I’m disappointed it’s taken me this long to write a review on Four Roses Small Batch Select. They’re a unique whiskey brand that is extremely open and forthcoming about exactly how their whiskey is made and what it’s made of. We’ll touch on more of that in a second.
In this Four Roses Small Batch Select Review, we’re going to cover the history, production methods, mashbills, price, and eventually the tasting notes. Is Four Roses Small Batch Select good? We’re going to find out.
Four Roses History
Let’s start at the beginning. Paul Jones Jr moved to Louisville, Kentucky back in 1884, taking with him his whiskey business. In 1888, he officially filed the trademark for Four Roses.
It’s said that a southern belle caught the eye of Paul Jones Jr. Jones Jr invited her to a ball and told her to wear a corsage of roses. She showed up with four red roses on her gown, and her beauty struck Paul Jones Jr to where he’d go on to name his whiskey after her appearance that night.
Four Roses became one of the best selling whiskeys in the US throughout the 30’s, 40’s, and 50’s until Seagram’s, the then owner of the brand, decided to halt the sales of Four Roses in the US and move it to Europe and Asia.
Finally, in 2002, Kirin Holdings purchased the Four Roses brand and all of it’s facilities. The distillery was renamed to Four Roses Distillery and the production and sales of Four Roses Bourbon was brought back to the US.
Four Roses Production
Four Roses Bourbon uses 2 mashbills and 5 different yeast strains in the production of their whiskey, making 10 unique bourbon recipes. If you’re familiar with four roses, you may be familiar with their lettering system. If not, I’ll list them below and explain.
Four Roses Recipes
Every recipe uses the letters ‘O’ and ‘S’.
- ‘O’ designated that the whiskey was produced at their Four Roses Distillery.
- ‘S’ refers to ‘straight’, as in straight bourbon.
‘B’ and ‘E’ designate the mashbill.
- Mashbill B uses 60% corn, 35% rye, and 5% malted barely.
- Mashbill E uses 75% corn, 20% rye, and 5% malted barley.
‘V’, ‘K’, ‘O’, ‘Q’, and ‘F’ designate the strain of yeast used. Each strain is meant to bring about different characteristics.
- V = delicate fruit
- K = slight spice
- O = rich fruit
- Q = floral essence
- F = herbal notes
As I mentioned, Four Roses is very open about their production methods. All of this information can be found on their website. You can head there if you want to learn more about their fermentation methods, distillation, proofing barreling and aging, and their bottling as well. They do not leave out a detail.
But, it’s time for me to get down to the details of Four Roses Small Batch Select, and then those tasting notes.
Four Roses Small Batch Select Overview
- Spirit: Straight Bourbon
- Owned By: Kirin Holdings
- Distilled By: Four Roses Distilling Co.
- ABV: 52%, 104 proof
- Aged: 6-7 years
- Mashbill: OBSV, OBSK, OBSF, OESV, OESK, OESF
- Price: $55
The first two things to note is age and proof. As a straight bourbon, the minimum age requirement is 2 years. To leave the age statement off the bottle (NAS), then it must be aged a minimum of 4 years. Four Roses ages all of their bourbon at least 5, and their Small Batch Select is aged 6-7.
At 52% ABV, this sits at a perfect level right around the 100 proof mark that so many bourbon lovers enjoy.
Lastly, the mashbill is a combination of the 6 recipes listed above. Three recipes use the ‘B’ mashbill and three use the ‘E’ mashbill. So, Four Roses Small Batch Select will have a fairly high rye content.
The 6 recipes use 3 strains of yeast – V, K, and F. According to their website, that should bring about delicate fruit, slight spice, and herbal notes.
What do you say we find out just how accurate that is.
Four Roses Small Batch Select Tasting Notes
Let’s get into the pertinent information. Is Four Roses Small Batch Select good? What does it taste like? Time to pour myself a glass!
Nose: A rich and sweet vanilla and caramel come off first. Oak and pine. The comes some cherry and citrus. Light cinnamon and honey in the background. At 104 proof, there’s some ethanol on the nose but not aggressively.
Palate: Starts out nicely but quickly with some sweet red fruit. Then comes a lot of the vanilla and caramel, and then a lot more spice on the palate than the nose, too. The flavors are rich and the mouthfeel is on the thicker side of moderate, perhaps a little grainy.
The alcohol is present, but a mild and easy sipper at 104 proof.
Finish: I see most of the earthen notes here at the end of the palate and start of the finish. It’s a nice pine straw, forest oak, and a touch of mint. Pepper and vanilla. Slightly dry from the oak, but still coats your mouth.
Yeah, Four Roses Small Batch Select is a good bourbon.
The nose seems basic. There’s some alcohol, but mostly a strong and sweet vanilla. There’s pine, and fruit, honey, and cinnamon, but it takes a back seat to the sweet vanilla.
Sipping the whiskey, the first thing I noticed was how many other flavors there really were in this bourbon. And not just background notes. These were full rich flavors in addition to the vanilla and caramel.
The finish definitely brought out some of those high rye characteristics with mint and citrus. The pine returned, and the vanilla, oak, and pepper was there to remind you that this is still a bourbon.
Well balanced and rich flavors make for a strong yet approachable sipping bourbon. I’m a fan.
Four Roses offers four bourbons as part of their year-round standard selection: Four Roses Bourbon, Small Batch, Small Batch Select, and Single Barrel.
Four Roses Bourbon uses a blend of all 10 recipes, Small Batch uses a blend of 4, Small Batch Select uses 6, and Single Barrel uses one. It may come as a surprise but Four Roses Small Batch Select is their newest and most expensive option of the four.
The best value option and safest is probably to just go for their Small Batch. It’s very good but proofed down a bit. The Single Barrel option is a little more risky as it’s a single barrel and a single recipe, but, again, it’s very good and 100 proof. Lastly, there’s the Small Batch Select which, I think, is going to be the most rich. And the highest proofed.
Four Roses will also release some single barrel cask strength options of different recipes 1 – 10. The more extreme Four Roses fans can and will figure out which their favorite recipe is and stick to that.
If you’re looking to try it all, then find the 50ml bottles to purchase. It’s not the most efficient way to drink, but it’s a cheap way to buy and test multiple options without buying full bottles.
Four Roses Small Batch Select Review Summary
I have a lot of respect for Four Roses as a company. They are extremely open about exactly what goes into their whiskey and exactly how they make it. That means something to me when a lot of companies source whiskey and slap a label on it.
Now, at the end of the day, you still have to make good whiskey. Well, Four Roses Small Batch Select is exactly that. It’s priced fairly at $55, but with it being the most expensive of their standard options, it may not be the best value play of the Four Roses line-up.
Regardless, if you don’t mind spending $50+ on a bottle of bourbon, there’s really no going wrong with this pick. I enjoyed my 50ml bottle and look forward to having a much bigger one soon.
If you cant fathom the idea of spending $50+ on a bottle of bourbon, you may like Cooper’s Craft. It’s one of my top 3 favorite bourbons under $30.