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Four Roses Limited Small Batch 2016

Posted on by Eric Burke

Tonight I’m going to get right into the review, not because I can’t spin yarns about the place that the Four Roses Limited Small Batch has in my life or why I have a fondness for it. I could easily do that. And might if you give me half a shot. No I’m going to jump right into it because I have a surprise for after the review and I don’t want this post to be so long people don’t get down to it. Plus, if you follow me on twitter, you already know I love this one so why drag it out.

Four Roses Limited Small Batch 2016

Purchase Info: $120 for a 750mL at the Four Roses Distillery Gift Shop, Lawrenceburg, KY. 

Details: 55.6% ABV. 3 recipes at varying ages: OESO (12 years old), OBSV (12 years old), and OESK (16 years old).

Nose: Mint and apricot with baking spice, caramel and a hint of smoke underneath.

Mouth: Earthy honey, citrus, apricot, cloves, oak and herbal notes. 

Finish: Beautiful, warm finish with lingering notes of mint cloves and apricot. 

A heart because I love this.

Thoughts: I love this every year and this year is no exception. Looking back at previous years I’m often found writing the words “this might be my favorite yet.” Well, they can’t be the best every year, can they? Do they all just keep getting better? It’s kinda hard to say. They are pretty damn good. And I tend to love or really like every release. But, unless you are some super compulsive person who keeps samples of everything you’ve opened for the last few years, it’d be hard to compare one year to the next. (whistles nervously…)

Overall, the one that I remember liking the best out of all of them is 2009. I remember it as fruitier than the more spice forward versions that have come out in recent years. Of course upon tasting this year’s release for the first time, I tweeted out that this might even give 2009 a run for it’s money. I was called out on that by Josh at SipologyBlog.com as 2009 is one of his favorites as well. So the challenge has been extended and accepted. I’m pulling one of my 2009 samples out of storage in order to see. As it was the last of these to use the OESO recipe, it’s an apt comparison.

Four Roses Mariage 2009

Purchase Info: $80 at Haskell’s Wine and Spirits, Woodbury Minnesota (in 2011)

Details: 54.8% ABV. 2 recipes at varying ages: OBSK (10 years old), OBSK (19 years old), and OESO (10 years old).

Nose: Caramel, mint and cinnamon candies with a light fruitiness underneath.

Mouth: Delicate fruitiness with caramel, oak, cinnamon and herbal notes. 

Finish: Nice and long with delicate fruit and spice flavors.  

A heart because I love this even after all these years

Thoughts: This embodies the Four Roses ideal of “Mellow.” It’s flavorful but not over-powering. Tasty and fruity with nice spice. I still love this one. 

Comparison: 2016 has more oak on the nose, but otherwise they are fairly similar. Though certain notes push themselves to the forefront in each, they also follow a similar flavor profile. 2016 is sweeter and more boldly flavored while 2009 is more delicate and mellow. I love them both, but I would personally lean toward the 2016 release and it’s bolder flavors. My verdict is that 2016 certainly gives 2009 a run for its money and even surpasses it. Josh, you owe it to yourself to get your hands on this one. 


And now for the surprise. Unless you are very lucky, it is unlikely that you will see this bourbon on the shelf. But I want to do something to make this post a little more inclusive. Every attendee at the Let’s Talk Bourbon event during the Kentucky Bourbon Festival get’s a few things. One is a pen and some paper so you can take notes during the event. There is science being explained and I’ve taken my fair share of notes at these. You also get a program that outlines how bourbon is made, going ever so slightly into the science. And as you are leaving, they often give you a gift bag. This year the bag contained a set of four metal whiskey cubes (these can be used instead of ice to chill your drink) each contained with the Four Roses logo. I haven’t tried them, but they look cool. 

Giveaway items.

