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For one of the larger distilleries in the United States, Four Roses maintains something of a “craft” mentality. While the buildings on the distillery’s property resemble a Spanish mission more than a factory (say, like Wild Turkey), the interior of the distillery proper is ramshackle and accessible. Here sits the yeast tub, yawning wide and bubbling. There—at Cox’s Creek—lie the barrels, only one story high.
Four Roses is known for a few unique features—their architecture, ten recipes (two mash bills crossed with five yeast cultures), and flathouses key among them—but what distinguishes their whiskey from that produced by many other distilleries is balance. No note dominates Four Roses whiskey, no element is out of place.
Because Four Roses produces ten recipes, there are at least ten possible varieties of Four Roses available in stores. For the most part, however, one will usually find no more than three Four Roses products: the entry-level Yellow Label, the mid-shelf Small Batch, and the top-of-the-line Single Barrel. In the vast majority of stores, the single barrel bottlings contain whiskey distilled from one recipe, OBSV, which is the high rye (60% corn, 35% rye, 5% malted barley), delicate fruitiness recipe. There are stores, however, that carry their own single barrel bottlings—or, like Kentucky’s The Party Source, all ten. The Park Avenue Liquor Shop of New York City is one such store, and they carry the OBSQ recipe (high rye, floral essence), aged to a month shy of nine years. (The OBSQ recipe was also featured as the 2011 Limited Edition Single Barrel release.)
The nose on the Park Avenue Liquor Four Roses Single Barrel has a hint of sourness and lovely rye yeastiness. It begins somewhat dryly, but culminates in black cherries, almonds, cola, nutmeg, and vanilla. A hint of furniture polish appears, and then brown sugar. As the sweetness rises, the almonds turn to marzipan.
The palate is spicy, again with cherries and vanilla. A touch of furniture polish astringency arises, cutting subtly through the sweetness. As expected, the whiskey is nicely balanced.
To my tastes, the Small Batch is in a few ways the superior whiskey, although it is not bottled at full strength, like this single barrel offering has been. Previously, I reviewed the Small Batch (connosr.com/reviews/four-roses/…), so I won’t dwell on it here. Suffice it to say that this Single Barrel release is lovely, but slightly less complex and well rounded as the Small Batch which is, to be fair, a blend of four recipes, adding both complexity and “roundness.” Nevertheless, we are splitting hairs here—this Single Barrel is very good stuff indeed.