Sunday, July 22, 2012

Four Roses Single Barrel 17 OBSV distillery-only issue: the brutal blind.

The intellectual, analytical, and brilliant computer geek, whisky geek, creative hooch scientist and blogger Tim Read, the creator of the blog Scotch & Ice Cream challenged me last month with a blind bourbon to taste and try to identify.  It was labeled, simply "Bourbon 55.3%"

Granted, that's a huge clue.  But searching 55.3% abv bourbons yields next to nothing.  There just aren't any regularly distributed bourbons at that strength at all - at least according to Google.  I decided to let my palate do the walking:

Tim's Blind Bourbon 55.3% abv

Color:  dark coppery amber bronze: a rich and lovely hue.  Look at the metal copper and pumpkin orange when the light of the sun shines through it:
Tim's blind bourbon is a glory of copper metal by the rails

Nose:  a soft rich bourbon nose redolent of citrus, cherry, peach, golden tobacco, and musky toffee with an august and regal acetone glow and a spicy edge to the fruit mustiness.

Entry: Sweet and fruity with black licorice then suddenly peppery.  The mid palate turns dry and bold with Virginia tobacco at the expansion & turn. There are more fruits: jujube on the finish. What a wonderful balance between fruit and heat.  Loads of black pepper.  The turn to the finish sees the black pepper maintain its burn and oak emerge, along with a measure of char and creosote.

Adding a drop of water puts orange & orange blossoms in the nose after a few minutes. Big soft august sweet entry with cherry citrus. Then a tobacco laden mid with black licorice.  Finally, gentle oak char and oak, but not a heavily wooded finish.  This is more cracked black pepper and more amazing blond Virginia tobacco than I have ever had in a spirit.  I've heard these words used to describe Bourbon, but I have never tasted them bold, detailed, and up front like this before and I LIKED IT!

I tweeted my tasting notes to Tim:
 Then, I made two guesses:

Four Roses 100th Anniversary & Wild Turkey Kentucky Legend - neither of which I had tried, but both had the high rye mash bill I was tasting and they both had the right proof.  However, I couldn't bear for it to end so I tweeted:

Tim replied "how could I know if it was Four Roses given that they have ten different mash bills with widely divergent flavor profiles.  I agreed. (I wrote about the ten mash bills in this post).

A day passed and I returned to the blind but found myself befuddled and confused.  I forgot about my high-rye conclusion and got stuck on the idea that maybe Tim was trying to psych me out with the new Pappy 15 - which supposedly tastes more spicy than usual wheaters.  Never mind it's the wrong proof... I tweeted:

Then I floundered, suggested the Pappy hypothesis without making a definite guess, then ended weak.:

Note - Tim corrected this to 17 years a little bit later.

First - a couple of lessons for me about blind tasting: 1) Trust your instincts and your first impressions.  2) Don't listen to the voice telling you it might be a trick. The one psyching out is yourself.  How close had I come in my first guesses?  Well Four Roses 100th Anniversary is a 17 year old single barrel bourbon with the mash bill OBSV.  And Tim's blind?  Same exact story: a 17 year old single barrel bourbon from Four Roses with the mash bill OBSV.  This particular one is a distillery-only offering.  Tim wrote up a post about it with tasting notes and the conclusion:

"Quality-wise, I have to say that this particular barrel (78-30, Warehouse QS), honestly stands shoulder to shoulder with other highly regarded bourbons like those found in the Buffalo Trace Anniversary Collection; Pappy Van Winkle, or the Parker’s Heritage collection. Honestly, I think if Four Roses could find the right push for this one, they could release these in limited quantities to a broader market and have a serious contender for the Van Winkles of the world, which are becoming a chore to find anymore."

I find myself substantially in agreement.  This is a superb bourbon, with a delicious, strong, and unusual flavor profile.  It drinks younger than its advanced age, but achieves something unique.  Could Four Roses make this a regular expression?  I have no idea - but it clearly would be a popular issue.  Thanks so much, Tim for giving me a taste of something unusual and for taking me on a wild ride!

Note:  This is the 3rd single barrel expression from Four Roses I've formally reviewed on this blog.  The other two are:
1) The standard 50 % abv OBSV:
2) A Park Avenue Liquors exclusive 53.6% OBSQ:


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