The odds of my wife and I using two sets of these stones is slim so I thought I’d give one to a lucky reader. I was also able to get the Let’s Talk Bourbon Program signed by both four Roses Master Distiller Brent Elliot and Four Roses Brand Ambassador Al Young. And I’m giving that away to a second reader. The pen…well Brent Elliot stole that when he signed the book. So I guess I already gave that away. 

You can enter the giveaway using the form below, please only enter once. I’m planing to remove duplicates before I randomly pick a winner so it won’t help your chances. There will be two winners chosen one getting each item. All I’m asking in return is that you answer a question. The answers will help inform future posts and in an anonymized and aggregate sort of way may end up in a future post on their own. 

Good Luck! You have until Saturday, October 8th to enter (you need to "log-in" so I can receive your email address to notify you if you win, either log-in method gets me that). 


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Using Old Forester Birthday Bourbon to Celebrate a Serious Milestone

Posted on by Eric Burke

Old Forester Birthday Bourbon is one of those releases that my wife probably shouldn’t want as much as she does. The gimmick is that it is the product of one day’s production. The good thing is that it is also 12 years old. The bad thing is that it is now $79.99. 

As it is announced on September 2 each year and both of our birthdays and our wedding anniversary follow closely behind that, the coincidence of it is too much for her. She asks for it every year as a belated birthday present. And it is a present that is getting harder and harder to get my hands on. This year I actually had to pull a few strings with a local retailer (who asked not to be named) in order to make my lady happy. Next year? No idea what will happen. 

September is a pretty good month for us. Not only do we each get a birthday present and take a trip to Kentucky to celebrate our anniversary with friends, but it is also Bourbon Heritage Month. As we are big bourbon fans, that just adds to the nice set of coincidences. 

But September has another meaning for us as well. September is Ovarian Cancer Awareness month. It’s hard to notice the teal sometimes when the pink for breast cancer is so much more pervasive and spills over it’s month on both ends. Buying something pink feels good. Like you are making a difference. And to be honest who doesn’t love boobs? None of us would be alive if ovaries didn’t exist, but they are inside. In the parts that make boys squeamish. The parts that are near where a period happens. The parts that people don’t talk about in polite company. Right? 

Wrong. Grow up boys. 

Today my wife had her four and a half year check-up after surviving Ovarian Cancer. Once again, she is all clear. One more good check-up and the cancer doctor turns her over to a regular doctor to monitor her. This is great news. But it almost wasn’t. When she was diagnosed, it was a fluke accident. She knew something wasn’t right with her body and every doctor she talked to told her she was fine. 

A year later she ended up having a cyst on an ovary surgically removed and the doctor that was supposed to do the surgery had a family emergency and so his boss took over. His boss was one of the best gynecological oncologists in the state. Since it was her specialty, she nosed around a little while she was inside and found something. My wife had multiple tumors. Tests confirmed that they were cancerous. She was at Stage 3. She went into immediate chemotherapy and within a few months she was given the all clear. She was lucky on so many levels. She happened to have another issue in the same area, she ended up with a specialist doing the surgery instead of the scheduled doctor and she had a particularly slow growing form of the cancer. 

Today 1 in 75 women will develop Ovarian Cancer in their lifetime. And not just old women , but women as young as preteen have died of this horrible disease. 75% of those diagnosed are still alive after one year, but that number drops to only 44% at five years. Less than half of the women diagnosed will survive five years. Think about that. There are over 150 million women in the US. That means over two million of them will develop Ovarian Cancer in their lifetime and after diagnosis almost 1.5 million will be dead within 5 years.

But the good news is that in those women where it is diagnosed early, 94% survive to five years. And more and more women are being diagnosed early. Three years ago it was less than 15%. Today it is about 20%. Still not a lot, but trending the right direction. The problem is that many of the symptoms are also symptoms of other things. Bloating, pelvic pain, feeling full quickly and needing to pee are not exactly uncommon in women. And many doctors are willing to dismiss them. What we’ve learned through this is that if your doctor won’t listen to you when you know something isn’t right, find a new doctor. And keep doing it until you find one will at least check it out.

