For its 135th anniversary edition of its coveted Limited Edition Small Batch release, Four Roses is dropping a whopper, blending up a 14 year old OESK (40%), 12 year old OESV (35%), 16 year old OESV (20%), and the doozy, a 25 year old OBSV (5%), into the release. There might not be much of it in the blend, the appearance of the 25 year old makes this the oldest recipe ever used in a Four Roses Limited Edition Small Batch release.
As part of the 135th birthday, Four Roses has also refreshed its branding across the line, with new bottles, labels, and even an updated website.
Not only was this a fun whiskey to try while the Four Roses Ten Recipe Tasting Experience was still fresh in my mind, but because with my review sample, the distillery sent out additional samples of each of the four components which could be tasted separately alongside the finished blend. (As has become the norm for Four Roses, master distiller Brent Elliott led a tasting of the quintet of whiskeys via Zoom.)
Let’s talk about the Small Batch release itself first.
Bold butterscotch notes arrive first on the nose, making for a bit of a surprising level of sweetness. Developing notes of peanut butter and baked apples give this a classic, inviting nose, with layers of spices and an ample barrel char influence. Balanced but showcasing a bit of age, it’s an expressive whiskey that certainly invites one to take a sample.
The palate continues the theme as a nougaty, almond-heavy sweetness starts off the show. There’s some coconut and honey here, with plenty of complementary, almost Christmassy spice notes to back it up. Rounded and very fruity, a slightly raisiny quality lingers on the finish, alongside a chocolate note. A burst of nutmeg clings to the palate for quite a while.
This is a solid (if not wholly unique) expression from Four Roses, but what really interested me was how the different components fit into the blend. I know you won’t be able to taste these, so I won’t spend a lot of time on them, but I did jot down some notes. The OESK 14 is aromatic and floral, with ample wood but more sweetness than the finished blend, showing slightly pruny as it develops on the palate. The OESV 12 is more straightforward, offering bold florals and ample ripe fruit, including some curious lemon notes. To my huge surprise, given my relatively tame notes in the Ten Recipe Tasting Experience, I really dug into the OESV 16, where notes of figs, tea leaf, and black fruit paired perfectly with baking spice elements and cocoa notes. If Four Roses’ annual Single Barrel releases were still around, this would have been an A+ candidate for release. Finally, there’s the OBSV 25. Elliott was a little down on this, but I felt it not over-oaked, though it may be getting a touch beefy and is, indeed, probably best in small quantities and better in the blend than on its own. Richly spiced and peppery, it’s certainly the most powerful whiskey in the lineup — as well it should be.
Naturally I tried to mix up my own version of the Small Batch blend from these components — completely impromptu — and I think I got pretty close. But then I dropped in a little extra of that 16 year old OESV and the dark fruit really came into focus, complementing the spice notes that are already heavy in the blend. Lively, minty finish, too. Frankly, I found it hard to put down. Not that I’m saying I can make a better blend than Elliott and Co., of course.
Want to get this release at MSRP? There’s a brief lottery appearing on the Four Roses website which starts today for buyers willing to pick their bottle up at the distillery.
Tasted at sample proof of 112 proof. Elliott says the final release, arriving in September, is at 108 proof. About 15,000 bottles produced.
A- / $200 / fourrosesbourbon.com