Whiskey Nips: Four Roses Distillery
The Four Roses Distillery that we know today, is not the same brand that it was just a little over 25 years ago. Up until the mid 1990s, Four Roses only sold blended whiskey (basically vodka with color and flavoring added) within the US, while it’s Yellow Label bourbon was only being sold overseas. It wasn’t until 1994, under new Master Distiller Jim Rutledge, that the Four Roses standard offering, widely referred to as Yellow Label, entered the US market. It started in limited quantities in Kentucky, and soon spread throughout the nation.
Four Roses has 2 different mash bills and 5 yeasts, giving them up to 10 different single recipe combinations. Their core product, Yellow Label, is a blend of all 10 recipes. Mr. Rutledge wanted to bring prominence to the Four Roses name, and began to develop and release other products using these recipes. In 2004, Single Barrel was released. It is 1 specific recipe and bottled at 100 proof. In 2006, Small Batch was released, and is always comprised of 4 specific recipes, utilizing only 2 mash bills and 2 yeast strains, and bottled at 90 proof.
The aging of all the Four Roses products take place in a single story rickhouse with 6 racks. This is done to keep the aging consistent amongst their products and showcase what each of the 10 recipes bring to the table by changing just the yeast or mash bill. Much larger distilleries, such as Wild Turkey or Jim Beam, use only 1-2 recipes, but age in rickhouses with multiple stories. They can make their different products by selecting different barrels from different parts of the warehouses because there is such a variance in how they age compared to Four Roses.
In addition to these releases, Four Roses also releases single barrels of each of the 10 recipes at cask strength. This is done through their private barrel program where a store, or private group, can purchase their own barrel. Whiskey geeks go crazy for these releases! Many of these whiskey geeks claim to have a favorite recipe, but have chosen other recipes in blind tests. I have had some bottles stand out more than others, but they have all been pretty good in my opinion, and well worth picking up.