Four Roses Limited Edition Small Batch is one of those bottles that everyone in the whiskey world wants but only a few actually get to try. Each year, the famed Kentucky distillery releases about 14,000 bottles of their special small batch. Before the pandemic, those bottles would be available at the distillery on a first-come-first-served basis. But that’s not the wave they’re on right now — for the second year in a row, you’ll need to enter a lottery to win the right to buy a bottle.
Having entered and lost many a Pappy lottery, we know that the whole “win the chance to BUY” concept might sound a little elitist to the passive whiskey drinker; but Four Roses can’t safely have thousands of people milling outside of the distillery for ten, 12, 18, or 24 hours waiting to buy a bottle of whiskey during a global pandemic. The lottery system allows them to spread out the bottle pick up. It also gives you time to get to Kentucky if you win that lottery!
If a lottery isn’t your vibe, you could always just become a whiskey writer. I was lucky enough to taste the new edition with Brent Elliott, Four Roses Master Distiller, last week. You can watch our whole tasting on our Instagram channel. We also tasted Four Roses Small Batch and Small Batch Select (both excellent bourbons) before we got to the star of the show. Since then, I’ve tasted the release twice more and have developed a real fondness for this year’s drop.
My detailed notes on this year’s LE Small Batch can be found below. If this sounds like a bottle you might want to try, you have until September 12th to enter the lottery.
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2021 Four Roses Limited Edition Small Batch
Average Price: $150 (Lottery Only)
This year’s LE Small Batch is a blend of four bourbons. Four Roses is renowned for its ten distinct recipes with two mash bills and five yeast strains. This whiskey marries four of those recipes with two from Mash B (very high rye) and two from Mash Bill E (high rye). The yeasts at play are “delicate fruit,” “spice essence,” and “floral essence.” The barrels ranged from 12 to 16 years old, making this a fairly old bourbon, all things considered.
The nose has a mix of honey next to buttery biscuits, rich vanilla, a touch of tart red berries, dry cedar, and a very faint hint of dry mint. The palate dives into a dark plum jam with a spicy edge of allspice and nutmeg. That fruit gives way to a spritz of orange oils next to a light touch of dark chocolate on the mid-palate that leads to a rich finish. That finish leaves you with warming spice, more of that orange/choco vibe, and another mild hint of green, dry mint.
The bottle is a classic Four Roses small batch bottle, which is to say that it’s very hefty. These bulbous bottles have a serious base and a legit cork. You really feel like you’re holding onto something weighty (in more ways than one). It also stands out on any bar cart thanks to its unique shape and size.
This is one of those bourbons where you’re immediately struck by its balance and depth. “Goddamn, that’s nice!” was my first reaction and that has yet to wane. This really grabs you with a solid nose that feels very “Four Roses” with that hint of greenery and deep creamy flavors.
It’s a damn near perfect sipper is what I’m getting at.
96/100 — This is yet another highwater mark for Four Roses LE Small Batch. While there are exactly zero faults with this expression, I didn’t blow my socks off as something completely, 100/100 mindblowing. It’s just a really, really great whiskey that deserves all the love it gets.