By Richard Thomas
It’s becoming a thing to put an identifying theme on batch-driven releases nowadays, a trend best exemplified by Booker’s adopting individual titles for its batches after two decades of doing without. Four Roses may be starting to go this route too, which is fine, since it really is a handier way to identify individual releases. Last year’s Single Barrel Limited Edition (LE) was “Elliott’s Select, named for Master Distiller Brent Elliott. This year’s Small Batch LE is named for Al Young, a Four Roses veteran of some five decades who has served as distillery manager and brand ambassador.
This installment of Four Roses Small Batch LE is a blend of four of the distillery’s ten distinct bourbon grain + yeast recipes: 5% of a 23 year old OBSV recipe; 25% 15 year old OBSK; 50% 13 year old OESV; and 20% 12 year old OBSF. The resulting blend (none of which dates to Young’s first year at Four Roses: gosh darn!) was bottled at 54.46% ABV (108.9 proof) in a 10,000 bottle production run that saw launch at Whisky Live Louisville this past weekend.
Now the Al Young Small Batch is either on sale or soon will be in your area, although as one of the most dearly sought bottles of bourbon coming out this summer it will prove hard to get. Here is what to expect from it.
In the glass, this year’s Four Roses Small Batch LE has a quite light copper coloring, and the liquid streams tears after a swish. The nose had a good deal of sophistication to it, layering up from a foundation of candy corn and vanilla with dried cherries and the scent of cereals from the feed bin, hints of oak and cedar, and a dab of barrel char.
The flavor profile shared many of those elements, but shifted them away from complexity and towards easy drinking. This bourbon is pretty spicy up front, but that is soon overtaking by a rising autumn candies-style sweetness, and then on the backside that is swept away by the whiskey turning toasty.
That ran into the finish, with the toastiness running all the way to charred. On my palate (and I sampled this on two separate occasions to rule out something being off about my senses the first time), I found that ending unique. While not as smoky as, say, a peaty Islay Scotch, smoky finishes are not what you get from bourbons, even bourbons that have that barrel char aspect. It’s such a unique twist that I am looking forward to seeing if anyone else picked up on that smoky aspect, or was it just me.
The official price point for Four Roses Al Young Small Batch 2017 is $150.