Oh Taste & See: Four Roses Bourbon

I've always been intrigued by Four Roses Bourbon. I think the mystique comes from the fact that it wasn't available in the U.S. for over 40 years while the brand was owned by Seagram's. During that time Four Roses became immensely popular around the world - it's Japan's #1 selling bourbon - and it has finally started to become widely available again in the U.S. over the last several years. As soon as I saw a bottle for sale in Pennsylvania I scooped it up and started enjoying this very nice everyday sipping bourbon. The "yellow label" bottle is the standard Four Roses expression, although they also make several small batch and premium products as well, some of which still aren't available in the U.S. In Pennsylvania Four Roses Yellow Label sells for $18.99 - in the same range as Jim Beam or Wild Turkey - but carries a bit more mystique than those more commonly-known brands. It also has a distinct flavor profile that makes it extremely smooth and easy too drink - no wonder it's so popular worldwide.

Color: Classic young bourbon - pale caramel color with a bit of an orange tinge to it.

Nose: Very light nose, with an almost neutral watery scent at first. After a few swirls it opens up to hints of grain, char, and a peppery spice.

Flavor: Four Roses is a light, almost fruity bourbon. It tastes very fresh and has all the requisite bourbon flavors (oak, vanilla, grain, char) without letting any of them come through too strongly. There's also a hint of sweet butter in the taste. Four Roses blends 10 different straight bourbons to make their Yellow Label expression. Perhaps this blending is why it's such a very drinkable, classic bourbon but is also fairly nondescript and unoriginal.

Finish: Smooth and quick, a little spiciness left behind, but that's it.

My verdict is that taste-wise Four Roses is good. Certainly as good as other bourbons in the $15-$20 price range, and very smooth and light if you're looking for an easy-sipping drink. It would also make a good mixer in drinks where you don't want too much bourbon flavor. Still, the best thing about Four Roses is its mystique: if you're going to take a bottle of bourbon to a party and your budget max is $20 you can't go wrong with one of the world's favorite whiskeys that many Americans still haven't heard of.


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