Four Roses has delivered one last whiskey banger before the summer release season comes to an end: Four Roses 2021 Limited Edition Small Batch Bourbon. It’s a damn-good whiskey and available at a reasonable price—if you can find it in stores.
We’ve called Four Roses a lot of things over the years, including overlooked and one of the best single barrel bourbons. This is a solid brand that makes a lot of great whiskey. More importantly, it’s probably the distiller of one or more products you already like. Several prominent brands have been buying stock from Four Roses for years.
These annual releases are one of the few “new” products Four Roses has done in the last decade. They’ve all been exceptional. One in particular—a small batch released in honor of the late Al Young (a man who was a prominent reason for the brand’s success)—was and still is among the best whiskeys we’ve tasted to this day.
Four Roses master distiller Brent Elliott has done impressive things with this annual release slot, including some work blending the brand’s recipes in new and unique ways. Unlike many distilleries, who use just a few recipes and one yeast strain to make bourbon, Four Roses uses a stable of 10 variations on its recipe. Having more instruments at your fingertips is valuable to talented musicians, and the same goes for making bourbon.
Last year’s release was a blend of whiskey aged 12 to 19 years of age (it was sublime).
The latest Four Roses
So what about the 2021 Four Roses Small Batch?
This year’s batch offers four recipes with an age blend of 12 to 16 years of age (making it a 12-year-old bourbon). The highlight though is something surprising. This is the highest proof point ever in the limited-edition series. That’s according to Four Roses themselves.
The reason that’s surprising? The proof is a controlled 114.2—well below the industry standard for extremes. Those can go into the 130s, and regularly cross into the 120s. Proofing at 114.2 is actually just more empirical proof this brand releases whiskey at proofs based on taste, not gimmick.
On the palate, you get more empirical proof that liquid proof doesn’t matter. The whiskey shows heat, but big jammy berry notes and toasty oak notes quickly match that with intensity of flavor. It never loses steam, mustering some dark chocolate and tannin-heavy vanilla all the way through a spicy finish.
This is a Four Roses lover’s treat—it has all of the energy you tend to expect from its popular single barrels, just with some additional gravitas and polish from the blending. It won’t change the music landscape, but it’s still a hit single.
At $150, that’s unfortunately where the music metaphors end. Everyone can own a song, not everyone can own this whiskey. The actual number of people who may get to own one is just 14,500, due to the limited volume of whiskey. That $150 price point will shoot up in plenty of markets. But with 2021 prices in mind, we can say this is a great deal at twice the value.
Four Roses’ spartan release schedule means that whiskeys like this don’t come along often. This one is worth grabbing while you wait for next year.
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