Four Roses Single Barrel: Private Selections from Binny's, OESQ and OESF

Well, my wife left. 

Not forever, just for the weekend. It's times like this when I realize just how much she does around here. Sure, I do a fair bit of the cooking even when she is here but that isn't what I'm talking about. No, she performs that greatest of all tasks: she deflects the kid. 

My daughter is a bit of a worrier. Add in the fact that she is in her mid-twenties, and hasn't realized that other people know things yet, and you have the makings of a doting and slightly condescending young lady. One who is pretty sure that I can't take care of myself for a few days even though I took care of her for somewhere in the neighborhood of 20 years. 

Luckily I convinced her that I wouldn't starve this evening and she decided to go out to see her boyfriend...now I just need to find something to eat. I had planned to run to the store before she left but I didn't, and she took the car. Guess she wasn't that worried.

But even though I may not know what I am going to eat, I have a pretty good idea of what I am going to drink this evening. Last weekend my wife and I tasted two different private selections of Four Roses from Binny's in Bloomington, Illinois. Binny's is mostly a Chicago chain, but they have a couple of locations further south in Illinois that I drive past on my to and from Kentucky. 

These particular Four Roses Private Selections are OESF and OESQ. To my palate, these are the yeasts that are furthest from the classic bourbon flavor profile of caramel and spice. The F and Q yeasts tend to bring in more floral, fruity, and herbal notes. As such, they are some of my favorites to buy as private selections as they are both delicious and add a bit of fun to any blends I happen to make. 

Four Roses Single Barrel Private Selections: Binny's OESQ and OESF

Purchase Info: Each bottle was $59.99 for a 750 mL bottle at Binny's Beverage Depot, Bloomington, IL.

Details: OESQ: 9 years 5 months old and 57% ABV. OESF: 9 years 6 months old and 56.7% ABV.

Nose:
OESQ
: Caramel, cherry, dusty oak, and hints of leather.
OESF: Caramel, mint and citrus.

Mouth: 
OESQ:
Nice mouthfeel. Floral, fruity and mint notes. The proof brings a nice tingly warmth. 
OESF: Proof brings a lot of heat. Once you get past that it follows the nose with sweet sweet caramel, herbal mintiness, and fruity citrus notes. 

Finish: 
OESQ
: Longer side of medium. Dusty oak precedes lingering spicy, floral, and cherry notes. 
OESF: Long and warm. Lingering cherry and mint. 

 IMAGE: A hand drawn heart because I love these!

Thoughts: I was super excited to find the F and Q versions of this on the same shelf. I had to talk my wife into allowing both to travel home with us, but we are both very glad that they did. The Q is my favorite of the two as I am loving the floral notes. My wife prefers the rich caramel of the F.


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Bottom-Shelf Brackets 2018: Other people's brackets

So one of the things I did this year to shake things up was to introduce more judges to this project. In the past, it has been just my wife and I and if we disagreed, I'd overrule her due to the fact that I do all the writing. Now I was not able to get everyone together in time to get started on these so I was unable to use their input in the initial rounds. 

And now that I think about that, I think this is a good thing. This is a blog that is run by my wife and I and it reflects our palates. Plus, as you will see, everyone so far has chosen a different winner. But, there are a few commonalities in the results that I think you will find interesting. So let's begin.

This is the bracket of my friend Dave. He was the inspiration for this experiment because he asked if he could be a part of it. He knows almost nothing about whiskey that I haven't taught him but he is an enthusiastic amateur. I did the pouring for Dave's bracket. So one interesting thing that I think you will see is that Old Overholt was Dave's winner. I've described Old Overholt as one of the gentlest rye whiskeys that I'd found. And I think that it makes sense that an inexperienced whiskey drinker would like a whiskey that wasn't overly hot and aggressive. In fact, you'll notice that most of the whiskeys that made it to his last four were fairly nonaggressive whiskeys. A corn whiskey beat a rye, a low proof beat a high proof on a couple of occasions, and then there is Old Forester where he had a hard time choosing between the two.

This is the bracket of one of my dog sitting clients, Jeff. Jeff is a guy who likes whiskey but mostly sticks to the brands he knows. Jeff administered his own test which is why everything is labeled with a letter instead of a name, all the seeds are in the same location though. In this case, Old Grand-Dad beat Old Overholt, Two Stars beat Hirsch Corn, Ezra Brooks Rye beat Mellow Corn and Old Forester beat Four Roses. I haven't finished my bracket yet, but so far mine matches this one. And if you were to ask me how I thought my bracket might finish out, I can see similarities between his and mine. I'm a bit shocked that Two Stars beat out Old Grand-Dad, but hey Barton/Sazerac makes some pretty good juice. Oh, and for Jeff, Old Forester won. 

This is my wife's bracket. She and I disagreed on whether Mellow Corn should beat Ezra Brooks Rye so I had her finish her bracket based on her scenario. Once again I administered the contest for her. As you will see, there are some similarities between the previous three, Everyone likes Two Stars more than the Hirsch Corn whiskey and Everyone liked Old Forester better than Four Roses. In fact, Old Forester was in the championship for every one of these three. It sort of makes me wonder if my bracket will follow suit? I guess we will see next Tuesday.

