Review: The Four Roses Ten Recipe Tasting Experience

Review: The Four Roses Ten Recipe Tasting Experience

Four Roses is famous for its 10 bourbon recipes — but outside of the single barrel releases, it’s impossible to actually taste them on their own, as they’re variously blended into all of Four Roses’ other products. Even the single barrel releases aren’t all that instructive into what the recipes bring to the table, as they are bottled at wildly different ages and rarely available to try head to head. Though all 10 have been released in some fashion, some of the recipes are particularly rare as single barrel offerings.

Four Roses has finally done the smart thing of late and is now offering fans the rare opportunity to try all 10 recipes side by side. The Ten Recipe Tasting Experience is exactly what it sounds like: ten 50ml bottles of each of the distillery’s ten recipes, bottled at the same proof (a racy 104), and between 8 and 10 years of age. (Specific ages are not revealed on the samples.)

What are you getting into? To start, here’s a primer on how the ten recipes work.

Each recipe has a four-character code. First, they all start with the letter O, which signifies it’s an original recipe from Four Roses.

Next, a B or an E. This signifies one of two mashbills. Mashbill B is 60% corn, 35% rye, 5% barley. Mashbill E is 75% corn, 20% rye, 5% barley.

Third is an S, always S, signifying this as a straight bourbon recipe.

Finally one of 5 letters, which is where things get interesting, as each denotes a different strain of yeast used during fermentation. These are vaguely described by the predominant quality they bring to the finished product:

  • V – “delicate fruit” yeast
  • K – “slight spice” yeast
  • O – “rich fruit” yeast
  • Q – “floral essence” yeast
  • F – “herbal notes” yeast

While it initially looks like more due to the four characters in the recipe, the total number of combinations is 10. And as we’ll soon see, those “delicate” and other various descriptors don’t always mean much when things get through the aging process.

So, ready to dig in? If you feel lost, buyers can also scan a QR code in the kit to get guided tasting notes from master distiller Brent Elliott. Meanwhile, here’s my rundown.

Four Roses Recipe 01 OBSV – Lots of pepper and spice up front, then a bold butterscotch note underneath. Quite sweet, with vanilla building heavier and heavier on the tongue alongside sticky, overripe fruit notes — apple, lemon, a slight touch of mint. The finish is bombastic, though, so sweet it’s akin to cake frosting. B

Four Roses Recipe 02 OBSK – High rye plus spicy yeast should make this one of Four Roses’ raciest recipes, and it definitely is, offering a punch of rye and pepper, grassy qualities, and a soothing, caramel-laced finish. Punchy but approachable, the baking spice comes on thick on the finish, melding with a seductive maple quality. One of my favorite expressions in the collection. A-

Four Roses Recipe 03 OBSO – Woody, with autumnal, stewed fruit notes dominant. Initially it’s lightly peppery with overtones of blackberry and apple cider, with simmering chocolate notes underneath. It’s a versatile expression that hits a lot of bourbony high notes, finishing a touch hot with notes of cinnamon and lingering char. Easy to see why this is part of both year-round Small Batch releases. A-

Four Roses Recipe 04 OBSQ – Quite savory, with aromas of pecan shells and peanuts. Earthy, grassy, and laden with burnt caramel notes, this feels like it would work best as a component in a blend, providing some rye-laden backbone to a more complex and effusive endeavor. B

Four Roses Recipe 05 OBSF – “Herbal notes” here come across as on the grassy side, with notes of coconut husk and toasted grains heavy on the nose. It comes across as a slightly more complex version of OBSQ, with some needed sweetness adding some notes of nougat and lemon curd. While initially a bit one-note, it grew on my considerably over the course of tasting it. B+

Four Roses Recipe 06 OESV – With a lower rye component, wood becomes more prominent in the experience here, with a load of barrel char quite punchy on the nose. The char aroma is heavy, almost smoky at times, but the palate features mild fruity notes as counterbalance, leaning heavily on apples and pears, layered with sesame and a bit of baking spice, plus some interesting coconut qualities on the finish. A versatile but not particularly unique expression. B+

Four Roses Recipe 07 OESK – Surprisingly beefy on the nose, this expression doesn’t hit the nose with earth or wood but rather roasted, slightly smoky meats. One of the most savory expressions in the lineup, the whiskey, in keeping with tradition in this lineup, adds sweetness and spice on the palate, offering a curious but prominent edge of gentian and anise that adds a bitter element to the bourbon. Notes of pencil lead and fresh-cut grass linger on the finish alongside notes of cloves and black walnut. More complicated than I’d originally thought, and surprisingly engaging. A-

Four Roses Recipe 08 OESO – Similar to the OBSO expression, with bold fruit notes dominant throughout. There’s less of an overt wood influence here, which isn’t missed, instead featuring plum and raisins, laced with ample vanilla. There’s still ample spice here — 20% rye ain’t nothin’ — but it isn’t overblown, more cinnamon than clove, and a toasty barrel char note on the back. Loads of caramel integrates well with the fruitiness, leading to a slightly smoldering, enveloping finish. Probably my favorite of the lineup. Compare to my lone single barrel OESO review. A

Four Roses Recipe 09 OESQ – More aggressive and immersive than I expected, though again a heavy peanut note dominates at the start. Chewy with notes of toasted coconut and a sweeter style of caramel than many of the other recipes, the whiskey settles into a groove that eventually evokes graphite and cloves. Finishes with something of a thud. B

Four Roses Recipe 10 OESF – Like OBSF, this one’s grassy and herbal, with a cereal-driven through-line. Probably the most similar whiskey to its yeast-code counterpart, thanks to ample nougat, though there’s a bit less fruit in the mix. Again a whiskey that feels like a “core” component, I found it more and more interesting over the course of tasting. B+

Naturally, at this point, one wonders, Hey, what if I blended these all together, just for fun? What would I get? I tried mixing them together in roughly equal proportions — not easy, as a few of my more interesting sample bottles were quite low — but I think things were close enough for this informal experiment.

Results: Fine, but surprisingly indistinct. The more dominant characteristics in all of the above — especially peanut — take over here, pushing the more restrained and elegant notes into the background. The spiciness of the rye doesn’t ever take hold, though the blend finishes more aggressively with notes of dried cherries, banana, and lemon peel. It seems there’s a reason that most of the small batch bottlings rely on just four recipes, not ten. There’s just too much going on otherwise.

Also: It’s important to remember that these ratings are not overly indicative of final release products made from the same recipe, but rather should be used as instructive guides to the types of characteristics you’ll find in each recipe. I didn’t love OESQ in this incarnation, but with more age (and careful barrel selection), I’ve had dazzling single barrel versions of it. On the other hand, other single barrel expressions, like OBSQ, seem to align pretty closely with my notes here.

$130 for the kit /

The Four Roses Ten Recipe Tasting Experience




Christopher Null is the founder and editor in chief of Drinkhacker. A veteran writer and journalist, he also operates Null Media, a bespoke content creation company.

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