Four Roses Single Barrel Kentucky Straight Bourbon





It is a fact that 99% of all Scotch single malt whisky has either been matured in Ex-American Bourbon or Ex-Sherry/Port/Madeira casks. That being the case,  I thought that it would be a good idea to get to know the original spirits whose casks Scotch Single Malt is matured in.


I have been watching a number of Whisky Vlogs on YouTube which all recommend getting to know the taste of both Sherry/Port (and other fortified wines) as well as American Straight Bourbon whiskey so as to identify these specific tasting notes in the Scotch whisky coming from these spirits. Obviously these tasting notes are particularly noticeable in Scotch Whisky having been matured in good quality "first fill" barrels (that is, having only previously contained either sherry or Bourbon).

I went looking for a kosher certified Fortified wine and was recommended the Shiloh Single Cask Cabernet Franc Port at 18% abv which I have thoroughly enjoyed and hope to review in the near future.





Regarding American Bourbon, after much research to find a good quality typical Bourbon which gets high review marks but still being affordable, I decided on the Four Roses Single Barrel at NIS 200 a bottle. A single Cask (as the name implies) and bottled at a respectable 50% abv.



A short introduction to American Straight Bourbon


Although American Bourbon can technically be made anywhere in the United States, it is Bourbon whiskey (notice the addition of the 'e' in order to differentiate it from whiskies from other countries), from the American South, particularly from the state of Kentucky which is the most famous.




The Federal Standards of Identity for Distilled Spirits (27 C.F.R. 5) state that United States American Bourbon must be:
* Produced in the United States

* Made from a grain mixture that is at least 51% corn

* Aged in new, charred oak barrels

* Bottled at minimum of 40% abv.

* Ageing: American Bourbon can be bottled at any age, even after a few months but if the name contains the words “straight Bourbon” then this indicates maturation of a minimum of two years and one day.

* Age Statements, like Scotch indicates the age of the youngest whisky in the vatting.

Despite the fact that both Scotch and Bourbon are termed whiskies, they are produced from different grains. Scotch Single Malt whisky from 100% malted barley and American Bourbon from at least 51% corn mash with the rest being made up of more corn, rye, wheat, oats or barley.

I remember some years back watching a documentary about the American government's involvement in the Corn Industry after World War Two and how they encouraged farmers to produce corn maize by offering them massive incentives and subsidies, producing a glutten of corn on the market which they subsequently had to find more and more creative uses for. Hence the very heavy (over)use of corn products in almost every processed food item made in the United States. One wonders if this rule about minimum 51% Corn comes from here?

In the same vein, why would the US government force at great cost, their own distilleries to use only new American oak barrels every time and forbid the reuse of these casks? This odd (and frankly suspicious) rule has been however greatly benefitting the Scotch Whisky Industry for years, who readily buy up all their "used" American Ex-Bourbon casks in order to mature their own whisky.


Presentation:

This is my first non-Scotch whiskey review and did not really know what to expect. The bottle looked rather strange to me but I liked the oddball cork stopper with the majority of cork inside the wood cap for a nice tight seal making a lovely squeek as you pop the bottle open.




The marketing presentation consisted of some fancy embossed glass, old fashioned style cheap looking label, folding card with some marketing blurb and an interesting leather bottle ring. I’m not quite sure what the point of this is?




Being a Single Barrel I was pleased to see the Warehouse and Barrel number of the cask hand written (?) at the bottom of the label and informing us that it was bottled at 50%. Apart from this I found no useful information at all.






Aroma:

I found the initial aroma extremely enjoyable. Pouring myself the same volume I would for a single malt, into a Glencairn glass, I just loved all those rich thick smells. It is a true sensation on the nostrils. You will find syrupy milky toffee fudge, burnt toffee, caramelled Butterscotch popcorn, soft toffee and fruit chews, cinnamon, all spice, apple crumble, furniture polish, cheap honey but the most dominant aroma of all was sweet thick wood sap maple syrup. I could have continued smelling this for ages. A busy concoction of lovely sweet dessert ingredients.









Tasting:

Tasting was I'm afraid far less agreeable. Being bottled at a high strength, I added a teaspoon of water and let it settle for
 five minutes. Even with water, I found the whiskey impossibly over sweet and (as we say in Israel) “in your face” like a sledgehammer of corn syrup sugar overpowering everything else. Despite the blurb on the bottle, there is actually nothing subtle or delicate about this whiskey at all. It bombards and drowns your taste buds with bucket loads of syrupy sugar like a glucose injection. Is this what all Bourbons are like?


Tasting Notes


This was my personal experience however. I must say though that I gave this Four Roses to some friends who were guests at our Friday night Shabbos table who said that they actually really enjoyed it! They described it as similar to an after dinner honey liquor or sweet Crème-Brulee dessert.





As for me. I couldn’t finish my glass. After washing my mouth out with some Diet Coca Cola, I poured myself a glass of Glencadam 10-Year-Old. Oh what joy! Delicate, malted roasted barley grain, pastry, digestive biscuits, subtle hints of yeast and vanilla. Sweet heather honey but all balanced beautifully.

Conclusion:

People talk about certain Scotch single malts being sweet, honey, syrupy etc but all are dry relative to this American Bourbon which is like swallowing wood spicy maple syrup down the throat. I loved the smell but for me, it’s undrinkable. I don't regret buying it though. It was a real education and my guests enjoyed it so it wasn't a loss by any means. Recommended to anyone who has a sweet tooth and a blood glucose level of 80 or less!






 

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