Posts tagged ‘Four Roses’

The Best Value Bourbons

After abandoning my quirky numbers system for determining a bourbon’s value, I am resorting to relying on my taste buds and my wallet.  These bourbons are my personal favorite value bourbons, listed from the least to the most expensive.

Evan Williams Black Label – This one is hard to beat simply because it is usually available for under $15.  This bourbon is still raw and uncouth, but it is drinkable and moderately complex, too.

Four Roses Yellow Label – This bourbon is becoming more readily available and more widely recognized for being a very good whiskey.  It is soft, citrusy, and floral.  It makes a wonderful cocktail, but it stands tall on its own, too.

Wild Turkey 101 – This bourbon’s quality and value has been well documented.  It is warming and powerful, but it also brings wonderful vanilla and cinnamon sugar notes into the fold.  Great stuff.  The Turkey 81 is also a good value pour, but I always opt to pay three dollars more for my beloved 101.

Russell’s Reserve 10 year – This bourbon lives up to Jimmy Russell’s legend.  It also happens to be available around $30 in most liquor stores.  It unfolds beautifully in waves, giving complex bourbon and rye flavors throughout.  Wild Turkey at its finest.

Four Roses Single Barrel – Although there is some variance from bottle to bottle, this bourbon is consistently at the head of the class.  It has a wonderfully rich mouth feel that is unsurpassed in whiskeys under $40.

Those are some of my favorite value bourbons, but not the only great value bourbons on the market.  The beauty of bourbon is that you don’t have to break the bank to drink classy.

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Giving the Gift of Bourbon

Well, a lot of folks are starting to do their holiday shopping, and there are a lot of people who love to give and receive the gift of bourbon.  Whiskey shopping around the holidays can offer some great deals on holiday gift packages.  A lot of distilleries will issue box sets where you might get a 750 ml bottle with some glassware or some 50 ml samples of other products.  Even if you are just looking to treat yourself, holiday box sets are always good fun.

Woodford Reserve's holiday gift set includes two Woodford glasses.

Woodford Reserve’s holiday gift set includes two Woodford glasses.

Before I get into my recommendations for the bourbon lovers on your list, I need to issue two disclaimers.  First, if you are a bourbon lover like myself, that does not give you the right to supply others with bourbon in hopes they will give you half the bottle because they don’t like bourbon all that much.  Secondly, taste is personal, and your favorite whiskey might not be tolerable to somebody else. That said, do some research on the person you are giving the gift to and the bottles you are thinking of buying to give the best gift possible.  Of course, that is where I want to offer some helpful suggestions that won’t break the bank.

For the bourbon newcomer on your list:  This is the person on your list who has never had bourbon (or any other whiskey) before, but they have put bourbon on their holiday wish list.  Don’t get them anything over 90 proof, and don’t get them anything will do dense a flavor profile.  My main recommendation is Four Roses Yellow Label.  It is light, and it gives a good introduction to whiskey without it being too complex.  It is also a great value buy.  If you are looking for something a little fancier, try Basil Hayden’s.  It is also a light, well-balanced whiskey.  Both of these presents will leave the recipient craving another bottle of bourbon.

For the bourbon novice on your list:  This is the person on your list that has been getting into some starter bourbons of late, but he/she looking is looking to enjoy some craft bourbon.  My recommendation (if you can find it) is Elmer T. Lee.  It is a single barrel bourbon that is indicative of what bourbon should be.  It won’t break the bank, but it is a monstrous step up from Jim Beam and Maker’s Mark.  However, Elmer T. Lee is hard to find.  If you can’t lay your hands on that one, Buffalo Trace is a great alternative.

For the bourbon admirer on your list:  This is the person who has been casually drinking bourbon for a few years, and it is one of their favorite drinks.  This person is one of the easiest people on your list because they will probably like your gift.  That said, here are a couple of the quintessential craft bourbons that make great gifts.  Eagle Rare 10 yr. and Woodford Reserve are two readily available bourbons that always make great gifts.  If you can find it, Four Roses Single Barrel is a great offering if you are willing to spend a few extra dollars.

