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Four Roses Single Barrel

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Four Roses Single Barrel

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Four Roses Single Barrel

I was gifted this for the birth of my second child three weeks ago. It was opened straight away and I will say from the off that I've been reaching for this more than any other bottle I currently have open. Yes, it's that good! Bottle is just over half-full and the review is neat - It's also a little premature, perhaps, but I feel I should do this while some remains in the bottle ...

Nose - Mum's nail polish remover, custard, some fizzing spices (think cinnamon, clove and mint), a strong herbal component with a sage-like note being most prominent. In fact, this is distinctly 'un-sweetened' compared to most bourbons but the balance is perfect. A little touch of Parma Violet sweets, liquorice (oddly) and a hint of apricot pastries. There's oak too but I have to focus to pick it out it is so well-integrated, which is another huge plus here.

Taste - Great mouthfeel, chewy almost, with a gorgeous arrival of sweet, sour and herbal notes unfurling on the tongue. The acetone note is a large part of the taste but it works superbly, tempering the spices and sweetness from the nose. Turns herbal as it develops with more sage, other stewing herbs and some anise, as well as some Turkish Delight.

Finish - A great balance of sweet, dry and herbal again but this is perhaps the point in the performance where the sweetness leads, if just for a moment and it rounds things off satisfyingly, making one remember that this is a bourbon after all.

With water and/or time I find that the custard notes become more prominent as do the fruitier notes but it still retains a pleasing balance and doesn't ever let the sweeter notes dominate.

I have tasted finer and more complex whisk(e)ys (although not that many - if any? - bourbons, it must be said) but what I really like about this is its ability to perform that allusive trick of being worthy of contemplation whilst also being as quaffable as a cold pint of cider after 18 holes of golf on a hot day. It's a potentially dangerous combination and one that I find rarely crops up in the world of whisk(e)y; but while I won't be complaining, my liver might ...


I am forever trying to get a backlog of reviews cleared, this one I have to admit I've struggled with, not the whisky but just finding which way to broach the uniqueness of it.

Ok so for whisky cognoscenti and most informed consumers, you know all about Four Roses and it's 5 yeast strains and 2 mashbills, allowing for up to 10 different variations to be made in one facility. It's a geeks delight, one that I know annoys some as they probably have a friend who won't shut up about the whole thing.

What's interesting to me is that this mostly came about under the Seagram's ownership of the facility. This is a pattern we would see repeated with many of the company's other distilleries, it really was a brilliant move, remember at the time Seagrams was pumping out all kinds of blends and moving facilities to this type of arrangement would not only allow for greater consistency but would make them less reliant on sourced components for their blends.

This scheme is repeated famously at Crown Royal but also what made Benriach such a stellar purchase for Billie Walker & co, since they had all kinds of style of single malt whisky in inventory.

As it is this yeast driven scheme is one that is sadly still underused in distilling today, it's the one area along with terroir (that is barley types & provenance) that I believe could help usher positive change in the industry.

Ok enough blab, The Four Roses Single Barrel is always composed of the same recipe (OBSV) so it's from the higher rye mashbill with their fruity yeast strain and it is bottled at 50% abv. mine is from warehouse US barrel#76-3A.

Nose: Minty, rye spices, cloves, slight vegetal notes. There's sweetness but it's not big bombastic but more like Turkish delight, corn porridge, clean oak,a little apple and apricots... Its not a big thick chewy toffee vanilla bomb.

There is a touch of something acetic, a little vinegary but it works in this context but could trigger you into acetone territory if you're sensitive to this.

Palate: Caramel, Honey that you licked off a Popsicle stick, cinnamon and cloves. The carpentry is in check not too forward but definitely present. There is a feeling of beeswax or coconut oil? Floral, candied angelica and celery leaves, a hint of fennel. There is a touch of something acetic, a little vinegary but it works in this context but could trigger you into acetone territory if sensitive.

Finish: Creamed honey, a bit of cucumber, vanilla, apricots, plum frangipane tart.

I feel like this is really in a category of it's own, it's still clearly bourbon and has those familiar touchstones. Yet the nose with it's almost sharp acetic edge and the palate with those vegetal, creamy touches make it an outlier, it's a fun whisky to dissect.

I can see the Four Roses style as being very polarizing, those who dig it will be amply rewarding, it's next level bourbon in the best sense. It's also fantastic value about 50$ at the LCBO.

