Four Roses has become a real leader in releasing tantalizing small batch bottlings. It’s not an easy thing to do. And at a tasting late last month, lead by master distiller Brent Elliott, it was clear that this year’s Limited Edition Small Batch will become as coveted as the label’s other recent treasures.
Elliott is currently marking five years with the company, a period he said “flew by.” It’s on his shoulders to determine which of various barrels will make up the limited releases. The 2020 is comprised of four different batches, aged 12 to 19 years, drawn from the distillery’s 10 different recipes. “All four were robust,” he said. “Each had characteristics I didn’t want to mute.” The slight exception was the 19-year-old, something of a wild card in the group. At that age, the whiskey had a prominent oak note that needed to be softened.
That’s good whiskey making—but also personal and professional preference. “I’m not too in tune with heavy oak on a bourbon,” Elliott said, though he acknowledged that the style does have wide appeal. “I’d love to put something out, something oaky. But that’s not Four Roses.”
The 2020 will be bottled at 111.4 proof, hot but not too much so. And while Elliott feels that adding water only really becomes necessary closer to 120 proof, I found that a few drops revealed the rich complexity of this spirit. On the nose, notes of orange peel, honey and vanilla rush from the glass. On the palate, expect a mouth-filling powerhouse, with bright fruitiness and a clear song of rye. The finish is exceptionally long, calling you back for sniff after sniff, sip after sip.
The company expects to release 14,000 bottles in the U.S., hand numbered, with a smaller number available in Europe. They should price at $150. There’s a lottery on, where lucky winners will be invited to headquarters to pick up a bottle. But if you’re in the market, stop reading this immediately and contact the best store in your neighborhood. You’ve still got a chance.