Classification: Straight Bourbon
Company: Kirin Brewery Company
Distillery: Four Roses
Release Date: September 2019
Age: Blend of 11, 15, and 21 year old bourbons
Mashbill: Blend of 75% Corn, 20% Rye, 5% Malted Barley and 60% Corn, 35% Rye, 5% Malted Barley
MSRP: $140 (2019)
The 2019 Four Roses Limited Edition Small Batch consists of a blend of double digit aged bourbons. This includes a 21 year OBSV, 15 year OESK, 15 year OESV, and an 11 year OESV. This marks the first time that a limited edition Four Roses has featured a 21 year old bourbon.
Four Roses uses 2 different mashbills and 5 different yeast strains to create 10 unique bourbon recipes. Of those recipes, 3 are blended together to make Limited Edition Small Batch 2019 - OBSV, OESK, and OESV. By comparison Four Roses Small Batch uses 4 of the 10 recipes - OBSO, OBSK, OESO and OESK. Four Roses Bourbon uses up to all 10 recipes.
The first letter is always O and designates the production facility, Four Roses Distillery. The second letter designates the mashbill which can be E (75% corn, 20% rye, 5% malted barley) or B (60% corn, 35% rye, 5% malted barley). The third letter is always S and designates the whiskey distillation, straight whiskey. The fourth letter designates the yeast strain, which can be V (delicate fruit), K (slight spice), O (rich fruit), Q (floral essence), or F (herbal notes).
The nose isn’t as punchy as you’d expect for a higher proofed Four Roses bourbon. Nuanced scents of aged oak, preserved red fruits, and cinnamon, mingle with a light floral and pine needle undertone. The higher proof doesn’t impact the experience at all, as no hints of ethanol are present. It’s slightly more distinguished from a pour of standard Four Roses Small Batch, but just barely.
A big burst of canned peaches and syrup with a dollop of cream, fresh custard, rye spice, vanilla, and honey. The palate is incredibly sweet with loads of depth. The flavors unfold with complex elegance the more you roll the whiskey around in your mouth. Doing so also allows you to appreciate how much of an overall creamy-rich mouthfeel the sip delivers.
The sip ends with a warm finish. It starts with vanilla, pie crust, rye spice, red hot candy, and a touch of oak. These flavors transition to a cinnamon and leather mix that lingers before finishing on a note of aged oak. An overall pleasant way to end the sip.
Four Roses always delivers a unique combination of recipes and ages when it comes to their Limited Edition Small Batch releases, and this year’s release is no exception. Featuring for the first time ever a 21 year-old bourbon in one of their releases helps distinguish this year’s release from years past. Its flavorful and rich palate helps to drive that point home.
In comparing it against a pour of standard Four Roses Small Batch, this year’s Limited Edition Small Batch is head and shoulders better. Since the introduction of Small Batch Select, the gap between a standard release and a Four Roses limited release product is smaller than ever. While this year's limited edition is slightly sweeter on the palate with a little more muted spice and more defined oak in the finish, it doesn’t quite shine as bright as you’d expect it too comparably. This isn’t necessarily a knock against this year's Limited Edition Small Batch however, as it just goes to show you how impressive Small Batch Select is, and the high bar master distiller Brent Elliott now has to reach for his limited edition releases to overcome going forward.
Four Roses has consistently been a champion of the consumer when it comes to pricing. The company’s great Small Batch can often be had for under $30, their equally impressive Single Barrel for under $50, and the new Small Batch Select for $55. That’s why the jump up to $140 for the Limited Edition Small Batch always feels like a shocker.
In its defense, Limited Edition Small Batch usually contains a unique blend of recipes and ages not found in their other products. While this especially holds true for this year’s edition with the inclusion of a 21 year old bourbon into the blend, as a side effect of the introduction of Small Batch Select, it’s harder to justify Limited Edition Small Batch's massive price difference as being anything above average. Yes, this year’s blend still uses high aged bourbons and a combination of three recipes, however those same three recipes comprise three out of the four recipes found in Small Batch Select. While the ages of the bourbon used are almost double or triple that of Small Batch Select’s blend, the sip offered isn’t as big of an increase comparably. Many should take solace in the fact that they can get a pretty close drinking experience by finding a bottle of Small Batch Select for less than half the price.
Four Roses releases another complex and expertly blended Limited Edition Small Batch, but its price is hard to justify thanks to the company's introduction of Small Batch Select to their portfolio.
This year’s Limited Edition Small Batch Select is an interesting release. The palate is one of the better ones that you’ll find in 2019 and is easily the standout highlight of the sip. This combined with the age and complexity of the blend, delivers a product that helps ease the blow of the high price tag and will please all those who get to experience a pour.
However, 2019 also saw Four Roses release Small Batch Select, a product, while not as refined as this year’s Limited Edition Small Batch, is so drinkable and managed to reset the bar of what it means to be a great ongoing release by Four Roses. With this new benchmark in place to compare against, 2019’s Limited Edition Small Batch delivers a great pour, but one that’s not as impactful as past years have often delivered. It’s still one worth seeking out if you’re a Four Roses fan, however the blow of not finding one can be easily lessened thanks to the recent addition of Small Batch Select to the Four Roses family.
The sample used for this review was provided at no cost courtesy of Four Roses. We thank them for the sample and for allowing us to review it with no strings attached.