The bottle of Four Roses Small Batch was sold to me to contrast the Buffalo Trace I was purchasing at the same time. Supposedly the Four Roses would play the good cop to Buffalo Trace’s intense and bold bad cop.
Without even opening either bottle it’s pretty clear that Four Roses has something like this in mind. Small Batch comes in a distinctively feminine bottle (in shape) compared to Buffalo Trace’s prominent phallus – a bottle one would sooner expect of cognac than bourbon. This dissonance in comparison with other bourbons’ presentation is underscored by the wide-mouthed cork and raised-glass roses at the center of the face.
Overall, the presentation is quite attractive and succeeds in presenting the product as something deserving of both savor and a higher price tag. It pushes the drink away from a Buffalo Trace-style of Americana to an Americana more genteel and refined, and perhaps toward those who might otherwise shy away from bourbon.
There is at least one nod toward the manly-bourbon style: the faux-aged label that surrounds the raised-glass roses. What is it with bourbon that requires a faux-aged label? For all that Four Roses does with Small Batch to differentiate it, this is one irksome backtrack.
Upon opening a new bottle, the aromas take some time to sneak out as opposed to leaping from the mouth to our nose as a Talisker or Buffalo Trace might. When poured, the aromas manage to be both gentle and rich somehow. There is certainly a sweetness reminiscent of fruit juices and vanilla, but there’s also something resembling a distant barbecue on a summer evening. It wasn’t the easiest combination of scents to pin down, yet at the same time it has a steady presence to it.
On tasting, the sweetness certainly hits you first – the fruitiness and almost-citrus. Immediately after is a slight spiciness. These flavors are not intense but are self-assured. There’s very little wavering leading up to the very clean finish.
This would be a great bourbon to give to folks who have only experienced the Jack Daniels and Jim Beam end of things. Four Roses Small Batch is an interesting case. Simple, yet with enough depth to satisfy.