heat is still higher than expected for this level or Proof and age. Finish isn’t particularly long.

This is one of the limited release Bourbons that has come out recently and priced at retail around $160. It just doesn’t deliver. It’s totally average. There are dozens of offerings at half the price that are significantly better. Would have expected more from Mr. Rutledge. 84/100

Hottest New Release… Four Roses Small Batch Select NCF

Hottest release of the week… everyone on Facebook wants it. Retail is $50-$60, going on secondary this week for around $100. Was higher last week and will be lower next week… in a month or two everyone will have had it and there will be no secondary premium.

Dark liquid in the bottle. Looks good. Darker label with roses embossed on glass in center. Cork and wood stopper. All nice.

Nose is floral, tropical, fruity, piney, eucalyptus and menthol. 104 proof and not too much heat. It’s not very strong but that’s OK.

The taste is average to start but the mouthfeel is above average, decent hug and the finish is long.  It’s not overly complex, but it’s enjoyable.

This is a good Bourbon and a nice step up from the base Four Roses. This isn’t close to their FRSBLE, but it doesn’t pretend to be either. At $50 this is worth adding to your collection. Very different profile than OWA, but a competitor. At $50 it’s between some of your entry Bourbons, but below some of the really enjoyable cask strength offerings. Buy at retail, don’t pay up on secondary. 90/100.

Four Roses Single Barrel Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey

This is a review I wrote a long time ago… but never uploaded… I’m in the middle of a Four Roses kick, so I thought I would do it now:

Four Roses Single Barrel Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey

Barrel No. 34-5T, warehouse DN, 50% abv, purchased at Morrell’s in NYC about a year ago.

Watching the Patriots Sunday Night Football, and needed something to drink…

Beautiful medium dark amber color.

Roasted brown sugar slow cooked yams, peanut butter s’mores, graham crackers and maple syrup flavored cereal. Even at 50% abv, very nice, easy to sniff nose.

Nice palate feel, not too hot at all, all the flavors are coming in on the tongue… It feels like it’s was a little too filtered, because I am looking for more in the mouth, and I’m not getting it. It’s very tasty and enjoyable, and the finish is pretty decent too. I made the mistake of having the 2014 FRLESB an hour before which is an epic dram, and although this is very solid, it doesn’t make it to the upper echelon.

For the price, this is certainly a very solid bottle.  I don’t know which recipe this is, which I’m a little bummed about, but it’s good. I think Four Roses makes an excellent product, and highly recommend checking out their higher end products. 88/100.

 

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Four Roses 50th Anniversary is another Epic Win!

My brother-in-law was in town the other day so I thought I would share my sample with him to try.  Thank you to Four Roses for sending the sample, and as always, there was no quid pro quo.  Plenty of other sites have reviewed and talked about the mashbill, I’ll put the links below to those… I’ll just give my take:

Awesome nose: marzipan, peanuts, rose petals, caramel, butterscotch and a touch of charcoal.

Now for the taste… WOW!  The mouthfeel is close to perfect, with just enough tannins to tickle the tongue and plenty of oils to coat it.  The flavors are incredibly complex, with sweetness coming in first, then warmth on the way down.  The flavors continue to evolve every fifteen seconds and the finish goes on for minutes and minutes.  Later on you get a nice oak background with an incredible smoothness.

So far this year, this is easily one of my top three favorites, but I decided to check it against the 2015 Four Roses Small Batch Limited Edition.  Very similar, and hard to pick a winner, but I think the 2015 might be slightly better.  It’s a judgement call.  My brother in law wasn’t as excited about it as I was, he really liked it, but he prefers the bigger, higher proof bourbons like Elijah Craig Barrell Proof and Barrell Bourbon.  He’s at 95 points, but I’m a 97/100.  Like Fred Minnick said, if you can get it, buy it all.  If you don’t, I will!

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http://fourrosesbourbon.com/celebrating-al-youngs-50th-anniversary-with-limited-edition-four-roses-bourbon/

https://www.fredminnick.com/2017/03/09/four-roses-limited-edition-2/

http://www.breakingbourbon.com/who-is-brent-elliott.html

https://thewhiskeywash.com/whiskey-styles/bourbon/four-roses-celebrates-whiskey-legend-al-young-one-hell-bourbon/

Interview with Four Roses Brent Elliott

Brent Elliott was nice enough to have a phone chat with me… I have made some minor edits for time purposes, flow, continuity and because I took notes and didn’t record it… on to the interview…

NBD: Thanks for taking the time to chat with me today.  So… what is your daily routine?

