I used to be a “try-every-bourbon-you-can” sort of guy. I’d buy one of everything on the shelf over the course of a year. I’d long for those bottles that were featured on the blogs, but that I didn’t get to try. I traded samples. I waited in lines. I searched stores (sometimes going from one to another). I attended events. Over time, I tried a lot of bourbon that way.
But as I settled into my bourbon journey for the long-haul, I stopped trying so hard to get the “next big thing.” I still attend events, but I do it more to talk with fellow bourbon lovers than I do to taste what’s in the glass (though that is a nice bonus). But I don’t try very hard to get most of the “Limited Edition” bourbons that come out each fall. Pappy is too expensive, plus I generally don’t prefer wheated bourbons. Buffalo Trace’s Antique Collection is too much effort to find for a lazy guy like me. Old Forester Birthday Bourbon is one I like to get, but apparently doesn’t show up at the stores I frequent. So like I said I don’t try very hard to get these.
Well, except for one: the Four Roses autumn release of the Limited Edition Small Batch.
I first ran across this at a tasting a local liquor store chain was having. Minnesota was in the midst of a government shut-down so the store lined up a few more types of bourbon than they might normally have served. We tasted through the Jefferson’s bourbon line, including the last of the 17 year and the first of the 18 year bourbons. We tasted a few different types of Prichard’s including the Tennesee whiskey and the double barreled bourbon. But for me, the highlight of the night was tasting through the Four Roses line. Even then, I knew that I loved four Roses. We had the Yellow Label, the Small Batch, the Single Barrel and a “special one” that turned out to be the 2009 Mariage bourbon (the previous name of the Limited Edition Small Batch). I was blown away by it. So much so that once my wife was diagnosed with cancer in late 2011, I scoured the Twin Cities looking for another bottle. I wanted that bottle very much and wasn’t going to settle, even passing up an offer of Pappy instead from one retailer after I told him why I was looking so hard. I eventually did get it and it was that bottle we celebrated her first diagnosis of there being no sign of cancer left in her body. I still have a few samples put away for the 5 year mark.
Ever since then, I’ve tried to pick up at least one bottle per year. In 2012, I happend to be at the gift shop the day it was put out, but had to order a second bottle when the first one ran out. Last year my local retailers were unable to get me one, but a friend came through and shipped me one from another state. Both of those were released to rave reviews and cries of “best-ever!” from reviewers who didn’t have to purchase a bottle in order to taste it. (That isn’t sour grapes, I just choose to only review things I actually purchase.)
This year, the reviews were not quite so glowing. I didn’t read a single “best-ever” from the pre-release crowd. I read a lot of things similar to “it would be hard to follow up those last two years.” But, I’m a Four Roses fan-boy and when my wife and I happened to be in Kentucky for the release again, I knew we needed to get our hands on at least one bottle. Luck was with us though and we each snagged one.
So how was it?
Four Roses Limited Edition Small Batch 2014
Purchase Info: $110 at the distillery Gift Shop.
Details: 55.9% ABV. Bottle 9,235 of 12,516
Nose: Candied orange peal, tobacco, allspice and maple.
Mouth: Light in the mouth. There’s a nice tingle at the front and sides of the mouth. Pears, honey and clove dominate.
Finish: Gentle spice with a lingering sweetness and warmth.
Thoughts: This is a very good whiskey and I like it a lot. It’s extremely drinkable, even at over 55% ABV. But at $110, when I compare it to a very good Four Roses Single Barrel retailer selection that you can find for less than $65, I don’t know that it is $45 better. If you find it and find yourself flush with cash, pick it up. If you are a fan-boy like me, pick it up. But if you can’t get it, don’t feel too bad about it, grab a good Four Roses Single Barrel private selection to enjoy instead.