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Review: Four Roses 2012 Limited Edition Single Barrel Bourbon

Four Roses 2012 Limited Edition Single Barrel came out in May of this year. Unfortunately I was unable to get a bottle here in the Nashville area until August. Four Roses has three standard products – the “Yellow” label, Small Batch, and Single Barrel bourbon. The later is a top value pour in my book, but I usually can’t wait to see what the distillery puts out in their Limited Edition releases each Spring. With 10 recipes for which to choose from, Four Roses has near limitless options at their disposal.

This years release is the OESK mashbill, the distillery’s lower rye recipe at 75% corn, 20% rye, and 5% malted barley. The “K” in the designation stands for the yeast strain – which amplifies and enhances the spice aromas and flavors in the whiskey. For anyone suspect to Four Roses’ claims, trust me when I say, “yeast matters!”. Having spent some time with Jim Rutledge nosing and tasting every recipe, yeast is possibly the most under-appreciated “flavor factor” in whiskey making.

Four Roses 2012 Limited Edition Single Barrel Bourbon, 55.6% abv (111.2Proof), $69/bottle
Barrel Info: Barrel 81-3E, aged 12 years
Color: Deep Amber
Nose: Big plumes of maple and barrel sugars, peanut brittle, nougat, peach preserves, hints of cinnamon, and old wood. One of the best noses of the year – unreal.
Palate: Maple, brown sugar, caramel apple, and a swift uppercut of spice notes (cinnamon, nutmeg, and chili flake).
Finish: Long and lingering warmth, spices, and maple sweetness.
Overall: For me it’s a top 5 whiskey of the year at this stage. The “K” yeast strain’s spicy influence elevates a sweet and fruity pour. What impresses me most about Four Roses is their bourbons are unlike any other distillery, at their best achieving a great balance of sweetness, spice, and fruit. The 2012 Limited Edition Single Barrel is superb with added depth. It doesn’t come cheap, but it’s well worth the price of admission. Here’s my suggestion: while most lament the fact that they missed a Buffalo Trace Antique Collection whiskey, just walk into your local shop, grab this and smile knowing you have something at least as good.
Sour Mash Manifesto Rating: 9.5 (Superb)

37 Comments

  1. David Markle says:

    So, are the releasing this instead of the “Mariage” special bourbon that they put out a while back? Because I have a 2009 Mariage and it’s phenomenal.

  2. David, this one is the Single Barrel spring release they do each year. I’m just behind. The Mariage they put out in 2009 was renamed to the Limited Edition Small Batch. They put it out each fall – the 2012 has just hit. I should have some shortly. Typically I like these better, but this years single barrel is just awesome. Cheers!

  3. Steve says:

    As good as any bourbon that I have ever tasted. Simply tremendous!

  4. Jason,

    Phenomenal review! I’ve only had the Four Roses small batch and single barrel. I haven’t had a chance to get any of these special edition bottles. I also live in Nashville, where do you usually pick these up? RED in Bellevue is my closest store.

    -Cheers

  5. iskch1 says:

    Jason, nice review. I like your suggestion on choosing Four Roses S.B over Buffalo Trace Antique Collection.

  6. Chris says:

    Picked up a bottle last month….PHENOMENAL!!!

  7. Texas says:

    “Here’s my suggestion: while most lament the fact that they missed a Buffalo Trace Antique Collection whiskey, just walk into your local shop, grab this and smile knowing you have something at least as good.”

    I think I will ask for this bourbon for Christmas. I am sick of the BTAC circus, as I think many are.

  8. Brent says:

    Eric, try the store across from Red, next to Daltons. I was in there the other night and I think they may have it. Can’t remember because I was having a taste of 21 yr Willet (awesome stuff).

    Jason, I found a bottle of 2009 Marriage on the shelf (thougth that stuff was gone). Is it worth picking up, or should I get the 2012 when I see it?

  9. Jeff says:

    Traveling through bourbon country in July I picked up a bottle of OESK Single Barrel at the distillery. Mine is barrel no. 24-3L and is 60.5% alcohol. This is one of Jim Rutledge’s private selections, available only at the distillery store. Taste and nose are fantastic, just as Jason described. Brown sugar peach cobbler, with toasted crumbles on top, but with a great bourbon kick. To my taste this is more special than all but the Sazerac 18 of the Antique Collection, and way better than this year’s Pappy 15. You gotta grab som’a dis!!

