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.