We’ve loved Four Roses for as long as we can remember, and we are as excited as can be to welcome to the shop our very own barrel strength single barrel selection, in all its rich, full bodied, spicy, goodness.
Four Roses has garnered a reputation as both the whiskey enthusiast’s go-to producer and a bartender’s favorite, in large part because of the big, spicy flavors imparted by their high rye content. They’ve also created a lot of goodwill with their transparency about what they produce and their willingness (even giddiness) to engage in open conversation with the nerdier corners of the whiskey drinking community. Whereas some brands try as hard as they can to hide what goes into their product, Four Roses has long been open with sharing just about every little detail of their blends, recipes, mash bills, processes - even the different yeast strains they use!
For our private barrel selection, we decided to go with a 10.5 year old “OESK” barrel, which we christened “First Sip”, a combination of the lower rye (“E”) mashbill and the full bodied and light spice yielding “K” yeast. All of that along with the barrel strength results in one of the deepest, fullest bodied Four Roses expressions we’ve ever tried. Initial flavors of bold sweet caramel lead to juicy berries and a pleasantly dry finish of lingering spice, especially clove.
This an especially personal barrel for our buyer Joe, of which he writes, "Our 'First Sip' Private Selection Single Barrel from Four Roses was named in honor of the first time I tried a Four Roses Single Barrel Bourbon. Well acquainted with the casual charms of bourbon, I still vividly remember the whiplash that taste of 100 proof Four Roses bourbon gave me, a spirit remarkably easy to enjoy, yet with a level of bold sophistication and complexity I had never come across and connected with, in such an impactful way. It was truly, love at first sip and the beginning of my journey in earnest. I hope for longtime bourbon, and Four Roses fans, this Single Barrel Private Selection, will help them relive their own experience of being blown away by something both delicious and remarkable."
So let's dive a little deeper into the unique recipe structure that Four Roses employs - and find out what makes our chosen blend so darn good.
Four Roses employs 10 distinct bourbon recipes, blending all of them together for their classic Yellow Label, and four of them for the Small Batch. They name each recipe with distinct four letter code. Their standard Single Barrel bottle is the only regular release of a single recipe, but even that is only ever one of the ten, the “OBSV”. For enthusiasts to try the other nine recipes, it’s all about private single barrel selection bottlings. But what do these mysterious four letter recipe indicators even mean?! We’re so glad you asked!
Four Roses has two mashbills, both of which are considered high-rye. This is what the second letter of the four letter recipe name designates. The “E” mashbill is 75% corn, 20% corn, and 5% malted barley. The “B” mashbill is 60% corn, 35% rye, and 5% malted barley, and proudly wears the title of the highest rye content of any of the major Kentucky bourbon producers.
The other variable in Four Roses recipes is the strain of yeast used. They have five proprietary yeast strains, and this is what the fourth letter of the four letter recipe names refer to. They break down the flavors imparted by the different yeasts as follows:
K = Yeast K: Light spice, light caramel and full bodied
Q = Yeast Q: Floral (rose petal), spicy, medium bodied
O = Yeast O: Rich in spiciness, medium bodied
F = Yeast F: Predominantly herbal
V = Yeast V: Delicate fruit, spicy and creamy
The first letter of the recipe code, always “O”, just indicates that it was produced at the Four Roses Distillery in Lawrenceburg, KY. The third letter, “S”, indicates that it is indeed straight whiskey. So the only two that really matter are the second and fourth letters, that is to say, the mashbill and the yeast strain.
With our chosen barrel, we found ourselves in a pretty happy place where we love the OESK recipe, and simultaneously found ourselves even more curious about the other nine recipes out there. So to help sate some of that curiosity we've decided to bring you even more Four Roses over the coming year. Every few months we hope to introduce a new barrel selection and experience that First Sip - again and again.