Here is the first of my head-to-head reviews of Four Roses’ various bourbon recipes. You can read far more detail about this than you care about in my post about this last week. Basically, I’m going to be comparing Four Roses low and high-rye recipes in pairs—each review will feature a comparison of the OE (low rye) and OB (high rye) mashbill with the same strain of yeast (there are five yeast strains and so there’ll be five posts with paired reviews). At least in theory, I should be able to get some sense of how the mashbill interacts with the yeast. All the reviews will feature pairs of single barrel releases selected by various stores. In this case the two barrels are of the same age (more or less; in addition to the age in years, Four Roses includes additional months but I’ve disregarded that). They’re also at fairly similar strengths. Doubtless there are other variables as well (warehouse location, for example) and it’s also unsound to take any single barrel as representative. With those caveats in mind let’s jump in.
Oh yes, the “Q” yeast strain is said to impart floral notes.
Four Roses 10, OESQ (59.4%; single barrel for the Cove; from a bottle split)
Nose: Bright with orange peel, honey and light toasted oak. The citrus gets richer as it sits and the wood gets a little spicier. More corn too now and stickier with some light caramel. With more time there’s some red fruit in here too (plum?) and some rye notes peep out too. Water brings the bright citrus and honey notes to the fore again and there’s some wheat toast and light maple syrup too.
Palate: Spicy arrival and then there’s the citrus and honey, getting brighter as I swallow. The oak’s more prominent here than on the nose but it’s not tannic at all. Very drinkable at full strength with a rich mouthfeel. Water pushes the oak back and pulls out more of the rye notes that showed up on the nose.
Finish: Medium-long. The oak gets spicier and there’s some cracked black pepper. The finish seems to get longer with every sip. Sweeter and less peppery with water.
Rating: 87 points.
Comments: I really enjoyed this. The progression from the fruitier nose to the woodier palate and spicy finish is very nice. A very well-balanced bourbon. And I preferred it neat.
Nose: Less of the orange peel here and more obvious rye (mint; cold black tea); maybe a little more oak here too. Some cough syrupy notes as it sits (cherry?) and the citrus expands as well, bringing some apricot with it. The oak gets dustier as it goes. The rye takes a back seat with water and now it’s closer to the OESQ.
Palate: Brighter and spicier than the nose and also brighter and spicier and oakier than the OESQ. Very nice though. Again, very drinkable at full strength with a rich texture. The rye notes are pronounced but not overbearing. Sweeter as it goes but the spice (some cinnamon in there now) expands as well. Water pushes back the oak and the rye spice.
Finish: Long. The rye is to the fore here. As on the palate with water.
Rating: 86 points.
Comments: Another very good bourbon and, again, very good balance for the mashbill. If you are a big fan of high-rye bourbons you’d probably score this higher. I preferred this one with water (because the rye notes mellowed).
Comparison: The difference in the mashbill seems quite obvious. I don’t know that I would call either of these bourbons particularly floral—though it is entirely possible that the notes that I’m tracking as honey and citrus are what the distillery describes as floral. Anyway, a very good start to this Four Roses roundup. Based on these barrels I am a big fan of the Q yeast and, unsurprisingly, prefer the low rye mashbill version (if only just). Let’s see what the V strain brings tomorrow!