Four Roses 12yo “Single Barrel” (52.8%, OB, 2012 Limited Edition, SN 81-2R, 174 bottles)

Four Roses seems to be a very transparent producer of Bourbon. First of all they let you know everything about the ten recipes they make and how they are used in their expressions. For those of you who don’t know, There are 2 different mashbills and 5 different yeast strains, giving ten recipes. Apart from the ten recipes, the portfolio seems rather logical too. Starting off with the Four Roses “Yellow”. It is their entry-level Bourbon and is made in large quantities. Next comes a small batch and after that only single barrel expressions, the first of which is reduced to 50% ABV and the rest bottled at cask strength.

As I wrote in the last review of the “Yellow”, they can use all of the ten recipes to get the consistency you want for a bulk product, although most of it is OBSK and OESK, where B is 60% corn, 35% rye, and 5% malted barley and E is 75% corn, 20% rye and 5% malted barley. The “K” Yeast strain gives light spiciness, light caramel and a full body.

It gets really interesting when you have one of the Single Barrel expressions at hand since they can be made with only one of the ten recipes. Earlier I already reviewed the 50% ABV single barrel version which is a OBSV, where the “V” yeast strain gives light fruitiness, light vanilla, caramel and creamy notes, and “B” is the high Rye mashbill.

Today we’ll have a look at a limited edition single barrel expression bottled at cask strength and made with the OESK recipe. E is the low Rye mashbill, so I expect it to be sweeter than a “B” and the “K” yeast strain gives light spiciness, light caramel and a full body. So it should be a full-bodied, sweeter, more classic Bourbon than the 50% ABV expression.

Four Roses Single Barrel 2012Color: Dark gold copper, marginally darker than the 50% ABV expression.

Nose: Creamy and sweetish, already less woody and strict than the 50% ABV expression. It starts off with notes of hay and dry grass. Wax with a hint of leather. An old, well maintained saddle maybe? Hints of dried yellow fruits. Apricots I would say. Quite some honey after breathing, but soon after that more dry and dusty (and slightly acidic). Bad morning breath, wow.

Taste: Starts with toffee sweetness, but like the nose, the sweetness soon steps aside to let the wood through. Quite spicy and wood. The wood gives it spice, but also a more nutty and slightly acidic profile. At 12 years old this Bourbon had a lot of time to interact with the wood. The wood leaves, vanilla cinnamon and a hint of honey, but also a slightly soapy and slightly bitter finish. The finish itself starts as an attack, is long, but stays with the woody notes. Even the sweet mashbill can’t do nothing about that. Besides this, I also feel the end of the, somewhat simple, body, and the especially the finish lack a bit of balance. It’s not completely harmonious. I guess this one may have been in the cask too long. The wood won a battle with the sweetness and obviously won, where there shouldn’t have been a battle in the first place.

By the way, the picture here is of another, similar looking 2012 limited edition. The picture is for the 52.9% ABV version from barrel 81-2A, which is a sister cask of our 81-2R. Both come from the same warehouse: SN.

So what’s the verdict about our super premium limited edition? It’s a nice special edition, and a learning experience for the aficionado. I understand the pick and it most certainly is an interesting experience. So should you try it? Yes, should you buy a bottle and drink it by yourself, not really! This one is for sharing, discussion and comparing the other recipes of Four Roses.

Comparison to the 50% ABV expression is easy. That one is sweeter and more easily likeable. The difference in ABV is small, but the age probably made the difference, making the 12yo more about wood. Both are not very complex, but the 50% ABV is definitely more drinkable and better balanced, but also slightly weaker in taste. The limited edition also brings quite a lot of heat to the table. I’m trying both head to head but none is better than the other, although very different. It’s a tie!

Points: 83

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