Sku likes to make fun of my habit of posting pictures of sample bottles alongside reviews and I suspect he takes particular pleasure in giving me unfeasibly crappily labeled sample bottles for just that reason when we do swaps. See evidence at left. But enough of Sku’s mistreatment of me and on to the whisky!
I’ve had three of Four Roses’ ever-popular annual limited edition releases of their small batch series. I loved the 2012 (as everyone did) and thought the 2010 and 2013 were pretty damned good too (I’m not an exactly a rebel, flying in the face of received wisdom here). Word on the street has been less enthusiastic about the most recent iteration. Is this because it is really not as good? Or is it because fickle camp followers like Sku have moved on to new crushes such as Woodford Reserve? I will be the judge. You are welcome.
Four Roses Small Batch Ltd. Ed., 2014 (55.9%; from a sample received in a swap)
Nose: Bananas and honey as I pour and then quite a lot of wood, toasted and dusty, and some cinnamon. After a minute or so it gets sweeter and fruitier: lots of red fruit—plum, cherry—plus a touch of orange peel. With more time the rye makes its presence known (mint, pine). With a few drops of water the fruit gets a bit darker (more jammy) and now there’s some leather as well.
Palate: As on the nose, starts out with the brighter flavours and then the wood shows up. Some sweeter notes begin to develop as I swallow but they’re a bit indistinct. On the second sip the wood is front and center—prickly and spicy but not offensive. As on the nose, the rye notes show up next but it’s all in the treble clef so far—let’s see if water pulls out anything deeper and darker. Ah yes, it does—dried orange peel and fruitcake, and darker honey; the wood recedes as well.
Finish: Medium. The brighter notes from the palate fade out leaving drying, prickly wood behind along with a menthol coolness. As on the palate with water but the finish seems to shorten. Just a hint of cocoa powder at the very end.
Comments: I am beginning to think that of the major American distilleries Four Roses may be the one whose house style is most suited to the palates of single malt drinkers like me. I haven’t yet developed a full theory yet so don’t ask me for a detailed explanation. Anyway, I think I agree that this is not quite at the level of the 2013 or 2010, leave alone the 2012, but I think it’s still quite good indeed. I would have been happy paying $90 or so for this.
Rating: 88 points.
Thanks to Sku for the sample!