Four Roses Single Barrel Barrel Strength Head to Head: What a difference a yeast makes!

1)     OBSK (Binny’s, barreled 4/27/99)

2)     OBSF (Binny’s, barreled 7/11/02)

Maker: Four Roses, Lawrenceburg, Kentucky, USA (Kirin)

Age: NAS (around 9 y/o)


1)     121.2 (60.6% ABV)

2)     124.2 (62.1% ABV)


1)     Reddish copper

2)     Auburn, with a little char in the bottom.

Nose (with water added)

1)     Caramel, spice, jalapeno

2)     Peppermint candy

On the palate (with water added)

1)     Full-bodied. Caramel, a little clove and peppercorn mélange, then burn.

2)     Even fuller bodied. Big herbal hit of mint on initial entry. Then some oak that gets more prominent as the whiskey lingers in the mouth. Bourbon lovers will know what I mean when I saw that at times I wondered if this wasn’t a Heaven Hill product rather than a Four Roses.


1)     Burn, and a little bit of wood. This hangs around for a long time and as it does, it transforms itself into cotton candy and a little tingle that lingers on the lips like the kiss of a long-distance lover.

2)     In the finish, the mint starts to become unpleasant. It feels like I just got done brushing my teeth. Not that it’s a bad feeling, just way too much mint. It doesn’t linger long though. Much shorter finish than the OBSK.

Parting Words

Yeast is something that doesn’t get a lot of discussion in the world of whiskey. Until recently there wasn’t much opportunity to do a head to head comparison. But over the past few years Fours released all 10 of their individual bourbons (2 mashbills, 5 yeasts) as single barrel barrel strength selections at around nine years old to big retailers like Binny’s in Chicago, Party Source and Cork & Bottle in the Cincinnati area, and Julio’s in Massachusetts. For a breakdown of the 10 recipes and the products that use them, click on friend-of-the-blog Oscar’s post here:

In addition to being really tasty, these releases offered a chance to deconstruct Four Roses and conduct amateur experiments (like this one) on the impact of mash bills and yeast strains on the taste of the finished product. As you can see above, it makes a big difference.

Viewed simply as individual whiskeys, I’d have to give the edge to OBSK but the OBSF is tasty too, especially when vatted with other whiskeys, like Four Roses Small batch or another single barrel barrel strength recipe. Both are recommended, the OBSK highly.

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