For the bourbon connoisseur on your list:  This is the person who loves bourbon, and gives a lot of thought and attention to their bourbon.  Among bourbon connoisseurs, there are a few whiskeys that you can rarely go wrong with.  If you find anything from Buffalo Trace’s Antique Collection, Stitzel-Weller/Buffalo Trace’s Van Winkle Collection, Heaven Hill’s Parker’s Heritage Collection, or Four Roses Limited Edition Collection (and you can swing the bill), pick it up.  It is a rare occasion that I read a bad word about any of these bourbons, but they are all pretty hard to find.  That said, barrel strength bourbons are always a great gift for the bourbon connoisseur on your list.  Noah’s Mill, Booker’s, and Willett Single Barrel (barrel strength) are all great gifts to open and great bourbons to drink.

In case this guy is on your list...

In case this guy is on your list…

For the vain bourbon drinker on your list:  This is for that bourbon drinker that likes to sit in a smoking jacket with a $100 cigar while they enjoy their bourbon.  Hardly a value bourbon drinker, but for somebody like this, appearance is everything.  So, I would recommend a bourbon with a cool bottle and a long, uppity-sounding name.  My first recommendation is Willett Pot Still Single Barrel Reserve.  The bottle looks like you paid $100 dollars for it, but you didn’t even spend half that.  What is in the bottle is pretty good, too.  My other recommendation is the fancy horse-stopper of Blanton’s.  It is a solid, all-around bourbon that has a very distinguished bottle.

For the rye whiskey drinker (looking to get into bourbon) on your list:  This is for the rye drinker on your list that has mentioned wanting to get into bourbon.  I would definitely recommend a rye-heavy bourbon.  If you are thinking of a light, drinkable, full-flavored rye-forward bourbon, look no further than Russell’s Reserve 10 yr.  If you are thinking monstrous, full-bodied, intense rye-forward bourbon, look no further than Wild Turkey 101.  Both these bourbons are great choices for rye lovers.

For the Scotch whisky drinker (looking to get into bourbon) on your list:  This is for the Scotch (I’m thinking Speyside) drinker on your list who normally finds bourbon too heavy and sweet for their palate.  The bourbon to give to them is Four Roses Small Batch.  It is light, floral, and fruity, but it still possesses a lot of bourbon qualities.  Basil Hayden’s is usually a good gift here, too. Wild Turkey American Honey

For the liqueur drinker on your list:  The best bourbon-based liqueur on the market is Wild Turkey American Honey.  Hell, even I drink it every once in a while on a hot summer’s day.

Those are my thoughts on buying bourbon for the holidays.  If the person on your list falls outside any of these categories, leave a comment or shoot me an email at thedagupeir@gmail.com.  Let it Ride!

Willett Pot Still Reserve Single Barrel Review

Today, I am reviewing Willett Pot Still Reserve Single Barrel Bourbon.  The name is quite a mouthful, and the bottle is quite a sight.  I ranked it as one of my favorite bottle designs, and you can see why.  The bourbon in the bottle is a single barrel bourbon bottled at 94 proof.  It is distributed by Kentucky Bourbon Distillers, who also distribute Rowan’s Creek, Noah’s Mill, and Kentucky Vintage, just to name a few.

On the nose, Willett is a real treat.  It is light, elegant, and sweet.  There are notes of freshly cut flowers, caramel popcorn, vanilla, herbs, herbal tea, and some light wood spices.  The palate is light-bodied, giving way to flavors of caramel apples, maple syrup, toasted coconut, some light herbal spices, and some floral notes.  The finish is not especially long, but it does taste very nice.  The finish reminds me a lot of caramel popcorn, but there is are also some light herbal and wood spices that come through.

