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Four Roses has a long and storied reputation, albeit one that was sullied for a time when, under the ownership of Seagrams, Four Roses only sold blended whiskey—straight whiskey blended with young whiskey or grain neutral spirits—to the American market. After Kirin acquired Four Roses from Seagrams, Master Distiller Jim Rutledge managed to convince the distillery’s new parents to begin producing straight bourbon for the US market once again. Four Roses has since regained its place as one of the great American whiskey producers.
There are several peculiar features of the Four Roses production method, such as their one-story rickhouses (known, illustratively, as “flathouses”), but in one aspect they are truly unique: Four Roses has ten distinct recipes. This is achieved with the use of two mash bills (one using 35% rye grain, the other using 20%) in conjunction with five distinct yeast strains. The Small Batch expression is a co-mingling of four such recipes: both mash bills crossed with the “K” and “O” yeast strains. These yeasts, respectively, bring spice and robust fruitiness to the spirit.
Though the nose is gentle and round, it does not hide the rye. Cherries (similar to the 2009 Mariage Collection release), honey, apricots, baking spices, butterscotch, furniture polish, lemon custard, and menthol all make appearances.
The palate is smooth and sweet, but with a fair amount of depth. Spice carries through, and again we see rye and cherries. Four Roses is known for releasing strikingly balanced bourbons, and this is no exception.