The name of Four Roses Bourbon has a story behind it, one of those Southern "Scarlett O'Hara" moments that are steeped in romance. Learn what makes Four Roses notable among Kentucky bourbon producers.
Four Roses History
The company was started in 1884 by Paul Jones Jr. on Louisville's Whiskey Row. The influence of the company's name came from his sweetheart who told him that she would wear four red roses to a grand ball if she were to accept his proposal. She did and he used the moment as an inspiration for his new bourbon business. Had she not accepted the name may have been slightly darker and somewhat disparaging, but such is not the case and we are left with a rosy whiskey.
Over the years many distillers have produced bourbon in the heart of Kentucky. What is widely available on today's shelves is the cream of the crop among those distilleries. Four Roses has a checkered past, one marked by a few company buyouts and one of those which led to a near extinction of the brand in the U.S. market.
What Makes Four Roses Different
What Four Roses has going for it today is that it is the only bourbon whiskey distillery to use five proprietary yeasts with two separate mash bills ranging from 60 to 75 percent corn to produce 10 different bourbons. They also use single-story rick houses to age the bourbon while many of their counterparts have grown to use multi-story houses.
Here is a primer to help you understand Four Roses Bourbons:
- All 10 recipes are used in the brand's signature Yellow label.
- Three to four recipes are used to create a Small Batch.
- One recipe is used to create a Single Barrel.
- Limited Edition releases of any of the above are hand-picked by the Master Distiller.
Jim Rutledge did a wonderful job from 1995 to 2015 as the Four Roses Master Distiller. He continues to work closely with his successor, Brent Elliott. The distillery is located in Lawrenceburg, Kentucky while the rick houses are in Cox's Creek, and both are open for tours.
Four Roses Yellow Label Bourbon
Four Roses Yellow Label is the brand standard, much like Jim Beam White Label or Johnny Walker Red Label. This is going to be the bottle that you find on a regular basis in most liquor stores and is priced between $20 to $25. At that reasonable price, this is a good bourbon and may quickly become one of your "old reliables." You will find that this is a mixable whiskey, perfect for almost any whiskey drink you are in the mood for. Its character is floral, smooth, and sophisticated. It is a great introduction to bourbon for the uninitiated.
This bourbon has a floral aroma and has rosy, grainy, and spicy undertones with a bit of a honey twist. The taste is crisp, smooth, and soft at the same time, marked by vanilla, pear, apple, and notes of oak that gently melt into the fruits. It finishes with a soothing smoothness that is semi-dry and holds hints of spicy orange.
Other Four Roses Bourbons
Four Roses has an impressive lineup of bourbon whiskeys and the Yellow Label is just the beginning. There are different bottlings found through the world. Japan is unique in that the Black Label and Super Premium are only released there, but you can also find the Single Barrel. In Europe, you will find Yellow Label, Small Batch, and Single Barrel. In the U.S. the Yellow Label, Single Barrel, Small Batch, and any Limited Edition and Mariage Collection bourbons are available.
In the summer of 2010, two special bottlings were released, one from each the Single Barrel and Small Batch collections and both are limited editions. These were hand picked by Master Distiller Jim Rutledge and are amazing sipping bourbons for the connoisseur and not-so-experienced bourbon drinker. They are collector worthy and you will want to find these before they are gone.