November 29, 2013

War of the Roses Part 4: Review of Four Roses 2012 Limited Edition Small Batch

Thanks for tuning in for part four of our Four Roses holiday marathon.  If you're just joining us, rewind to episode one and start from the beginning...

Small Batch

So the past three reviews have touched on some of the different Four Roses recipes via their Single Barrel expressions, giving us the chance to explore the uniqueness of each taste.  Let's dive a little more deeply into the ten distinct recipes that Four Roses produces.

There are two different proportions of grains used.  The OE mashbill has 75% corn and 20% rye.  The OB mashbill has 60% corn and 35% rye.  Both have 5% malted barley.

There are five different strains of yeast used in the recipes (5 yeasts x 2 mashbills = 10 recipes).  The yeast codes are as follows:
V – Delicate fruity flavor
K – Slight spicy character
O – Robust fruitiness
Q – Floral essence
F – Light herbal essence

Big Jim

Jim Rutledge is the Master Distiller at Four Roses and is the mastermind behind the Small Batch blends.  Jim picks and chooses specific batches of barrels, mixing the above recipes to find the ideal balance of flavor for each years Limited Edition Small Batch release.  Jim's been doing this a long time.  He's been Master Distiller since 1995, but has worked for Four Roses for more than four decades.  We met Jim at an event recently and all we can say is that he's very serious about his whiskey.  

So What Do We Know About This Beast?

It's a combination of four batches: a 17-Year OBSV (that's the fruity, creamy profile), an 11 year version of the same variation, a 12-year OBSK (that's the spiciest recipe), and a 12-year OESK (full-bodied).  It comes in at 55.7%, right in the middle of the 4R proofs that we've been tasting.

Tasting Notes

Appearance:  Rose gold with hints of rust.

Nose:  The first hit is the wood and leather.  Old school men's club chairs with decades of leather polish soaked in.  Hints of maduro cigars.  Next up, baking spices: gingerbread, brown butter, brown sugar melting in batter.  Then the heat: cracking grain over dandelions, chile peppers, and sage.

Palate:  Damn that's tasty.  The big sweetness wraps the tongue and then the oak and spice emerge at the back of the mouth.  Just an incredible balance.  The rich sweetness is there, but instead of an oily texture, it's smack in the middle of the crisp dry wood.

Finish:  There's not a hint of burn on this one.  The warm spirit just floats away on the back of the notes of candy, fresh baked cookies, and at the end... maybe a hint of banana?  

Review:  And absolutely rare experience.  Big, deep, sweet, spicy, as mature tasting as any bourbon we've tried without being over-wooded.  What an incredible holiday treat this bottle is!  Simply extraordinary.  

Tune in tomorrow for the fifth rose, the 2013 Limited Edition Small Batch 125th Anniversary.  


  1. What a terrific series of tastings. It's amazing how many flavors and aromas Big Jim can coax out of corn, rye, mash and wood. Wasn't lucky enough to find any that you've reviewed except for tomorrow's treat, which I think you're going to enjoy as much as I do. Cheers!

    1. Thanks for reading! It was an amazing experience trying them all back to back. Now that it's over I can say that yes the 125th is amazing, but if you can ever get the chance to try this one, the 2012 SmB, it really is just one of the most spectacular whiskies we've ever had. Now it's back to scotch for a while with a range of Kilchomans!!!

  2. walked into bar yesterday and ordered the 4R small batch LE as treat to myself. Imagine how much more excited I was when I discovered it was the 2012! amazing. absolutely delicious