Oh Taste & See: Four Roses Small Batch

A few months back I took a trip to the Four Roses Distillery in Kentucky. While there I picked up a bottle of Four Roses Small Batch in the gift shop - mostly because it came packaged with a really nice rocks glass and muddler. Well I finally got around to opening up the bottle a few days ago, and given how much respect I have for Four Roses Yellow Label, I was a bit disappointed at my first few drams of the Small Batch. However, now that I'm sitting down to really taste and review it I have to say it has grown on me and it's not a bad bourbon at all.

Like all Four Roses expressions, the Small Batch is very smooth, so if you drink bourbon for the 'bite and burn' this one might not appeal to you. But if you like a nice smooth, relaxed whiskey you'll probably like it, although I'm not sure if the Small Batch (about $36) is worth the premium over the Yellow Label (about $18). My initial reaction to it was that it was medicinal and watery, but I'm coming around after a few subsequent drinks, so maybe I just need to give it some time. In any case, my impression from my current glass is below.

Color: Honey brown with orange shades here and there. A perfectly middle-of-the-road bourbon color, neither light or dark.

Nose: Light and thin in aroma, not much at all to the nose. What is there is a hint of orange and some light vanilla and caramel notes.

Flavor: The Four Roses Small Batch is smooth and easy-sipping, especially for a 90 proof, 'higher-rye' recipe. It does have some peppery notes, but I wouldn't call it spicy. There are also some vanilla, leather, and grain flavors. I am impressed that it manages to be so smooth without being overly sweet, since many bourbons use excessive sweetness to smooth out their rough edges.

Finish: This is where the Small Batch sets itself apart from the standard Four Roses Yellow Label. The finish is long and slow with all the flavors bouncing around for a good while, especially the peppery and grainy tastes. There's even a hint of pine flavor that gives it a really clean-feeling finish. Unlike some other 90+ proof bourbons the long-finish is not just alcohol burn, but is really full of nice flavors.

Overall Four Roses Small Batch is a nice bourbon, especially if you're looking for something super smooth, but still interesting to sip. I wouldn't go so far as to say that it's worth double the cost of Four Roses Yellow Label which I consider a top-notch value, but it's worth a try if you get a chance.