Classification: Straight Bourbon
Company: Kirin Brewery Company
Distillery: Four Roses
Release Date: September 17th, 2022
Age: Blend of 14 year, two 15 year, and 20 year straight bourbons
Mashbill: Blend of four bourbons with two mashbills:
OESK, OESF, OESV - 75% Corn, 20% Rye, 5% Malted Barley
OBSV - 60% Corn, 35% Rye, 5% Malted Barley
Color: Dark Amber
MSRP: $180 (2022)
The 2022 Four Roses Limited Edition Small Batch consists of a blend of double digit aged bourbons. Four Roses uses 2 different mashbills and 5 different yeast strains to create 10 unique bourbon recipes. Of those recipes, four were blended together to make the 2022 Limited Edition Small Batch, including a 14 year-old OESF recipe, a 14 year-old OESV, a 15 year-old OESK, and a 20 year-old OBSV. 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.This year’s edition is a 14,100 bottle release.
An expressive array of sweet fruit scents with ample potency to spare kick things off. Strawberry and red raspberry lead with layers of brown sugar and maple in tow. A strong undercurrent of oak is weaved throughout and the combined scents produce a highly effective aroma. Nose-tingling intensity combined with its layers of sweet scents results in one of the best aromas of the year for a bourbon release so far.
Dark raspberry and seasoned oak strike first. A thrust of allspice enters dominating the mid-palate. Additional notes of vanilla extract and a touch of cinnamon develop adding to the palate's depth and overall spice-filled flavor profile. Ample complexity, tempered sweetness, and good intensity work in tandem. The palate is nicely nuanced, though it lacks a certain amount of flashiness and hints of its problematic finish is foreshadowed.
The sip ends by being dominated by a mustiness that is polarizing and perhaps too detrimental for the whiskey’s own good. Tannic oak and clove combined with a good amount of dryness further takes the finish down a dangerous path. Fleeting notes of dark raspberry and strawberry notes linger which help add some dimension, but are otherwise too dim to have a major impact. It’s a disappointing ending to an otherwise great sip.
Four Roses Limited Edition Small Batch releases have come to define what it means to be a balanced, refined, and expertly blended bourbon. Though the blends aren’t without their faults. Often forgoing a wow factor for subtle refinement, the whiskeys don’t always conjure an immediate love affair for those that drink them. Like with any good relationship, you develop a better understanding of something the more time you spend with it.
That is once again the case with 2022’s Four Roses Limited Edition Small Batch. At first sip, this year’s finish is polarizing to say the least. It reminds me of 2020s Sazerac 18 Year that had a similar musty finish, that can often put the drinker in a love-it-or-hate-it position - and that’s not a pleasant position to find yourself after landing a hard-to-find whiskey. Four Roses’ bourbons are not known for their mustiness and I can’t remember if I’ve ever experienced it with one of their releases. Due to increased demand, the medium age of whiskey is younger than it has ever been. The result is far less whiskey featuring a musty flavor component. With this year’s edition featuring whiskey that are 14, 15, and 20 years old, it wears its age on its sleeve. Previous Limited Edition Small Batches have featured their bourbon around a similar age range, but never have they tasted this old. As a result, this year’s Four Roses Limited Edition Small Batch stands out from previous editions, and even from any other bourbon on the market in 2022 due to its overall maturity and mustiness.
Sticking to their $180 price point that the company set in 2021 (up from $150 in 2020), Four Roses continues to align with the established price range for Kentucky limited edition bourbons, which was led by Wild Turkey. With the blend including such high aged bourbon (though no percentage is given), the price is a considerable value when compared to the flood of 14 and 15 year bourbons that have hit the market over the past 2 years, with their prices often well north of $200. Though many of those bourbons will likely appeal to a far greater range of bourbon drinkers as they are more approachable, they lack the complexity, finesse, and of course the mustiness of Four Roses 2022 Limited Edition Small Batch.
No matter what though, $180 is always going to be a lot of money to spend on any bourbon, but as prices rise, higher prices seem less shocking as they once were. High prices are becoming normalized and customers are slowly becoming desensitized to them. Given the amount of non-Kentucky distilleries and non-distiller producers now charging north of $200, getting a high aged, fine-tuned blend from one of Kentucky's major distilleries for under $200 isn’t that bad when looked at in that light. For such a unique tasting whiskey and the complexity it offers, combined with its impressive age range, its $180 price point is hard to complain about given the current market.
A finely crafted blended bourbon that shows its age like few do, which will result in a decidedly divisive yet complex pour.
This year’s Four Roses 2022 Limited Edition Small Batch isn’t going to hit like previous editions have. Where the brand at times struggled to really wow you at first sip, it's hard to deny their overall effectiveness and refinement the more time you spend with them. This year’s Limited Edition Small Batch is a unique one. At first pour, it can be an eye opener, not because of a sky-high proof like many bourbons nowadays, but because of the bourbon’s overall age and its effect on its flavor profile. There are many new bourbon drinkers that haven't had the experience with old tasting bourbon. This year’s edition may challenge them in new and unfamiliar ways and I can see many struggling with it while others may revel in its particular style. It comes packed with complexity and finesse, but its finish will be divisive and no doubt dominate the conversation around this year’s release.