Louisville-based Four Gate Whiskey Company is a producer unlike any other in Kentucky. Four Gate sources all its whiskeys, blends them, then finishes them in unique barrels, all in collaboration with Kelvin Cooperage. Each batch is different and limited to a few thousand bottles.
Batch 1 was finished in “sherry-rum barrels,” batch 2 in “orange curaçao-gin casks.” Batch 4 is something much wilder, and I’ll let Four Gate explain:
William Hornaday, of Kelvin Cooperage, crafted a series of medium toast new barrels. He and his team then hand-crafted a series of #2 char barrels and a series of #4 char barrels. They then broke the barrels apart and combined the staves into new barrels — alternating between toasted staves and #2 char staves on one series, and toasted staves and #4 char staves on another. The resulting “zebra” pattern allowed Four Gate Whiskey Company to combine the custard creaminess of toasted barrel finishing with the warm woody fullness of a double-barreled bourbon. Chief Barrel Officer, Bob D’Antoni, coined them “Split Stave” barrels. [You’ll get the idea in the picture above.]
You hear that? This is a company with a Chief Barrel Officer!
As for what went into the barrels, it was a blend of two sourced bourbons: a 5.5 year old with a mashbill of 78% corn, 10% rye, and 12% malted barley and a 12 year old with a mashbill of 74% corn, 18% rye, and 8% malted barley. Bottled unfiltered and at cask strength, 2700 bottles were produced.
Let’s try it.
Despite the fact that half the finishing staves are a mere #2 char, there’s definitely plenty of wood on the nose — likely owing more to the spirit that went into those barrels. That beefy, burnt end character that’s common in older bourbons is well evident here, giving the whiskey a significant savoriness and some clove notes. At full proof, the bourbon is tight and fiery, with notes of cinnamon red hots, ample char, and a thread of doughy pretzels. Water is a huge help, coaxing out notes of butterscotch, sugar cookie batter, and rolled oats. While it’s never exactly delicate, the caramel and spice notes that emerge — particularly as it rests in the glass — grow rather enchanting as the surprisingly buttery finish builds.
The creative barrel program aside, a lot of this is fairly straightforward stuff, and $175 is asking a lot for what’s in the bottle. That said, can you really put a price tag on a great story?
B+ / $175