From the heart of Kentucky
Four Roses is an American whiskey distillery that is located in the town of Lawrenceburg, Kentucky. The state of Kentucky is the famous home of the American whiskey industry with seven companies currently operating and producing numerous brands of whiskey and bourbon. Four Roses is currently owned by the Kirin Brewery Company from Japan and is one of Kentucky's largest distilleries, producing eight million litres of whiskey a year. Much of this is released under the Four Roses name although, as with the other Kentucky distilleries, they also release whiskies and bourbons under different names. These all use different traditional recipes during production and the most well known example made at Four Roses is Bulleit bourbon.
For further information on American whiskies and bourbons, then check out the American page on our website - whiskyforeveryone.com.
Details of the whiskey
This Single Barrel forms part of the revamped Four Roses' core range which also includes the best selling Yellow Label and a Small Batch release. As the name suggest, this whiskey is released from a single casks and each bottle is hand signed and labeled with the master distillers initials and the warehouse location from which it was taken (this is cask number 36-1M - 36 being the warehouse number, 1 being the row of the warehouse and M being the shelf/rack that the cask was stored). Single barrel expressions of American whiskies are rare, although this is changing as consumer demand grows. Four Roses Single Barrel is aged for approximately eight years, is bottled at an alcoholic strength of 50% ABV and has won numerous awards since it was first released in 2005. It should cost £35-40 a bottle from selected specialist alcohol retailers.
Our tasting notes
The colour of this Single Barrel is golden amber and the nose is very intense. The alcohol (50% ABV) hits first and gives a warm spiciness, before plenty of woody and vanilla notes kick in - think of fresh oak, wood shavings, sandalwood and coconut. It feels fresh and vibrant with other aromas coming through such as caramel, some citrus (imagine orange oil) and a hint of tropical fruit (think of banana and peach especially). On the palate, this is equally as big and intense as the nose suggests. Again, the alcoholic kick is hot and there is plenty of woodiness (especially the fresh oak and coconut husks). This is on the borderline of becoming bitter before some softer and sweeter notes come through - think of caramel, brown sugar, cereal grains, vanilla and those tropical fruits from the nose. Additional wood spices (imagine peppercorns and cinnamon) combine to give great depth. The finish is very long and warming with the spiciness and woodiness in abundance, in addition to a burnt orange note.
The high alcohol strength and intensity of Four Roses Single Barrel suggest the addition of some water. How much you add is up to you! With a few drops, the alcohol strength and the spiciness is softened and allows more of the sweeter vanilla, caramel and fruit elements to come through. The addition of some water may make this whiskey more palatable to a wider audience.
What's the verdict?
Wow! This is one hell of a dram and it takes no prisoners. It is a big, intense whiskey that is not for the faint hearted, but one that softens while still holding its complexity with the addition of water. It is interesting to try a bourbon at a higher ABV strength and from a single cask - if they are all this good then it is only a matter of time before more companies release them. Single Barrel also offers good value for money, especially when compared with a similar product from a Scottish single malt distillery which would start at around £50 a bottle.