Tag Archives: Four Roses

Four Roses Yellow

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.

Stats:

– $20ish

– 80 proof

– Made by Four Roses Distillery (acquired a few years ago by Kirin)

Presentation:

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.

Tasting:

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.

Over all:

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.

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Jim Beam Black

Surely, one of the first bourbons I ever tasted was Jim Beam – probably the white label variety and probably with more attention paid to the effects of the drink than its characteristics, sadly.  This is a classic brand that has maintained its status as the standard for Kentucky bourbon for many years.  As a result, it’s difficult to look at a bottle of Jim Beam Black with a fresh and critical set of eyes.

Presentation:

JBB is aged 8 years – twice that of the white label and one year short of Beam’s Knob Creek.  The packaging strays little from the design of the mainline variety, sporting the familiar signature, family tree, red seal, and typeface.  The marketing copy on the side is relatively understated in both its description of the product as well as in the coy humility inserted at the end: “…we know a little about making exceptional bourbon.”

All in all, the packaging is what you expect from Jim Beam, it is one of the standards against which other whiskeys judge their appearance.  The grabs at nostalgia here seem more genuine than fetish-object: the signature at the bottom was introduced decades ago as a hedge against trademark infringement (forgery carrying a higher penalty than the infringement itself).

What can one really say about this bottle?

Tasting:

There is nothing overpowering in the nose of Jim Beam Black, nor is there anything overly complex.  Notes of floral sweetness, oak, and fruit present themselves and quietly retreat.

On the palate Black is much more assertive.  Immediately the corn-driven sweetness is prominent at first, followed by something akin to berries, fresh legumes, and char.  The finish is largely clean with a hint of lingering spice.

Over all:

The similarity between Jim Beam Black and Knob Creek is certainly clear, yet it seems that Knob Creek’s extra year in the barrel made significant difference in the product.  Black is punchier than Four Roses, more interesting than Bulleit, but falls short of Knob Creek in terms of depth and complexity.  Regardless, with the lower price, this would be a good buy.

Four Roses – Small Batch

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.

Presentation:

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.

Tasting:

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.