Four Roses Small Batch Review

Four Roses Small Batch Review

Four Roses Small Batch blends barrels of OBSO, OBSK, OESO and OESK together into a rich and velvety liquid that, like everything else Four Roses puts out, is magnificent. If you’re not sure what all of those esoteric letters mean visit Four Roses to see all 10 bourbon recipes Four Roses uses. Though all you really need to know is that this is a truly delicious blend of Four Roses characteristics and that it being a small batch blend, can change a bit from bottling to bottling over the years. Not nearly as much as the single barrel bourbons do, but if you keep drinking them for long enough (or if you keep notes… or a blog) you’ll probably notice some variation.

Currently “small batch” whiskey doesn’t have a legal definition but is loosely defined as a whiskey that is created by blending a small amount (relatively speaking) of barrels before bottling. Maker’s Mark defines a small batch whiskey as “approximately 1,000 gallons or less (20 barrels) from a mash bill of around 200 bushels of grain”. However, Kentucky Bourbon Distillers only use 12 barrels, at most, in each batch of their small batch releases. Then you have George Dickel who uses about 10 barrels to make each batch of it’s small batch (Barrel Select) releases. I wasn’t able to find exactly how many barrels go into each batch of the Four Roses Small Batch, but I’d bet it’s far more than 20.

Four Roses Small Batch Info

Region: Kentucky, USA

Distiller: Four Roses
Mashbill: OBSO, OBSK, OESK, OESO
OB = 60% Corn, 35% Rye, 5% Malted Barley OE = 75% Corn, 20% Rye, 5% Malted Barley
Cask: New Charred Oak
Age: NAS
ABV: 43%

Price: $35

Four Roses Small Batch Review

EYE
Amber

NOSE
This bottle has a remarkable amount of caramel in it with a strong rye presence sitting shotgun. Cinnamon, dark fruit, a light citrus and a slightly floral character are the chief backseat drivers in this buggy. Tied up in the trunk is a bit of vanilla.

PALATE
Again the caramel and rye are upfront and in charge, but this time it’s leather, pepper, cinnamon, nutmeg, vanilla, corn and some oak keeping them company on this flavor road trip.

FINISH
Long winding finish of caramel, toffee, sweet grains, oak with a slight kick from the alcohol.

BALANCE, BODY & FEEL
Great balanced, medium body and mostly a smooth ride with only a minor rough patch or two as it cruises over the palate.

OVERALL
How a distillery defines small batch is less important than how the whiskey tastes. In the case of the Four Roses Small Batch it tastes great just like the rest of their products. Overall it’s a tremendously tasty and reliable release from a distillery that can seemingly do no wrong right now. Rich with caramel and rye the combination of sweet and spicy is enchanting and delectable.

Four Roses Small Batch is also a well balanced whiskey with the spice sitting in a nice juxtaposition to the sweet. It’s the kind of whiskey I could drink all night and not get bored with. I wish more of the events I attend for work would stock this (or even the Four Roses Yellow) instead of the typical Jack, Jim and Johnnie. If any Los Angeles event planners are reading this I implore you to add it. It’s not an expensive whiskey and will make a great addition to your open or cash bar events.

SCORE: 87/100 (B+)

Four Roses Small Batch Review - Score Breakdown
  • Nose - 88
  • Palate - 87
  • Finish - 87
  • Balance, Body & Feel - 87

Summary

Four Roses Small Batch is an awesome bourbon and you should get some today!

Four Roses Small Batch Label

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Four Roses Small Batch: Last Glass Update (06-25-16)
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Over the course of drinking through this Four Roses Small Batch I didn’t end up liking it any more or less. My notes and impressions stayed about the same and the only real change was in my overall appreciation of what a good value this whiskey is in today’s whiskey climate. Seriously, just an awesome daily drinker.

FINAL VERDICT: If you’re a bourbon drinker, Four Roses Small Batch should be a staple in your home bar.