Overall, Willett is a very unique bourbon, a bit reminiscent of some of the Four Roses products I’ve reviewed. My only complaint is that it does not have a lot of body, even when bottled at 94 proof.  I think that it could be bottled at an even higher proof, with a lot of benefits.  As it stands, Willett is not a great value buy as it is relatively pricey, but it is a fantastic whiskey.  It makes a great gift (especially because of the bottle design), and it should be savored slowly and responsibly.  It is easy to drink a bit too much of this one… My grade: B-.  Price: $40-45/750ml.  This is a very enjoyable whiskey to keep around, but there are better (in my opinion) bourbons on the market for less money.

My Favorite Whiskeys by Price Point

I am often asked, “What’s your favorite whiskey?”  Honestly, that is like asking me to name a favorite child, favorite beer, favorite song, or favorite movie.  I have many favorites, and many of these depend on my mood, and the money in my wallet.  However, I have recently had a request from my good friend, Kate at http://www.kateampersand.com/ for some recommendations for how to give the gift of whiskey.  I have reviewed about 40 whiskeys on the site so far, and here are my favorite whiskeys out of those 40 at different price points.  The prices used are the approximate prices for 750ml of the whiskey.

Best Whiskey under $20:  Old Grand-Dad Bottled-in-Bond (https://bargainbourbon.com/2012/08/17/old-grand-dad-bonded-review/).  This is a very good, rye forward bourbon, with a lot of power.  It doesn’t have the complexity of some other high rye bourbons, but it is hard to beat for $18 a bottle.

Runner-up under $20:  Four Roses Yellow Label (https://bargainbourbon.com/2012/03/14/four-roses-yellow-label-review/).  In comparison to the power of Old Grand-Dad (bottled at 100 proof), the Yellow Label is a delicate rye-forward bourbon.  There is a lot of light spice that tingles the tongue and the nostrils, but it doesn’t quite have the depth of Old Grand-Dad.  Nevertheless, Four Roses Yellow Label is a great buy.

Best Whiskey under $25:  Rittenhouse Rye Bottled-in-Bond (https://bargainbourbon.com/2012/07/28/rittenhouse-rye-review/).  Not only is this whiskey a great value, it is a great whiskey.  There is a ton of complexity, ranging from spiciness to sweetness to a rich earthiness.  If you want to impress somebody, buy them this whiskey for their birthday.  Trust me, they will think you spent a good amount on it (especially if you put it in a fancy decanter since the bottle design is not especially flattering).

Runner-up Under $25:  McClelland’s Speyside (https://bargainbourbon.com/2012/07/30/comparison-review-scotch-styles-mcclellands-speyside-vs-mcclellands-lowland/).  This is a fine single-malt Scotch for the price.  It has all the delicacy of a Speyside, with the craft necessary to give it some soft chocolate and smoke flavors that give it character.  (It should be mentioned that if you can find Wild Turkey 101, Buffalo Trace, Eagle Rare 10 yr. Single Barrel, or Jim Beam Devil’s Cut for under $25, they are even better.  However, I live in Boston where I am not quite so lucky.)

Best Whiskey under $30:  Rittenhouse Rye Bottled-in-Bond.  It still reigns supreme; it’s just that good.

Runner-up under $30:  Buffalo Trace (https://bargainbourbon.com/2012/03/31/buffalo-trace-review/).  It is the bourbon that turned me on to bourbon a number of years ago, and it continues to impress.  It is not overly sweet, leaving the vanilla to be blended perfectly.  It is like eating a perfectly balanced cheesecake (sort of).

Best Whiskey under $35:  Russell’s Reserve 10 yr (https://bargainbourbon.com/2012/07/12/russells-reserve-10-year-bourbon-review/).  Finally, Rittenhouse was dethroned.  Every time I drink Russell’s Reserve, I am amazed at how wonderfully structured it is.  It is like reading a great novel, where the plot unfolds precisely when it should.