My wife was lucky, but if the first doctor had listened to her maybe should wouldn’t have needed to be. Tonight we are celebrating four and a half years clear with the Old Forester Birthday Bourbon I mentioned above. I’m thinking that we might even do two pours before the night is over.

If you want to know more about this disease, please go to http://www.ovariancancer.org. I know this is a whiskey blog. But what is whiskey without someone to share it with? My wife loves whiskey. She helps with the tasting notes and is the “silent” partner of this site. I want each and every one of you to have someone to share your whiskey with and I don’t want you to lose them or yourself because talking about “girl parts” is hard.

Old Forester Birthday Bourbon 2016

Purchase Info: $79.99 at a retailer who has requested to be left unnamed.

Details: 12 years old. 48.5% ABV.

Nose: Warm and rich with brown sugar, pipe tobacco, apricot and baking spices.

Mouth: Sweet and oaky with brown sugar, baking spices, dried apples, and that “Brown Forman Latex Paint” note typical of their bourbons.

Finish: Warm and of decent length with oak, baking spices and fruity latex paint.

Thoughts: This used to be a fun release to pick up on a whim back when you could find it. It was $40 or less, it was tasty enough and the gimmick was fun. Today, you could be excused for wondering why someone would pay $80 for a 12 year old bourbon. But then I’d point you to sites online where people pay over $100 for Weller 12. That said, I feel like this has reached the point where if the price goes up any further, I’ll probably find another way to celebrate my wife’s birthday each year. I like this, but the quality to price ratio gives me pause.


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My trip to the Kentucky Bourbon Festival 2016

Posted on by Eric Burke

Kentucky Bourbon Festival sign.

Every September, I hop in the car and head to Kentucky. It's my yearly trip to the Kentucky Bourbon Festival. It lasts a week, and I go for a week but, our paths don't usually cross until Wednesday night. Sure, the ticketed events can be fun, but there are plenty of other things to do in Kentucky, BourbonFest is just the excuse. Here was my week. 

KOA cabin in Shepardsville, KY.

I "camped."

It's a small trailer with a fridge, shower and a nice bed. But it had a firepit and you smelled of campfire every night when you went to bed. I say that counts. And the KOA is about halfway between Bardstown and Louisville. Which makes it easy to get to either of them. 

a cart full of bourbon I can't get at home.

I Shopped

This photo is at the Party Source, near Cincinatti, I was meeting an Internet friend In Real Life for the first time. But I did plenty more of this in both Louisville and Bardstown.

 A Bourbon on the bar at the Silver Dollar

I Had a Drink

The Silver Dollar is by far my favorite place to grab a drink in Louisville. Tons of good bourbon—great house picks—and a little brisket and mac 'n cheese to go with it.

Jim Beam Distillery.

I Visited Distilleries. Distilleries Big...

Glenn's Creek Distillery at Old Crow.

...And Distilleries Little.

Barton 1792 Distillery

I visited Distilleries real,...

The Bulleit Experience at Stitzel Weller Distillery

...Distilleries fanciful,...

The ruins of Old Crow Distillery at Glenn's Creek Distillery

...And Distilleries Abandoned

All of these distilleries brought an opportunity to have fun that I wouldn't have given up. Maybe it was wandering through the ruins of an abandoned whiskey factory after getting geeky with the guys that ended up capturing it's yeast, seeing a historic distillery that's been wrapped in Disneyland-style make-believe or just running into Fred Noe at Jim Beam. 

The bar at the Kentucky Bourbon Marketplace

I had a drink.

Because, seriously, did you expect me to spend the entire week there and only stop once? This one was at the Kentucky Bourbon Marketplace. A store with a bar attached to it. They won the contest for the official Festival Cocktail this year. It was quite tasty.

