Four Roses 2017 Small Batch is a Historic First

Four Roses’ 2017 release of their Limited Edition Small batch is a totally new combination of recipes.

To understand how it’s possible for a decades-old brand to do something completely new, it’s important to understand how Four Roses makes its whiskey. While most bourbon distillers use one recipe, Four Roses actually distills 10 different recipes throughout the year. The ten recipes are permutations: the distillery has two mashbills (mixtures of grain) and five yeast strains, so each mash bill can be distilled five ways.

All ten of the recipes are blended to create the brand’s entry level Yellow Label bourbon. But once you get into the small-batch and single-barrel releases, some of those recipes are seen more often than others. Here’s a little infographic to help.

But 2017’s Limited Edition Small Batch is the first to only use the high corn mash bill. They blended 15-year-old OESK, 13-year-old OESK, and 12-year-old OESV when master distiller Brent Elliott tried it in a test blend that continued to perform over the rest of contenders for this year’s release.

So how does it taste? For its age, this is one of the more vibrant and fruity limited edition whiskies that Four Roses has produced in recent years. The higher rye content of the majority of their products lends itself to spice, so the typical profile usually has more pepper, mint, and herbal character traits.

But this small batch demonstrates a wider range of capability for the Four Roses recipes, expressing sweeter notes of candied cherry, brown sugar, and apricot. It’s a fruit cocktail kind of whiskey; Four Roses also notes hints of raspberry. The spice character that does appear on the finish is more restrained: cinnamon and allspice and just the smallest reminder of oak tannins.

This is not the bottle for the Four Roses fan constantly seeking out the boldest bottles on the market--there are other things for you. Four Roses 2017 Limited Edition Small Batch is meant for an entirely different audience segment--a larger one that values variety.

We value variety, and even with a $130 price tag we’re hoping to get ones of these for the shelf. There are only 13,800 bottles in the market total. Happy hunting.