November 6, 2014

Revenge of the Roses: All Ten Recipes and this year's Limited Editions!!!

Last year's War of the Roses was some of the best fun we've ever had.  We lined up five season's worth of Four Roses Limited Edition Single Barrel and Small Batch bourbons and had a battle to the death.  The 2012 Small Batch emerged as king of the roses with the 125th Anniversary Small Batch coming in a close second.

Well damn if it ain't bourbon season again and the roses are back.  How can we top last year's ultimate showdown?  Well this year The Party Store unleashed a line up of cask strength bottles of ALL TEN four roses recipes.  For your bourbon nerds out there who've been trying to figure out exactly the difference between OBSQ and OESV, we're going to tell you!

The ten recipes thing is pretty over the top. But of course we couldn't leave out this year's Limited Edition bottles. So once we're through with the ten recipes, we're lining up the 2014 Single Barrel and Small Batch. And then, just to make sure we've covered all the bases, we'll pit this year's releases against the mythical 2012 and 125th Anniversary Small Batch!  We thought about calling it FourTEEN Roses, but we liked this better:


The Recipes

First day stuff: Let's start breaking down the enigmatic codes that make up Four Roses' ten different recipes.  Each code has four letters, but only two of them matter.

  1. O = The first letter is always "O" and means that this barrel was distilled by Four Roses in Lawrenceburg, Kentucky.
  2. B   or   E = The second letter is either "B" or "E".  This letter represents the "mashbill" or in other words the proportion of each ingredient used to make the bourbon.  The mashbill should determine the overall character of the whiskey.
    • "B" means that it's a "high rye" recipe of 60% corn, 35% rye, and 5% malted barley. 
    • "E" means that it's a "high corn" recipe of 75% corn, 20% rye, and 5% malted barley.
  3. S = The third letter is always "S" and means that it's a straight bourbon.  If you don't know what that means, start here: What Is Bourbon?.
  4. F, K, Q, O, or V = The last letter indicates the type of yeast that's been used.  These different yeasts are responsible for the different specific flavor notes in the whiskey, like fruitiness, spiciness, floral and herbal influences.  
High Corn vs High Rye

Our tasting crew each picked one yeast variation and blind tasted the high-rye "B" mashbill vs the high-corn "E" mashbill.  We all noticed the difference right away.  No matter what the yeast, the the "B" high-rye version was way sharper, spicier, and hotter.  The high-corn version was a lot more mellow, farther back, and much less in your face.  

On the nose the characteristics of the "B" high-rye mashbill shared a bunch of common notes like "spicy" "heat" "sharp" "rich" and "caramel".  The high corn "E" recipes shared notes like "soft" "mellow" "sweet/fruity" "floral" and "creamy".  

The taste backs up that distinction.  The additional rye gave the whiskey much more of a nasal, top-of-the-palate kick that woke up the senses.  On the palate the high-corn was more subdued, you might say "smoother" but with much less punch.  

Well that's it for today.  Tune in tomorrow when we start to break down the different yeasts and get even nerdier with our Four Roses obsession.  Then of course the big finale when we try the coveted 2014 Limited Edition bottles!  Stay Tuned.  


  1. Awesome stuff guys. I had the opportunity to do all 10 myself recently. Great learning experience for sure. Looking forward to your feedback.

    Seems more and more store chains are jumping on this bandwagon. I know Binny's and Spec's both did all 10 barrel buys recently.

    1. Thanks funky! Yeah I think it's really cool for stores to do this. It would be even cooler if they did 375ml versions so that more people could pick up all 10. hint hint... Thanks for being a regular reader! Let us know if you're ever around NYC and want to take part in one of these tasting marathons...

  2. is a fun time to enjoy all--cannot wait to read all your comments--truly learn a lot about the subtle differences of each and can definitely pick out some favorite recipes...

    1. Thanks Alpop! Couldn't have done it without you.


  3. I've been reading and enjoying your posts for some time now. It's always great to try the different roses recipes, having all ten to compare sounds pretty awesome!

    Out of curiosity do you find these roses LE and Small Batch bottles around NYC or do you trade for them/ buy them online? I seem to have a hard time finding these limited releases anywhere in the city!

    1. Right on Casey! Sadly no, the LE bottles are unicorns these days. But if you're around NYC and want to swing by and taste the whole set, let us know!