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The 2009 Four Roses Mariage Collection is a small batch co-mingling—or “mariage,” as goes the French affectation—of two bourbon recipes of different ages: a 60% maize/35% rye/5% malted barley mash with a yeast that yields spiciness (at 10 and 19 years of age) and a 75% maize/20% rye/5% malted barley mash with a yeast that yields fruitiness (at 10 years of age).
The nose is lovely. A cherry-vanilla ice cream float, with dusty rye notes, butterscotch, and root beer. There is also varnish or permanent marker, but it distracts only a little. Eventually, that great friend to bourbon, brown sugar, makes a happy appearance alongside some pipe tobacco.
The palate is rich and powerful at barrel strength, but delightfully characterful and spicy. There is cherry licorice, caramel, and hot mustard. A hint of almonds appears on the finish, which peters out into a gentle, bracing bitterness of leather and a touch of varnish. This is a grand bourbon.