FOUR ROSES BARREL STRENGTH SiB OESV
Barrel #31 “unEven tiMes” selected by Ledger’s Liquors (2020)
MASH BILL – 75% corn, 20% rye, 5% barley
PROOF – 112.8
AGE – 10 years 8 months
DISTILLERY – Four Roses Distillery
PRICE – $94
WORTH BUYING? – Yes. Though to be honest, as the price of these SiBs keeps creeping up, so do my mixed feelings about buying them…
If you follow this blog and have tracked past Four Roses posts, then you know I’ve been slowly making my way through a series of mash bill recipe comparisons, opening a new bottle only as the last draws toward its end. The two bottles I have open at any given time vary by only one of the recipe’s elements, whether the mash bill or yeast strain. I’ve been less strict about matching age. It’s a longterm experiment in comparing the Four Roses recipes over time while my palate continues its constant evolution. This OESV is the tenth of fourteen bottles in my current line-up:
THESE ARE DONE ☟
OESO, 10 years 11 months, 105 proof, picked by Plumpjack Wines & Spirits
OESV, 9 years 11 months, 107.4 proof, picked by Plumpjack Wines & Spirits
OBSV, 8 years 8 months, 121.6 proof, picked by K&L
OBSO, 11 years, 110.2 proof, picked by Ledger’s Liquors
OBSV, 10 years 10 months, 127.2 proof, picked by K&L
OBSK, 10 years 9 months, 120 proof, picked by Bounty Hunter
OESK, 10 years, 110 proof, picked by K&L
OESV, 10 years, 122.6 proof, picked by K&L
OESK, 14 years, 113.4 proof, Elliott’s Select 2016 Limited Edition
HERE WE ARE ☟
OESV, 10 years 8 months, 112.8 proof, picked by Ledger’s Liquors
AND THESE ARE NEXT ☟
OBSV, 12 years, 105 proof, picked by Healthy Spirits
OBSO, 8 years 11 months, 109.6 proof, picked by Bitters & Bottles
OBSK, 8 years 2 months, 122.8 proof, picked by K&L
OBSO, 8 years 2 months, 109.6 proof, picked by K&L
My failure in this instance is to have already killed the 2016 Elliott’s Select Limited Edition OESK prior to uncorking this OESV! (That OESK was so good! I was weak!) So I am unable to compare them side by side—a notable gap in this extended experiment in comparisons.
I actually killed that 2016 OESK way back in September 2020, before I even had this OESV in hand. The next bottle up would have been the 122.8-proof OBSK pick from K&L. That would have left two OBSO bottles with no variant between them. But in October I picked up a new OBSV and solved that issue. Then this OESV was muled to me by a generous whiskey hunting acquaintance in early December 2020. This provided an opportunity to vary the line-up a bit more. So, one loss in continuity is offset by a gain in variety.
Still I wish I’d held out with that OESK! Ah well. I shall rely on my notes from its post, as well as my sense memory of it—which I must say is very strong. That says more about the OESK than about my tasting memory. It’s a bottling that made quite an impression!
In any case, here are some brief notes on this OESV, taken five weeks after uncorking and three pours into the bottle, tasted in a traditional Glencairn.
COLOR – an orange-amber with fiery flecks
NOSE – rich cinnamon and oak spice up front, with a thick layer of caramel behind it, some black pepper, faint dried king apricots
TASTE – the thick caramel now steps forward to be more in balance with the cinnamon and oak, a bit of gooey dark chocolate, everything with a nice dash of the black pepper both in taste and sensation
FINISH – dark caramel and oak, black pepper, and a lingering warm pepperiness
OVERALL – less fruity than past OESV single barrels I’ve had, but no less delicious, putting its primary emphasis on a trifecta of oak spice, caramel and black pepper.
What a solid pour for such “unEven tiMes.” Though I’ve always appreciated the OESV recipe for its rich fruit and caramel aspects, I don’t miss the fruit here. It’s in the background on the nose, subsiding virtually entirely after then. The classic Four Roses cinnamons are there. But they make ample room for lovely black pepper notes sprinkled across the experience from front to back. The caramel and oak spice notes are likewise a constant here.
This is so good. Makes me all the more sad that I neglected to hold back some of that 14-year OESK—also so good!—to compare and contrast. But I’ll look forward to comparing it with the 12-year OBSV that’s next on the list.
As for comparing this OESV to my memory of that OESK, the latter also featured a nose emphasizing cinnamon and oak on a thick layer of caramel. But the OESK had more fruit notes to it—cherry and rhubarb—adding to its precarious balance of sweet and savory. This OESV achieves its impact with a more limited range of flavor notes. But it’s impactful in its own way. There is a polish and a richness to it, despite being a bit less complex compared to the 14-year OESK.
This Ledger’s Liquors pick nicely demonstrates the joy of exploring the ten Four Roses recipes. The surprise here is the lack of fruit notes, and especially that they are not missed. The sweet, rich caramel notes provide enough sweetness to balance the savory oak and black pepper spices. And those Four Roses cinnamons are present enough to provide a welcoming familiarity.
As a wood-spice heavy single barrel, this pick is in line with Ed Ledger’s reputation for oaky bourbon picks. I wrote about this a bit in a post on last year’s Willett bourbon pick from Ledger’s. Ed Ledger’s steady demeanor is in line with his dependably solid picks, be they from Four Roses, Willett, Heaven Hill or Maker’s Mark. This makes a case for the human influence on whiskey—how the tastes and inclinations of an individual can impact the eventual drinker’s experience. Human individuality is an aspect of terroir that goes under appreciated in certain respects. Terroir is primarily thought of as a matter of geography. But there is a relationship between geography and how the farmer, distiller, or store owner interacts with it.
In any case, if you’re reading this you’re likely unlikely to be able to get your hands on this particular store pick. But I highly recommend exploring the Four Roses recipes via whatever your local store pick options might be. The prices do tend to be going up. And that’s a shame. I really do wish these store pick single barrels were still down around $65 each. Then again, the quality of this Ledger’s pick rivals many a “limited edition” priced in the three-digit range, so…
P.S. For insights into how to decipher a Four Roses label, go to this post and scroll down.