Josh Peters
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Josh Peters

I read about, think about, write about, and drink whisk(e)y. In short, it's my passion.
Josh Peters
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36 Responses to Four Roses Small Batch Review

  1. Josh: I love your post (I check them out daily) and am just starting to build my bar collection of bourbons. Do you think this 4Roses SB would work in a Manhattan since it has obvious rye spice or use it strictly as a sipper?

    • First off, thank you very much 🙂 Second, this definitely works well in a Manhattan, Old Fashioned, Sazerac, Fedora, etc. I’m a big fan of cocktails and in my opinion almost any whisk(e)y is fair game for cocktail making because you can’t ruin a good whiskey with a good cocktail (or vice versa), but you can definitely ruin a good cocktail with bad whiskey.

      The only time I don’t use a certain whiskey in a cocktail is if it’s rare or if I paid enough for it that the thought of drinking it any way but neat or with a splash of water makes me cringe. So no real hard guideline on this one other than my own (or your own) personal feelings.

      Hope that helps. Cheers!

      • Eagerly awaiting the arrival of my first four roses single barrel. Started on JD and Jim Beam as pickings a bit slim in UK dabbled with Makers, Woodford and Bulleitt. Should be with me Tuesday along with a WT101 and JDSB away in Europe so picked up a JD Silver Select duty free will let you know how they all pour.

  2. Having some tonight. I lack the descriptive abilities of many whiskey reviewers, but let me say this is very nice bourbon. Wild Turkey has been my recent daily drinker, and I like this better. Spicier than the Elijah Craig 12 I used to favor, and still occasionally like.

    Sometimes I like a bourbon with a little less rye, sometimes with a little more.

  3. Well, damn. Too much spice. Nose seems thin/bright. Finish doesn’t have the heft I like. For my taste, this veers too rye.

  4. I have never seen Four Roses in my neck of the woods before so I thought I’d give it a whirl. I tried a couple sips straight up first and its pretty dang smooth for a $35 bottle. When it comes to bourbons I’m mainly a Makers Mark man but this is right up there with it for sure. Sadly however I have to mix with soda otherwise I get some pretty nasty heartburn when I drink bourbons.

    • That sucka bout the heartburn but that’s great to hear about the Four Roses. It’s rare I don’t have a bottle of it in the house, such tasty stuff and at such a great price too!

  5. I just opened a bottle of this. It’s my first four roses bourbon ($40), and I like it, and would buy it again. It has a nice fruity caramel spicy nose. Mouth feel is velvety, sweet fruit, spice, black liquorice and mint. Finish is pretty long with caramel, liquorice and wet tobacco. Very nice dram. Is the single barrel better than this?

    • Hey Jack,

      I would say that for the most part yes they are, but being a single barrel product the quality is going to change from bottle to bottle. Though I’ve had very few that I would say were not as good as the small batch that was available at the time. Around here I can get the Single Barrel for only about $5-$7 more than the SB and I go for it every time.

      Cheers!

      • Thanks for the reply. I noticed that you haven’t done a review for Elmer T. Lee single barrel. Any idea when that one gets released or becomes available in stores?

        • Hey Jack,

          I’m not sure on the release schedule for that one. I have an ETL I just haven’t cracked open yet so a review will be coming sometime soon, just don’t know exactly when yet 🙂

  6. This bourbon usurped Maker’s Mark as my go-to. My favorite use is in an upper shelf Manhattan.

    In a rocks glass, combine:

    Ice
    2oz Four Roses Small Batch
    1oz Dolin Sweet Vermouth
    Splash of bitters (I prefer lemon or blood orange for character)
    Garnish with 1-3 Amarena Cherries*.

    Cheers.

    *Note: You can use Luxardo cherries but they’re already so saturated they can’t absorb some of the cocktail.

    • If it’s a regular single barrel (50%) then it’s OBSV, that’s the one that goes out. If it’s a store selection (gold neck & cask strength) then it should say on the bottle. if it doesn’t then ask the store who picked it and they will be able to tell you.

