November 10, 2014

Revenge of the Roses Part 5! - Battle of the Limited Edition Small Batch

Ok folks here it is...  The big finale.  

Four Roses Limited Edition Small Batch 2012 & 2013 both won Whisky Advocate's American Whiskey of the Year. This sent the brand's annual Limited Edition releases skyrocketing into Pappy Van Winkle stature in terms of reputation and, sadly, availability. Our last War of the Roses put these beauties to the test and we found out that it was by no means just hype. The 2012 was one of the best bourbons we'd ever tasted, and the 2013 was right up there if maybe a half a step behind.

This year's LE Small Batch is made from a younger mix of 9, 11, 12, and 13 year old barrels rather than the previous years which had 17 and 18 year bourbons in the mix. Would it measure up to the glory of 2012 and 2013? We got to taste this year's release and also were lucky enough to try a 2010 Small Batch! Spoiler, all four of these are tremendously good whiskeys. Remarkable!

Four Roses Limited Edition Small Batch 2010

Wow, we were excited when our guest judge Ari reached into his bag and pulled out an unopened bottle of this bad boy! "When you told me you were tasting all the Small Batches, I noticed I had this one lying around and this seemed like the perfect excuse to pop it open!" said Ari. Indeed!

Nose: Spice, vanilla, tangerine/orange, light and bright, minty. Very lively and bright nose.
Palate: This one is so alive. Quite vibrant and lovely with a little of the spice and vanilla layered under fruity, citrusy, light and bright.

Result: Great bourbon! Maybe not quite as earth-shattering as the 2012 & 2013, but it's almost like this is the first novel in a great series and it's cool to watch it grow into your favorite character. We'd drink this stuff all day!

Four Roses Limited Edition Small Batch 2012

Through all our new trials, recipes, tastes, and comparisons, this little bad boy reigns supreme. We're doling it out sip by sip because we probably will never find one again. Not only do we love drinking it, but we love comparing it to the new releases every year, so we may really have to bogart the last few inches of this one! It's just so deep and rich, with that old rye spice turning into leather and brown butter. Just an amazing joyful bourbon. One for the ages!

125th Anniversary Small Batch 2013

Also an unbelievable gem, our thoughts haven't changed on this one either. Actually one of our judges changed her mind and rated the 125th Anniversary higher than the 2012 this time around. That just goes to show how close they are. This one has a little more spice and balls to it than the '12 which is a tiny bit more on the warm rich and mellow side.

Four Roses Limited Edition Small Batch 2014

And the moment you've all been waiting for... This year's LE Small Batch!

Nose: The great thing about all the small batches is that they bring together all the wonderful elements of the different mashbills and recipes. The mint is there along with the big rich notes of vanilla, molasses, and brown butter. The creaminess is there, along with the fruity/citrus quality we found in some of the yeasts. The proportions are perfect, giving the light minty fruity brightness a highlight over the rich base of spice, leather, and warmth.

Results: We can tell that this one is from younger stock. It doesn't *quite* have that old rye goodness of the '12 and '13. It's still a candidate for the best bourbon of the year and we'd drink it ALL DAY! The younger character does have some shining bright spots which is the lively minty spiciness that's way out front on this bottle. It's just a wonderful thing and tasting it is a real celebration.

That's All Folks!

Well thanks for sticking with us on another ridiculous Four Roses adventure! We had a blast and hope that you enjoyed reading and are out there tracking down some delicious Four Roses of your own and sharing it with friends. The holidays are coming up, so let us know if there are any whiskies you'd like us to review for your Christmas/Chanukah/Festivus gift shopping!


  1. Funny, I still have an unopened bottle of the 2010.... and a signed bottle of the 2011. Sadly I didn't get to meet Jim but he was nice enough to sign all the Four Roses bottles at the store so I grabbed one. Incidentally, I'm surprised no one had a 2011 bottle to complete your tasting line-up. 2011 was the last year that the LE Small Batch was easy to find in California.

    1. Yeah it would have been really cool to have either the 11, or one of the 'Mariage' bottles, '08 or '09. Hard to imagine any of them beat the '12 though! Thanks for reading. Enjoy those Roses!

    2. Here's the funny thing, Jim Rutledge claimed the 2010 Small Batch was one of the finest bourbons produced at Four Roses and yet he's continued to top himself in following years.

    3. I think that's completely accurate. The 2010 was the best they'd ever made, and the 2012 and 2013 got progressively better. Seems like they ran out of the super aged 17, 18 year stocks which is too bad, but 2014 is still an amazing dram in its own right.