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And Now a Bit of Fun: The Four Roses Tournament of Single Barrels

Posted on by Eric Burke

In November, I took a vacation to North Carolina. I always try to drive when I go on vacation. It allows me to bring home more souvenirs that way. This trip was no exception. You see, I’d placed an order for every recipe of the Four Roses Single Barrels at the Party Source to be picked up on my way home. But there was a problem. There was one I couldn’t get. They were out of the OBSK. I looked online and called three different liquor stores that I knew I would be passing by. None of them had that one. So I decided to visit the Four Roses Cox’s Creek gift shop. 

I must have been an especially nice boy last year, because Santa smiled on me that day. They were just putting out all ten recipes the morning I got there. I took the tour, got my OBSK and headed over to the Four Roses distillery. Yep. I went backward. Aging and bottling first, then distillation.

I’ve made clear in the past that I am a fan of Four Roses. The last time I was in Lexington, I stopped off at a bar that had a private selection of OESF behind the bar. I liked it. A lot. When I saw there was a gift shop release of it sitting in the gift shop, well, let’s say I liked it enough that I wasn’t leaving without another. Then I bought one for my step-father as well. 

But was it my favorite? I was curious. Curious enough that my wife and I decided to hold a round-robin style tournament, over the course of a few days, to see which recipe of Four Roses we liked best. It’s simple. Put each of them head-to-head, add up the number of wins each recipe gets and see who has the most. 

Was it scientific? Nope. It was fun though. Here’s how it went.

If you add up the total wins for the both of us, the Tournament Champion is: OBSK. Hands down. It should, it was the gift shop selection and I’d have expected that going in. But total wins doesn’t tell the entire story, so here is how it broke down.

ME:

OBSK: 7 wins

OBSF, OESK: 6 wins

OESQ, OESO, OESV: 5 wins

OBSQ: 4 wins

OBSV: 3 wins

OESF, OBSO: 2 wins

Wife:

OBSV: 8 wins

OESK, OESF, OESV, OBSK: 6 wins

OBSQ, OESO: 4 wins

OBSO: 3 wins

OBSF: 2 wins

OESQ: 0 wins

So what does this mean? Well, it seems we both like the B (35% rye) mashbill slightly better than the E (20% rye). I seem to prefer the K yeast by a healthy margin since it was 2 of the top three. My wife was a fan of the V and K yeast being four of the top five between them. Beyond that, things seem to fall apart. My wife’s least favorite showed up in my top half and my least favorite showed up in her top half. What does that mean? Not much, we basically agreed on the K yeast. If we had to choose just one, it might need to be that. 

If you need to choose though, you need to ask yourself what flavor profile are you looking for. Do you want fairly typical bourbon flavors? Well, that’s what I found in my bottle of the OBSV. It should be the easiest to find as it’s their regular release. But if you want to step outside the easy to find, are you interested in spicy bourbons? Try one of the K yeasts. Both of my bottles were sweet and spicy. Or the O yeasts which I found to be peppery and warm. Would you like fruity or floral bourbons? Maybe V, F or Q. I found floral or fruity flavors in most of these. Of course, these are single barrels so the flavors and aromas I picked up in mine might not translate to the ones you find in yours. But, then that’s part of the fun.

What I’d really like to see, someday, is for them to put out a set of all ten in miniature bottles. Maybe just at the gift shop or something. Then we can all take part in the fun. Ah…dreams…maybe if we all ask really nicely…