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Category: Bourbon Whiskey (page 1 of 2)

Decoding Four Roses Part 1: A Brief History & Blind Tasting of All 10 Recipes

Today, Four Roses consistently produces some of the most high-quality Bourbon on the market. I’d argue it is among the best, if not the best.

But it hasn’t always been that way. At least not in the United States.

Prohibition, Prominence, and Seagrams

After surviving prohibition through being one of the few distilleries allowed to produce medicinal whiskey, and later reigning for decades as the top-selling bourbon in the United States (Frankfort Distillers was the nation’s 5th largest liquor business between Four Roses and Paul Jones), Seagrams purchased the brand in 1943 for $42m.

Four Roses Ad in background, 1945

Alfred Eisenstaedt’s famous photo captures a prominent Four Roses Advertisement in Times Square, 1945. The large illuminated and animated sign featuring neon roses that “grew” alongside the logo below which read “A Truly Great Whiskey” was first introduced in 1938 and remained until 1945. Due to it’s visiblity from distances as far away as the Statue of Liberty, it was turned off at dark during WWII so it could not be used it as a target.

Despite its history, Seagrams had different plans for Four Roses. Being the blended whiskey giant they were, they acquired many distilleries to produce whiskey for their blends. Four Roses didn’t escape this fate. By the 1950s, it had become a blended whiskey and was only producing bourbon for export markets. In America, the product slipped into a decades-long dark age that over time saw it fall from the spotlight on the top shelf to the dark and dusty crevices of the bottom.

Four Roses Whiskey ad 1943

A Blend of Straight Whiskies, 1943

Fortunately, after changing hands multiple times, Four Roses was eventually purchased by Kirin Brewery Company in 2002. Under new ownership who understood the quality and potential of their newly acquired Bourbon, the brand eventually returned to the level of prominence it experiences today.

This renaissance was of course in large part due to the vision and dedication of Master Distiller Jim Rutledge, who had worked with the brand in various capacities since beginning his tenure with Seagrams in 1966.

Starting in research and development, Jim moved to work out of Seagram’s corporate office in New York City in 1975. He returned to Kentucky in 1992 after 17 years in New York and became Master Distiller in 1994 with the goal of bringing Four Roses Bourbon back to the United States. That same year, Four Roses Yellow Label was introduced into the domestic market, beginning with extremely limited quantities only available in Kentucky.

Since returning to Kentucky, Jim and his team have incrementally brought back the respect the Four Roses brand deserves by focusing more on what’s inside the bottle than what’s on the outside. The result of that focus has been nothing short of spectacular.

60% Grain Neutral Spirits by 1953

60% Grain Neutral Spirits, 1953

I’m still reeling a bit from all the recognition of my 40th anniversary last year – especially Malt Advocates’ Life Time Achievement Award – and it keeps going. After all these years doing something I absolutely love it keeps getting better and better. For so many years while with Seagram I tried and tried to get them to discontinue production and sale of that *#*&*^ blended whiskey, with our name on it, let it die away and ultimately bring our Four Roses Bourbon back to the U.S. I reminded Seagram marketing people over and over that we were the number one selling Bourbon in the U.S. for a period of time prior to Prohibition and for three decades after Prohibition for a Good Reason – we have a Great Bourbon. Even if I didn’t agree, I honestly understood their logic. They all reminded me that their predecessors – begining in the 40’s ruined the renowned name for Four Roses Bourbon when they introduced a blended whiskey (made mostly in Indiana and Maryland) with our name on the label. It still devastates me that an industry giant, like Seagram, could go out of business primarily because of one person. I have so many Seagram friends and many have struggled since December 2001. However, for me personally, I’m continuing to live a dream come true. Not a lot of people gave us much of a chance, but I believed in our Bourbon and I felt over time that we could shed the image of the blended whiskey and people would once again come to respect and love Four Roses Bourbon for what it is – a Great Premium Bourbon.