@Victor, you are correct, the switch of yeast can be responsible for such changes, it's not talked about often by producers who would have you believe wood is everything.

Trying all different variations of FR has become a difficult undertaking as I believe they've restricted the availability of certain recipes for their single barrel program in the last few years as well, in addition to reducing the number of single barrels they do overall.

This spring when @Nozinan and I spoke with Don Livermore, his stance was that exploration of yeast strains was the next aspect that needed to be explored and that it would have a big impact.

He mentionned that their lab even has the original strains from the Canadian whisky barons in cryo storage.Yet he seemed to think this would be a job for his successor.

@RianC if you enjoyed the small batch I think you'll like this version, as you've seen to have taken a shine to bourbon overall.

I imagine as you've said that different barrels will yield varying results but the overall style is different enough than many bourbons and makes for a great experience.


This is my 2nd bottle of the 50% FRSB. This one is: Warehouse PN Barrel 48-45

Bottle opened about a month and is 2/3 full.

I'll be comparing this to my other bottle, which I have a review of on my profile.

Nose: Honeydew, cantaloupe and winter melon. Wet charcoal after a campfire. Brown sugar glazed bacon. Salty. Lots of melon.

Palate: Vanilla custard, and more melon. The melon really stands out. Honeydew and cantaloupe. Grassy. Strength of flavours is lacking compared to the other bottle. I wish there was more saltiness on the palate like the nose led me to believe.

Finish: Medium length with Melon and vanilla.

Overall: I think I enjoyed the other bottle a tad more. It had more variety and stronger flavors. This is so totally different. A similar characteristic is that you dont feel the 50% abv. This goes down very easily. Melon steals the show here. It is very enjoyable. Melons are a new sensation in whiskey for me and a nice one.


I picked up our final Single Barrel at Potomac Wines & Spirits in Georgetown, for whom it was exclusively bottled. The recipe is OBSQ - same high-rye mashbill as the other two, but with the "floral essence" yeast strain. Matured for 10 years and 2 months in Barrel No. 53-ID in Warehouse LE (if you've been to Four Roses, you'll know they have a bajillion huge warehouses), before being bottled on June 14 2017. Like the OBSK I just reviewed, it is bottled at barrel strength (unlike the standard Single Barrel, which is bottled at 50%)

The colour is a dark caramel. On the nose - pow! The wood smoke, spice and apple skins really hit you on this one; this time, there is more of a floral note than I got on the other two SBs. The herbs are more restrained here. Cinnamon and cloves. Slight hint of cotton candy. Water softens things up a bit. More subtlety than the OBSK I just wrote about, but not as delicate as the standard OBSV.

On the palate those baking spices are prevalent, with more oak but less fruit. A fair amount of wood smoke. Softer caramels and vanillas. A bit tannic with water. Definitely less fruit than the other two Single Barrels we've tried today - it's amazing what a difference yeast makes!

The very long finish is a river of soft savoury spices, toasted oak, mint and sage. Not as delicate as the standard expression, but more complex than the OBSK, this is pretty fantastic stuff. More subtle weaving between the spices and oak, but strangely I don't get any real "floral essences" as the yeast strain suggest. Look for it if you make it to Georgetown in the near future.

@talexander, 10 YO barrel proof bourbon is always a treat, as are your reviews. A nice series of reviews for an always interesting series of bourbon.

You rescued these bottles none too soon.

@talexander I can only speculate that it's because of the amount of time it would take to go through the experimental trials and then implement and roll out into regular production.

He did mention he had the original yeast strains of the whisky barons in cryo storage.


This sample came to me from @jasonhambrey. The OBSK recipe is the same high-rye mashbill as the usual Single Barrel, but with the "slight spice" yeast strain. It matured in Barrel No. 37-1M in Warehouse DN for 11 years and 3 months.

The colour is a dark caramel. On the nose we have really big cigar box with tons of wood smoke, chili powder, sticky toffee pudding and crushed mint. Chocolate. Liquorice nibs. Cherry pie filling. A nice blast of bourbon spices and powerful oak. Water brings out pine and leafy earth. Alluring.

On the palate the spices take a back seat to massive fruit: apple skins, cherries, raspberries and a touch of papaya. Furniture polish. More wood smoke. Something metallic, but not unpleasant. Fruitier and spicier with water. Delicious.

