Four Roses Single Barrel Tasting

Lineup of all Four Roses Single Barrel Selections - Icons of Whiskey




The bourbonheads cheered. The single malt guys groaned. It was time for a long overdue side-by-side tasting of all 10 Four Roses recipes. 

The announcement of the “Icons of Whisky” series provided a good lineup for the meeting, especially since the ages and ABVs weren’t too diverse. The series was bottled to honor Four Roses' win for “Whisky Distiller of the Year – America” from Whisky Magazine, for the 4th out of 5 years. Master distiller Jim Rutledge (along with a small panel) chose a barrel of each recipe, and every US store nominated for "Whisky Retailer of the Year" received one or two of these barrels.
 Recipe  ABV% LocationAge Retailer 
OBSF56.6HW #32-2Q11 years and 8 monthsSchneider's
OBSK59.6DN #37-3F12 years and 10 monthsSchneider's
OBSO54.7QS #60-2H10 years and 4 monthsBinny's
OBSQ58.1RN #5-2I10 years and 11 monthsHi-Time
OBSV53.7ME #2-1J12 years and 2 monthsJulio's
OESF59.0GW #48-3O10 years and 11 monthsLiquor Barn
OESK57.4EN #52-5P9 years and 4 monthsBayway
OESO55.8BN #31-2P12 years and 4 monthsBinny's
OESQ60.4RN #85-4M10 years and 11 monthsLiquor Barn
OESV60.7GW #39-3V10 years and 10 monthsWally's
Developed during the Seagrams years, Four Roses has 10 different recipes which they mix and match. These are created using 2 different mashbills and 5 different yeasts, combining to make the 10.  

All ten bottles of Four Roses Icons of Whiskey series
OBxx = 60% corn, 35% rye, 5% malted barley
OExx = 75% corn, 20% rye, 5% malted barley

5 different yeasts have these purported characteristics:
V = Delicate Fruity Flavor
K = Slight Spice Character
O = Robust Fruitiness
Q = Floral Essence
F = Light Herbal Essence

Even though we all knew the lineup, we still blinded the bottles. This was to combat expectations based on recipes and bias based on retailer favoritism. Remember, anyone who says they can taste things “fairly” without tasting blind is automatically full of shit — because they’ve just proven that they can’t even recognize their own confirmation bias about their own impossibly perfect tasting skills.

Opinions in the group were diverse, but most everyone had these all in B- to B+ territory, with outliers at C+ and A-. Unsurprisingly, the “bourbon crowd” found the tasting quite enjoyable, while the “malt crowd” found it more of an interesting exercise.

Some bottles were more polarizing than others. Many liked the sweet and fruity OESK, but the group was divided on the OBSV. Some found the latter too light with less flavor while others claimed a good balance of fruit and floral. Overall, variation among the barrels wasn't as big as expected, and the flavors especially didn't match up as expected. What one might expect to have a more bold and spicy profile was not always the case. Likewise, some with lower rye content actually were the more flavorful ones. Our own FussyChicken (Steve N) was fairly confident to announce he thought he could guess the mashbills blind — not the full recipes, just the mashbills, which he should get 50% of by chance alone. And… that’s exactly how he performed, 50/50.
(Notes/Ratings will appear as members motivate. Thanks to FussyChicken for the writeup, which we need to do more often.)
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