"Let us underwhelm you" American Light Whiskey by 1973

American Light Whiskey, 1973

I look around at the people at Four Roses and see the pride in their faces now that Four Roses is on its way back “home.” We’re relatively small in numbers but our hearts are huge and our energy seems to be endless. I hope I can somehow slow the Clock of Life down and stay on for years to come. I now have over 41 years in the business, but I feel like I’m still a Kid in a Candy shop, and I want to be around when Four Roses Bourbon is truly a global brand – including all of the USA. We’re on our way….

- Jim Rutledge, 2008

When the transition to Kirin took place I was only 19, but by the time the single barrel product hit shelves I was 21 and enjoying it. Not much has changed since then.

And I’m not the only one who shares the sentiment. You don’t have to try hard in the Bourbon world to find a fan of Four Roses, but you will have a hard time finding someone with bad things to say.  Because of this, the demand has grown exponentially over the past few years, with sales figures increasing by more than 350% from 2011 to 2014.

The vision and passion has payed off, and on that note Jim Rutledge recently announced his retirement effective September 1 of this year (2015), but not before announcing a $55 million expansion that will double the Lawrenceburg distillery’s capacity.

Hats off to you, Jim!

10 Distinct Recipes

Four Roses Distillery in Lawrenceburg Kentucky

Four Roses Distillery in Lawrenceburg Kentucky

The main unique aspect of Four Roses is their 10 different recipes they produce to supply their core Bourbon lineup.

Here are the basics:

Two different Mash Bills:

  1. E Mash Bill “High-Corn”: 20% Rye, 75% Corn, 5% Malted Barley
  2. B Mash Bill “High-Rye”: 35% Rye,  60% Corn, 5% Malted Barley

5 Yeast Strains:

  1. VLight fruitiness, light vanilla, caramel & creamy
  2. KLight spiciness, light caramel & full-bodied
  3. ORich fruitiness, light vanilla, caramel & full-bodied
  4. Q – Essences of floral aromas
  5. FEssences of herbal aromas

The combination of each Mash Bill with each yeast strain produces 10 recipes:

  1. OBSVB Mash Bill, V yeast.
  2. OESV - E Mash Bill, V yeast.
  3. OBSK B Mash Bill, K yeast.
  4. OESK E Mash Bill, K yeast.
  5. OBSO B Mash Bill, O yeast.
  6. OESO E Mash Bill, O yeast.
  7. OBSQ B Mash Bill, Q yeast.
  8. OESQ E Mash Bill, Q yeast.
  9. OBSF B Mash Bill, F yeast.
  10. OESF E Mash Bill, F yeast.

The “O” in each recipe means the whiskey was distilled at the Four Roses distillery in Lawrenceburg, Kentucky.

The “S” in each recipe designates Straight Whiskey.

These recipes, or most importantly the individual yeast strains, originate from the Kentucky distillery network previously operated by Seagrams. This network consisted of:

  • Calvert in Louisville
  • The Old Louis Hunter Distillery in Cynthiana
  • The Athertonville Distillery in LaRue County
  • The Henry Mckenna Distillery in Nelson County
  • The Old Prentice Distillery (Four Roses) in Lawrenceburg

Single-Story Warehouses

Four Roses Coxs Creek

Entrance to Four Roses’ Cox’s Creek facility with single-story warehouses in background.

The other unique aspect of Four Roses is that they age their distillate in single-story warehouses.

The barrel house complex at Cox’s Creek, which is about 50 miles from the distillery in Lawrenceburg and about 30 miles south of Louisville, was built in 1960 and encompasses 298 acres with warehouses alphabetically labeled from A to U.

An individual warehouse occupies approximately one acre of land but is only a single story high. Compared to the 35 degree temperature variance between the top and bottom levels of the average rick-house used in Kentucky, Four Roses’ warehouses have a comparatively small variance from top to bottom of only about 8 degrees.