BE: It’s different everyday, no two are alike.  When I’m here [at the distillery] I usually spend a lot of time in the sensory lab, mingling and blending different batches.  We look at every batch that comes off the still for quality check.  We check the distillate and 99 out of 100 are fine.  After four years we check each batch again to see where it will go.

NBD: How do you define a batch?

BE: A batch is about 290 barrels, coming from eight fermenters.   We make about 22 batches a month.  After four years we have a pretty good idea where it will go.  We test it and it gets designated for Yellow Label or Private Barrel or something different.  At 6.5-7yrs we test them again and at this point we are 75% sure how long they will go for and where they will end up.  From time to time we find a special batch that isn’t too astringent and still have more to go and that will often go into Small Batch Limited Edition.  Most of the longer aging are from the first or second tier.

NBD: What is a tier?

BE: Our warehouses have six stories, which we call tiers, the first being the ground floor and the sixth the top floor.  The first through third often produce batches that can age longer.

NBD: So… what is your daily drinker?  What did you drink last night?

BE: I actually didn’t drink last night, but the night before I had FR Small Batch.  When I first started out I tried everything, tried to understand the different processes, and the taste differences.  And over the years lots of people have brought over bourbons, but I do not have many competitors products at my house anymore.

NBD: So, I tried to Tweet you the other day and I couldn’t find you. Are you on Twitter?

BE:  I am not on Twitter… or Facebook or anywhere on social media.  I do check it from time to time from my wife’s account, but I’m so busy with emails and phone calls that I do not have time for it.

NBD: So, check my math.  22 batches a month, 290 barrels a batch, so you are making over 75,000 barrels a year?

BE: If we ran for 12 months a year that would be correct, but we shut down for about two months a year.  Historically we shut down for almost 4-5 months a year due to the heat in the river but now we shut down for about two months for cleanup, rebuilding and fixing the pipes, pumps and facilities.  We also are in the process of doubling our production and using that time to expand.

NBD: Thank you so much for your time… if there was anything you could fix in the bourbon industry, what would it be?

BE:  The price gauging on the secondary market bothers me and I also wish we have enough inventory.

NBD:  Seems that if you have enough inventory, the supply and demand would be fixed and would solve the price gauging problem.

BE: That’s right…

NBD: Do you think with all the increases in production that a bourbon bubble is forming?

BE: I do think that bourbon will slow down, whether it is in ten or fifteen years, but I do not think that the bottom will fall out.  This is not like cherry vodka and next week people like grape flavor more.  With bourbon, the growth requires more people to be introduced and there is increased recognition; when people try it they love it.  Bourbon has history, tradition, is hand crafted and has a soul; most importantly it is delicious.

NBD: Thank you so much for your time.

Four Roses Gift Shop Elliott’s Pick OBSF

Part of my Kentucky trip took me to the gift shop at Four Roses. I actually didn’t open this up until very recently and after I had already tried the Elliott’s Select, but after trying it I had to open this up as soon as possible.

This private single barrel is an OBSF, 50.3% abv, aged 11yrs and 7 months, from warehouse GW and is barrel # 81-1H.

Medium heat on the nose, dried grass, graham crackers, cloves, cracked walnuts and a hint of raspberry jam. Initially I’m a little disappointed by the nose compared to this year’s Elliott’s Select.

The taste is better and so is the mouthfeel. There’s a lot of spiciness on the palate that I was completely missing on the nose. It really tickles your tongue.  The tannins and oil nicely balance out the mouthfeel.

Overall this is a solid single barrel but not even close to the Elliott’s Select. The finish is quite long but it lacks some of the sweet notes that the other had. 87/100.

 

Four Roses Elliott’s Select

While the huge media chatter of Jim Rutledge “retiring” and then quickly going online to kickstart his own distillery has dominated the news, Brent Elliott has quietly taken over as Master Distiller at Four Roses Distillery, continuing to make great whiskey.  The newest special release from Four Roses is the Elliott’s Select 2016 Limited Edition Single Barrel.

This review is from bottle number 4473/10224, a 52.9% abv, 14 year aged, OESK from warehouse QN from barrel 47-1L.

Golden brown color.

The nose has butterscotch, anise, brown sugar, smoked maple bacon, dry hay and candied apple.

The palate is phenomenal, good oils, moderate tannins, sweet fruits and candied apples engulf the mouth.  The finish is long and complex, thick and juicy.

