November 27, 2013

War of the Roses Part 2: Review - Four Roses Limited Edition Single Barrel 2012

First of all, if you're tuning in to War of the Roses for the first time, rewind and start with yesterday's post introducing the series...

Benching Mariano

Here's a story for you.  Frankfort Distilling Company introduced Four Roses in 1910.  Skipping past Prohibition, by the 1930's it was the top selling bourbon in the United States.  It stayed on the charts for thirty years, remaining the number one bourbon brand in the country through the 1950's.  Seagram had acquired the distillery in 1943.  In the late 50's, despite it being the most widely sold American whiskey ever, Seagram decided to cease production.  That would be like benching Mariano Rivera after he closed out Game 5 of the 2000 World Series.  Blended whiskey was finding its heyday in the '50s and Seagram Whiskey had the bright idea of blending Four Roses with neutral grain spirits to produce what was no doubt a thoroughly vile and undrinkable swill.  This travesty lasted for almost fifty years!  Then at long last in the early 2000's, the distillery changed hands from Seagram to Vivendi to Diageo to Kirin (ownership spanning the globe from Canada to France to Britain to Japan).  Kirin shelved the blended swill and blessedly rededicated the brand to straight bourbon whiskey.  

2012 Limited Edition Single Barrel

Our next all-star is the 2012 Single Barrel (4R12SiB in whiskey-speak).  Or in Pacino's words, "We're just gettin' WARMED UP!"  

So what do we know about this beast?

It's significantly lower proof than the '11: 51.9% (104 proof instead of 118!).

It's also 12 years old, the same as the '11.

The recipe is:

O - Originally distilled at Four Roses

E - The mashbill (recipe) is:

75% Corn
20% Rye
5% Malted Barley

S - It's a Straight Bourbon Whiskey (i.e. aged at least two years in first-fill oak barrels)

K - The specific yeast strain is characterized as "Spicy, Full Body"

Tasting Notes

Appearance:  Somewhere between pale gold and bronze.

Nose:  There's an immediate jump here from 2011.  The raw essences we found in that bottle have come together and become integrated into a cherry honeysuckle flower.  It's a lighter spirit, but even neat with a fair comparison against the 2011 with water, it's obviously more balanced and less hot.

Palate:  Rich and dry, we've got the wood flavors and spices coming out first with cumin, mesquite, and birch bark.  The sweetness is layered underneath like a sweet honey BBQ sauce.

Finish:  A quicker finish than the '11, but again more balanced.  The burn is fading and the sweet flowers are staying longer on the tongue.

Review:  A very enjoyable whiskey.  It's a big spirit, raw in its characters but coming together into a strong and distinctive taste.  We're starting to see a signature here in Four Roses: florals and spice with refined heat, wood, and an undercurrent of sweetness.

Next up, tomorrow is 2013 Single Barrel...   /SB

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