Four Roses Yellow Label Bourbon

Bourbon, for me, is a funny animal. Pappy tastes like Pappy, rye tastes spicy, and everything else ends up with the same tasting notes: corn syrup, cinnamon, and wood. With scotch, I find that the range of flavors is wide and each dram has a lot of deep or subtle notes that can be teased out and written about. Every bourbon I taste gives me the same three-note writeup. Clearly this is a failing of my own, since “the whisky people” (as I call them) are universally championing the cause of American whiskey, and everybody seems to love the stuff.

It was with this trepidation that I approached a K&L tasting of Four Roses bourbon. Knowing that the Yellow Label is sold in plastic liter jugs didn’t help. I learned that distiller Jim Rutledge at Four Roses has implemented a system whereby the distillery uses 2 different mashbills (60% corn/35% rye and 75% corn/20% rye), and five different yeast strains, yielding a possible 10 recipes. It is from these recipes that each of their labels and brands are made. I also learned that Yellow Label actually – surprise! – tastes good. In a blind tasting, I would have associated this with some $30 bourbons I’ve had – not the top of the heap, by any stretch, but certainly drinkable straight. That’s not bad for bottom shelf.

This particular label uses a recipe with 28-29% rye content, which is much higher than competitive products. 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.

Nose: Lots of corn. Warm & spicy with toasted spices like caraway and ground cinnamon. Yeasty – like baking bread.

Palate: Anise. A little bitter, some acetone? Wood & more spices. Some nice red-hots.

Finish: Warming, but now reveals itself as a little cheap through some rough, young alcohol.

Overall: Not as bad as I thought for a bottom-shelfer. I would pick this over similarly-priced products.

Four Roses Yellow Label Bourbon
40% ABV
ScotchNoob™ Mark:
Price Range: $13 - $20
Acquired: (1/4 oz pour) K&L Spirits Tasting

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  • Nice review, one of my favorite bottom shelf bourbons as well as single barrel producers. Small correction, I believe it is 2 mashbills and 5 yeast strains.

  • Agree. I don’t think it’s just you. Although I really like bourbon, that’s one of the big reasons I’ve started spending MORE on scotch instead – flavour diversity. I don’t like rye and dislike most Canadian Whiskies, but strangely, Four Roses I like quite a bit.

  • I Agree with your aniseed and too alcohol notes. I really wanted to like 4 roses as it’s drank in Zombie Holocaust. Yellow is like liquid aniseed with little too strong alcohol.On the good side there’s I got a littlebuttery maple note and an intertesting marshmallow note. Maybe if Yellow was fluffy and sticky like a mashmellow then 4 roses could be a winner. I would recommand Old Grand Dad over 4 roses yellow.

  • I thoght I would stock my shelf… read all these reviews. An old sage I knew said rye was his synaptic lubricant. I bought this poured a taste and well I don’t like bourbon. I just taste wood… somewhat bitter wood. The alcohol burn is smoother than mouthwash though. I guess I am a rum and tequila person. I don’t drink anything but 2 beers and a bottle of fine red wine most months. Have fun tasting… the descriptions sound tempting… but the reality is I’ve never liked the brown stuff. Cheers!