This is clearly one of the standouts of 2016; hits all the right notes, is complex and enjoyable.  Too bad it’s one of those hard to find bourbons for a reasonable price… I’ve seen it listed on bottle-spot.com for low 200s, and at that price it’s reasonable. 97/100

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2016 Whisky Jewbilee and Event Tasting Strategy

The 5th Annual Whisky Jewbilee was my first time attending this cool New York City event… I brought a few clients and friends with me to enjoy the fun.  As part of any large tasting, you need to have a game plan ahead of time—know where the rare bottles are and hit them first.

A huge mistake rookies make is trying to be very polite and going through the whole vertical.  I totally understand being polite, going through each one and hearing why the 10yr is so great.  But… there will be time for that at the end of the evening if you really care.  There were about 6 Scotches that were 25yrs or older and they were all gone within the first 30 minutes, so if you didn’t hit them first, you missed out.  Fortunately for me and my friends, I had them all mapped out and we were able to try them all.  To be honest though, a the selection of 25yr Scotch didn’t really excite me…

I’m much more of a bourbon fan than scotch, so I was hoping for something special underneath the tables, that wasn’t on the original tasting list.  There were three tables that really stepped it up in my opinion:

Skinner Auctions brought a bunch of dusties including a 1970s Stitzel-Weller Cabin Still decanter.  Only a 4-5yr bourbon, but so incredibly smooth.  And to get the chance to try anything from Stitzel-Weller is welcomed.  I went back for five pours, which probably was overkill, but almost no one was hitting this table, so it was a hidden gem.

For all the negative things I have written about Balcones over the years, they actually stepped it up at this tasting.  I tried their normal products, and again, I really didn’t like them.  I had never tried their Brimstone, and I think that might be my least favorite one of theirs of all time—just horrible.  However… when I asked if they had anything under the table, I was very pleasantly surprised.  Winston Edwards (the brand ambassador) pulled a new product, the Balcones Texas Rum Special Release 63.9% abv.  He said it was mostly a 3.5yr rum blended with some younger ones.  This product blew me away.  Great mouthfeel, such rich notes, just a tremendous amount of complexity and length.  This was so good I bought two bottles online and can’t wait to try it at home and do a proper tasting.  Stay tuned in the coming weeks for a full review on this rum.

The other favorite table was Barrell Bourbon.  Joe Beatrice brought both whiskey batches, including the sherry cask Batch 002, which was a top 5 of the night as well as Batch 006 and Batch 007.  They also has a special Batch 007b, which apparently was the same barrels from Batch 007, but bottled a few months later, so a little more age, and slightly different proof, but everything else the same.  Very tasty.  I love when the presenters have a little something special under the table if you ask nicely–thank you Joe!

I was very disappointed by a lot of the other bourbon tables, especially Four Roses, Bookers, Basil Hayden, Bakers, etc… they just brought their normal bottles.  Four Roses should have at least brought the Elliot’s Select, but just brought their normal ones.  For a tasting, they should have stepped up their game a little bit.  If I wanted a glass of Basil Hayden, I could just go to any bar, their performance was not exciting.  For next year, hopefully the larger brands lose the attitude and bring something a little special.

At the end of the evening, my clients and friends had a great time, we all drank quite a bit of very good whiskey and I even got to meet Mark Gillespie from WhiskyCast which was a treat.  Because it wasn’t in a proper tasting setting, I am not going to give any grades but the top drams of the night, not in any order were: Stitzel-Weller Cabin Still 1970’s dusty, Barrell Bourbon Batch 006, Barrell Whiskey Batch 002, Balcones Texas Rum Special Release, Balvenie 25.

 

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Four Roses LESB 2014 vs 2015

I liked the 2015 edition so much, I went on bottle-spot and found someone selling the 2014 for a “mere” 2x retail, so I lifted two of them. Prices have certainly gone up, but at the same time availability has increased for older stuff… I wasn’t into bourbon a few years ago, so finding a BTAC at retail was never something I experienced, so bottle-spot is where I have been sourcing and trading for a lot of interesting bottles recently.

Anyway, here it goes….

Similar color to the 2015, sparking golden amber, slightly lighter. This all makes sense as it is a little younger. The breakdown on this one is: again a blend of four mash bills, OBSK 9 year, OBSV 13 year, OESV12 year and OBSF 11 year.

The nose has a touch more hotness compared to the 2015, and the proof is a touch higher: 111.8 vs 108.6. I’m getting a lot candied orange peel, almond butter, pumpkin pie, maple wood charcoal and Werther’s Original. It’s very good but not quite up to the 2015 on the nose.

