Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Four Roses at Two Retailers: Binny's vs. Shopper's Vineyard OBSV

These days, retailers are offering some great single barrel bourbons. Among those offered by a number of the better retailers are single recipe versions of Four Roses Single Barrel. As many of you undoubtedly know, Four Roses has ten bourbon recipes (two mashbills x five yeasts). A number of retailers have purchased a barrel of each recipe so that consumers can compare.

It's fun to compare the different recipes and I would encourage everyone to try them all, but I thought it might also be fun to compare the same recipe bottled for different retailers. In this case, the Binny's and Shopper's Vineyard editions of the OBSV, which is the recipe used in the mass market Four Roses Single Barrel. OBSV uses a mashbill of 60% corn, 35% rye and 5% barley with the "V" yeast strain.

Shopper's Vineyard Jim Rutledge Selection OBSV, Distilled 7/20/01, Bottled 10/13/11, Warehouse KE, Barrel # 8-1E, 52.8% abv ($50)

According to New Jersey retailer Shopper's Vineyard, this barrel was hand selected by Master Distiller Jim Rutledge (note, Shopper's Vineyard is pretty big on hype so take it for what it is). Unfortunately, it looks like this bottle is sold out.

On the nose I get coffee beans and rye spice. The palate is very spicy as well with lots of rye notes and a chewy mouthfeel. The finish is cooking spices - cloves, ginger, allspice. A really nice, spicy bourbon.

Binny's Four Roses Single Barrel OBSV, Distilled 10/15/00, Bottled 9/24/09, Warehouse KE, Barrel # 8-1C, 53.8% abv ($55)

Chicago superstore Binny's still has this one available. It was aged in the same warehouse as the Shopper's Vineyard bottle, though it was distilled and bottled earlier.

The nose on the Binny's bourbon is very light with caramel and toffee. The palate is candy sweet but oak takes a place at the table about mid way through and stays through the finish. It's nicely balanced and surprisingly light for its abv.

It's remarkable how different these two bottlings are. If I had tasted them knowing only they were Four Roses, I probably would have guessed that they were from different recipes. Both are good (and indeed, I don't think I've ever had a Four Roses single barrel I would characterize as less than good), but the Shopper's Vineyard bottling wins out for me because I like the pronounced spiciness.

Even within the single recipe, there clearly can be a fair amount of variety in Four Roses which means that even once you've tried all the recipes, keep sampling.


Lazer said...

I am definitely a four roses fan, but I find that the "10 recipes" have less influence on the differences from bottle to bottle than anything else. For example, OFBB and EWSB have annual releases that taste different from each other, but we know that each year is the same recipe. I'm just saying that each barrel of whiskey is different no matter what the factors are. The "10 recipes" is just an effective marketing shtick to get everybody to buy 10 bottles of 4 roses IMHO. I'm not saying you shouldn't, I'm just saying every barrel of bourbon is different, whether on purpose or by accident and I don't think there's more difference in 4R bourbon than any other bourbons. But I do like them.

Anonymous said...

I, too, am a Four Roses fan. Here in Kentucky, we often have several such private selection Four Roses bottlings available from different retailers. We're very lucky! And, like Lazer, I suspect that there is more variation among barrels than among yeast strains. Each oak barrel is made from the wood of different trees, each tree is different.

But I do wonder just what "hand selected" means in choosing a barrel of bourbon. What role does the hand play? Well, the hand is used to hold the glass. I also see claims that bourbons were "hand distilled". Again, what is the role of the hand? I guess we just like things done with hands. It sounds real old fashioned, just like in the good old days.

Tom Troland

Eric said...

Technically every private selection Four Roses was chosen by Jim Rutledge. There was a video of a group selecting a single barrel from Four Roses and Jim had already selected 10 good barrels (of each recipe) for them to try. It saves time and your palette from having to try a large selection of barrels.