One of the highlights from the 2013 Whisky Jewbilee was watching Jim Rutledge of Four Roses rinse my smoky dram coated glass with Four Roses Yellow Label Bourbon and then having him fill it with their 125th Anniversary Small Batch Bourbon. This memorable moment reminded me that I still had samples of Four Roses Yellow Label and Four Roses Small Batch Bourbon that needed to be reviewed, so a couple of weeks ago, that’s exactly what I did, i.e. I sat my lazy ass down and finally took tasting notes for these two whiskies (I’ve only had these two samples in my possession since Mid-July!).
Here is what Four Roses has to say about these Bourbon expressions:
Yellow Label: A worldwide favorite, especially when creating mixed drinks with a sophisticated, contemporary flair. Hints of pear and apple compliment floral aromas and mix with a taste of honey and spice. Smooth and mellow with a unique, long and soft finish.This Bourbon uses as many as all 10 of our Bourbon recipes (click here to read more about these recipes) to achieve its taste profile.
Small Batch: Marrying, or mingling, multiple Bourbon recipes is an art in itself. Four original and limited Bourbons have been expertly selected by our Master Distiller at the peak of maturation to create a perfectly balanced small batch Bourbon that rewards you with a mellow symphony of rich, spicy flavors along with sweet, fruity aromas and hints of sweet oak and caramel. Finishes soft, smooth and pleasantly long. Best enjoyed straight up, on the rocks, or with a splash. Made from the following four Bourbon recipes: OBSO, OBSK,OESK, and OESO.
And now for my tasting notes…
- Yellow Label: 40%
- Small Batch: 45%
- Yellow Label: Pale amber color. Or should I say golden yellow with an orange hue?
- Small Batch: A shade or two darker than the Yellow Label. I shall call it dusty copper!
- Yellow Label: Very subtle nose with cinnamon, light brown sugar, spearmint, and a bit of licorice.
- Small Batch: That extra 5% ABV is quite noticeable. Definitely a richer nose on this expression. I’m getting preserved cherries, dark brown sugar, cinnamon, vanilla, and a touch of wintergreen.
- Yellow Label: Starts off really slow with a bit of brown sugar sweetness. Cinnamon and allspice kicks in at mid-palate, but never overpowers. This is really smooth and easy drinking. The heat builds a bit more at the finish with a bit of mint in the aftertaste.
- Small Batch: Much more intense at the start with a healthy dose of sweet brown sugar and cinnamon spice. While the Small Batch is a bit more intense, it’s far from harsh. This is some smooth stuff! It intensifies a bit at mid-palate with a bit more spice coming through. Ends on a lightly sweet and spicy note with some of the cherry coming through in the aftertaste.
It’s tough to pick a winner between these two Four Roses whiskies. They are both very good, i.e. smooth, flavorful, and very easy drinking. If money wasn’t an issue, then I would have to go with the Small Batch, but when you consider the price (about $18 for the Yellow Label vs. about $28 for the Single Barrel), then the answer isn’t so clear. As an everyday bourbon, the Yellow Label is a definite winner. If you’re looking for something richer and more flavorful, then I say skip the Small Batch and spend a little extra for the Single Barrel. The Small Batch is a delicious bourbon, but the Single Barrel is extra special and definitely worth the extra money (it goes for about $40).