Four Roses Tasting Notes

Four Roses

What is a legend? Defined as ‘A traditional story sometimes popularly regarded as historical but unauthenticated’, it can become as popular as truth to the point of it’s hard to differentiate between the two in later years. How about –

It began when Paul Jones, Jr., the founder of Four Roses Bourbon, became smitten by the beauty of a Southern belle. It is said that he sent a proposal to her, and she replied that if her answer were “Yes,” she would wear a corsage of roses on her gown to the upcoming grand ball.
Paul Jones waited for her answer excitedly on that night of the grand ball…when she arrived in her beautiful gown, she wore a corsage of four red roses. He later named his Bourbon “Four Roses” as a symbol of his devout passion for the lovely belle, a passion he thereafter transferred to making his beloved Four Roses Bourbon.’

. . . or maybe . . .

‘named for company founder Rufus Mathewson Rose, his brother Origen, and their two sons’

The latter end of last year threw my way these legends, one’s that have been going on since 1888. Four Roses bourbon came into town courtesy of its European Brand Ambassador Dan Priseman and i had the opportunity to listen to man who is respected in the industry, but also to sample a range that i myself have never experienced.

So before we come onto the good stuff of how each expression went down, lets take a trip down memory lane and see how Four Roses came about.

In 1884 a gentleman named Paul Jones Jr. moved his thriving business to Louisville, Kentucky. Here he opened an office in a section of the historic Main Street named ‘Whiskey Row’. Four years later he trademarked the name Four Roses and actually claimed production and sales way back to the 1860s with his Frankfort Distilling Company. Fast forward to 1922 and the Paul Jones Company purchased the Frankfort Distilling Company which itself became one of only six distilleries granted permission to operate through prohibition to produce Bourbon for medicinal purposes.

In 1943, Seagram purchased the Paul Jones Company and despite being one of the most recognised brands at that time, decided to discontinue the bourbon in the USA and move there sales towards other markets in Europe and Asia. Change came again in February 2002 when the Kirin Brewery Company, Ltd. purchased the Four Roses brand trademark, and named the new acquisition Four Roses Distillery LLC. With this aquisition, the US market were once again were able to purchase Four Roses after its name was tarnished some-what as being used for blended whisky during the last 59 years.

A rather mis-shaped history for Four Roses, but how did it become a successful brand where ever the customer could purchase? Well Four Roses offers a unique production in that Four Roses is the only bourbon distillery that combines 5 proprietary yeast strains with two separate mashbills. This produces 10 distinct bourbon recipes with each having their own unique character. All ten of these recipes are aged in new white oak barrels and married together to create Four Roses Yellow. For Four Roses Small Batch only four are married and only one hand selected for Four Roses Single Barrel.

Enough about the background, below i give to you my tasting notes on the core range of Four Roses Bourbon –

Four Roses Single Barrel
Four Roses Single Barrel

Four Roses Yellow – 40%

Quite light on the nose with a floral aroma being slowly overtaken by honey. The lightness continues onto the palate with an initial softness of white fruit followed by a slight harshness of spice at the end,

Four Roses Small Batch – 45%

Very soft on the nose with a caramalised fruit dominating. Sweet on the palate although a smooth, rich mix of berry and cream that produces a lingering finish.

Four Roses Single Barrel – 50%

Initial hit of wood on the nose but smoothens out to fruit and spice. Suprisingly smooth on the palate with ripe fruits starting before receiving a kick near the middle and slowly mellowing out to a long finish.

A fine selection, but how about with a cocktail?

Four Roses Mint Julep

Glass –


Ingredients –

60ml Four Roses Small Batch Bourbon
2 tsp sugar
12 Mint leaves

Method –

Gently crush mint leaves in a cool tall glass. (Lightly muddle the mint and sugar with a splash of soda water in a mixing glass.) Fill the glass with cracked ice. Add Four Roses, club soda and stir well. Garnish with a slice of orange and a few sprigs of mint, and serve.

Not bad, but if you’ve made yourself a Four Roses drink, why not enjoy it with some food?

Mint Julep
Mint Julep

Plank-Grilled Scallopsserved with Four Roses Yellow

Serves 6


Salt and freshly ground pepper
1/4 cup canola oil
12 large sea scallops
2-4 applewood planks or ovals, depending on size

Method –

Soak wood plank in water for a minimum of an hour. Light grill. When grill is ready, place wood plank on grill. Oil scallops and sprinkle with salt and pepper. After three minutes, place scallops on plank, close grill and let cook for about 10 minutes (depending on size of scallops!). Remove scallops from grill and serve. Remember – food will continue to cook on plank after removed from grill, so adjust time according to your food! Serve with gastrique on the side.

I’m a huge fan of food and spirit matches, with the flavours and aromas that can be produced from something simple captivates me every time. It would be fantastic to see expressions like Four Roses served alongside food in both bar and restaurants and take away the idea of having wine with everything. Plus it adds to the dinner conversation. When was the last time you could say to someone a legend beginning with ‘It began when . . . .’

Check out the rest of the photos, taken from the masterclass at The Circle 360, via my Facebook page.

© David Marsland and Drinks Enthusiast 2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog/sites author and owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to David Marsland and Drinks Enthusiast with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.



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