Four Roses 2015 Limited Edition Small Batch Review
Four Roses has released an annual limited edition of their Small Batch Bourbon bottled at barrel strength since the release of the first Mariage in 2008. A second Mariage was released in 2009 and from 2010 going forward was rebranded as the LE Small Batch. Each year features a different blend of honey barrels selected and blended by Master Distiller Jim Rutledge. The 2015 LE would be the last release under Jim as he announced his retirement from Four Roses effective 9/1/15. You can read my interview with Jim here where he goes into detail regarding his retirement, reasons for leaving and plans for the future J. W. Rutledge Distillery.
What makes Four Roses one of the most unique bourbon distilleries is their use of 2 different mashbills (20% Rye and 35% Rye) and 5 different yeast strains (K, Q, O, F, V) which yield a total of 10 different recipes. Depending on the product 1 or all 10 recipes may be used as well as various combinations in between. Another factor that makes FR so unique is their robust private barrel program that is available to retailers. Each of the 10 recipes can be found bottled at barrel strength.. It's not uncommon to find hardcore bourbon nuts who have tasted through each recipe as well as collect.
Cost: $18 per 1 oz pour at Bar Mash in Charleston, SC.
Distillery: Four Roses Distillery LLC
Filtration: Non-Chill Filtered
Age: 16 Year OBSK / 15 Year OESK / 14 Year OESK / 11 Year OBSV
Mashbill: Combination of "E" mashbill (75% Corn / 20% Rye / 5% Malted Barley) and "B" mashbill (60% Corn / 35% Rye / 5% Malted Barley). Check out the infographic at Four Roses for more info regarding the different mashbills, yeasts, and recipes.
Pour: 2 oz neat
Nose: Wow. Luxardo Cherries, blood oranges zest. Super jammy red fruit and berries - strawberry, cherry, raspberry, and pomegranate, Blackberries. Fresh Vanilla and Panna Cotta gelato. Light cinnamon and clove with a dash of caramel. Cherry pies and day old red fruit pastries.
Palate: Cinnamon with dark red fruits. Cranberry, cherry, strawberry, raspberry. Mint and black pepper.
Finish: Medium length. Warm with pronounced cinnamon and black pepper. Sweet, spicy, and just slightly dry linger on well after the sip is down the hatch. Sweet/spice/dry is balanced just right. 50% spice / 25% sweet / 25% dry.
This bourbon is an absolute red fruit and spice bomb. All of the flavors integrate really, really well. The red fruit and cream on the nose is like desert. The fruit and spices through the palate and finish continue the desert theme. No one aroma or flavor dominates and the balance of spice, sweet and oak is perfect. In all honesty this blows the standard small batch out of the water. Did I overpay for my pour at the bar? I don't think so considering how sought after this release was and for good reason. I will likely never get my hands on a bottle so a one time premium to try this bourbon was well worth the cost of admission. My only gripe is that the finish could have been a bit longer but by no means would I say that the finish was anything short of solid. While this is the last LE to be released under Jim's watch it has got to be of of my favorite FR offerings to date.
Four Roses normal lineup (Yellow Label, Small Batch, and Single barrel) are all NAS Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskeys. In interviews Jim Rutledge has stated that they age the whiskey for necessary amount of time to hit a particular flavor profile rather than having an age statement just to have an age statement. His reasoning is the whiskey could over age, depleting the wood sugars resulting in over-oaked, tannic bourbon. I'm ok with this because I'm not a fan of super oak forward bourbon and Four Roses consistently puts out quality juice. The only FR products you'll find age statements on are the Single Barrel Barrel Strength releases and annual LE releases. Most of the SBBS private barrel picks that I've found tend to hover in the 10-11 year range (However supposedly from time to time their are older distillery only gift shop releases). Jim stated last year they recently lowered the minimum age on private picks to 8 years. Where am I going with this? The fact that this release included bourbons that were 14/15/16 years of age without tasting over-oaked is incredible. It just goes to show how much skill is involved in the art of barrel selection and blending. Cheers to Jim Rutledge and the legacy he leaves behind at Four Roses.
Recommended: Four Roses Single Barrel (Barrel Strength), Stagg JR, Smooth Ambler Single Barrel Cask Strength Bourbon, Blanton's Straight From The Barrel