The legend of the four roses hearkens back to 1888. No doubt, Jerry Thomas of 19th century bartending fame was well acquainted with their product. Founded by Rufus and Origen Rose, they also included the two male heirs of the family into the brands name. Thus, the four Roses were born as a bourbon crafted in Lawrenceburg, Kentucky.
Although the company has had its share of ups and downs over the years mainly due to changing tastes from straight to blended bourbons, they have never entirely disappeared off the liquorious map. It took a Japanese company (Kirin) to bring back the former glory of the distilleries straight bourbons under the tutelage of Jim Rutledge since 1995.
The company ages ten different bourbons which are bottled in differing manners depending on whether they are blended or single barrel versions. They also release special and limited editions on occasion. GSN was sent a selection of Four Roses bourbons currently available in the US. For those of our lucky readers in Japan, you may wish to seek out a few other styles only available to you.
Four Roses Yellow Label (80 proof)
Visual: Light gold.
Nose: Tangy and sweet with a lot of woody high notes. Very genteel.
Taste: Light and elegant with a very approachable sweetness.
Finish: Fairly short with a hint of honey at the very end.
Overall: Quite mixable and easy to drink. A great bourbon for the beginner.
GSN Rating: B+
Four Roses Small Batch (90 proof)
Visual: Mellow gold.
Nose: Dry and crisp with a subtle apple scent. Very autumnal.
Taste: Amazingly round and creamy with a very smooth mouthfeel. The flavor goes beyond this though, with a lot of peppery spice and baked nutbread character. Dessert-like and quite the sipper.
Finish: The ginger bite and honeyed sweetness fades fairly quickly, leaving an overall sensation of vanilla cream and cinnamon. Very interesting and memorable.
Overall: A bourbon that not only is surprisingly mellow, but at the same time has a unique fruity character that I’ve not come across in many bourbons.
GSN Rating: A–
Four Roses Single Barrel (100 proof)
Nose: Hefty and with a brilliance of sweet summer corn.
Taste: Rich, warm, buttery toffee with a sudden burst of oaky intensity.
Finish: Long and sweet. Like a southern belle, you’ll want to keep holding it close to you and remember the body.
Overall: I am highly impressed with this bourbon that just keeps going on and on. One of my favorites.
GSN Rating: A
Four Roses 125th Anniversary (103 proof)
Visual: Darkening golden brown.
Nose: A huge amount of high notes with an almost well-aged cognac character.
Taste: The taste as well is surprisingly cognac-like. Rich, elegant, enveloping and the kind of bourbon that you only pull out on special occasions. Wow!
Finish: Medium long, but with a lot of percolating sweet and spicy notes that open up with a bit of water.
Overall: This is a world-class bourbon that exemplifies the art of distilling and blending. Well worth seeking out to “cellar”. Kudos to Master Distiller Jim Rutledge for this engaging beauty!
GSN Rating: A+
For more information go to: Four Roses