Four Roses is an American whiskey distillery that is located in the town of Lawrenceburg, Kentucky. The state of Kentucky is at the heart of the whiskey industry in America with seven distilleries operating and producing numerous brands of whiskey and bourbon. Four Roses is owned by the Kirin Brewery Company from Japan and is one of Kentucky's largest distilleries, producing almost eight million litres of whiskey a year. Much of this is released under the Four Roses name, although as with many of the American distilleries they also release whiskies and bourbons under different names. These use different traditional recipes in production and the most well known example made at Four Roses is Bulleit bourbon.
For whiskey to be legally named 'bourbon', it must adher to four rules.
1 - the mixture of different cereal grains must contain at least 51% corn.
2 - the final spirit must be of an alcoholic strength of 80% ABV or less.
3 - the spirit must be matured in virgin American oak casks for a minimum of two years.
4 - no colouring must be added during any part of the process.
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This Yellow Label is a bourbon and is the biggest selling whiskey in the Four Roses range, being approximately six years of age. The colour is light and yellow brown. The nose is light also and has a lovely delicate freshness. It is loaded with vanilla, oaky woodiness, sweet cereal grains (think of corn/maize) and a citrus note (imagine lemon zest). On the palate, this offers heaps of vanilla and fresh coconut (imagine scooping out the flesh having just cracked the nut open). It has a medium refreshing body that also has those cereal and citrus elements from the nose and a delicious honey note (the clear runny variety). The finish is short but has an interesting woody bitterness to it that counteracts the previous sweetness well and makes the bourbon more balanced.
This Four Roses is lighter, fresher and more subtle than a number of the bourbons that are on the market. It would be a great choice to introduce someone to a bourbon whiskey and offers good value for the quality of product at £18-22 a bottle. It has been hard to find in the UK until recently but is now being distributed and promoted more. However, it can still largely only be found in specialist alcohol retailers.