The Woodford Reserve table at the All-Star Sampler

I did still go to the All-Star Sampler.

Why do I keep going to this. Firstly, I almost always meet friends there. It's gotten a little expensive at $75 per person this year, but there aren't that many events where I know I'll see a good chunk of my Kentucky friends in one place and maybe even meet one or two more while I'm there. I also broadcast live from the event on Periscope.

Old Forester 1920 Prohibition Style

Plus you might get to try something new...

The new Packaging for Elijah Craig Small Batch

...or just something that looks new.

A breakfast cocktail at Four Roses

I had Breakfast at Four Roses during Let's Talk Bourbon

There was actual food too. Eggs, sausage, bacon, biscuits, gravy, cheese grits, pastries, fruit, coffee, water, juice, and more. Plus you got to listen to question and answer sessions with Al Young and Master Distiller, Brent Elliott.

The Master Distiller's Auction to raise money for the Getz Museum

I didn't buy anything at the Master Distiller's Auction.

But I still had a lot of fun watching people pay multiple thousands of dollars for whiskey. We bid a few times, but only helped drive the price higher. I bought very little out on the lawn outside the museum either, but I did broadcast a taste of it on Periscope as well.

Friends and I gathered in Bardstown

I spent time with friends, old and new. 

There were very few days when I didn't spend at least a little time with friends while I was there. Dinner, drinks, cake, talks over lunch or into the night. These were my favorite times during the trip. They are the reason I keep going back.

Well, that and the Bourbon.


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Luxco Announces Lux Row Distillery and Rebel Yell Single Barrel 10 Year Old

Posted on by Eric Burke

The future site of the Lux Row Gift Shop

LUXCO LOGO/NAME ANNOUNCEMENT 9/15/16 AT LUXCO DISTILLERY SITE. An event during festival week in Bardstown, Kentucky usually attracts an eccentric grouping of attire. You will normally see everything from suits and ties, to collars and jeans, to t-shirts and shorts. This event was no exception. When I first got onto the shuttle for the ride to the distillery site, the first person I saw was in a shirt, tie, and slacks. I started to feel under-dressed in my polo and shorts until I noticed Mr. Stained T-shirt in the seat behind him. OK, I thought, this is going to be typical of the events held during the festival.

The table where I got the majority of my drinks. 

After the shuttle took us up the lovely tree-lined drive to the site of the event, we got out and made our way to a tent that was obviously the event space. It was situated alongside a beautiful stone house. Brown fences lined a manicured lawn upon which wooden rocking chairs were placed.

Upon entering the tent, I made my way to the drinks station and got myself a….water. That’s right, this is an outdoor event. It’s hot and I am from a place where the weather comes in varieties that trend a bit toward the cooler side. Plus, I am “working” so for me, the fun comes later in the evening. While I was drinking water, my wife checked out the bar which was serving several cocktails (all were quite tasty, according to her).

The construction site of the future Lux Row D

Architectural rendering of the finished Lux Row Distillery.

After a bit of mingling, talking to the PR people/others there to cover the event/a few people in the Luxco distilling family, the announcements started.

First, the wait staff passed out unlabeled glasses of whiskey. The president and COO of Luxco, David Bratcher stepped up on the stage and gave a few thank yous to the group. He told us why, after looking at 50 sites in three states, they chose Bardstown for the distillery. He told us how when they saw the site, they knew they had the right one. He told us a little about Luxco. And finally he introduced Chairman and CEO Donn Lux to speak.

Mr. Lux took a few minutes to speak, build the tension, and then finally revealed the distillery name: Lux Row Distillery. Named for the lovely tree-lined drive to the distillery site as well as the family who owns the business, it seems like a good name. My money was on “Rebel Yell Distillery” or “Ezra Brooks Distillery,” but what do I know? 

After that the announcements were over and we got to try the whiskey in the glasses we’d been handed previously. Turns out it was Rebel Yell 10-year Single Barrel. At this point most of the guests got down to festivities.

