The Four Roses Alphabet

We here at Booze Nerds like bourbon a lot and one of our favorite distillers is Four Roses. For those of you who are unaware of this, Four Roses has 10 different recipes that they make, using two different mash bills and five different proprietary yeasts. However they can explain it better than we can: 10 Recipes.

Being nerds 🙂 we of course have a bottle of each of what we refer to as the alphabet series, since each bottle has an alphabetic code indicating what mash bill and yeast were used. 

They are all quite different and delicious, but we were very curious to catalog what was unique about each.  So we decided to make a leisurely afternoon of it and taste them all.  For your enjoyment, our take on the various Four Roses recipes.

4RosesAlphabet-final

OBSO

  • Nose: Vanilla, butterscotch, blackberry bramble, red berry, black cherry, a little bit of allspice. 
  • Palate: Very strong rye spice, stone fruit like plums and black cherries. Drier than it smells.

OESK

  • Nose: Baked goods, vanilla, astringent fresh cut wood
  • Palate: Toffee, vanilla, a little bit of mint, yeasty baked goods, blueberry.

OBSF

  • Nose: Fresh corn, cola,  vanilla, dusty/woody element
  • Palate: Very smooth entry. Cola, black tea, long spicy barrel finish. Little bit of black cherry at the end of the mid-palate. Very spicy overall.

OBSQ

  • Nose: Rose petals, pears, creamy custard
  • Palate: Strong spicy rye intro, lots of oak, plus an interesting, though not unpleasant, petrol or tar element. Sweet earthiness, like butternut squash or pumpkin, right at the end of the mid-palate. Long spicy rye finish.

OESV

  • Nose: Cotton candy sweet. Little bit of maple. Citrus zest. Little bit of barrel wood.
  • Palate: Very smooth, really nice silky mouth feel. Very integrated flavors of the usual vanilla, caramel, wood. More like a cognac than what one typically thinks of in a bourbon. Mint and tarragon on the mid-palate. Little bit of tabacco on the very end.

OBSK

  • Nose: Cider vinegar, not in a bad way. Faint brine and pollen notes.
  • Palate: Rich round mouth feel with strong sweet corn notes. Slightly grain-y. A lot of butter scotch right on the front which fades into dryness. Very peppery and hot throughout.

OESQ

  • Nose: Very sweeet floral nose, specifically muscat grapes, honeysuckle, and old-fashioned roses.
  • Palate: Very sweet, with a gently acidic fruit brightness at the mid-palate. Sweet candy, carmel-y notes after that through the finish.

OESF

  • Nose: Really rich caramel and maple, lots of wood. Subtle port or sherry notes.
  • Palate: Very smooth entry, lot of red fruit. Subtle oxidized fruit flavors like port or sherry notes on the mid-palate. Very dry finish.

OESO

  • Nose: Vanilla, then very strong cheesecake or cheese danish, followed by soft creamy lemon notes
  • Palate: Cola, iced tea, a little bit of red fruit, a little bit of umami flavor on the finish.

OBSV

  • Nose: Sweetness, then perfume-y tabacco notes. Faint floral notes at the tail, almost like violets
  • Palate: Nice silky mouth feel. Dried fruit, tobacco flavor, fig, little bit of leather. Smooth, slightly tannic finish.

Given the two big differences in the mash bills, 35% vs 20% rye, the spiciness from the rye is not as big of differentiator as one would expect. All of them have some nice rye spiciness, but the 35% ones aren’t that much spicier.

However, the yeasts do make a big difference. The Q yeast seems to lend itself to sweet floral flavors, the V yeast makes tightly integrated, cognac-like spirits with a silky mouth feel, etc.

If you are a bourbon lover, we highly recommend trying some of these and enjoying the truly varied flavor profiles that bourbon can offer.

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