Friday, March 12, 2010

A New Limited Edition From Four Roses.

There are two kinds of limited edition releases in the American Whiskey business. Some are about the whiskey, some are about the bottle.

Four Roses has been one of the leaders in limited editions that are mainly about the whiskey. In recent years, they have rolled out a limited edition version of their single barrel expression each spring, just in time for the Kentucky Derby (May 1 this year).

For 2010 it is a 17-year-old bourbon that is being used to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the main building at the distillery site in Lawrenceburg. There have been distilleries on or near that site for almost 200 years, but the distinctive Spanish Mission-style building (pictured above) was built in 1910 by the sons of J. T. S. Brown, who ran it on both sides of Prohibition.

The Browns (cousins of the Brown-Forman Browns) had bought the place in 1904. In 1909, a nearby distillery burned down and while it was being rebuilt, the Browns decided theirs could stand to be spruced up too.

During WWII, Seagram’s bought the plant and renamed it Four Roses, after a brand they had also just acquired. Seagram’s was big in the production of neutral spirits for the war effort. They owned 14 Kentucky distilleries by war’s end. They must have liked the one they named Four Roses, because they gradually closed all the rest. By the time Seagram’s itself was sold a decade ago, Four Roses was the only Kentucky distillery they had left.

Today it is owned by Kirin and run by long-time Master Distiller Jim Rutledge. The Four Roses 100th Anniversary Limited Edition Single Barrel Bourbon will be released in early April. It is bottled at barrel strength (55 percent alcohol) and not chill filtered. About 2,300 bottles will be distributed in all U.S. markets where Four Roses currently is sold.

Even though Four Roses limited editions are about featuring a special whiskey, the bottles are nice too. For this one, an etching of the distillery, in gold, has been added to the standard Single Barrel package.

Although Four Roses makes ten different bourbons, it almost doesn’t matter which of those recipes this is, because at 17 years it is all about the wood. That doesn’t mean all 17-year-olds taste the same, of course. In this case, the result is a whiskey that is very dry, even astringent, but not overly tannic, the usual failing of an extra-aged bourbon.

Instead, the most striking taste here is pure oak, with just a little bit of char. Pretty quickly, though, this whiskey hits a wall. That’s when a splash of water helps to wake it up. Then you get figs and dark molasses, if you can imagine figs or dark molasses denuded of most of their sugar.

If what you like about bourbon is its sweetness, this may not be the bourbon for you.

Also to commemorate the anniversary, and as a tribute to the distillery’s employees, past and present; Four Roses is searching for the oldest living person who once worked at the Lawrenceburg plant. That person will receive bottle no. 1 of the limited edition and other nice prizes.

If you’re interested in a bottle for yourself, and you’re not a former employee, better call your whiskey-monger now.

1 comment:

Evangelos said...

Thanks Chuck, great info as always. I reserved mine.