I have decided that I love non-chill filtered bourbons. And this is no exception. The gritty mouthfeel is delightful and the finish keeps going on. The palate is very enjoyable but again, not quite as complex as the 2015. When the bottle was first opened it smelled and tasted a little stale, the key was the wait and keep it open for a few hours. If I rated this when I first opened, if would have graded quite poorly.  After a few hours the palate is lovely.

Overall, this is a other amazing bourbon. I’m going to try to find the 2013 and earlier online if possible to try, but my guess is the 2015 will be unmatched. This one gets a 95/100.  It’s a shame that Rutledge is retiring, because these limited editions are amazing.

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Here is the release from Four Roses about this one:

Four Roses Distillery will release the newest in its series of limited-quantity special bottlings with the 2014 Limited Edition Small Batch Bourbon, featuring four of the distillery’s ten Bourbon recipes from barrels ranging in age from 9 to 13 years.

Four Roses is the only distillery that combines two mashbills with five proprietary yeast strains to produce ten distinct Bourbons, each with its own unique characteristics. These Bourbons can be mingled in nearly infinite combinations to create a wide range of flavor profiles.

Master Distiller Jim Rutledge selected four of the ten Bourbons to create the 2014 Limited Edition Small Batch Bourbon: 13-year-old Bourbon from Four Roses’ OBSV recipe, 12-year-old OESV, 11-year-old OBSF and 9-year-old OBSK.

“It’s exciting and challenging to select the Bourbons that will be used in various percentages for a special and different Limited Edition Small Batch,” Rutledge said.

The 2014 Limited Edition Small Batch, bottled at barrel strength, is both bold and refreshing, with aromas of light orange zest, glazed maple and fresh spearmint. The flavor profile includes orange citrus and mellow hints of honey, which are expertly mingled with a palate of mild cloves and cool mint for a long, bold and smooth finish.

“We’ve only scratched the surface with what we can do with our ten Bourbon recipes relative to varying flavor profiles for special releases,” said Rutledge.

2015 Four Roses Limited Edition Small Batch Bourbon: Exceeding the Hype

My brother-in-law visited me this weekend and like any good house guest, he was bearing gifts.  He was lucky enough to snag one of these bottles in a local liquor store near Boston and we opened it and enjoyed it over the weekend.  This is my first ever Limited Edition Four Roses, and it’s totally worth every penny.

The 2015 is a mixture of 4 different bourbons, using 3 recipes at unusually high ages: 16 year-old OBSK, 11 year-old OBSV, 15 year-old OESK, and 14 year-old OESK. To compare, the 2014 edition contained 13 year-old OBSV, 12 year-old OESV, 11 year-old OBSF, and 9 year-old OBSK–unfortunately I never got to try that one.  If anyone wants to swap samples, please let me know.

My first limited edition is sadly the last one that legendary Master Distiller Jim Rutledge will produce as he is imminently retiring.

The color is a nice dark amber, as you would expect with a 14 year old, on average, whiskey.

The nose sucks you in the first time you put your face near the Glencairn Glass.  Roasted orange peel, toffee ice cream, pecan pie, cloves, peanut butter cookies.  At 54.3% abv, you barely get a hint of burn on the nose.  You can tell this is an expertly crafted Bourbon.

The taste is what gets you… there is a big spiciness on the palate that resonates throughout the mouth.  The richness of the oils and tannins coat the tongue and deliver the flavors from the nose over and over again.  After the taste the warmth comes in to prove to you that not only does the sweet and spicy flavors exist, the strong backbone remains.  This Bourbon goes on for minutes and the first, second and third time we tasted it, we just smiled and enjoyed it.  Words were unneccesary.  My tasting notes are from the next day when trying it alone, and I got everything from the day before and more.  This Bourbon has one of the longest finishes, with a follow through that Jim Rutledge can be proud of.

I almost didn’t add water to this one, as it was so smooth anyway, but I figured to be thorough I would.  The water makes the experience a little rounder, but doesn’t release any additional flavors.  I prefer it without adding anything.

We were extremely lucky to score this Bourbon for only $120, while I’ve seen it go for 3-5x online.  If you can get it for retail or even 2x retail, you will be happy with this purchase, but given how amazing this is, I’m probably going to try to buy more myself!  This is so freaking good, if you get the opportunity to try it, do not hesitate.  98/100

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