  10. Matt says:

    Jason love the info keep up the great work! If your a fan of the rye complexity four roses offers may I suggest you try old grand dad 114, it’s my all time favorite high rye bourbon, absolutely perfect for this time of year.

  11. Kip Lipper says:

    Jason:

    Just bought a bottle of Four Roses LImited Edition Small Batch 2012 Release Barrel Strength. Is that significantly different? Really like Four Roses but have a hard time keeping up with the different recipes.

  12. Mark says:

    Kip,

    The 2012 LE Small Batch is a mixture of 4 of the 4 Roses recipes at different ages. It consists of a 17 yr OBSV, 11 yr OBSV, 12yr OBSK, and 12 yr OESK.

    The 2012 LE Single Barrel is a 12 yr old OESK bourbon.

    So yes, it is going to be a significantly different experience, but the good news is, all the reviews of the Small Batch LE this year have been fantastic as well. I can’t wait to open my bottle. Check out John Hansel’s blog from Oct 5th and he sings some very high praise of the 2012 Small Batch release.

  13. GQuiz says:

    Getting a William Larue Weller this evening. Missed the allocation totally last year. Will try this if I can find it. But more importantly, you said this was a top 5 for the year. What is your Top 5? Feel free to include those just off the list.

  14. Todd says:

    Good review, just picked up a bottle of this…

    On a side note… I don’t understand why some in Nashville have a hard time finding BTAC… I know several places from Murfreesboro to Clarksville that still have supplies… I have bought 3 GTS & 3 WLW over the last few weeks

  15. David Markle says:

    @Todd: I know a place where I can go at any time of the day or night and pick up a bottle or three of Pappy 20 or any BTAC… If you have $300 to spend per bottle. I guess the moral of the story is that price and availability are related….

  16. Hey Jason,
    Great review(s)! A friend of mine recently poured me a dram of Four Roses Single Barrel (not Limited Ed.) to enjoy, and boy did I ever. What a great Whisky, especially for the price. I immediately recommended it to my brother who was looking for a great bourbon to share with some friends.

    Cheers!
    Wm

  17. Brian says:

    OK – you guys cnvinced me. Four Roses is rare in these parts (Im in PA) but at the State Store last week, I saw some of the Single Barrel for $40 – I guess I’ll have to add it to the dry sink. I was able to get some Dad’s Hat Rye – made here in PA, though not readily available. Kind of young – and not as good as Bulliet…. look forward to your thoughst when you taste it Jason. Thanks again for all the hard…heh-heh….”work”.

  18. Brian, I hear a lot about Dad’s Hat. Hope too try it at some point.

  19. GQuiz, good question on my “Top 5″. I usually wait until the year concludes and then I give that a breakdown. Stay tuned!

  20. Jon says:

    Wow. What a great review. You always seem to light a fire under me to look for some excellent juices. I am a huge Four Roses fan ( all of them are excellent to my palate) and this seems like a real special treat that Jim Rutledge and the FR team have pulled off. When I think of the essence and soul of bourbon my first thought is Four Roses.

  21. Brent says:

    Eric, I was in a store in Green Hills yesterday (the wine shoppe?, it’s behind Walgreens) and they had a few bottles of the Limited Edition single barrel. It may be priced on the high side, but they did have some.

  22. GQuiz says:

    Is this better than William Larue Weller? In San Antonio, it’s $10 more a bottle. Only bottles are in Houston. Has to be shipped.

  23. Doug A. says:

    Love 4 Roses Single Barrel, one of my top shelf picks for complexity! Got to find and try this one!!! Love Pappy….but 4 Roses for my top everyday pick is always up there in the 9+ category. I will tell my wife I need an early Christmas present!!!

  24. Curtis C says:

    This is definitely my favorite this year. Worth every penny.

  25. Doug A. says:

    Jason,
    After reading your review I had to pick up a bottle of Four Roses 2012 Limited Edition Single Barrel Bourbon. My bottle was a bit more pricy at $99.00, but maybe its a supply and demand this at this point. All I can say is Oh my God what a wonderful bourbon. The nose was smoky oak, but sweetness like cherries, maybe maple with little alcohol smell and my mouth was watering in anticipation and the taste did not disappoint. Sweetness like good vanilla, brown sugar, caramel, candy apples, but spices too. The sweetness was one I had never experienced from Four Roses…the finish was long and smooth!! One of the best bourbons I have ever had the pleasure to come across!!! I love Pappy but for a non wheated bourbon this has to earn the highest mark in my book. Superior stuff!

