Classification: Straight Bourbon
Company: Kirin Brewery Company
Distillery: Four Roses
Release Date: Ongoing
Mashbill: Blend of 75% Corn, 20% Rye, 5% Malted Barley and 60% Corn, 35% Rye, 5% Malted Barley
Color: Light Copper
MSRP: $55 (2019)
Four Roses Small Batch Select joins Four Roses Bourbon (formerly known as Yellow), Small Batch, and Single Barrel as the company’s fourth permanent line extension, the company’s first in 12 years. It also marks the first permanent extension under Brent Elliott’s time as master distiller. Each of the bourbons in the blend is aged between 6 - 7 years.
Four Roses uses 2 different mashbills and 5 different yeast strains to create 10 unique bourbon recipes. Of those recipes, 6 are blended together to make Small Batch Select - OBSV, OBSK, OBSF, OESV, OESK, and OESF. 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).
Classic bourbon aromas of sweet vanilla, cinnamon and oak bark are the prominent scents. Beyond these is a sweet array of fruit cobbler, caramel, a touch of creme brulee, and spice. The nose has a pleasant amount of depth and brings forward a nice combination of sweet and fruity. I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the ethanol. While it is 104 proof, there is a slight layer of ethanol present throughout, which I felt was holding back the nose from being great.
While the proof is noticeable in the nose, it’s well balanced and welcomed in the palate. The sip starts with a very prominent yet enjoyable blend of spices. Layers of heavy summer fruits blend nicely with a bold peppery blend which are joined by oak and vanilla. Even with all of the spice, the sip delivers a creamy mouthfeel. Overall it’s delicious and easy to appreciate.
The spice carries through to start off the finish. As it tapers off it’s joined by leather, a drier oak, and sweet vanilla. These flavors gently linger, resulting in a nice medium length finish. It’s a pleasant way to end the sip.
One of the most unique aspects of Four Roses is their multiple yeast strains and resulting 10 recipes. Thes 10 recipes each deliver a slightly different flavor profile and when blended, create a unique drinking experience. Many Four Roses purists will have a favorite recipe and always try to seek it out in single barrel form, while others will prefer a blend. Until now the blends were only offered in two readily available formats - Four Roses Small Batch which uses 4 recipes, and Four Roses Bourbon which uses up to all 10 recipes. Four Roses also offers a limited release blend about once a year, but it’s not readily available.
It turns out that utilizing 6 of the 10 recipes and upping the proof is the sweet spot for Four Roses for this new readily available blend. The combination of recipes chosen and additional proof ends up delivering a richer overall sip compared to Four Roses’ other blended bourbons. In particular, when compared directly to Four Roses Small Batch, Small Batch Select delivers a slightly creamier and richer sip. Yes the Single Barrel variation can deliver some stunning bottles now and then, however Small Batch Select should consistently deliver a unique sip with a great palate every time.
While it may be unique compared to its siblings, Four Roses Small Batch Select is also the most expensive in the Four Roses family now. Coming in at almost double the price of Four Roses Small Batch, and even more than Four Roses Single Barrel, its value discussion gets tricky. Yes the flavor profile is really unique, and the sip enjoyable, however it isn’t a large enough difference to justify its price. This isn’t a knock against Small Batch Select by any means, instead it’s more an acknowledgement of the value Four Roses delivers in their other three standard expressions.
In regards to the rest of the market, Small Batch Select is priced right. It doesn’t deliver the depth that a more fuller proof bourbon may deliver or the complexity that slightly longer aging often brings. However it delivers a consistent sipper at a price that is fair compared to its peers. While it may seem expensive when viewed in the prism of Four Roses own brand lineup, its excellent palate, expected consistency, and wide availability all help to make Small Batch Select a decent overall value.
Readily available, full of flavor, and consistent, Four Roses Small Batch Select is the bottle of Four Roses no one knew they needed until now.
Four Roses Small Batch has always been a bourbon we recommend to those who are getting into bourbon and looking for a drinkable, yet flavorful bourbon. Four Roses Small Batch Select will now become one of my de facto bourbons that I recommend to those who are looking to expand into bourbons over 100 proof. This six recipe blend forms a sweet and spicy sip that is easily enjoyable by all, and the excellent palate helps to make its sum greater than its overall parts.
The price may seem hard to justify when compared to the standard Four Roses Single Barrel, which sells for less and is only four proof points lower, however the end result is worth the splurge. This will be my new always-have-on-hand bourbon that I keep in my collection, and one I recommend you try for yourself too.