Four Roses Bourbon

Dec 23, 11 Four Roses Bourbon
Manhattans at Reunion Bar

Manhattans at Reunion Bar

Manhattan’s are one of, if not my favourite, cocktail. I love the warm feeling that starts in my belly and spreads through my body after the first sip of  a perfect Manhattan on the rocks. Some may prefer Manhattans straight up but I like’em on ice because otherwise, I drink them way too fast.

There are two types of bourbon, Kentucky and Tennessee but most comes from Kentucky. Although Maker’s is my favourite, I found myself at a tasting for Four Roses Kentucky Bourbon in The Grosvenor Hotel at Victoria Station, the other night out of curiosity to see how other bourbons stack up.

4 Roses tasting

4 Roses tasting

I learned a bit as well. Bourbon comes only from the U.S. and was designated a national spirit in May 1964. As such, it is one of the most strictly regulated spirits in the world, the thinking being, that if it represents the US, only a top quality product should be produced. There are two basic rules that all bourbons have to follow: 1. they have to be made with grain and 2. they shouldn’t  be distilled to too high an alcohol content. Bourbon was almost lost because of Prohibition but thanks to the belief that whiskey had medicinal purposes, a few distilleries were allowed to stay open, Four Roses being one of them. As a matter of fact, the distillery has copies of prescriptions written out by doctors for “medicinal whiskey” from the 1920′s.

whiskey prescription for "medicinal" purposes

whiskey prescription for “medicinal” purposes

Four Roses was founded in 1888 and has had a long and chequered history. It hit rock bottom when it was owned by Seagrams which produced a lot of minimal bourbon and the reputation of Four Roses was in the toilet. Happily, in the 90′s it was bought by Kirin who set about to restore Four Roses as a quality bourbon.

We compared the tasted all the Four Roses Yellow Label, Four Roses small batch and Four Roses Single Barrel. One common theme they all had was a spicy nose, each becoming  more intense in flavour the longer they were aged, between 6 and 9 years. The Single Barrel was smooth and rich with caramel and vanilla on the nose (although we were cautioned not to breath in too deeply).

3 Kentucky bourbons

3 Kentucky bourbons

Comparing them to Maker’s Mark and Woodford Reserve, there were noticeable differences. The  main one with Maker’s is that Maker’s is the only one made with wheat instead of grain and so is a bit softer and sweeter then the others. I’ve heard it referred to as a “woman’s bourbon” because of that, which might explain why I like it so much. Woodford was much more masculine in character, the spices more pronounced and definitely having an oilier feel to it. Four Roses seemed to fall in the middle between the two bourbons, not to soft nor too pronounced. A fine and mellow bourbon.

Maker’s is still my favourite but I left the tasting with an appreciation for Four Roses and it’s history. And I wouldn’t say no to a Four Roses Manhattan in future.

4 Roses yellow label

4 Roses yellow label

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