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Four Roses Single Barrel

" A Budding Romance"

6 587

@cricklewoodReview by @cricklewood

5th Dec 2018


  • Nose
  • Taste
  • Finish
  • Balance
  • Overall

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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.

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Victor commented

@cricklewood, thanks for your review.

Those 5 different bourbons made from 5 different yeasts allows the wonderful possibility of demonstrating just how huge the influence of the yeast selection is. Of course to do so you would have had to have acquired samples of the different individual bourbons, which requires specialty shop access to private barrels (e.g. Binny's). My sister has at least 3 different single barrel bottles of different Four Roses bourbons with the same mashbill. The bourbons are very different from one another when using different yeasts. It is a wonderful and very educational exercise to do this sort of tasting.

5 years ago 3Who liked this?

RianC commented

Thanks for the review @cricklewood . I quite liked the small batch and have thought about picking this one up as well. I guess with it being a SB release one can never really tell until they pop it . . .

5 years ago 0

cricklewood commented

@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.

5 years ago 1Who liked this?

cricklewood commented

@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.

5 years ago 0

casualtorture commented

I have had three different OBSV bottles from different barrels and three completely different whiskies.

5 years ago 0

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