Four Roses Small Batch was one of the earliest bourbons I tasted for American Hooch and now I’ve come back to try their entry-level offering here in the US, the so-called ‘Yellow’. The Four Roses series is often described as a less aggressive, rounder bourbon in contrast to the the many big, oaky, charred offerings on the shelf. The Small Batch definitely lived up to that, here’s hoping that the lower-priced Yellow doesn’t mean significantly reduced quality.
- 80 proof
- Made by Four Roses Distillery (acquired a few years ago by Kirin)
The Four Roses Yellow packaging, like that of the Small Batch, has a bit of a feminine streak to it. This is likely a conscious choice to match the cognitive associations with roses, but it’s done in a very understated way: a story about a “Southern belle” on the rear label, the round edges of the bottle and labels, and – of course – the flowers.
They have done a good job of not over-doing it here. There are very few unnecessary flourishes in the script and the decoration consists of simply text and the four-rose logo. This is a good thing.
The nose is disappointingly shallow. It’s got Band-Aid and some honey-lemon in there and some sharp alcohol, but that’s about it. Not displeasing, but just not much.
On the palate, Yellow is definitely smooth. It’s also pretty fruit-driven with melon, lemon, and only the slightest bit of heat. The finish is almost non-existent making this seem like I’m drinking a very subdued cocktail instead of a straight bourbon.
There’s nothing fantastic about this bourbon, but nothing really wrong with it. It is pleasant and has a refreshing quality that you don’t see in most bourbons – so it’s got that going for it. For $20 though? Not too bad, especially if you’re new to bourbons.
The second of the Van Winkle line I’ve tried for this blog, Old Rip Van Winkle (107 proof variety) is one of the entry-level tiers of the esteemed line of bourbons that includes the famed Pappy Van Winkles. All the Van Winkles are wheated bourbons, so I’m expecting that softer edge to come through, but the extra aging (ten years total) might complicate that a bit.
Apologies for not providing my own photo here, the camera is having some battery trouble tonight.
- Old Rip Van Winkle Distillery
- 107 proof
This is definitely a package that pushes its old-timeyness to the forefront. Several different fonts adorn the front label, including an elaborate script that dominates most of the bottom half. These sorts of things usually get on my nerves, but it does avoid old-timey anonymity with the two charming storybook prints from the Rip Van Winkle tale that stand on either side of the front label. Old Rip asleep with his gun and and jug of booze make this packaging unique.
The back text, however, says nothing of substance or note and even describes the whiskey’s character as “great”.
The wood from its ten years in the barrel is very strong on the nose, but backed by a honeysuckle scent and a distant hint of smoke. When tasting it, the first impression is how strongly the high proof comes through – this is a hot one. Beyond that though, the wood character is prominent but balanced by a good amount black pepper and some of sweet apple peeking through at times. The finish is medium-long and peppery.
Once you get past its strength, this bourbon is quite good. It’s definitely something to sip slowly and I might even try it with an ice cube to tame the power a bit. Definitely not on the same level as the others in the Van Winkle family, but a something I’ll surely come back to.