  26. Doug A. says:

    When out looking for Pappy today I found Four Roses 2012 Limited Edition Single Barrel Bourbon at Liquor Barn in Louisville for $72.99 a bottle. Can you say Christmas list!!

  27. John says:

    The Single Barrel is amazing, no doubt. But I have to tell you: This weekend I was lucky enough to score two bottles of the 2012 limited small batch, and as farfetched as it may seem, I think it’s even better. So smooth, so flavorful, dangerously easy to drink! I too am in the Pappy lovers camp, but DANG both these limited FRs have blown my mind. I’m stocking up because I feel like this year will be the hardest yet trying to score Pappy 15 + 20. Both these Four Roses bottlings are must-haves.

  28. JFo says:

    I’m from Atlanta, but my wife and I made an all-day drive through bourbon country last month, picking up a bottle or two at every store we passed, and we ended up with this 2012 L.E. Single Barrel.  I was moderately excited about it because we both like their single barrel a lot anyway, but this review just bumped it onto the top of our can’t-wait-to-open list!  Thanks!

    FYI, another I love from our drive was the Old Forester 2012 Birthday Bourbon.  It’s one of the few we have popped so far, but wow.  Wish we grabbed a couple.  Tried it?

  29. Doug A. says:

    John A. the way it looks like Pappy is again going to be a tough find, but for the money, I think the 4 Roses Limited Edition SB and maybe the Small Batch Limited edition may be a good choice. I have heard that Jefferson’s Presendial Reserve 18 is the same Stizer-Weller stock as the older Pappy..so I may have to give it a try as well. Heck, I would settle for a bottle of Old Rip Van Winkle 107 just to remember the Van Winkle brand.

  30. Doug A. says:

    I was fortunate to find a bottle of Four Roses 2012 Limited Edition Small batch this afternoon. To improve my find, it had been signed by Master Distiller Jim Rutledge yesterday when he visited Louisville. When I spoke with him yesterday he said he liked the 2012 Small Batch over the Single Barrel due to consistency. And the Master was correct. A delicate nose of smoke, fruit, chocolate and fine cigars. On the palate it is starts mellow and the flavors of caramel, brown sugar and chocolate grow into spice and maybe even a bit of coconut. The finish is warm and wonderful with sweet and floral flavors that last and last. I had rated the 2012 LE Single Barrel as my favorite bourbon with a strong 96 rating, but the 2012 Small Batch has surpassed the Single Barrel as my favorite with its complexity and rates a solid 98. The Master was correct…this is the best of the best, a marriage of four bourbons ranging from 11 to 17 years in age. Jim Rutledge has created a magnificent bourbon with the release of the 2012 Limited Edition Small Batch. I think it is all about the yeast! Well done Jim!

  31. Dan says:

    I just picked up a couple bottles of Four Roses single barrel along with a fair number of the new release of Old Rip and Pappy’s. I am very happy to say Four Roses is absolutely fantastic, a very complex bourbon and head-to-head with the Old Rip and Pappy’s, Roses SB is clearly in that league if not slightly above. Great to see such amazing bourbon’s being produced, you can’t go wrong with this Four Roses (or old rip and pappy’s).

  32. Martin B Lutz says:

    Very good …keep producing this winner. It takes first prize. Single barrel or small batch is true quality. I don’t drink like a kid…so I want to enjoy the experience of what I am drinking.

  33. Bob says:

    I just returned from Rhode Island, where I was visiting for Christmas. While there I randomly went into a [fine!] liquor store and on the shelf among other GOOOOOD bourbons (no Pappys though) were two bottles of the 2012 Small Batch LE. Needless to say, I quickly relieved them of one bottle, leaving the other for the next lucky holiday shopper (was I overcome with a sense of Yuletide good will and generosity? – maybe, but also a bit short of the $$$ to buy both).

  34. Josh says:

    Hey Jason:

    Any clue on the age of Four Roses “standard” single barrel offering?

  35. Josh, the standard issue Four Roses Single Barrels are between 9-11 years. Jim finds that to be a sweet spot for their bourbon. Cheers!

  36. Ryan says:

    Jason,

    Have you tried the 2013 Ltd Ed Single Barrel? Just outstanding. I’m trying to get my hands on another couple, as I’m not sure I can live without it.

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