...where distraction is the main attraction.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Bourbon and Rye Day Friday: Four Roses Limited Edition Small Batch 2014

Time for some more burban. This time it's the annual Four Roses LE small batch bourbon which magically hits the secondary market before anyone has opened a bottle. Though back when this edition was released, people actually drank it. One of those people was Ryan from NJ who tossed in this sample when we did a swap. Thank you, Ryan.

Designed by the beloved former distiller Jim Rutledge, the 2014 limited edition small batch is made up of 13 year old OBSV recipe bourbon, 12 year old OESV, 11 year old OBSF and 9 year old OBSK. So it's a 9 year old, for those keeping score. It does include my two favorite Four Roses recipes, OBSV and OBSK, both high-rye.

Distillery: Four Roses
Ownership: Kirin
Type: Kentucky Straight Bourbon
Region: Lawrenceberg, Kentucky
Maturation: new white oak barrels with char #3 and #4
Age: 9 years and older
Recipe: see notes above
Bottle Count: 12,516
Release Year: 2014
Alcohol by Volume: 55.9%

The nose is much gentler than I'd expected, with no alcohol heat. Cherry bubblegum, clementines, Grand Marnier and cardamom. Some roses and Nutella too. The palate is hotter, woodier. Very spicy and tannic. Cayenne pepper and ginger powder. Sticky simple syrup in the center. A savoury note in the background. The hot finish holds bitter chocolate, wood smoke, wood tannins and wood spice. Notes of Frangelico and bananas arrive late.

Feels a bit tight. Adding a little water...

WITH WATER (~46%abv)
The nose picks up a big charred marshmallow note. Vanilla fudge. Clementines and lumber. The palate has become bitterer and sweeter, both being wood driven. It's both slightly floral and nutty. With sweet corn and tangy citrus. The finish has new notes of caramel and vanilla. It keeps the palate's bitterness and tang. The bananas remain.

Though the nose is a pleasure, I'm a bit underwhelmed by the mouth. The harsh oak shuts everything down. It's more approachable with water, but the oak still reads like there's more 13yo than 9yo in the mix. To some that's great! To me, not so much. It's a palate thing. Past a certain point, pending age and warehouse conditions, the wood overwhelms all else.

It also seems like every time I have a limited or well-hyped barrel/batch Four Roses, it falls short of my expectations. In fact, I always prefer their regular $40 single barrel release (like this one). I'm not saying this limited edition is bad whiskey. It's good. But I'm okay with never drinking it again.

Back in the day, reviewers (such as here, here and here) said this was "good, but..." or it wasn't as great as the 2013 edition. I've never had the 2013 edition, but I did compare this one to Heaven Hill 6yo BIB. The $11 bourbon was much more fun.

Availability - Secondary Market
Pricing - $185-$225
Rating - 82


  1. Hi Michael,

    Limited Editions used to be fun back when they were obtainable, but for many of us who aren't "Trophy Hunters", the fun in them is largely gone. One of the thing I love most about bourbon is the consistent high quality of less expensive bourbon. I enjoyed the 2014 a lot more than you did (and the 2013 really was among my favorite LE bourbons of all time), but I generally prefer the Yellow Label, Single Barrel, and private selection bottlings to either the LE Small Batch or Single Barrel. One of the things I love most about bourbon is the consistent high quality of less expensive bourbon. I also consistently prefer bourbon in the 4-10 year range. This has been affirmed through blind, double blind, and completely witting, 100% biased tastings. It is a conclusion many eventually come to. Akin to my favorite standard bottling malt whiskies (Springbank, Benromach, Caol Ila, and some Compass Box bottlings, to name a few) drinking bourbon in the $10-$40 range is fun for me, something I think has been lost for many in the LE craze and eventual Pappiez fatigue.

    To circle back to older bourbons, I have put some thought into appropriate glassware. Much like other oak heavy spirits (older brandies, some malts), I find I get better results with one of those comically large and pretentious brandy snifters companies like Riedel make. It could be purely psychological though, as I have not put a lot of work into said hypothesis. Regardless, it is something you might try if you have one sitting around. I find that bourbon 10+ years old (especially when you get into the 15+ year range) don't often taste as good as younger bourbons do to me, but they do tend to be very enjoyable for me at rare times when I am in the mood for them.



    1. Hey Eric. I prefer the 4-10 year old range for bourbon too. It's rare that I can even palate a 12 year old bourbon. There are two comically massive brandy snifters in my cabinet as well. They work as good magnifying glasses / telescopes for low ABV or fragile spirits, for me.

  2. Oops, please forgive some of the repetitive thoughts in my previous post. Late night/early morning with a sick toddler.

    1. No worries. I have a three year old. I can understand. Hope your young trooper is back in fighting shape.