Last night was Woodstock Whiskey Society’s fourth tasting. Fresh faces, great food and fantastic bourbon were all on the menu. At March’s tasting, we focused on Michter’s core lineup and we decided that we would pick another distillery to taste their product line. Four Roses was the winner of the vote and this month’s tasting was of Four Roses Single Barrel in which we sampled the basic Four Roses Single Barrel as well as four different store picks.
Just by looking at the picture, it would appear that we drank a lot last night, but in reality, I already had all of the store picks and had been sampling them myself over the course of the past year. As a result, I only had to purchase one bottle for the event which is always nice since it keeps costs down for everyone and we still get to have a great spread of bourbon.
We started the tasting with a discussion of why Four Roses Single Barrel is special when compared to other store picks. For those of you that are also new to the store picked Four Roses, there are ten different recipes that you can get. Each recipe is displayed on the front label of the bottle and contains four letters, the second letter identifies the mash bill, either with low (E) or high (B) rye, and the fourth letter denotes which strain of yeast is used, with the yeast imparting different flavor characteristics to the bourbon. Combine the different recipes with varying ages and bottling proofs and the results are truly unique.
Bottles were arranged by proof so that our palates were not assaulted from the beginning and we could gradually ease our way into the tasting. Although for some, with the base Four Roses Single Barrel being 100 proof, that’s a pretty high starting point.
Four Roses Single Barrel
The basic offering from Four Roses is their OBSV recipe. It clocks in at 100 proof and is a mix of fruit and spice with a creamy mouthfeel. This was one well received among our tasters, but was arguably the least favorite of the night. That’s to be expected though when comparing it to the store picks, so I wasn’t surprised to hear it didn’t score as high as the others. The complaint about this one being that it was a little too spicy, but everyone was surprised to find out it only cost around $35 for how good it was. This is definitely a daily drinker if you enjoy it.
Four Roses Single Barrel OBSQ 9Y 9MO 55.1%
Taking a 10.2 point leap in proof we found ourselves with our first store pick of the night. Despite the increase in alcohol content, everyone agreed that there was less of an alcohol burn from this one that the previous bottle. That can either be explained by the longer time spent in the barrel rounding off some of the harsher edges or the fact that we already had a pour and our palates had adjusted. This one was sweeter, and the floral notes on the nose were not too difficult to find. The high rye mash bill was evident with the spice that came along with it, but was not overpowering.
Four Roses Single Barrel OESQ 9Y 6MO 55.8%
This one ended up being the favorite of the night. The floral nose with hints of banana had everyone thinking of rich banana foster. Discussion as to whether or not we should make some for May’s tasting was had and noted. The lower rye mash bill tamed the spice down and left you with a sweet, fruity bourbon with just a hint of oak. This one was also slightly more viscous, coating the mouth and the finish seemed to linger for ages.
Four Roses Single Barrel OBSQ 9Y 10MO 57.3%
So I decided to throw this one into the tasting simply to show that store picks can vary widely. The first store pick we tried was the same recipe, only one month younger and only 2.2% lower alcohol, yet they each tasted unique. The same notes were there, but there were distinguishable differences when sampled. This one was sweeter and probably was the best nose of the night. The floral nose really came through on this one in a way that was more pleasant and well rounded than the first one of the same recipe. The finish was the shortest, just fading into nothingness.
Four Roses Single Barrel OBSF 8Y 8MO 59.3%
Last but not least (well, maybe) was the OBSF. This one was the least favorite of the night and probably the least memorable. The high rye combined with the minty notes from the yeast strain was not as appealing to everyone. The spice was prevalent, combined with the highest proof of the night made this one a little difficult for some. While it does open up with water, it’s just not one of my favorite recipes. That’s not to say that it wasn’t good, it just didn’t fare as well against the competition.
After each tasting, I always like to ask if there’s anything anyone is interested in or curious to try, but doesn’t want to buy a bottle, or in some cases, simply can’t find a bottle. Our newcomer had mentioned Blanton’s and so I went upstairs and pulled out a bottle and gave him a pour. As is typically the case, his reaction was kind of what I expected: “It’s alright.” We briefly discussed the marketing behind Blanton’s and the hype and rarity of the bottle and how I think that while it’s a fine bourbon at retail, I wasn’t going to pay more than that or spend any time looking for another bottle. I think he felt the same. I also pulled out a bottle of Highland Park 18 for people to try as something completely different. Everyone seemed to enjoy the sweet smokiness, but I’m pretty sure my group has more interest in bourbon and rye than Scotch. Maybe another time!
Overall, another enjoyable evening spent with friends over good whiskey and good food. The Four Roses selection was a good way to not only introduce people to the brand, but also showcase how good store picks can be. I personally will buy a store pick Four Roses anytime I find a new one and I think my group may be on the hunt now as well. We decided that May’s theme will be wheated bourbons, so I’m already looking forward to that! While we won’t have any Pappy Van Winkle, we’ll still have a decent spread of wheated bourbons from various brands that will showcase what wheated bourbons have to offer. Until next month, cheers!