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Some terms are strictly defined, like "Kentucky Straight Bourbon", or "Single Malt Scotch". Others are meaningless, legally speaking. Terms like "old" (without an actual age statement), "rare", "special", "craft" and "small batch" have no regulated, defined meaning. I'm sure producers have their own definitions as to what "small batch" or "hand-crafted" represents. They simply choose not to share that information with their customers. However, terminology is not a reason in and of itself to avoid what could be a good whiskey. I was enamoured with Four Roses Single Barrel, so when their Small Batch offering was on sale at the LCBO, I snagged a bottle for casual sipping.
- Nose (undiluted): caramel, brown sugar, honeycrisp apples, light baking spices (cinnamon, nutmeg), subtle rye bread notes, a hint of granny smith apples and oak
- Palate (undiluted): more apples, sweet cherries, rye spices become more prominent (nutmeg, cloves, black pepper) and oak coming forward near the end
- Finish: medium length, the rye and oak give way to sweet vanilla, rich caramel and coconut. Very pleasing.
This whiskey is like a three-course dessert. The nose reminds me of a pannekoeken recipe I once lifted from the television show Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives. If you don't know, pannekoeken is a giant Dutch pancake that's more of a dessert than a proper breakfast. The taste (palate) is very much like an apple pie. It's clearly a high-rye bourbon and it works fantastically. The finish becomes richer and much sweeter, like coconut caramel clusters. The longer this bourbon sits in the glass, the more the caramel and coconut come forward. Instead of appearing on the finish, they start to take over the taste (palate) as well. Pretty complex for not a whole lot of money, though it feels a bit disjointed. All the flavours are good, but the whole thing feels a bit out of balance. There is little to no alcohol burn, which is not surprising, since it's bottled at 90 Proof (45% ABV). I would love to see this a tad higher, maybe around 100 Proof. I've only added water to this bourbon once, and I don't recommend it. Other than an initial rye hit 5-30 seconds after dilution, all you get is a watery dram. Sip it neat.
It's tough to know exactly how to evaluate this whiskey. I'm not a fan of murky naming conventions. Nor do I like lower ABV % when it comes to bourbon. Bourbon's flavours seem better-suited to higher strength bottlings (over 50% ABV). I liked this bourbon, but it didn't seem as well-integrated or balanced as the Single Barrel version. Nevertheless, it is a good product, and I will likely buy it again. If you've never had it, I recommend you try it before you buy it.