All of this means the barrels stored inside Four Roses’ warehouses tend to age more evenly than they would in a standard warehouse.

Four Roses Core Products

Having so many recipe options is a luxury, and as a result every one of Four Roses’ flagship products is different. Their Yellow Label uses all 10 recipes, but you will not find the same recipe used for their Single Barrel in the Small Batch, unless it’s a special or private release bottle.

Four Roses Product Lineup

L to R: Small Batch, Yellow Label, Single Barrel

  • Four Roses Yellow Label – introduced in 1994 and is a blend of all 10 recipes
  • Four Roses Small Batch – introduced in 2006 and is a blend of OBSK, OESK, OBSO, and OESO
  • Four Roses Single Barrel - introduced in 2004 and is always OBSV

Now that we’ve covered the technicalities, let’s see how each recipe stacks up…

Lineup & Tasting Results

Four Roses Single Barrel Bottles

Photo by Matthew Preston of The Lexington Bourbon Society.

All recipes tasted and ranked in this post are private selections purchased in April 2014 from Liquor Barn Hamburg (Lexington, KY) and Liquor Barn Richmond Rd (Lexington, KY).

Here are the details for the individual bottles:

Recipe Age ABV Warehouse Barrel
OBSK 12 yr 53.2% DN 37-1N
OESK 10 yr, 3 mo 55.7% KW 85-1C
OBSV 11 yr, 3 mo 54.2% ME 2-1G
OESV 10 yr 57.2% GW 38-2S
OBSO 10 yr, 4 mo 55.3%  US  55-1A
OESO 11 yr, 5 mo 56.0% BN 30-3B
OBSQ 10 yr, 4 mo 58.8% JE 42-2I
OESQ 10 yr, 1 mo 59.0% RN 85-3H
OBSF 11 yr, 8 mo 59.1% HW 29-3Q
OESF 10 yr 6 mo 56.6% GE 5-2C


Tasting Sessions and Results:

Though not impossible, objectively tasting 10 whiskeys in one session is a bit much so I decided to break the tasting into two sessions: the first for Mash Bill E, and another for Mash Bill B.

To help with the ranking, I invited two friends who have decent experience and knowledge but who had not previously tasted all 10 recipes.

We tasted everything blind, or at least as blind as possible considering we knew which mash bill was represented in the first session.

First Session: E Mash Bills, April 21 2015

Four Roses E Mash Bill Tasting

The first session was relatively straight-forward with almost completely consistent results between myself and the other two tasters.

OESO and OESK we’re the strong favorites of the lineup. In my opinion comparing O to K, the O was lightyears ahead of the runner-up with an immediate presence of earthy and intriguingly vegetal notes that settled into a beautiful, thick and creamy palate that sweetened into caramelized sugar over time. With an exceptional finish, it was an easy pick for #1.

K was a bit darker with some fig and hints of licorice and honestly I was surprised to learn after the reveal that it was K. A high quality pour but less elegant than the OESO, it had a very well-rounded nose-to-palate-to-finish sequence that landed it in the #2 spot.

Interestingly, the single barrel standard V yeast was ranked right in the middle. It’s certainly a crowd pleaser so this result seemed appropriate.

OESF and OESQ we’re enjoyable, but not solid enough on all parts too make the cut. The F had some dry wood notes that weren’t fantastic and the Q was musty and for that it landed in last place.

E-Mash Bill Rankings
Rank My Rank Taster #1 Taster #2


Four Roses B Mash Bill + Top 2 of E Mash Bill, July 23 2015

Four Roses B-E Mash Bill Tasting

For the second session, we took the top two picks from the E Mash Bill session (OESO & OESK) and placed them among all of the B Mash Bills. We also took ample time off between sessions to make sure we were coming in fresh and without any lingering palate memory. This would prove an important and interesting move as the results will show.

