Four Roses is one of the more underrated bourbons on the market, in part because their entry level product, Four Roses Yellow Label, is so deeply filtered that it hides much of what makes Four Roses such great bourbon. This filtering isn’t as dramatic with the Small Batch and Single Barrel Four Roses Bourbons which show off the real magic of the brand: a richly textured bourbon with a wide dimensionality of flavor. Four Roses’ complexity of flavor comes from a process that uses a wide range of yeast strains to produce ten variations of Four Roses Bourbon. It’s from these ten recipes that Master Distiller Jim Rutledge pulls to make Four Roses Small Batch bourbon.
Every year, Jim Rutledge produces a very special limited edition of this small batch bourbon. This year, to celebrate Four Roses 125th Anniversary, Rutledge pulled from three distinct recipes of very special bourbon for his limited edition small batch. This 125th Anniversary Blend is comprised of 18-year-old bourbon (recipe OBSV), a 13-year-old bourbon (OBSK), and another 13-year-old (OESK). These bourbons were blended at barrel strength and then bottled, skipping Four Roses’ brutal chill filtering process.
Four Roses 125th Anniversary Limited Edition 2013 Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey ($90, 110 proof / 55% ABV) is extraordinarily aromatic with dried apricot, vanilla, cinnamon, oak, and cherry on the nose. For a 110 proof whiskey there’s very little burn to the nose, which is simply bursting with aroma. The entry of the 125th Anniversary Limited edition is equally explosive with the sweet dried apricot and vanilla from the nose. These sweet notes are quickly counterbalanced with strong oak spice and deep cherry. While the proof of the 125th Anniversary Limited Edition isn’t apparent on the nose, it’s quite apparent in the midpalate, which has both a nice intensity of flavor and alcohol strength. The finish is long and tingly with the oak and cherry flavors lingering. The mouthfeel of this blend is also exquisite with a perfect balance of rich and dry.
Four Roses 125th Anniversary Blend seems particularly sensitive to water, with just a few drops changing the dynamic considerably, balancing out the flavors, and enhancing the underlying cherry notes. We recommend enjoying this bourbon with a few drops of water, but be sure not to overdo it. While the term “Master Distiller” gets batted around casually these days, Jim Rutledge is one of the true Master Distillers, and this year’s limited edition of the Four Roses Small Batch is the product of a real master. Bursting with flavor, complexity, and balance, Four Roses 125th Anniversary Small Batch Edition captures everything we love about bourbon and presents it in a way that will delight both the hardcore whiskey enthusiast and the casual bourbon drinker. Put simply, this is great bourbon.
To celebrate their 125th Anniversary, Four Roses has set up a special site called Year of The Toast with a catalog of toasts for many different occasions. In addition, you can submit your own toast for a chance to get you and your toast featured on the bottle of next year’s Limited Edition Single Barrel release.Review: Four Roses 125th Anniversary Limited Edition Small Batch 2013 by Geoff Kleinman