Every year around mid-September, Four Roses releases the coveted Limited Editions: A vintage-dated Single Barrel and Small Batch. However as of 2015 due to shortages of older stock, only the Limited Edition Small Batch will be released. 2015 also marks another transition at Four Roses: Legendary Master Distiller and American whiskey celebrity Jim Rutledge will be retiring this Fall. That makes the 2015 Limited Edition Small Batch the last limited release made under Jim’s direction. This fact, combined with the already ferocious demand for aged bourbon, will make 2015’s release especially hard to come by. Try not to get hurt in the stampede!
If you do secure a bottle, you’re in for a treat. A mixture of 4 different bourbons, using 3 recipes (out of the 10 Four Roses recipes) at unusually high ages: 16 year-old OBSK, 11 year-old OBSV, 15 year-old OESK, and 14 year-old OESK. To compare, the 2014 edition contained 13 year-old OBSV, 12 year-old OESV, 11 year-old OBSF, and 9 year-old OBSK.
Four Roses proudly uses only non-GMO corn, which is surprisingly (and expensive!) in this age of mass commodity production of corn. Good on you, Four Roses.
Thanks to Laura Baddish of The Baddish Group, who kindly sent me an advance tasting sample.
Nose: Potent! Bright, sweet notes of candied orange peel contrast with deep notes of toasty cereal grains, oatmeal cookies, sticky oak resin, and shellac. Something sweet as well – fresh homemade toffee.
Palate: Fiery. After setting the surface of my tongue ablaze, it finally resolves into chocolate-covered cherries, graham crackers (or gingerbread?), orange bitters, and butterscotch syrup.
Finish: Long. After the fire subsides, roasted nuts and silky oak tannins (not a hint of bitterness) coat the mouth. Fades with dried coconut shavings.
With Water: Several drops of water open up some honeysuckle, orange flower water, and makes the sugary notes more round and full. Not only does the water also make the bourbon more palatable on the tongue (taste-bud fires are now at a minimum), it reveals a wider array of oaky and brown sugar notes, plus a delectable vanilla crème brûlée. Water is a MUST with this.
Overall: Everything you expect in a well-made bourbon, but with each individual component turned up to 11. At the bottling strength of 54.25%, it’s hard to get a grasp on what’s going on beyond all the alcohol burn, so I highly recommend taming this with a little water to really appreciate the palate and get the most out of the aroma. If you can’t stand the idea of adding water, at least let it open up in the glass for several minutes. This is the kind of bourbon that you pour, sit back, and enjoy slowly over the course of a quiet evening.
I’ve marked this a “Must Try” not because I think you have much of a chance of laying your hands on a glass of this (let alone a bottle), nor that it’s necessarily worth the North-of-$100 price tag, but because I urge you to someday find and taste a Four Roses limited edition to see how refined, flavorful, and robust a masterfully crafted, well-aged bourbon can be.