Almost immediately I honed in on a pleasant consistency between the OBSO and the OESO, but attempting to identify them blind proved difficult. I correctly identified the OBSO yeast, but incorrectly guessed that it was an E mash bill because I thought it was “too soft”. It was exceptionally well-rounded with baking spices hanging out alongside creamy vanilla cake icing. It had a cool, herbal note on the palate that led to a finish that was just spectacular.

The OESO followed closely. It lacked a sharp spiciness in comparison to the B Mash Bills, but more than made up for it with a thick buttery deliciousness that allowed the beautiful oak notes to shine through. I didn’t remember the wood being so prominent in the OESO tasted among the E Mash Bills.

Again, V yeast was ranked right in the middle of the spread but bumped up a few notches comparatively as OBSV. This seems uncanny but it honestly can’t be. In my notes I lead with “…has the most distinct Four Roses character” as I personally associate Four Roses mostly with the single barrel flagship, but overall it lacked a strong-enough finish to compete with OBSO and OESO.

The OBSK initially came off as over-oaked, but developed nicely into sweet chocolate and spices. It wasn’t strong on the palate but had a decent finish. Enjoyable but with quirks.

OBSQ had nice notes of sweet gum on the nose that led to a hot palate and a hot finish. I guessed this was F, but was wrong. I tend to often mix up F & Q when tasting blind. OBSF was more cinnamon-forward and just didn’t do it for me.

As for the OESK, it was overpowered by the B Mash Bills which muted its delicateness and brought out a metallic note that led me to reject it almost immediately. I want to revisit this one individually in the near future to get to the bottom of that.

B Mash Bill + Top 2 of E Mash Bill Ranking
Rank My Rank Taster #1 Taster #2



First things first, I’m both happy and surprised with my personal results. I was surprised that I leaned so heavily towards both O yeast recipes, but I welcome it with open arms as I’ve often overlooked OBSO and OESO private picks. Shame on me.

In this lineup there wasn’t a particular recipe in all 10 that I didn’t enjoy, it’s just that I enjoyed some more than others. And some preferences changed drastically in different contexts.

I’ve learned (again) that tasting is very subjective and comparison matters. Add to that the fact that the second round of results were very different between three tasters and it’s hard to come to a solid “this is the best” or “this is the overall favorite” recipe.

I also can’t help but wonder if any of the rejected E Mash Bills would have fared better overall had they been given the chance. With different company than what led me to really enjoy the OESK, it failed miserably. Maybe I wasn’t looking for the flaw the first time, or maybe the initial comparative sensory exercise wasn’t drastic enough for it to become a nuisance? Or, if I picked that one above 3 other E picks maybe the others completely suck?

I could do this all over again in 6 months and probably come to different results.

What I think is most important here is the understanding that–although highly influential–producing variety in Bourbon is well beyond a simple combination of grains and yeast. There are so many intricate variables I’ve not discussed in enough detail that create variety (barrels, weather, warehouse location, age, proof, etc.) that just looking at a recipe on a label and expecting it to be the best of the best by title alone is just dumb.

In other blind tastings similar to this one I’ve ranked OBSK, OESK, and even OBSQ on top. I’ve been completely repulsed by an OBSF in the past whereas I somewhat enjoyed both the F yeasts in this session.

The bottom line is that all of these are pretty damn good, but more importantly they’re consistent, as most Four Roses private selections tend to be. It’s a rare thing to get a bad one. If I were served any of these recipes individually, I’d find much about each of them to enjoy.


What do YOU think about these results?

Have you tasted all 10 Four Roses Recipes? Are you still trying to make your way through them?

I’m conducting a survey to see how the community’s preference at large stacks up against these results. If you have 5 minutes to answer 3 easy questions, it would be much appreciated!


I’ll be publishing the survey results and other interesting information very soon in Part 2!


*Much of the information presented in this post is referenced from Al Young’s book, Four Roses The Return of a Whiskey Legend. It is highly recommended reading for anyone interested in more detail on the subject.

