Four Roses Limited Edition Single Barrel 2009

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

Age: 11 y/o

Recipe: OESQ

Warehouse/Barrel: 55/43-3Q

Proof: 116.2 (58.1% ABV)

Appearance: Light auburn with thin, elegant legs

Nose: Rich. Crème brûlée, chocolate mousse, mint, alcohol, clove, orange blossom, mace, oak.

On the palate: Full bodied and sweet. Chocolate orange, vanilla. With water it turns silky. Key lime pie, roasted candy almonds, cocoa almonds.

Finish: Long, sweet and sensuous. Oak, char, circus peanuts, mango.

Parting words: This is sex in a glass, but without the stickiness (ideally). Unlike its (arguably better) predecessors, the 40th and 120th anniversary single barrels, it has a sensual quality unusual in a bourbon. Or to put it another way, this bourbon is the dessert you box up and take back to your hotel room after Valentine’s day dinner at the steak house, and eat right before you fall asleep and right after you, well, you know.

The Four Roses annual releases stay on the shelves for a shockingly long time after they are released compared other high-end annual releases, so there are quite possibly some still out there, but your best bet for trying one is to find a generous friend with a bottle or two squirreled away. Four Roses Limited Edition Single Barrel 2009 is highly recommended.

Four Roses Single Barrel

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

Style: High-rye bourbon

Age: NAS (about 8-9 y/o)

Warehouse/Barrel: DS/43-IV

Proof: 100 (50% ABV)

Appearance: Bright Copper

Nose: Boiled peanuts, rye, oak, jalapeno. With a splash of water, I get heirloom roses, leather, and hard candy. A fun night for somebody!

On the palate: Full-bodied. Cassia, cotton candy. A little water loosens it up a bit. A perfumed sweetness, rosewater, sweet cinnamon, a bit of caramel & jalapeno jelly.

Finish: Hot, but complex. Spicy cassia, rye, cotton candy then a light sweetness lingers like a stolen kiss from an old lover. Not that I’ve been kissing any old lovers recently (have I used that line before?).

Parting words: I reviewed this early on in the blog when I was still doing “Now drinking” posts. This is a very different barrel from that one. To use a baffling booze reviewer term, this is a very tight whiskey. At 100 proof it is very assertive and has loads of rye character. It even reminded me of Templeton Rye, which is produced at LDI, Four Roses’ former sister distillery in Lawrenceburg, Indiana. Cut down from 100 proof to somewhere in the 90s, it becomes a relaxed, genteel bourbon suitable for sipping on finer front porches. Aside from special releases, Four Roses Single Barrel is the best bourbon on the market, or at least my favorite. Highly recommended.

Four Roses Single Barrel Limited Edition 2011

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

Age: 12 y/o

Recipe: OBSQ

Warehouse/Barrel: QN/17-34

Proof: 118.6 (59.3% ABV)

Appearance: auburn with long, clingy legs.

Nose: Like distilled jerk sauce. A lovely balance of spice, heat, and fruity sweetness.

On the palate (with water): The fruit really comes to the fore. Less jerk and more Pickapeppa® now. Wild Blackberry, raspberry, pomegranate juice, sweet red currant. All this with some caramel and a tiny hint of oak, but it’s not missed. Like a baroque concerto grosso. No one element dominates, but each takes its own turn on the tongue, resulting in a sublime balance of disparate elements.

I tasted a 9 y/o Party Source bottling of OBSQ for comparison’s sake. The extra three years in the bottle make a pretty big difference. All the elements are there in the younger bourbon, but the hot spice overwhelms the fruit. More like a Buffalo Wing sauce or a romantic solo concerto.

Finish: Hot, then tannic and slightly sweet. This is by far the oakiest part of the whole experience. But even here the sweetness and fruit provide a refreshing counterpoint to the wood.

Parting Words: Not much else can be said about this amazing whiskey. I loved the 2009 edition but like the younger OBSQ, it was more solo than grosso. The sweet cotton candy and bubblegum flavors overran the other elements. The 2010 was the 100th Anniversary (of the distillery building) edition. It was 17 years old, and was too woody and dry for my taste. The 2011 is on par with the first two releases in the series (2007’s 40th anniversary and 2008’s 120th anniversary). It’s expensive for a bourbon (>$70 for per bottle) but it is worth much more than that. Coming from a cheap bastard like me, that’s high praise. It goes without saying, but this bourbon is one of the best I’ve ever had and is very highly recommended.

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.

Four Roses Small Batch

Maker: Four Roses, Lawrenceburg, Kentucky (Kirin)

Age: NAS

Proof: 90 (45% ABV)

Appearance: Golden straw with nice long legs.

Nose: Dry and subtle for a Four Roses product, but some alcohol and rye spice.

On the palate: Medium bodied and sweet. As it lingers flavors come through. A bit of bitter char, a bit of sweetness. A very delicate whiskey. Closer to the standard Four Roses (“yellow label”) than the single barrel.

Finish: Light and sweet with a bit of burn.

Parting words: Goes down easy. Makes for a dry but good Manhattan. 4RSmB brings out some pleasant bitter flavors that do a good job of balancing the sweetness of the vermouth. Small batch does a better job of this than its little brother Four Roses does. Small Batch’s higher proof is better able to stand up to a gutsy red vermouth like Cinzano.

Four Roses 2010 Limited Edition Small Batch

More catching up…

Maker: Four Roses, Lawrenceburg, Kentucky (Kirin)

Age: 10 y/o (mix of 15 y/o, 11 y/o, and 10 y/o bourbons).

Proof: 110.2 (55.1% ABV)

Style: High-Rye Bourbon

Appearance: Light copper, with long, thick legs.

Nose: Wood, big spice and big alcohol, spicy nacho chips,

On the palate: Good body, a little sweetness, then dry
woodiness and tannins, then cassia, then burn. Water balances it out quite a
bit. There are still plenty of the aggressive flavors above, but they are
balanced by brown sugar and vanilla, flavors not usually associated with Four Roses.

Finish: Hot at first, then dry and tannic, then a tingling sweetness. Water doesn’t slow down the finish much.

Parting Words: This bourbon, as noted above, is a mix (“blend” is a dirty word in the world of American Whiskey) of three of the ten bourbon recipes made by Four Roses: 15 y/o OBSV, 11 y/o OBSK and 10 y/o OESK. In 2008 and 2009 Four Roses put out something it called the Mariage Collection. The concept (and the bottle) was very similar to the Limited Edition Small Batch. It was also a special annual release, but only two of them were “married” together (it was produced in Kentucky, not Utah, after all), and the constituent bourbons were older. The 2008 Mariage was very good, and the 2009 was the best bourbon whiskey I have ever tasted, and I’ve tasted a lot of them.

So the 2010 Limited Edition Small Batch had very big shoes to fill. If measured against the 2009 Mariage, it falls short. But if it is measured up against most annual releases from most distilleries, it more than holds its own. It is not as subtle or multi-layered as its predecessor was but it is a well-crafted assertive whiskey that announces its presence boldly, but never wears out its welcome. Spice, corn, and wood all jockey for position throughout and the winner is always the drinker. Highly recommended!