The long finish brings out more tobacco with spice and anise. More power than the standard FR SB I just reviewed, but still fascinating with strength and complexity. I don't know the provenance of this sample but if you can find it based on the barrel information, look forward to a robust and invigorating dram.


Now that we are in a trade war with the US, bourbon is on my mind (since I'm concerned we'll have to start paying more for it soon!) Also, having just visited the Four Roses distillery and warehouses a few weeks ago, I thought I'd explore a few single barrels, of different ABVs and yeast strains, and see how they compare.

This particular one is a standard bottling at 50%, from Barrel No. 38-2L, from Warehouse NS. I don't know the age, but it adheres to the standard FR SB recipe of OBSV (60% corn, 35% rye, 5% malted barley, from their "delicate fruit" yeast strain).

The colour is a soft caramel. On the nose we get cigar box, light vanilla, wood smoke, red apple skins and toffee. Herbal with mint and sage. Very light milk chocolate. Sour cherry. Cayenne. A bit of wood smoke, but not too much. Water brings out balsamic, with even more mint. This seems more delicate and softer than other single barrel bourbons, but no less complex.

On the palate the tobacco/cigar note remains prevalent, with thicker toffee, with more spice and mint. Lots of cherry, raspberry and kumquat. Water improves the complexity with greater oak and some fennel. The spice is a bit more dominant than it should be but this still shows off what Four Roses is capable of, even in its standard expressions.

The finish is long with wood smoke, dark cherry and plum. This seems to me to be one of the better Four Roses SBs I've had - massive complexity, subtlety and panache. If you see this particular barrel (purchased at an LCBO), snap it up.


Tonight I use my new(ish) Kentucky Bourbon Glass (KBG) to taste bourbon for the first time. I searched through my open bourbon bottles for a non-Booker’s (i.e.: something a little less intense) that I haven’t reviewed yet, and came across this one. It will be interesting how this single barrel compares to the one @OdysseusUnbound reviewed (possible but unlikely the same batch as we’re both in Ontario).

This bottle was opened in March 2016, has been opened numerous times (gassed each time), and was just under half full.

This expression is reviewed in my usual manner, covering and allowing it to settle after which I take my nosing and tasting notes. No water in this 50% ABV bourbon.


“Bourbon” signature nose hits first. Sort of burnt caramel, corn, and vanilla. After settling, the bourbon glass reveals some brown sugar and cherry. No, more like cherry “Mr. Freeze”registered pops or pink cream soda. In the snifter the alcohol is more concentrated, and the cherry is more fresh cherry juice. I get some leather. The Glencairn hints at sweet white cream soda and maybe marshmallow or fresh (raw) meringue. 21.5/25


Very flavourful out of the KBG. Sweet arrival, slightly thin mouthfeel then astringent development. I get powerful vanilla and some caramel in the background. A little hot. Richer and fruitier in the snifter and not as ethanol hot. The development remains sweeter. The Glencairn has a sweeter taste but the other flavours are less prominent. 21.5/25


Quite wood-bitter, more so with the KBG than the snifter. 21/25


In general it is not complex. Though most of the nose and flavour are pleasant, there’s a little too much wood bitter. 21/25

Score: 85 /100

This is not bad bourbon, but in a cabinet of favourites I don’t reach for it very often. Of course there is cask variation and I’m told a different bottle that @Paddockjudge sourced for me is outstanding. I look forward to finding out for myself but at the rate I’m drinking this it will be a long time…

Interestingly (or not, I will let you decide), I give this one to the KBG. I think it’s the most balanced of the three glasses. I look forward to seeing how this plays out for some of my barrel proof bourbons.

Nice review. Our scores are similar. I wonder if we got the same batch...I haven't updated my review with the relevant information yet. I'm thinking it might be a different batch since my nose and palate definitely detected some menthol/herbal notes. Then again, our tastes are different so perhaps what stands out to your palate is different than what I notice. Out of curiosity, what are some of your favourite bourbons?

Well, since you asked (good question), in no particular order, Booker's (esp. 2015-01), George T Stagg, Old Grand-dad 114 and BIB, Stagg Jr, ECBP. I freely admit I've not tasted as widely as some others have.


A boatload of Four Roses Single Barrel arrived at the LCBO a couple of weeks ago - they still seem to have a lot of it - so I might have to just buy as much as I can up until either the bourbon runs out...or the money runs out...