Now, this last one is from Pat, one of my wife's coworkers. Pat also administered his own test. And Pat went a different way than anyone else. Unbeknownst to Pat, he seems to be a fan of rye whiskey. And he found this fascinating since he hadn't had very much rye before. From what I understand, he is going to be remedying that in the future. Even so, I can see the Ezra Brooks Rye winning this. It is a good and flavorful whiskey that even at two years old, brings a lot of flavor to the party. 

So I hope you found this as fascinating as I did. I liked seeing the trends among people. All of us liked Old Forester over Four Roses, which I didn't expect from me much less anyone else. It was split evenly between those who preferred Mellow Corn and those who preferred Ezra Brooks Rye. Only one person thought that the Hirsch Corn was better than Two Stars. And yet even with that, they all chose a different winner. I'm very curious now to know which one will win on my bracket. 


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Bottom-Shelf Brackets 2018: Round 1d: Old Forester vs. Four Roses

Round 1d of the 2018 BourbonGuy.com Bottom Shelf Brackets features the only bourbon on bourbon action of the entire first round of the contest. We have number 2 seed Old Forester Bourbon (86 proof) versus Number 3 seed Four Roses Bourbon (this bottle still has a yellow label). 

Old Forester is a product of Brown-Forman. It is the lowest proof offering in the Old Forester family of expressions. It earns a number two seed due to being 86 proof.

Four Roses (Yellow Label) is the entry-level product in the Four Roses family of expressions. It is a mingling of all 10 bourbon recipes produced by the distillery. It is the only 80 proof whiskey in the Non-Age Stated portion of the contestants and as such is a number three seed. 

These were tasted blind in the following order. My thoughts on each are from before the reveal.

Old Forester

Purchase Info: $34.99 for a 1.75L bottle at Total Wine, Eagan, MN.

Details: 43% ABV, non-age stated.

Produced by: Brown-Forman

Nose: Almond, cherry, vanilla, and hints of anise. 

Mouth: Sweet with good spice. Nice mouthfeel. Cherry/almond, baking spice and a bit of capsaicin-style heat.

Finish: Medium Length cherry and baking spice linger. 

Pre-Reveal Thoughts: Very nice. Good mouthfeel. This could be a winner.

Four Roses (Yellow)

Purchase Info: $23.99 for a 1L bottle at Total Wine, Eagan, MN.

Details: 40% ABV.

Produced by: Four Roses

Nose: Floral, cinnamon red hot candies, a bit of citrus fruit. 

Mouth: Floral, baking spice, cherry, citrus fruit. A thinner mouthfeel than the previous one.

Finish: Warm, very floral with hints of mint. 

Pre-Reveal Thoughts: Thin in the mouth and very floral.  

Who wins?

I am an admitted and unashamed Four Roses fanboy. But then I like Old Forester too. Before the relatively recent release of the Whiskey Row series of expressions, it was my favorite of the brands made at least in part under the supervision of Master Distiller Chris Morris (86 proof, 100 proof and Woodford Reserve). It has since been surpassed as my favorite by the 1920 Prohibition Style expression but still ranks number two in the line-up for me. I had a feeling while setting up the initial matchups that this would be the closest of the four. It was not. One of these stood head and shoulders above the other when they were paired head-to-head. Thin and floral can't beat thick and spicy for me. Winner: Old Forester.  


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The 2018 BourbonGuy.com Bottom-Shelf Brackets

So, this past Sunday my Twitter feed filled up with people complaining about the format of a show that announced whether their favorite team of college basketball players did or didn't make the cut to play in a basketball tournament. It reminded me, among other things, that I'm not much of a college basketball fan. It just never caught my interest. But just because I don't have a passion for college basketball, does that mean I want to miss out on all that competitive March bracketing?

No. No, it does not. 

And for the last four years, I've been getting my fill of competitive bracketing by finding inexpensive bourbons and pitting them against each other head-to-head to see if there is one that stands head and shoulders above the rest. I mostly do this to have fun, but I also have a desire to find out if I can satisfy my inherent Midwestern frugalness and yet find an overlooked diamond in the rough.

But this is the fifth year of the Bottom-Shelf Brackets and I've been forced to shake things up a little bit. First, I've removed the word "Bourbon" from the name and opened the proceedings up to other forms of Straight American Whiskey. Second, I've been forced to redefine my definition of "Bottom-Shelf" to a slightly higher price point. Both of these have the same cause: I just couldn't find enough bourbons that met the price qualification that hadn't been in the tournament before. Even some of the previous winners have moved out of range. 

The third thing is the most exciting for me though. I've included a couple more judges this year. Some of these people are complete novices. I did this mostly because one of my non-whiskey drinking friends asked if he could be a part of it and I thought it might be fun to get outside perspectives on the results. 

Now that the changes are out of the way, just what are these qualifications that I spoke of earlier?

