Comparison: Two Four Roses Barrel Strength Single Barrels – OBSO & OBSV

FOUR ROSES BARREL STRENGTH SiB OBSO
“Ask The Angles” selected by Bitters & Bottles (2020)

MASH BILL – 60% corn, 35% rye, 5% malted barley

PROOF – 109.6

AGE – 8 years 11 months

DISTILLERY – Four Roses Distillery

PRICE – $82

FOUR ROSES BARREL STRENGTH SiB OBSV
“Nate’s Barrel” selected by Healthy Spirits (2019)

MASH BILL – 60% corn, 35% rye, 5% malted barley

PROOF – 105

AGE – 12 years

DISTILLERY – Four Roses Distillery

PRICE – $76 (normally $109)

This is another in a series of Four Roses posts, tracking my journey with the brand through an extended mash bill recipe comparison. It’s an ongoing experiment in comparing the ten Four Roses recipes over time, while my palate continues its constant evolution. I open a new bottle 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.

I’ve already posted notes about this particular OBSV release. Now the bottle is nearing its end. So I’m comparing it to this recently uncorked OBSO, itself the next in line on my currently fourteen bottle 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

OESV, 10 years 8 months, 112.8 proof, picked by Ledger’s Liquors

HERE WE ARE

OBSV, 12 years, 105 proof, picked by Healthy Spirits

OBSO, 8 years 11 months, 109.6 proof, picked by Bitters & Bottles

AND THESE ARE NEXT

OBSK, 8 years 2 months, 122.8 proof, picked by K&L

OBSO, 8 years 2 months, 109.6 proof, picked by K&L

In comparing this OBSV with the previous OESV, I tasted the former on its uncorking pour and the latter at its bottle kill. For today’s comparison, though I’m near the bottle kill of the OBSV, I’m three pours into this OBSO. I wanted to allow it some air before putting down tasting notes in writing, since my past experiences with both the OBSO and OESO recipes have been studies in evolution over the life of the bottles. Something about the O yeast yields initially reserved bourbons that very gradually unfurl their riches as they take air. Usually it’s the final fourth of an OBSO or OESO that wins me over. So even at just a few pours in I may still be premature here. But, the OBSV has been at its last few ounces for some weeks, and tasting it recently it seemed to be getting over-oxidized, so, I didn’t want to risk losing it to too much air.

These two bottles use the same mash bill, but differ in the yeasts used—O versus V—as well as 3 years 1 month in age. The proofs vary by 4.6 degrees. And their warehouse placements are different. That last bit is a level of detail I have yet to endeavor tracking. There are Four Roses fans who do track warehouses, however! To that end, for those interested, a quick review of how to read the Four Roses single barrel label:

These little strips placed toward the front-bottom of the bottles are the standard Four Roses single barrel label referencing the exact barrel. Using the OBSO (on right above) as an example, reading from left to right:

54.8% — This bourbon was bottled at its natural barrel strength of 54.8% ABV, or 109.6 Proof.

NS — The barrel was stored in Warehouse N, on its south side. Warehouses have their micro-climates. You might find you like what tends to happen to bourbons stored in one warehouse versus another, and even one side of the warehouse versus another.

83-1K — The barrel was stored on Rick 83 (a rick is a vertical stack of shelves, or, tiers) Tier 1 (Four Roses uses ricks built of 6 tiers), and was the 11th barrel from the front—the letter K being 11th in the alphabet. The most pertinent aspect here is the tier. Tier 1 is at floor level, for example, and tier 6 is the top-most level. This matters because heat rises, and temperature impacts evaporation during the aging process. The more liquid evaporates, the more concentrated the alcohol and flavors are in what remains. Given this Bitters & Bottles barrel aged on the first level, Tier 1, it’s no surprise that its proof is 109.6. Barrels aged on higher, warmer tiers lose more volume over time and tend to come out at proofs closer to 120+.

And this label is the custom label generated for the store that picked the barrel. It’s always affixed to one side of the bottle:

The store can choose what to include on it. In the above example, Bitters & Bottles is the store in question and included their logo. They also gave a name to this barrel, “Ask The Angels,” a reference to the “angel’s share,” the whiskey that evaporates during aging. The recipe name, mash bill, and age are also included.

The age of this barrel is listed at 8 years 11 months. Age is typically rounded to the lowest month. So this barrel may literally be 8 years, 11 months and 7 days, for example. Similarly, a barrel listed at an even age of 12 years might literally be 12 years and 25 days.

In the four-letter recipe code, the first O and the S never change—the O referring to the Four Roses Distillery in Lawrenceburg, KY, and the S to the whiskey being “straight” (i.e. aged at least 2 years).

