November 8, 2014

Revenge of the Roses - Part 3!

Welcome to Revenge of the Roses Part 3!  In the first two episodes we took down the Four Roses secret formula in terms of mashbills and yeasts.  Today we're back to continue breaking down the different yeasts.  Geeky investigation of the highest degree!  Today we'll try all the "OE" - high-corn - varieties: OESF, OESK, OESO, OESQ, and OESV.

OESF (10 Years 6 Months, 56.6%)

Of the more mellow high-corn varieties, this is the spicy and bold one.  Really nice!  Holding the mellow and smooth quality of the corn against a really nice spicy minty kick.

OESK (10 Years 4 Months, 55.7%)

This one's very creamy and lightly fruity.  Mellow tangerine cream!

OESO (11 Years, 56.0%)

Back to spicy here with some rich herbal goodness and some deep fruits but still a smooth rich backdrop.

OESQ (10 Years 1 Month, 59%)

This is way out front with sweet fruits.  Citrus, pineapples, oranges, bananas, and stone and sweet.

OESV (10 Years, 57.2%)

All comes together here with both the spice and the sweet fruity citrus, cream, and rich wood...

Phew Again!

Yeah this has really been a lot of whiskey to taste.  And we're just getting started!!  As far as favorites go, the best of the "E" mashbill are the OESF and the OESV.  Just awesome mellow but still bold flavors.  Again, again, these are all cask strength samples and so they're pretty bold by definition.  Anyway this has been a friggin crazy good time.

The Yeasts Explained

So across yesterday and today we tasted all ten different recipes.  The mashbill difference is obvious.  The "OB" high-rye mashbill is bold and spicy, kicking and hot.  The "OE" high-corn mashbill is mellow and smooth, fruity and sweet.

The yeasts are a little more difficult to distinguish.  Across the OE and OB mashbills we tried all five yeasts.  Some had obvious characteristics.  The "Q" yeast for example is obviously the most fruity, showing melons, stone fruits, and citrus across both tastings.  The "F" seems to have the most mint to it, and stayed rich and spicy across both bottles.  "K" produced a "creamy" taste both times although the two K bottles tasted very very different.  "O" comes across with the most herbal / floral notes.  And "V" was the most difficult to pin down, sort of a well-rounded taste combining spice and fruit.

Four Roses has a whole breakdown of the different yeasts here.  Our experience was pretty similar although there were definitely some differences...

The Origin of the Yeasts

One of our guest judges, Ari Susskind broke down his theory of the origin of the yeasts.  He's an absolute Four Roses nut and has been researching the various brands that were acquired along the way and finally came under the ownership of Four Roses.  His theory is that each different yeast comes from a different original brand or distillery.  This makes sense because a brand's yeast is sort of like its "secret sauce" and many master distiller's take extreme measures to preserve and protect the secrecy of their particular strain.

Ari's theory is that "F" yeast comes from the Fairfield Distillery in Nelson County, KY.  "K" comes from Athertonville.  "V" comes from Calvert in Louisville.  The other two "O" and "Q" come from one of two places: Old Prentice Distillery or Cynthiana.  Thanks Ari!  If anyone out there has any thoughts on this, let us know.  Honestly this is way over our heads in terms of the history of the brand, but we thought it was interesting.

Stay Tuned!

Ok so we're done with the ten recipes and hopefully we have some skills and knowledge when it comes to all the different variables that come together in a Four Roses bourbon!  Now all we can do is to move on to the Jim Rutledge special selected Limited Edition bottles.  Aw yeah, it's on baby!  Tune in tomorrow!


  1. That yeast lineage theory is really interesting. Could explain a lot when its all said and done.

    I didn't keep my notes from my 10 recipe go around, but determining the MB was fairly easy, the yeast perhaps also over a lot of experience...even blind.

    I did learn I'm not a fan of 'B' and would take the malty 'E' over it for my $$. My guess is OESF wins.

  2. Someone at the distillery told me that the yeasts indeed were specific to different distilleries. Seagram's wanted consistent product, but the water was profoundly different in the different locations, so they used different yeasts to compensate. Just what I was told...

  3. Here are some more notes from Ari:
    "Those five distilleries (including Four Roses) were owned by Segrams at one time. As Segrams sold the first four off they took some of the distillery's yeast back to Four Roses so that they would be able to continue making the style bourbon from the sold off distillery (which was important for their blends). Then when Segrams sold Four Roses they were left with these five scientifically guarded distinct yeasts. Four Roses has a lab maintain multiple samples of each yeast which are tested for mutation in order to keep them from changing."

    interesting stuff eh?