August 3, 2015

War of the Roses - Private Barrel Edition!

You're like totally uncool if you don't have your own barrel of whiskey these days. All the hipsters in Billyburg have their whiskey barrels strapped to their backs as they ride around trying not to get their enormous beards stuck in the spokes of their fixie bikes.

We've been tooting our own horn on our stellar barrel of Smooth Ambler all week. We're sure you're ready to puke if you have to read one more review of it. That's ok, we're done. But since private barrels are just so the rage right now, we're going to bust out some of our friends' private barrels and have a taste of those. As you know, we're big nuts for Four Roses, so this week we present...

War of the Roses Part Three, The Private Barrels

If you read our second War of the Roses, we explained that Four Roses creates ten distinct recipes that they blend together to produce their small batch bourbons.  Half the recipes, labelled "OB", are "high rye" with 60% corn, 35% rye, 5% malted barley. The other half are "high corn" "OE" barrels with 75% corn, 20% rye, 5% malted barley. In theory the high corn "OE" barrels should be sweeter and mellower, and the high rye "OB" barrels should be spicier. The two mashbills become ten different recipes because of the five different types of yeast they use at Four Roses, "F, K, O, Q, and V". These all have different characteristics from fruity to minty to herbal to creamy.

Choosing a Four Roses barrel seems like it's all kinds of fun since you can get familiar with these different recipes, and then taste several examples of that specific recipe across different barrels until you find your favorite. The Four Roses barrel program is prolific, and so you can find a lot of these private barrel picks around the country. When you do it's hard to go wrong picking one up. They're cask strength, come in at a pretty reasonable ~$60 price point, and are usually very high quality. Pick them up while you can before this whole thing goes crazy too!

The three barrel picks we're tasting this week come from:

Nasa Liquors, who recently treated us to an awesome SAOS choice, bottled a 10 year 2 month OESF at 55.5%.  Wine on 59, a local New York State store that's had a huge run of great barrels, chose an 10 year 11 month OBSF, coming in at a chest-hairy 61.4%. And finally the mysterious and anonymous "Bourbon Crusaders" (with a little help from Four Roses Master Distiller Jim Rutledge)  who come to the table with a promising 11 year 9 month OESK barrel 54.3%.

Without further ado, our first bottle...

Nose: Wow this is an extremely mellow nose for 111 proof hooch. You can really put your nose into the glass and there's only the tiniest bit of burn. If you've ever had Mario Batali's olive oil gelato, this is pretty close. It's super creamy and vegetal with thick sweet milkiness dominating and little pops of mint, rosemary, and sour apples hiding around the corners.

Palate: The palate remains incredibly smooth and moves in a more citrus direction, very much like lemon sorbet. Adding some water removes even the small amount of burn that might have been there originally.

Finish: Really this bottle is pure smoothness. Dangerously so. It's definitely not a spice or vanilla monster like some of the high rye bottles we love, but it gets you in a completely different direction. You could drink a whole glass of this neat, and the only way you'd know it was a cask strength bourbon would be from the warmth that comes up from your chest a minute after you finish the glass.

Review: Be careful drinking this one because it might be easy to go through a few glasses and end up on your ass without knowing what you're doing. It's not a flavor bomb but it's very delicate and well put together. Think of this as sort of like the white wine drinker's bourbon. Very smooth, light bodied and sweet with some nice little pops of fruit and herbals. Nice job as usual Nasa!

Tune in Wednesday for bottle #2!  Cheers/SB

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