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Details about the new Four Roses 135th Anniversary Limited Edition Small Batch were announced today, and this year’s release includes some of the oldest whiskey to date included in the blend. We got to preview this release and this is indeed an excellent bourbon, albeit one that will be likely difficult to find.
A quick reminder about what makes Four Roses stand out from other Kentucky bourbon distilleries—the team, led by master distiller Brent Elliott, makes 10 different recipes using two mashbills and five yeast strains. These are all blended together for the core Four Roses bourbon, and used in different combinations for the other expressions in the lineup. For this year’s LE Small Batch, released to celebrate the distillery’s 135th anniversary, Elliott selected three different recipes in four batches. The final blend is as follows (the combination of letters indicates a specific recipe): 35 percent 12-year-old OESV (fruit and caramel notes), 20 percent 16-year-old OESV (baking spice notes), 40 percent 14-year-old OESK, and five percent 25-year-old OBSV (fruit and rye notes).
The last component is particularly interesting, because it’s the oldest bourbon to ever be included in a Four Roses LE Small Batch release. The percentage may be small, but according to Elliott the impact is notable. “Each of the 12-, 14-, and 16-year-old batches possess individual characteristics that complement each other perfectly,” he said in a statement. “Once the ideal balance of these three batches was achieved, I looked at several other batches of various ages and recipes to add an extra layer of nuance to the blend. Ultimately I selected the 25-year-old OBSV, which melds perfectly with the other batches and adds additional complexity and depth.”
There are deep fruit and oak notes that lead the palate, a nice combination of subtle tannins and ripe berries. Then other flavors start to make their presence known, like vanilla, leather, butterscotch, and dried fig. The finish is a bit hot, but fades into a pleasant spicy sweetness on the back of your tongue. The bourbon is bottled at 108 proof, non-chill filtered, and overall it’s a delicious whiskey that lives up to the hype surrounding it. According to Elliott, there’s a great deal of experimentation that goes into coming up with each blend. “I narrow it down to which recipes it’s going to be, and then I work on the percentages,” he said during a recent Zoom tasting. “I look for something to give [the blend] top notes and depth, and that’s where the 25-year-old came in… Five percent was where we needed to be, but we didn’t have that many barrels of that whiskey anyway.”
There are 15,060 bottles of the new LE Small Batch bourbon available priced at $200. But if past years are any indication, and they likely are, this whiskey will go for much more than that on the secondary market (the 2020 edition is available for less than $400 at The Whisky Exchange, which seems like a steal). Bottles can be found at select retailers starting in September, and you can also enter a lottery at the Four Roses website through August 28 to try your luck at winning the chance to purchase one (which you must pick up from the distillery). Of course, the entire lineup (also including some past LE Small Batch releases) is available to purchase from ReserveBar as well.