      • I am with you, Amy! I think that what you and I have experienced as dill is what many others experience as a hint of mint in a rye-forward expression. This actually recalls bulleit a bit, fior me: another rye-heavy mash bill. glad you’re digging it,too. I still feel that, as for bourbon, there’s Booker’s and then there’s everything else–but this is nice stuff, as is the single barrel. Enjoy!

  7. What’s not to love?… This FR small batch has a nice, delicate nose. I’m getting rye, floral and lots of dill (is that weird?). There’s a pleasant burn with the vanilla and rye.
    And the finish… mmm, vibrant, mouthwatering, smokey, and a bit of citrus.
    Is there ever a bad Four Roses? Definitely worth keeping on the whiskey shelf.

    • Cheers Amy. Can’t say I’ve ever had a “bad” Four Roses but I have had some “meh” single barrels. Though even in those cases I didn’t have a problem finishing the glass!

  8. This one is just okay for me. It was on sale the other day, so I picked up a bottle hoping maybe it was my inexperience with bourbon that kept me from liking the first bottle I tried. It just seems thin and hot to me. I think I’ll use this one as a mixer and hopefully appreciate it in that capacity. The superb Single Barrel is definitely worth the extra bucks.

  9. This is not your typical jelly glass whiskey. For me, it needs at minimum a small brandy snifter or a glen cairn to nose it. It also needs air and a bit of water – not much. And, patience.Then the aromas and palate open up and gently so. Pepper is there, but the vanilla sugar shows up in the finish.

    The bottle I just finished took a bit of work but finally came through as fine bourbon. The floral essence is there. It is a bit light, like Bushmills SM, but not as fruity or complex.

    This is certainly one that is enjoyable if patience is exercised. Subtle. Competing yeasts, I think. I’m about 25 minutes in and that last large sip was all vanilla sugar and a bit of pepper.
    This will not numb the palate.

  10. One of the whiskeys I always want to have on hand. Very good with lots of flavors to hold your interest. I cannot believe how low the price is for this quality of bourbon. Yellow label is also a good choice.

  11. I know, I commented already. But this bottle is exceptional!
    Four Roses small batch has become my go-to whiskey. It’s a favorite and for the money ($30) it’s an easy choice. So tonight, seeing my whiskey shelf quite empty, I made a whiskey run…
    This small batch is so delicious I’m planning on running out to get at least another bottle, maybe two. I’m so blown away by the difference! This batch has the most beautiful, floral note I don’t want it to end. Good grief! This is the best Four Roses I’ve ever tasted! I wish I could share this bottle with y’all – it’s that good. Mmmm…

  12. This FRSB is ridiculous. Not very complex, but the caramel flavor is so pronounced and concentrated. I did not notice any harshness in this whiskey at all. Powerful flavor and a superb creamy mouthfeel. I love it.

    • I need to pick up a more recent batch and try it again. I’ve definitely noticed subtle changes in it over the years. Sometimes a little better, sometimes a little worse than this one I reviewed, but it’s always good. Cheers!

  13. Josh, great review on the Four Roses Small Batch. Just bought my first bottle and loved it! It for sure has a spot on my top shelf next to my Blanton’s, Buffalo Trace and Woodford Reserve!!

  14. Josh I did not read every comment so someone else may have answered but the staff at Four Roses tell me that 30 barrels or so are used in the small batch.

  15. Hi,

    This is my go-to bourbon right now. I used to have Buffalo Trace on hand but the smoothness of Four Roses Small Batch had me switch. I really love all of the Four Roses products but I was wondering if anyone could suggest something similar to this small batch for me to try. For some background on my tastes, I dislike ryes and wheated bourbons and I want to stay away from cask strength too. I wasn’t impressed with the regular Elijah Craig but the cask strength was great. My other favorite is Elmer T Lee.

  16. I’m running a blind bourbon challenge for work tonight and I did not have time to buy or research bourbons. I had to rely on my coworker and the kindness of the liquor store to pick some good ones. Your site has been invaluable making sure I don’t sound like a blubbering idiot when I get the inevitable questions.

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