If you’re looking for more information about recipes, I highly recommend covering the basics from the source, then reading what Sippn’ Corn has to say. And of course, questions are always encouraged in the comments below.

Michter’s Toasted Barrel Bourbon Whiskey Review

As seems to be the case with almost any whiskey release these days it shouldn’t come as a surprise that there’s been some controversy over this product, but the Michter’s horse has been beaten so hard (for good reason) that it’s soon to be reincarnated as a whiskey critic, so I’ll leave it at that.

There’s been positive attention for this release also. A lot of it.

Some very positive attention, actually…

These are guys I normally trust, so I had to find out if this amount of hype was valid. One of the best releases of the year? I had high hopes…

The Whiskey

Michter’s Toasted Barrel Finish Bourbon Whiskey

This is Michter’s standard US-1 Bourbon that is aged for an additional “period” in toasted (not charred) barrels constructed from staves that were air-dried for 18 months.

45.7% ABV | 91.4 Proof

Released Fall 2014

Full disclosure, this is the first and only Michter’s product I’ve purchased, so I have absolutely no benchmark for comparison.

Tasting Notes

When I first opened this bottle the nose was heavy on nutty aromas and a bit off-putting, but after about a month resting at the shoulder it has developed into a sweeter more approachable bouquet.

It’s thin with a hint of syrup and honey, followed by big notes of artificial caramel and faint traces of butter. Burnt vanilla hangs out in the background like a wallflower before a reluctant vinyl aroma emerges over time.

Nosing from the side of the glass you get alcohol, but directly from the center it seems watered down, which is interesting. After swirling the whiskey in my glass I notice there are absolutely no legs. I mean none, the glass remains crystal clear. Wait, there they are, one — no — two of them. While I do understand this doesn’t exactly mean much (other than it’s likely been stripped of its manhood?), it does strike me as peculiar.

On the first sip, alcohol rushes out of the glass and shoots straight across the tongue carrying sharp cinnamon and is long gone before I realize it. This is very light overall, but with more alcohol than would be expected at 91.4 proof.

After a few sips, notes of unsalted and otherwise as-neutral-as-possible toasted almonds arrive. The typical ensemble of vanilla & caramel sings a soft tune as though under water. ‘Tis the season.

The finish seems to be in such a hurry it doesn’t exit the train to say hello. It’s just gone, passing straight through the station without so much as a wave goodbye.


I can’t get over how non-existent the finish is. It’s fascinating. If you are one who enjoys your bourbon to disappear like a bandit without a trace, this is the stuff for you.

I will give the nose some credit, it’s good, but the palate is lackluster. This whiskey invites you to what you expect to be a fancy dinner, but brings you to one of those restaurants that dedicates so much attention to the presentation and methodology of the menu that the cuisine ultimately suffers. Yet, overall it remains decent enough to please most through simple sustenance.

You, my friend, get by. 

I’ve heard and read a lot of comments that this is similar to Woodford Reserve Double Oaked, and while there are some similarities, this is MUCH easier drinking and less, um, intimidating. I haven’t compared the two side-by-side, but from memory this is less of an oaky screaming infant and lacks the thick chocolate profile the Woodford throws right at you like a baby playing with their food.

I can certainly understand how this is palatable to some, but it doesn’t do much for me. It’s not off-putting or bad, just light and easy-drinking; a bit boring. If that’s your thing, buy a bottle.

Grade: C+


Kentucky Owl Bourbon Whiskey Review and Notes On The Absurd

Back in September I posted this…

…and since then Kentucky Owl has largely been left alone as a non-issue not to be taken seriously.

But then to my surprise, who was recently crowned winner of the drinks category in Garden & Gun’s “Made In The South” awards? The Owl, of course. In disbelief I felt the need to give it some attention again, if only to reassure myself that I wasn’t crazy for writing it off.