Runner-up under $35:  W.L. Weller 12 yr (https://bargainbourbon.com/2012/08/28/w-l-weller-12-year-review/).  This is exactly what a wheated bourbon can achieve.  It is sweet, but complex, demonstrating the many phases of a sweetness.  It reminds me of eating buttermilk pancakes smothered in cinnamon sugar and maple syrup (except not as filling).

Best Whiskey under $40:  Four Roses Single Barrel (https://bargainbourbon.com/2012/08/14/four-roses-single-barrel-review/).  Although this is a single barrel whiskey (meaning there will be some difference between batches), I’ve never had a bad batch of this whiskey.  It is plainly brilliant.  It has the all the spicy rye character of Four Roses Small Batch, but it demonstrates a whole other layer of complexity with a sweet, dark palate.

Runner-up under $40:  Russell’s Reserve 10 yr.  It has rightly remained high on my list even at a higher price point.

Best Whiskey under $50:  Bunnahabhain 12 yr (https://bargainbourbon.com/2012/08/22/bunnahabhain-12-year-review/).  This is really a brilliant Islay whisky.  The sherry influence is strong, but the Islay peat hangs around to provide a perfect balance.  Although this is not a traditional Islay whisky, it is my favorite value.

Runner-up under $50:  Four Roses Single Barrel.  Yes, it can compete with whiskeys that reach above its price point.

Best Whiskey under $60:  Booker’s Small Batch Bourbon (https://bargainbourbon.com/2012/06/21/comparison-review-bookers-vs-noahs-mill/).  This is my favorite whiskey to date, and it should only be given to a true whiskey lover who you love very much.  It is a full, robust whiskey, providing a complexity and intensity rarely seen elsewhere in the bourbon world under $60.  (I have seen Booker’s for as cheap as $47.  If you see it around that price, snatch up a bottle.)

Runner-up under $60:  Bunnahabhain 12 yr.  As many of you are aware, Scotch is expensive.  However, I have yet to find a better value among Single Malt Scotch than Bunnahabhain.

I am stopping at $60, because most people that read this blog are seeking value bourbons.  If you like some recommendations for higher price ranges, feel free to email me at thedagupeir@gmail.com.  I would also recommend that you read the reviews of these whiskeys before purchasing them, just to make sure it sounds like something that will truly be enjoyed by whoever is its lucky recipient.  Let it ride!

Four Roses Single Barrel Review

I apologize for my brief hiatus in posts.  I was in the Outer Banks, and I just felt like enjoying the moment rather than blogging about bourbon.  However, that does not mean I love blogging about bourbon any less.  To prove it, I have decided to review one of my favorite bourbons this evening: Four Roses Single Barrel (if you must know, I am currently enjoying Barrel 4-3K).

I have reviewed several Four Roses products before, and I have concluded that they are all very good value.  The Single Barrel is the top-shelf standard offering from Four Roses, and it does not disappoint.  It is bottled at 100 proof, higher than any other Four Roses product.  However, it does not drink like 100 proof whiskey.  It is the perfect combination of gentleness and power.

On the nose, Four Roses Single Barrel is mostly sweet, but it has some balancing notes of spices and flowers.  There are notes of cinnamon, rye, vanilla, dark chocolate, and roses.  On the palate, the Single Barrel is primarily sweet and rich.  It moves from lighter sweet flavors (berries, light vanilla) to denser, heavier sweet flavors (dark chocolate, sweet oak, toffee).  The finish is long, warming, and complex.  It begins with the oak integrating well with the sweet flavors of vanilla, cinnamon, and honey.  However, the whiskey finishes strong with a powerful burst of rich, bittersweet dark chocolate and cinnamon spice.

Overall, Four Roses Single Barrel is a phenomenal bourbon whiskey.  It is robust, complex, and unique.  The sweetness makes it a perfect dessert bourbon (if you are into that sort of thing), but it is the kind of whiskey that can be enjoyed at any time of the day.  My grade:  A-.  Price: $35-40/750ml.  This is a wonderful whiskey, worth every penny (in my opinion).

