Classification: Straight Bourbon
Company: Kirin Brewery Company
Distillery: Four Roses
Released: September 2018
Age: Blend of 10 (OBSV), 13 (OBSF), 14 (OESV), and 16 (OESK) year old bourbons
Mashbill: Blend of four bourbons with two mashbills (OBSV and OBSF - 60% corn, 35% rye, and 5% malted barley / OESV and OESK - 75% corn, 20% rye, and 5% malted barley)
MSRP: $140 (2018)
This year’s edition celebrates the company’s 130th Anniversary. According to the company’s press release, Four Roses Master Distiller Brent Elliott said, “From the beginning of the process, I focused on building around the unique fruit flavors in our F and V yeast strains, and these flavors shine through in the finished product. As a contrast, I also included a spicy, older batch. By mingling these different flavor profiles, I think we achieved a wonderfully balanced, complex and unique bourbon.” Bottled at barrel strength, Four Roses will distribute approximately 13,140 bottles for this release.
Strong and attention grabbing with aromas of cherry, green apple, honey, almond, and oak. It’s warm and rich, knocking out any alcohol notes and asking for repeated nosings. The nose is very well developed with wonderful depth and complexity. Repeat nosings bring out dried raisins, vanilla, and hints of pine. Overall it’s easy to dissect and enjoy.
A delicate yet robust delivery of summer fruits, fried dough, allspice, pine, and apricot. The flavors blend surprisingly well and don’t muddle, which make for an interesting flavor profile. The overall intensity of heat and flavors is well matched, producing a flavorful and really enjoyable pour.
The heat and robustness ramps up on the finish, crescendoing in a warming oak and spice mix. It’s less complex than the rest of the sip, but bookends the bourbon nicely. It’s classic Four Roses through and through.
Four Roses Limited Edition Small Batch has a great track record year after year of high quality blended bourbon. A lot of this has to do with each release striving for a more delicate and homogeneous flavor presentation. Simply put, they’re the opposite of in-your-face bourbons. They’re sophisticated and complex, asking for drinkers to explore the flavors and pull out their nuances. This is an increasingly rare occurrence. Expert blending might be on the upswing, but Four Roses has been a master of it for some time and proves it year after year.
This edition’s average age clocks in a few notches lower than previous years, which seems to have added some extra spunk. The palate is much more robust and lively, and the flavors a bit more unusual. The oak influence is very much present, yet it is more equally distributed. 2018 Limited Edition Small Batch still tastes like a Four Roses product, but with a much welcomed flavor twist added in. This is exactly what a limited edition blend should be from Four Roses: a nice balance of classic and new.
It's hard to argue that Four Roses isn’t one of the premier blenders currently bringing blends to the market. Yet more than once I’ve passed on a bottle of their limited releases. Is it because of the price? Like most limited releases, the price of this release has steadily risen over the years. It’s still priced respectably for what it is and compared to its competition, yet I still don’t always pull the trigger.
Release after release the company’s blends are well executed and nicely nuanced, but that is where the problem may lie. Too often limited releases are bombastic screaming for attention. Four Roses limited editions are the opposite. They’re shy and gracious, perhaps too much. There are also Four Roses’ other everyday releases that are extremely consistent and reliable products, which sometimes makes it hard to justify spending that much more for their limited editions. This year’s release seems to have found a nice middle ground. It has a bit more pop than previous limited editions, but is still built on the complexity that these releases are known for. It’s a satisfying balance that easily justifies its value.
A limited release known for its subtlety brings a welcomed robustness that livens the blend.
Expert blending might be the next big trend in bourbon, but Four Roses has been banking their limited releases on it for many years now. As there is only so much pomp and circumstance companies can manufacture for a limited release, at some point, pure skill and craftsmanship are going to be the true star of the show. This isn’t always easy to do as everyone is looking for the next big thing. Maybe this is the reason the company’s limited releases, while praised, don’t get the rabid and vocal fanfare other limited releases do.
In a way, this year’s Limited Edition Small Batch is a direct response to that. It’s delicate and subtle when it needs to be, but more robust and attention grabbing than usual. It has a wonderful and lively nose, that’s equalled by a flavorful palate, and capped off by a warm and satisfying finish. This is yet another well crafted limited edition by Four Roses and master distiller Brent Elliott, that just might be enough for me to pull the trigger this year.
The sample used for this review was provided at no cost courtesy of The Baddish Group on behalf of Four Roses. We thank them for allowing us to review it with no strings attached.