Kentucky Owl, the myth and the mystery

For starters, most whiskey-related blog posts begin with a charming story about the product and its history, but I won’t discuss any of that here because I can’t put forth the effort to entertain yet another myth involving whiskey and Al-Capone. If you don’t know what I mean and want to read the entire “story”, you’ll need to visit their website.

What is most important is the fact that Kentucky Owl is sourced whiskey that is packaged in a beautiful bottle without any mention of what’s inside. While some enjoy doing detective work, I don’t go down that path until I know that I like something, in order to preemptively justify the time invested.

Regardless, it seems any effort to sleuth out a source would be an exercise in futility anyway, as the brand’s current story dances around the intention to keep the bourbon shrouded in mystery. This makes perfect sense, since bourbon whiskey in general seems to be a mystery to the producers marketers themselves. From

By law, the creation of Kentucky bourbon is not an instant gratification kind of thing. It must contain at least 51 percent corn and age in charred white oak barrels for at least two years before it can earn that distinction.

After four years, it can claim the status of Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey. Beyond that, distillers don’t have to disclose its age, though many do on the notion that older is better.

And here’s a screenshot before they make any edits:

Kentucky Owl

So whats the problem here? This information is flat out wrong.

  • White oak? Nope, just oak.
  • Aged at least two years? Nope, just aged.
  • Four years to become straight bourbon? Strike three, just two years.

…and that’s only two sentences from the website. I don’t feel the need to dissect anything further than that. To be fair, the words were originally authored by a journalist in this article, but that’s no excuse.


This is where the story gets completely out of hand. A bottle of this will run you at least $150 if you’re [un]lucky. Again, that’s over one hundred dollars for a bourbon without a birth certificate.

But wait, there’s more! The producers marketers of this fine product anticipate Kentucky Owl will “move well beyond that price among collectors” in the future, so you better act fast!

Considering the mystery and the misinformation, Kentucky Owl bears a price tag that should make anyone who works for their money (or even steals it) cringe.

…but is it even good? Let’s find out.


The Whiskey

Kentucky Owl Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey.

Batch 1, Bottle 1370 at 59.2% ABV / 118.4 Proof


There’s almost no nose at first. Nothing. If glass had a scent that’s what I’m getting here. “Muted” comes to mind, or flat out “mute”. Heavy notes of mime. Either my glass has holes in it, I’ve lost my sense of smell, or this is the most vacuous bourbon I’ve ever nosed.

To its credit, it does open up and improve over time, but not much. Dry oak notes come through on the nose, similar to those noted in my review of Wild Turkey Diamond, but while I managed to pull some pleasant nostalgia out of that whiskey, the note in Kentucky Owl is a bit obtuse (can I say that?) and less complex.

As even more time passes the bouquet becomes sweeter with a hint of candied ginger that evolves into parlance with cedar. It’s a funky cedar, like grandma’s cedar chest that remains without breath until opened when an extra quilt is required on a cold night. Cue dust.

Trying to pull deeper brings out the alcohol.

It’s very hot on the front of the palate. Of course, this is a cask-strength whiskey so the heat is to be expected, but the first sips drink much hotter than they should.

Forecast calls for a temperature of 118 proof, but feels like a rough 130.

After being bombarded with an unusual bitterness that numbs the tip of the tongue rendering it useless, the attack moves quickly to the sides of the tongue before relaxing. There’s nothing across the middle as the palate follows suit behind the nose with notes of wet, oiled leather from a musty saddle.

The finish seems to have a mind of it’s own as it dissipates unevenly with a hot exit, and lingers.


After trying this bourbon on multiple occasions, in different settings, via various types of glassware, solitary and alongside comparable barrel-proof bourbons at similar proof, I’m not impressed.

I tasted this particular glass alongside Maker’s Mark Cask Strength and a barrel-strength OBSV at 118 proof. Between those, Kentucky Owl is closer to an off Wild Turkey barrel than anything else I can immediately think of. In the lineup shown in the photo at the beginning of this post it was far and beyond earthy in comparison.

