Four Roses Bourbon uses math to blend the elements that go into their mashbill recipes, resulting in many different combinations to bottle.
Combinations and Permutations
I’m a math geek…longtime readers know that (how can we forget?). Starting with …and now to explain the “& scones”, I’ve mentioned ratios, calculated volume, and generally waxed poetic on the subject. (I come by it honestly…I started out life as an Aerospace Engineer after all). So when I was researching Four Roses bourbon for this post, imagine my delight when I discovered that math figures prominently in their products!
Remember when I spoke about Ardbeg Day? I received those samples from Lauren Petka from The Baddish Group. After that review, Lauren was kind enough to send me a sample, nay a bottle*, from Four Roses. How does math fit into distilling? According to their website, the distillery combines “5 proprietary yeast strains with two separate mashbills“ to produce 10 distinct bourbon recipes “each with its own unique character, spiciness, and rich fruity flavors.” Blending those recipes gives lot of combinations with which to work! (Although please don’t ask me to calculate the total…I understood calculus, but permutations and combinations? I could never get me head around the subject).
[* Side note: the only other time I received a whole bottle as a sample is when I reviewed Clan Fraser whisky. I think of them fondly.]
[ Another side note…a quick definition: the term mashbill refers to the combination of grains used to make the bourbon, usually corn, rye or wheat, and malted barley. I learn so much writing this blog!]
I’ve tried various Four Roses bourbon expressions several times, and reviewed it once. When I received the bottle of Four Roses Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey from Lauren, rather than just review that bottling, I decided to include all the other reviews that I had collected since I started regularly attending Whisky Wednesday at Gordon’s DTX. All of those drams are Gordon’s Private Barrel bottlings, where Ken Gordon got to picked the mashbill recipe he wanted. The letters represent the production facility, mashbill, whiskey distillation, and yeast strain combinations available, all of which contribute to the final product. I’ve included the recipe “key” for each one, mainly to see how close my review comes to what Ken was aiming for.
Let’s fill some glasses…
Four Roses Bourbon
Tasted at the given locations and dates
Four Roses Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey
- Nose: vanilla, creme brûlée, cinnamon and cloves, light walnuts, caramel candy
- Taste: medium body, rye hits, cream, white pepper, anise
- Finish: fades to baking spiciness, caraway, softly tannic, bitter walnuts
- Comments: the rye hides in the nose but hits solidly on the palate, the mouthfeel is creamy and soft, corn sweetness breaks through only after you’ve been sipping for a while
- The battle between texture and taste makes it interesting
- There’s not the cloying sweetness that’s expected in bourbon, at least for me
- The spiciness is balanced by the mouthfeel
Gordon’s Private Barrel Four Roses OBSQ
Gordon’s DTX, April 26, 2017 (originally published in Run for the Roses…and Bourbon)
- Nose: caramel, cloves, sharper
- Taste: oily & body, water helps the sharpness
- Finish: spice builds & lingers; some bitterness at the end
- Comments: A solid, if generic, bourbon
Gordon’s Private Barrel Four Roses OESF Single Barrel
Gordon’s DTX, July 5, 2017
- Nose: rye, sweet corn, vanilla
- Taste: rye dominates, spice lingers
- Finish: the rye really hangs on, warm feeling of vanilla at the end
- Comments: if you like rye, this would be good as it’s not bitter, definitely growing on me
[Side Note: when I first tried this whiskey, I wasn’t a big fan of rye whiskey, and wrote of me “awakening” in Rye Not?“]
Gordon’s Private Barrel Four Roses OESV
Gordon’s DTX, October 4, 2017
- Nose: high rye starts, hints of vanilla
- Taste:green grass, rye, corn appears, good standard bourbon flavor
- Finish: the end is the lingering sweet corn, thick body
- Comments: it’s a good drink, needs to be savored
Comparing my notes to the recipe flavor profile proves, once again, that palates are individual. Either that, or I’m just not very good at picking up the nuances of flavor. I think I’ll go with the former…er…excuse. ** SIGH **
I’m so grateful to Lauren for giving me the chance to review Four Roses bourbon. I really appreciate the unique and transparent way that Four Roses has to create their various offerings…it calls to my math geek soul.I may not be able to get my head around this particular branch of statistics, but I can certainly get my hands around a bottle or two, and that’s good enough for me!
Slainté! L’chaim! Cheers!