Monday, October 15, 2012
Four Roses Single Barrel Gift Shop Exclusives
It bugs me as much as the next guy when people review impossible to get whiskeys that I will never have a chance to try. That being said, when I get my hands on something really unique, I feel an obligation to share my thoughts, if not the liquid (though I try to do plenty of that as well).
Four Roses is a fabulous distillery, and their single-recipe, single barrels are well known. Almost all of these are nine to ten years old, and up until recently, there hasn't been any older Four Roses available. Within the last year, they have released extra aged single barrel bottlings which are only available at the distillery gift shop. I managed to get my hands on samples of the 16 and 17 year old gift shop bottlings, both of which use the OBSV recipe, which is the higher rye mashbill of 60% corn, 35% rye, and 5% malted barley. I believe they sell for around $60 or $70 at the gift shop.
Four Roses Single Barrel 16 year old OBSV, Barrel 78-3A, Warehouse QS, 54.7% abv
There's a huge rye kick on the nose which melts into a vanilla extract. The palate is surprisingly fruity. I get pineapple and then a hint of rye which fades into the finish, but the more I drink, the more those rye notes emerge, like when you eat a chili mango paleta and it mostly tastes like mango but then the chili creeps up on you. There are even some of the vague sandalwood notes that I detect in those old Pennsylvania ryes. The finish has a light chocolate note. The more I drink this one, the more I like it. Even though this is six years older than the usual Four Roses Single Barrel, it doesn't have much in the way of wood.
Four Roses Single Barrel 17 year old OBSV, Barrel 78-30, Warehouse QS, 55.3% abv
The nose has a much more subtle rye influence than the 16 year old, but it's still there and grows as you continue to nose it. The first thing I get on the palate is a nice rye spice followed by more distinctive baking spices with clove and allspice, along with some chocolate; these spices fade nicely into the finish. This is a strong, spicy number.
Despite their similar recipe and age, these two bourbons are actually very different. The 16 has more diversity on the palate with those fruity notes, while the 17 has a much stronger rye flavor. Overall, these are both very good, but I'd give the edge to the 17; of course, I'm a sucker for a strong rye character.