I can’t find much I really enjoy about this bourbon and will add that I’m surprised others have rated it so well. I’ve seen this as high as a 90, which roughly translates to an A- on my scale. Absolutely not. There must be some handshakes happening that I’m not a part of, and that’s a shame.

Because it wasn’t purely offensive and did have some interesting notes and flavors as it opened over time, I won’t give it a D. If it were less than $35 a bottle I’d give it a C. Factoring in the price (which actually is offensive) and giving it the benefit of the doubt that someone, somewhere might enjoy it, and I wouldn’t immediately turn my nose up to it if offered another pour for free, I’ll leave it at..

Grade: C-

When you consider this retails north of $150 you either have to be rich and hate keeping money in your pocket, or flat-out crazy to buy this in earnest.

Remember, they don’t tell you where it comes from. I can imagine a scenario where a source must remain shrouded in secrecy in order to protect its creators from becoming bombarded with whiskey geeks keen on hauling barrels out of warehouses under the cover of night, but this just ain’t that good and that scenario just ain’t plausible.

Instead of this, buy almost any other barrel-proof bourbon on the market. While completely different, Maker’s Mark Cask Strength and Elijah Craig Barrel Proof are MUCH better buys in the genre, about 1/3 the price, and you know who makes them. One even carries an age statement. Stellar.

If funky, musty notes tickle your fancy try Old Grand Dad 114.

If you absolutely must purchase a “mystery” bourbon, reach for Johnny Drum Private Stock or splurge on Noah’s Mill at 114 proof and take someone out to dinner with the money you saved.

Four Grain Bourbon Blends With Four Roses, Old Grand Dad, and Old Weller Antique

A long time ago on a trip to New York City, a friend of mine introduced me to Hudson Four Grain Bourbon Whiskey. While I don’t remember being too enthusiastic about it, it was interesting. Ever since that trip I’ve tossed around the idea of creating my own four grain Bourbon blend…at a higher proof.

There aren’t too many wheated Bourbons in my collection that I’d (1) want to waste by blending them with something else and/or (2) thought had a character that would stand up and dance with a high rye Bourbon, but what I did know was that I had a few high rye bourbons I wanted to mellow out.

Let’s review the lineup…

Old Weller Antique 107

I recently put this up in a blind taste test and was impressed at how well it fared. My tasting notes in that post don’t reflect my complete sentiments, but the lineup and its rank should be enough to say I think this is a great bourbon. It has an even mix of corn, wood, and dried fruit, but could use a little bulk.

Grade: B+

Old Grand Dad 114

Not bad but rough around the edges with a flat, astringent nose that carries an unusual dry oak character. The body is thin and finishes on the bitter side. I don’t want to imply that I don’t like it, but I’m hoping something sweet might do it justice.

Grade: C+

Four Roses OBSQ

I chose this as both a comparison and a whiskey I actually thought would marry well with a wheat profile. The Q yeast produces a relaxed whiskey that brings out beautiful rye in a unique fashion. It has an unusual character that is most apparent through a floral and peppery finish that comes forward to what feels like the roof of the mouth and dissipates evenly.

This particular selection is from Beaumont Kroger in Lexington, Kentucky. Aged 10 years and 4 months and bottled at 61.6% ABV. (Thank you Pam for the heads up on this steal at ~$40.)

Grade: B+

Now on to the main event (yes there was beer cheese)…

four grain bourbon blending

Blend #1: OGDOWA “Antique Grandpa”

A 50/50 blend of Old Grand-Dad 114 & Old Weller Antique 107, 110.5%

Right from the start the astringency on the Old Grand-Dad nose is muted from the nose, but there’s a new off note that I can’t put my finger on. Maybe oiled saddle leather?

