Four Roses Single Barrel Bourbon Whiskey
Not too long ago I was doing some bourbon research online, searching for anyone who would be carrying the Buffalo Trace Antique Collection when it came out here in South Florida. Well, in the midst of that search, I noticed that Crown Wine & Spirits had a great bargain on their website. It listed Four Roses Single Barrel at $29.99! That's at least a 25% savings from anywhere else I'd seen it advertised. A google search for "Four Roses Single Barrel" will show 3 results at $29.99, $39.99, and $49.99, with the $29.99 being Crown Wine & Spirits. Even Total Wine & Spirits had it at $39.99 on my last visit. Today I was in South Miami running some errands so I stopped by and picked up one of the last couple bottles they had on the shelf. Being that it's been some time since I last saw this deal, I think it could be a set price.
A little background on Four Roses... Four Roses was named Distiller of the Year by Whisky Magazine in November 2010, a year that happened to be the 100th anniversary of the distillery's building. That award is quite an achievement considering the rollercoaster ride this brand has gone on. The award can be attributed to Master Distiller Jim Rutledge whose passion for bourbon gave new life to the Four Roses brand, a brand that has been around for over 120 years.
After being sold in 1943 when Seagram's purchased the Frankfort distilling company, the Four Roses brand was turned into rubble. In 1947, Seagram's, owned by a Canadian liquor baron named Sam Bronfman at the time, took Four Roses (which had become the #1 selling bourbon after Prohibition ended in 1933) off the market and turned it into a blended whisky. A blended whisky usually refers to whiskey1 that is blended with a neutral spirit such as vodka or grain alcohol. Once this change was made, a decision followed to take Four Roses off of the market altogether in the United States. It had gone from a #1 selling bourbon to a bottom shelf blended whisky in no time at all.
Luck would have it that Four Roses would become the bourbon of choice in Japan in the 1980s and the demand for bourbon from the Japanese market exploded later in the decade. Rutledge was there to capitalize on this demand. In 1996, Rutledge lobbied for Four Roses to at least be available in Kentucky and Seagram's granted his wish but said it would not support the decision with any marketing dollars. Shortly thereafter, Seagram's met it's doom thanks to some poor decisions by Sam Bronfman's grandson, Edgar Jr, who had taken over as CEO. Lo and behold, Japanese brewer, Kirin, was there to pick up the pieces and they quickly rid themselves of the blended Four Roses whiskey, bringing back Four Roses bourbon at the urging of Jim Rutledge. The fire was built for the resurrection of Four Roses bourbon the second the new Japanese owners took their first sip. They knew they had a winner and believe the US market was a gold mine waiting to be excavated. They were right.
Four Roses Single Barrel Private Selection (photo credit: David Kehr)The first order of businesss was to focus on introducing a premium spirit and in 2004, Four Roses Single Barrel hit the market. The following year it received a Gold Medal from the Whiskey Magazine Best of the Best Awards for Best American Whiskey under 10 years of age. Two years later and Four Roses returned to the top spot as the #1 selling single barrel bourbon whiskey in the state of Kentucky. In 2006, Four Roses introduced their Small Batch bourbon, one of 6 different brands that now exists under the Four Roses name. They also have a really cool program for distributors to select their own barrels made from specific mash bills consisting of various proprietary yeasts. These bourbons are bottled at barrel strength - no water is added to alter the flavors or lower the alcohol content.
At $29.99, this is a great deal on a phenomenal bourbon. It's one of my personal favorites and is always on my home bar. Not ready to spend $30? Locally you can find Four Roses Single Barrel on the shelf behind the bar at Michael's Genuine Food & Drink as well as Sustain. I recommend sipping this one neat or with very few (1-3) ice cubes. A sweet, oak-y nose along with flavors of caramel, dried spice, and a little citrus on the finish are the standouts. If you are a bourbon fan, this is a must try.
You can thank me later ;)
1. I'm spelling whiskey two different ways on purpose. There is a difference and here is a little history I learned on a tour of the Buffalo Trace distillery. It is said that back in the 1800s Scotch whisky developed a bad reputation for being a cheap whisky because it was being produced quickly through the use of a continuous still known as a coffey still. It flooded the market and tarnished the reputation of whisky producers. As a result, Irish and American producers began inserting an "e" into their whisk(e)y to distinguish it from the poor Scotch being produced.