Bourbon Rankings (Taste)

I have had several people ask me to provide a ranking of the bourbons I have reviewed based solely on the bourbon.  Well, here are my bourbon grades.  Check out my grading scale here.

1.  Booker’s (A)

2. Four Roses Single Barrel (A-)

3. Russell’s Reserve 10 Year (B+)

4. Jefferson’s 18 yr. Presidential Select (B+)

5. Noah’s Mill (B+)

6. Rowan’s Creek (B+)

7. Maker’s 46 (B+)

8. Rock Hill Farms (B+/B)

9. Wild Turkey 101 (B+/B)

10. Evan Williams Single Barrel Vintage 2002 (B)

11. Woodford Reserve (B)

12. Eagle Rare 10 Year Single Barrel (B)

13. Blanton’s Original (B)

14. Wild Turkey Rare Breed (B)

15. Four Roses Small Batch (B)

16. Knob Creek 9 Year Single Barrel Reserve (B/B-)

17. Elmer T. Lee (B/B-)

18. Basil Hayden’s (B-)

19. Buffalo Trace (B-)

20. Jim Beam Devil’s Cut (B-)

21. Elijah Craig 12 Year (B-)

22. W.L. Weller 12 Year (B-)

23. Willett Pot Still Single Barrel Family Reserve (B-)

24. Jefferson’s (B-)

25. Four Roses Yellow Label (C+)

26. Wild Turkey 81 (C+)

27. Old Forester (C/C+)

28. Knob Creek 9 Year Small Batch (C)

29. Old Grand-Dad Bonded (C)

30. Old Weller Antique (C)

31. Jim Beam Black Label (C)

32. Evan Williams Black Label (C)

33. Bulliet Frontier (C)

34. Berkshire Bourbon (C)

35.  Fighting Cock 6 Year (C-)

36. Kentucky Vintage (C-)

37. John E. Fitzgerald Larceny (C-)

38. Maker’s Mark (C-)

39. Wild Turkey 80 (C-)

40. Jim Beam White Label (C-)

41. Jesse James (D+)

Those are my bourbon rankings ranked solely on my tastes.  That’s the fun of bourbon, you might rank these completely different.  Which ones would you change?

Four Roses Small Batch Review

At the recommendation of a good bourbon companion of mine, I picked up a bottle of Four Roses Small Batch the other day.  As it turns out, it was the perfect time to do so.  Like its little brother, Four Roses Yellow Label, the small batch bourbon from Four Roses is a perfect bourbon for warm summer nights.  Four Roses Distillery uses ten different recipes for their bourbons, which makes it one of the most diverse bourbon distilleries around.  Four Roses Small Batch is a batching of four of these different recipes with various ages, and there is no age statement on the bottle.  It is bottled at 90 proof, but it drinks just as smooth as its 80 proof little brother.

On the nose, Four Roses is light, spicy, floral, and fruity.  It reminds a little of a Lowland Scotch.  There are notes of lemon and orange peels, cinnamon, ginger, some nutmeg, and some rye spiciness.  The palate is a very solid blend of sweet and spicy flavors.  Four Roses Small Batch has a silky texture to it, backed up by the combination of berries and citrus fruits with rye peppiness.  The finish is long and well-executed, with some rye kick followed up by oranges, sour apples, honey, and caramel.

Truthfully, Four Roses Small Batch surprised me.  It is unlike any other bourbon I have had in that it is very light and floral throughout.  However, it still has enough kick to drink like a bourbon.  My only complaint is that it can be a little rough around the edges, especially when the rye presents itself in the finish.  I think the quality of Four Roses Small Batch is something that Basil Hayden’s could achieve if it were bottled at slightly higher proof.  This is definitely a very good bourbon, especially on a warm night.  My grade: B/B-.  Price: $25-30/750ml.  This is a unique whiskey, that makes a great standard pour, especially if you are looking to introduce Scotch drinkers to bourbon.