Not too long ago I visited the Four Roses aging facility in Cox’s Creek, KY. I skipped the tour because of time, but did manage to check out the gift shop & did a quick tasting of their 3 main expressions (yellow label, small batch, single barrel). Got a nifty Four Roses long-sleeve t-shirt. And best of all, I got a bottling of an OESQ Single Barrel.
As you may know, Four Roses works with two mashbills (“E” being 75/20/5 & “B” being 60/35/5, & that’s corn/rye/malted barley) and 5 different yeast strains (V, K, O, Q, F). This makes for 10 different bourbons. Yellow label includes them all, Small Batch includes 4 of them, and Single Barrel is only OBSV. However, they occasionally bottle other recipes with only one of the recipes, and this one I picked up is just such a case.
Without water added, the nose has wintergreen, peppermint, sawdust, and an overall vegetable and sour note. On the palate its just a little hot (well, it is almost 116 proof) with oak, a touch of caramel, and the vegetable note – something like sweet asparagus. It coats the mouth nicely with a slight burn. The finish is dry, long, with more sawdust and more mint. But you gotta try it with a few drops of water. This is not a big sweet bourbon where the high-proof bite is tampered by an overt sweetness. No, no, no. There is a lot more to this than a big honey bomb.
With just a little bit of water, it really opens up. The nose remains similar, with the mint and sawdust, but adding caramel and vanilla and a bit of char and lakewater. The vegetable note is brought down but it retains that sour note, and with that a kinda bacony-hammy thing. Some sweet onion and pineapple. As it continues to open, it just keeps giving. It’s a nose that doesn’t hit you over the head; its complex, nuanced, and subtle. The palate gives some sweetness, and with less astringency comes a creamy, mouth-coating caramel. Still a peppermint note. It’s almost like mouthwash, but in a good way. There’s that rosewater that I taste in all their stuff. A grassy note. The finish is long, with wood, caramel, mint,
I find this bourbon fascinating. It’s not your normal offering, and I like that. It’s not your normal caramel/vanilla/oak/leather kinda thing. I can understand why some wouldn’t be as keen on it – I’m sure my tasting notes of mouthwash and onion are not everyone’s cup of hooch – but if you want to be perplexed by your whiskey, try this. I keep going back to this bottle every now and then because it changes my bearings after a few weeks of the usual bourbon notes of vanilla/toffee/caramel/honey/oak/cola/cherry/citrus. (Maybe I need to swing back to more scotch?) It seems every time I approach this whiskey, I get different tasting notes. It’s just that complex.
I love Four Roses. They do things different. Just look at their warehouses – they’re all 1 story. They put their distillate in barrels at a lower proof. They use a variety of yeasts. I’ll give this an A because it’s so complex and beguiling.