Monday, February 19, 2018

Review - Four Roses Small Batch 2017 Edition

This whiskey is the latest limited edition from the award-winning Four Roses distillery. Four Roses is unusual amongst American distilleries as it produces 10 different spirits, using two different mash bills (one low rye mash and one high rye) and then one of five different yeast strains. This 2017 Edition contains three different whiskies of ages 12, 13 and 15 years. The Small Batch was first released in 2007 and has won numerous awards since. This 2017 Edition has approximately 13,000 bottles - this number has grown from the original 2007 release, which contained just 1,500 bottles.

The Four Roses distillery is located in the town of Lawrenceburg, Kentucky and is one of the famous whiskey state's largest distilleries. It was founded in 1888 and the annual production is eight million litres. Much of this is released under the Four Roses name. This Small Batch is released annually and forms part of the Four Roses' core range, which includes the best selling Yellow Label and a Single Barrel release.

The Four Roses Small Batch 2017 Edition is bottled at the natural strength of 54.3% ABV and is available via specialist spirits retailers in selected markets. The price should be around £100 per bottle. We were privileged to sample the new whiskey in the company of Brent Elliott, the Master Distiller at Four Roses.

Our tasting notes
The colour of the whiskey is deep gold and the nose is expressive with an interesting battle between sweet and spice aromas. There is an immediate hit of vanilla and golden syrup, which are then balanced by warming oak and all-spice notes. Then come later aromas of apricot and tropical fruit, especially some pineapple.

On the palate this whiskey has an initial spiciness. It reveals itself almost in the reverse to the nose. First comes the warming spice - think of all-spice, earthy ginger, white pepper and warming wood spices (think of cinnamon, cedarwood and fresh oak shavings) - and this is followed by the sweetness and fruity notes, especially once the spiciness mellows. There are lovely notes of vanilla, honey and milk chocolate and these mingle with increasingly influential tropical fruit characteristics (imagine peach, dried pineapple and a hint of apricot jam). Late hints of cocoa, dried orange peel and morello cherry add further depth and complexity.

The finish is long and warming with a bold spiciness and dryness. The warmth and oakiness lingers and begins to soften and fade with time. The vanilla, honey and apricot-like sweetness begins to come through, especially late on.

What's the verdict?
The Four Roses Small Batch 2017 Edition is a delicious whiskey and one that has multiple layers of depth and complexity. Sweet characteristics go up against the warm spices and woody notes, which in turn go up against an expressive confected fruitiness. The combination is very good and packs a hefty punch. A splash of water softens it, but also seems to take something away. We prefer it neat and it drinks very well.