Celebrating Al Young’s Ambassadorship The Right Way
2017 Four Roses Small Batch Limited Edition Barrel Strength 50th Anniversary for Al Young Senior Brand Ambassador. Wow, that’s a mouthful of a name but luckily it’s also an excellent mouthful of whiskey! As the name implies this Limited Edition Small Batch was released to honor the 50th Anniversary of Al Young, the current Senior Brand Ambassador at Four Roses. Al young started at Four Roses back in 1967 and I’ll leave the rest to Four Roses to explain, as they know him best:
“Al Young has served in a variety of roles at Four Roses for the past 50 years. In 1990, he became Distillery Manager and in 2007 was named Four Roses Brand Ambassador, a role that has him crossing the country sharing the story of Four Roses and its Bourbon. He is also historian for our storied 129-year-old Kentucky Bourbon brand, having researched archives, Distillery records, news accounts, photos and artifacts to write the book Four Roses: The Return of a Whiskey Legend, published in 2010. Al was inducted into the Whisky Magazine Hall of Fame in 2015 and is also a member of the Kentucky Distillers’ Association Kentucky Bourbon Hall of Fame.”
Just Tell Me About The Bottle, Damn it!
This release is a Small Batch blend of 4 different whiskeys ranging from 12 to 23 years old and even the bottle itself is an homage to Al Young. It was released in June of 2017 and limited to approximately 10,000 bottles. The team at Four Roses went into the archives and found a bottle from 1967 when Al Young started with the company and then designed the new bottle around that vintage design and even including the retro Four Roses logo. The end result is a truly beautiful bottle to have on your shelf. Now let’s get a little detailed and talk about the recipe for this particular Small Batch. The majority of this Small Batch (50%) is 13-year old OESV followed by 25% of 15-year old OBSK, 20% of 12-year old OBSF and last but not least 5% of a 23-year old OBSV. That last one has everyone interested, a 23-year old barrel of Four Roses is pretty much unheard of. They were of course asked about this and responded:
“The 23-year-old OBSV was selected due to the distinctive honey, cherry and rich oak flavors that it exhibits. Having said that, samples using various percentages of it were prepared. This resulted in a well-balanced, highly flavorful bourbon…”
I’ll also lightly touch on the various Four Roses Mashbills just in case some of you aren’t familiar with what those letters mean in terms of flavor, if you are feel free to skip this paragraph and move onto the tasting notes. The first letter is always an “O” which indicates that the whiskey came from the Four Roses Distillery in Lawrenceburg, Kentucky. The second letter can either be an “E” indicating that the mashbill is 20% rye, or a “B” which has a higher rye content
of 35%. The third letter is always an “S” indicating that it is a Straight Whiskey. The last letter indicates what yeast was used to ferment the mash and that has the most variability, as there are 5 possible options: F, K, O, Q, or V. According to Four Roses the flavor profile typically associated with these yeast strains are represented in the chart to the right.
Four roses blends all ten of these possible combinations together to make the standard label Four Roses, blends OESO, OESK, OBSO and OBSK to make the Small Batch and they always use OBSV for their standard Single Barrel bourbon. Then you have the Private Selection Single Barrels where the store owner or representative gets to choose from Single Barrel versions of any of the ten mashbills, which are typically bottled at barrel strength. Finally you have the Limited Edition releases like this, which are either a Single Barrel or a Small Batch of what the Master Distiller (Brent Elliot) considers to be the best barrels at his disposal.
Released this August 2017, the 2017 Four Roses Small Batch Limited Edition Al Young’s 50th Anniversary is bottled at 53.8% ABV, 107.6 proof. For this review I will be tasting the whiskey with and without a few drops of water in a Glencairin glass.
Tasting Notes: 2017 Four Roses Small Batch Limited Edition Al Young’s 50th Anniversary
Contents: 53.8% ABV // 107.6 proof // Small Batch // Blend of 4 different whiskeys ranging from 12 to 23 years old
MSRP: Approx. $150 depending on market, paid 157.99 + tax near Tampa, Florida.
Appearance: Chestnut brown, long legs dripping down the sides of the glass.
Nose: Starts with oak spice but not at all astringent considering it’s barrel proof. Opens up to dark berries and stone fruit. Plums and blackberries dance with warm wood and vanilla in your nostrils and the longer the glass opens up the more pronounced the fruit characteristics become.
Palate: Oily and rich, I immediately taste the charred oak but that quickly fades into stone fruit. Dark fruit and berries carry over from the nose and once again are balanced beautifully by the tannins from the wood.
Finish: Medium to long finish, leads with the warmth from the oak which fades into the very same notes of dark fruit that I find present throughout. Interestingly it actually fades back into warm wood again before finally fading away to a very slight mint before disappearing completely.
Delicious, this whiskey is rich and oily with notes of dark fruit, rich oak and subtle hints of vanilla. There are a lot of people out there who are cautious of Four Roses Limited Edition Releases because their Private Selection program is done so well and usually for about half the price, but this one lives up to it’s name. Well worth retail if you can find one and even potentially worth secondary if you’re a big fan of Four Roses. The higher price scared me at first but after sitting with this for a little over an hour I can say I’m extremely happy with this whiskey.
Good or bad? Outstanding, this whiskey is complex and extremely well rounded throughout
Worth buying again? Absolutely, especially if you can find one at retail however I believe these aren’t on shelves anymore! Sad Face!
Editor’s Note: This whiskey was purchased by Superfly Bourbon Club. In no way, does acquiring the bottle in any form manipulate the direction of this review. Some information sourced from FourRosesBourbon.com.