Revisiting the Classics: Four Roses Small Batch

The modestly-priced bourbon’s release in 2006 helped launch the small-batch craze

May 8, 2024 12:17 pm
Four Roses Small Batch
Four Roses Small Batch launched in 2006.
Four Roses

Welcome to Revisiting the Classics, a new series where we provide a fresh perspective on iconic and beloved bottles. You can see our prior entries here.

What we’re revisiting: Four Roses Small Batch

Where it’s from: Four Roses, launched in 1888, is a Lawrenceburg, Kentucky-based distillery that was extremely popular in the United States in the early 20th century before being sidelined into an exclusive release for Europe and Asia. It returned in the early aughts and has since become a well-awarded brand.

Why we’re drinking this: We gave Four Roses our Distillery of the Year honors in 2021, right after visiting the bourbon brand’s new Lawrenceburg visitor center. And we’ve been huge fans of the brand because they keep their core products at a purposely modest price point. 

The way any Four Roses is created is fascinating. There are 10 recipes used for various bourbon releases, crafted from two mash bills (both fairly high in rye) and five proprietary yeast strains. 

The ten recipes used in Four Roses
The 10 recipes used in various Four Roses expressions (two mash bills, five yeast strains)
Four Roses

“We use these recipes to create consistency among our products but also to create differences with the Small Batch, Small Batch Select and other products,” Four Roses Master Distiller Brent Elliott said during a tasting of the distillery’s 135th anniversary release. “Depending on which recipes we select, we can create unique flavor profiles.”

So the OBSV barrels, for example, utilize mash bill B (60% corn, 35% rye, 5% barley) and the “V” yeast strain, which creates something full of rye and delicate fruit notes. OESK, meanwhile, would be mash bill E (75% corn, 20% rye, 5% barley) and the yeast strain K, creating a whiskey full of baking spice notes. You can see those abbreviation meanings and their respective tasting notes here

Why Four Roses Is Our Distillery of the Year
A bourbon legacy forges a unique path in the face of wild growth

Small Batch launched in 2006. According to the brand, the average Small Batch size is approximately 250 barrels (and yes, small batch as a phrase can be nebulous). Barrels are typically between six and seven years old, and four recipes are used (OBSK, OBSO, OESK and OESO). 

Note: Small Batch is not to be confused with Four Roses Bourbon (80 proof, all 10 recipes, aged five years), Single Barrel (100 proof, one recipe, aged 7-9 years), Small Batch Select (104 proof, six recipes, aged 6-7 years) or the annual barrel-strength LE Small Batch release (four recipes and much older whiskey). They’re all well-loved: Single Barrel recently took home World’s Best Single Barrel at the 2024 World Whiskies Awards. In 2023, Four Roses received 56 awards, including two Double Platinum medals, one Platinum medal, seven Double Gold medals and 16 Gold medals from competitions such as the American Whiskey Masters and Whiskies of the World.

Anyway, back to Small Batch!

How it tastes: Four Roses Small Batch comes in at 90 proof. Given the barrels involved, expect notes of rye, baking spices, rich fruit and vanilla (according to the brand). I also get a lot of orange peel, burnt caramel, red berries and even a little citrus. A standout and still a favorite of mine at any price point.

Fun fact: Four Roses has been part of some cool collaborations with the beer industry, including releases from New Belgium (Oakspire) and Brooklyn Brewery (Black Ops).

Where to buy: You can find Four Roses Small Batch at almost any liquor store or at ReserveBar for $33 to $47.


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