  1. It must be straight American Whiskey, and it must be labeled as such. Too many brands are getting rid of this very basic statement of quality and I refuse to reward that. This means that Jack Daniel's Black label would not qualify for the tournament, but that Jim Beam White label would. 
  2. It has to sell for 2.4 cents per milliliter or less. Now, this might seem like a weird arbitrary number, but it works out to $18 per 750, $24 per liter or (in true bottom shelf fashion) $40 for a 1.75 L handle. And yes, I know that the math is wrong on that last one, but since you normally get a price break by buying in that large of quantity, I worked that into the equation. I raised it from $15, $20 and $35 this year, which had been the price since the initial year. In that time, just following the inflation rate would get us to over $21 for a liter so I decided to future proof a little. 
  3. The final guideline is that it must have never been in the tournament before. It would get pretty boring to see if I liked the same whiskeys year after year. 

After I purchased the whiskeys here are the rules I used to seed them. 

  1. Stated (or assumed) age. Straight whiskey has to be at least two years old. But unless it is under four years old, you don’t have to put an age on it. So if someone does, it’s either a good thing or a bad thing. I like to reward good things and punish bad things.
  2. Proof. Higher proof often equals better flavor. Not always, but it can be a good rule of thumb.

So who are the contestants? The top six seeds were all non-age stated, and so I am assuming the 4-year minimum on them. The two number one seed in each of the divisions are Old Grand-Dad Bonded and Mellow Corn Bottled in Bond, both at 100° proof. Behind them at 90° proof is a Straight Corn Whiskey from Hirsch Selections. I found this one on sale, so it is a bit of a cheat but also figured that sale prices count when the entire point is to be frugal. A pair of 86 proofers come next. Old Forester 86° proof is the second number two seed while the Barton produced, Total Wine exclusive, Two Stars nabs the first number three seed. The final number three seed is 80° proof Four Roses Yellow Label. After that, we get to a pair of ryes that clock in at under four years old. Old Overholt is three years old and gets the first number four seed with two-year-old Ezra Brooks Rye nabbing the final spot.

There are a lot of interesting matchups this year with multiple styles and multiple price points going head-to-head. I think this one is going to be a lot of fun. 


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Four Roses 2017 Limited Edition Small Batch Bourbon

I don't really go in for Trophy Bourbon Hunting anymore. The hassle isn't worth the reward in most cases. The reward, in this case, being that I then get the opportunity to spend way too much money on a single bottle of bourbon. Nothing brought that home to me more than a conversation that my wife had with a coworker.

She had been tasked with finding something special for this coworker. while we were in Kentucky Something that he couldn't get at home. He gave her money and a budget thinking that he'd be getting a private selection from a store in Louisville or maybe something from Willett. Well, the only thing Willett had when I stopped in was a $165 bottle of twelve-year-old bourbon. Neither he nor I were getting anything from Willett.

But my wife and I each got the opportunity to purchase a bottle of this year's Four Roses Limited Small Batch. Don't get me wrong, we normally buy two for ourselves when we can, but we thought that it might be a nice surprise for the coworker. So we bought it figuring he'd want it and that if by some odd chance he didn't, then the worst that would happen was us having an extra bottle. 

Oh darn, right?

Then my wife told him what she got and...he didn't want it. I believe the text read: "my wife would kill me if I spent that much on one bottle of whiskey."

In that moment it occurred to me that I may have started to lose touch with "normal people" when it comes to whiskey prices. I've watched bourbon's price creep happen for long enough that I hardly think anything of buying a $60 bottle of whiskey anymore. I mean I can't afford these all the time but, if a client has paid on time, it feels fairly normal. And sometimes, not always, I can even justify $120-130 if I try hard enough and think I'll get something "really good" in return.

Which is weird for me. I've always been frugal. Growing up with my brother and mom, dirt poor, in a trailer court in the Northwoods of Wisconsin will do that to you. But this situation was a good wake-up call to be reminded how people who haven't been immersed in the bourbon world think about the prices of bottles.

My budget hopes I remember that the next time I'm standing there trying to choose between a perfectly good $25 bourbon and one that is $60, though also only perfectly good.

Four Roses 2017 Limited Edition Small Batch Bourbon

Purchase Info: $130 at Four Roses Gift Center, Lawrenceburg, KY.

Details: 54% ABV. A blend of 20% 15-year-old OESK, 40% 13-year-old OESK and 12-year-old OESV bourbons (percentages reported by Sipp'n Corn, but confirmed by Master Distiller Brent Elliot).

Nose: Fruity and soft with notes of vanilla, caramel, baking spice, and oak.

Mouth: Spicy and rich with a wonderful mouthfeel. Notes of caramel, nutmeg, fruit, and oak.

Finish: Long, warm and sweet. Lingering fruit, spice, and caramel. 

like.gif

Thoughts: I know what you are thinking. "Obviously Eric loves this, he's a Four Roses fanboy." Well, you are half right. I am a fanboy. But this doesn't rate a heart from me (my wife disagrees most vehemently). It does, however, rate a very high "like." It's thick and rich and the finish lasts for days.


BourbonGuy.com accepts no advertising. It is solely supported by the sale of the hand-made products I sell at the BourbonGuy Gifts Etsy store. If you'd like to support BourbonGuy.com, visit BourbonGuyGifts.com. Thanks!