The second letter refers to one of two mash bills: E (75% corn / 20% rye/ 5% barley) or B (60% corn / 35% rye / 5% barley).

The fourth letter refers to one of five yeast strains—F, K, O, Q, V—each providing their own impact on flavor. Four Roses attaches a tag to the neck of their single barrel bottles featuring this handy at-a-glance recipe guide, with very general tasting notes:

So here we are, two and a half months into this OBSV’s life and at its very final pours, and a week into this OBSO’s life and at its initial pours. Here are some brief notes taken side-by-side in traditional Glencairns.

COLOR

BOTH – virtually indistinguishable vibrant toasted pumpkin oranges, with the OBSO showing oh so slightly darker—a surprise given it’s the younger of the two.

NOSE

OBSV – very bright with oak and other woody spices, then cinnamon on dry vanilla-caramel, a whiff of dried raspberries, peach tea, some milk chopcolate, and… I think that’s Fruit Loops…

OBSO – reserved, with smoked and toasted oak like at a daytime campfire (I can almost smell the briquettes), some dark chocolate… faint fruit like baked peach and cherry…

TASTE

OBSV – bright dry oak, the caramel and fruit notes from the nose all wrapped up in one another

OBSO – very like the nose with that smoky oaky campfire aspect taking the lead, and some fruit and caramel way in the background

FINISH

OBSV – a fine peppery tingle around lingering caramel, fruit pie, and fresh rough-shaved oak

OBSO – a more biting peppery prickle compared to the OBSV, leaving dry buttered toast, oak, and dry rye spices

OVERALL

OBSV – fresh cut oak on a sunny day

OBSO – oak stacked and waiting for the Winter’s fire in the hearth

WORTH BUYING?

BOTH – Because I am eternally intrigued by oak, and committed to this extended Four Roses recipe comparison, yes. But if those two things weren’t true, no.

Looking back at my first set of notes for the OBSV, it was dry and oaky then but also showed stronger chocolate notes. Now at its very final pours, if it hasn’t oxidized it has at least continued to dry out with air. It’s not unpleasant. But I can’t say it’s aged well since uncorking.

Looking over some past notes on an 11-year OBSO Ledger’s Liquors pick (tasted prior to the establishment of this blog), this OBSO shares its restrained quality, as well as an emphasis on dry wood notes. I made six notations over the life of that Ledger’s pick. By the fifth I was coming around to some emerging chocolate and caramel notes. And by the sixth I’d come fully around and finally dubbed it “exceptional.” So I’ll defintely put a hold on publishing this post until I’m toward the end of this bottle, to see if that journey repeats. And there is another OBSO to come in my line-up, which I will be sure to cross-reference with this one.

Two more bottles remain in my 14-bottle extended line-up, an OBSK and another OBSO—unless I come into some more! Given the elevating prices of these Four Roses single barrels, however, I don’t think that is likely to happen. This experiment is probably reaching its end.

At this juncture, it’s my sense that the OESV and OESK recipes offer the best bang for my personal taste’s buck. Past OBSK bottles have also made great impressions. But the OBSV, OBSO, and OESO outings have all paired struggle with interest. I haven’t even included recipes using the F or Q yeasts, since I’d determined already they were too often not for me.

That said, our tastes evolve over time. When this current line-up ends, perhaps it will be time to re-evaluate my sense for those F’s and Q’s…

Until next time, cheers!

Addendum

Given my past O yeast experiences, I indeed continued to track this OBSO over time. The very next night after this tasting was conducted, a strong orange juice note emerged from the nose through to the finish, sweetly balancing the wood. Insta-better! Four days later, the same. Then about two weeks later, the orange juice note had eased up a bit, though it still remained present enough to offer a sweet balance to the dry woody aspects.

Another four weeks on—so, about six weeks after the above tasting—now at the Bitters & Bottles OBSO pick’s final quarter, I checked in with it again. On this night the notes were these:

NOSE – still reserved, with that smoky campfire note up front, a tangy caramel behind it, a hint of dry orange peel

TASTE – though dry overall, there’s a nicely balanced blend of orange juice, caramel, oak, and almond butter, with just a touch of alcohol varnish about it

FINISH – very true to the taste, and lingering a good long while…

OVERALL – a subdued and subtle pour, yet somehow also dense and rich within its tight confines.

Interesting. Six weeks on, it tastes very reminiscent of my initial impressions, now with that orange aspect figuring more into the mix and providing balance. I’ll revisit this again, of course, once it’s reaching its very final ounces and the next single barrel in the line up—the OBSK picked by K&L—has been cracked.

The journey continues…

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s