This comes from Warehouse KE and Barrel No. 6-5D. For those who care about the mashbill / yeast strain, the standard Four Roses Single Barrel code is OBSV (the Four Roses website will decipher this for you).

The colour is a medium coppery gold. On the nose we have rich cherries, cigar tobacco, polished oak, dark caramel, vanilla and menthol. Cocoa powder. Some savoury herbs in the background. Freshly sawn lumber. Maltier, spicier notes emerge with water. Strong, woody but balanced and elegant.

On the palate there are more cherries, but with blackberries as well. Creamy mouthfeel. Chocolate, vanilla and a lighter caramel than on the nose. The wood influence here is more prominent, pulling a bit too much in the mouth. Water adds more spice. Rich and delicious.

The finish is chalky with more oak coming forward - long and developing into caramel and rye spice. Another delicious Four Roses Single Barrel to enjoy! I might save a bit of this and do a side-by-side with other Single Barrels (as I often do with Jack Daniel's Single Barrel). We'll see...

@talexander I like your review and I like this bourbon very much. That's a solid score and where I'd put it, 88. I'm fortunate that it's readily available where I am. If it's not where you are I'd pick up as many as your budget will allow.

Came back in 2016... I picked up a couple of bottles and traded one for a different barrel. The one I have open is quite nice. I'd probably put it in the mid-80s as well.


Based on the previous discussions on Single Barrel 4R's and it's shifting profile, I decided to try it out for myself. I find myself quite surprised by this Bourbon, but not in a good way. It's one of those odd bourbons that really throw you off and makes you want to have another drink right after of something more decent and more fitting of the title "Bourbon Whiskey".

Nose: Cinnamon, maple syrup, burnt toast,bread with butter, roasted nuts, and yes, the oddest of smells, chamomile. The chamomile on the nose really threw me off. It's a smell I wasn't expecting in a bourbon. Unfortunately, it reminds me too much of my grappa which is specifically made of chamomile. I don't think that bodes well for a bourbon when you smell like chamomile grappa.

Palate: Medium bodied to light. Sweet arrival. Tannins, this has a good grip to it. Peppery and hot. It's a very flowery mouthful with very fresh oak to go along with it. Seriously though, is this 4R's or my Chamomile grappa? I'm having difficulty telling them apart (smelling and tasting side-by-side now). Really the only thing distinguishing this 4R's from the grappa is the higher ABV heat, besides that, almost identical in taste (grappa is more intensely sweet), and viscosity.

Finish: oily and again more of the oak. That's all she wrote really.

Overall, it's not very spectacular. The small batch bourbon from 4R's seems more well rounded and more consistent. This Bourbon has an odd nose that's too flowery. A palate that's to sweet. If I was to compare it to another whisky it's not a Bourbon. The palate and finish is more similar to a less sweet Marolo chamomile grappa. The closest Whisky would be a Macallan fine oak 10 or a Glenlivet 12 and even that's an insult to the aforementioned. Well that's enough for tonight.

Four Roses Single Barrel can be one of 10 different whiskeys: 5 yeasts, 2 mashbills. Apples to oranges comparisons unless you know exactly which formula was used. The floral thing is from the yeast used.

Without exact formula information you really don't know which whiskey is being discussed. Four Roses Single barrel bourbon can be and is a lot of different things. I've had several of these that I loved and a couple which left me indifferent. 5 of 6 of those I was sampling were from private barrels which were labeled with formula information which allowed me to know which bourbon I was drinking and that I was drinking different bourbons.

@ValueWhisky Oh no doubt it's still a nice sip. But I just found the recurring flowery (chamomile) note to be overbearing. It just kept coming up in the nose and in the taste. I would personally choose the small batch 4R's just because I like the presentation better. The nose on it is more Bourbon like, lots of caramel, all spice, and yet it has that jagged edge as well to let you know it's a bourbon. Just the contrast makes it more interesting. On the palate it's the opposite. While the S.barrel starts off very flowery as well as hot and spicy, the small batch doesn't turn spicy until it's been on your tongue for a bit. The grip on the small batch happens more in the finish than on the palate. So it's finish is more satisfying to me. But yes, Single Barrel 4R's is a nice and different Bourbon. Still decent and still worth a try.

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