A bouquet of dried fruit is big and pleasant, but the sweetness of the Weller I hoped would shine through is cut by wood, and then back to that leather. This does sweeten over time, but not enough.

The palate enters sweet and creamy, but lasts only for a moment as rye notes fall to the sides of the tongue just before the bitter finish of the Old Grand-Dad takes over.

Grade: C

Blend #2: 4ROWA “Wheat Rose”

A 50/50 blend of Four Roses OBSQ & Old Weller Antique 107, 115.1%

There are faint buttery notes in the Weller that are brought to the forefront and mingle very nicely with the rye from the OBSQ. Very nice cedar notes present a harmonious honeyed wood nose in this blend. A bit of a burn up front from the high proof, but it’s beautiful and brings forward the cask and age of the Four Roses.

On the palate the heat from the rye is toned down a few notches but, the fuzzy, dry mouth feel is heightened as caramel lingers on the tip of the tongue. If I were a scientist I’d study this in more detail, it’s fantastic and cues up a gorgeous, long finish.

Grade: B+


Antique Grandpa: Not that good. Looks like cocktails and blind tastings from here on out for the Old Grand-Dad 114.

Wheat Rose: The age of the Four Roses definitely gives the ensemble a huge advantage in terms of comparison, but on it’s own it’s actually a solid whiskey. I’ll even venture to say this might be a little better at ratio of 55% OWA / 45% OBSQ. Definitely more experimenting with these in the future. I’d recommend doing the same if you can.


Wild Turkey Diamond Anniversary Bourbon Whiskey Review

I picked up this bottle the weekend after it’s initial release from the Wild Turkey gift shop, which I believe was May of this year. Once I got it home I nipped away at it from time to time, but eventually it made it’s way to the back of the cabinet and started to collect dust. A recent conversation with Edwin Vargas led to me sending a sample to Cleveland and pouring out another glass for myself.

Wild Turkey Diamond Anniversary Bourbon

The Whiskey

Wild Turkey Diamond Anniversary is a blend of 13 and 16 year old bourbon to commemorate Jimmy Russell’s 60th anniversary in the business, selected by Jimmy’s son and Associate Distiller, Eddie Russell.


This is a whiskey with character right from the introduction. The wood notes are dry and subtle; very reminiscent of spent hickory sticks, or perhaps that’s my childhood growing up through olfactory memory? Perhaps not.

Imagine the combination of wood pallets lying stationary in the sun and other elements for too long, combined with the fraying exposed beams supporting the facade of an old barn. Dark and faded. Toasting comes through. Stressed, but strong.

What an interesting character. Caramel arrives with perfume-like notes of lemon and citrus. The more time this spends swirling in my glass, the sweeter it gets.

Then the palate. Dry. I don’t typically drink much Wild Turkey as I find it a little too dry and spicy (but I do love it in a heavy-poured cocktail), and this is very familiar. Of course this is much more refined and sophisticated, but it’s still too familiar. Herbal and, well, no not quite that, Earthy is what I’m looking for.

The finish is fairly abrupt, but clean. The initial dry wood notes from the bouquet reemerge here, but they don’t linger for long. The tongue is almost immediately relieved of all duties of carrying flavor and weight. If you’ve had a sip of water within thirty seconds of drinking, you may miss it completely.

As time begins to pass, I’m left wondering if I’ve just finished mowing a field of extremely tall grass in late summer.


This is a very well put-together bourbon that doesn’t jump out in one direction. It’s well-rounded with a unique character that I respect and enjoy, but I can’t bring myself to completely fall in love with it.

The price doesn’t help it’s case much, either. I have immense respect for Jimmy and and feel privileged to own this bottle, but at $125 I’m hesitant to recommend it to most friends. That’s what we’re going for here, right?

This is definitely a whiskey I’ll reserve for particular occasions. The next time I’m bundled up next to a fire outside, I’ll reach for this. That sounds nice.

Grade: B