The reveal of the Lux Row logo. Looks nice.

10 Year Rebel Yell 

My impressions, I didn't have enough to do a full review, nor was I in a good setting for that.

Nose: nice wood and not very sweet

Mouth: oak, brown sugar, baking spice, and a peppery heat

Finish: warm and long with lingering spices and fruit

Thoughts: This product will retail for a suggested price of $49.99. If this barrel is representative of the others, I’m ok with this. It’s good, I enjoyed my taste of it.


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Smooth Ambler Old Scout Single Barrel Bourbon

Posted on by Eric Burke

Yesterday was my birthday. As birthdays that end in zero are usually considered markers of a sort in your life, I took the opportunity to do something that I don’t believe I’ve ever done before. I went out with a friend to celebrate my birthday. 

I’m a typical Midwestern person with a good work ethic, I was married early in my adulthood, I had a kid early on and I went to college with all of this being in place. As such the opportunities for going out and celebrating another trip around the sun didn’t come up as often as they do for other people. I’d normally spend the evening with my wife, my kid or various other parts of my family. 

Last night though, I did something fun. I went to a local bar that is basically a late 1980s-early 90s video game arcade with the addition of about 30 taps of craft beer. I played Punch-Out. I played Donkey Kong. I played Mortal Kombat. I played Pinball. I played Dig-Dug for goodness sake. And it was glorious. So many people. So much fun. It was a good birthday. 

People make a big deal of age. Some people think that the number of times a person has travelled around the sun makes them somehow superior to those that haven’t. And some people are just the opposite, thinking that the number of trips someone has made somehow disqualifies them from being superior in any way. In either of these cases age is somehow being equated with quality. 

Humans seem to be especially good at this. We often take complex situations and try to boil it down to just one variable. We do this with our weight, our health, how we think the world works and who we determine to be a good person. We also do it with whiskey. We’ve been conditioned to think that the number of years that a whiskey happened to be in a barrel somehow equates to the quality of the whiskey. As usual, this is only one part of a complex picture. 

Is there an appreciable difference between something that spent 10 years in a barrel and something that spent 11? Sometimes. Does that mean we should always buy the 11 over the 10? Probably not. We should look at all the factors and make sure that the added price (because there is almost always added price) is worth it. Is it a single barrel as opposed to a batched product? Does the company have a good track record putting out exceptional products? Is the price right? These are just a few of the questions that we should consider before deciding what to buy.

They are the same questions that led me to purchase an Old Scout 11 year old Single Barrel bourbon over the normal Old Scout 10 year old bourbon. Smooth Ambler has a track record of putting out good product. I trust that a Single Barrel with their name on it will be worth being sold on it’s own. It was only $5 more than the normal Old Scout. It also happened that this was another year older, which in light of many factors I considered, seemed like a good thing.

Old Scout Single Barrel Bourbon

Purchase Info: $59.99 for a 750mL bottle at South Lyndale Liquors, Minneapolis, MN

Details: 11 years old. 51.7% ABV. Distilled in Indiana. Bottled in West Virginia

Nose: Floral and herbal up front with toffee and oak coming after.

Mouth: Hot and sweet with toffee, oak, cinnamon red hots and herbal notes.

Finish: Warm and long with lingering toffee, oak and herbal notes. 

Heart because I love this

Thoughts: I have never been disappointed by a bottle from Smooth Ambler’s Old Scout. This single barrel continues that trend. This reminds me more of a 1960s era I.W. Harper that I’ve had than it does most things from today. Just fabulous!


I’ll be traveling next week to BourbonFest in Bardstown Kentucky so there won’t be any posts, but be sure to follow me on Twitter and Instagram for updates.


This post is brought to you by readers like you who have pledged $1 or more per month to support bourbonguy.com. Not a patron yet? Consider going to patreon.com/arok to pledge your support and get bonus content. Thank you.