Four Roses Single Barrel vs Four Roses Small Batch Select

Four Roses Single Barrel vs Four Roses Small Batch Select

When it comes to the finest whiskies, Four Roses is something that springs to mind for many aficionados. This iconic American whisky brand has won countless hearts with its supreme quality and unmistakable characteristics; a perfect recommendation for any connoisseur looking for premium whisky.

Most famous for its signature yellow label, today we’ll take a look at Four Roses’ Small Batch Select and Single Barrel expressions. When selecting either bourbon from their core offerings, it’s important to consider flavour, the complexity of taste, and of course the price tag. Whilst they share similar base ingredients, each has distinct differences in distillation techniques and barrel ageing that really set them apart.

In this article, we’ll compare and contrast Four Roses Single Barrel vs Four Roses Small Batch Select to help you decide which one is the best fit for you.

In this article, we’ll compare and contrast Four Roses Single Barrel vs Four Roses Small Batch Select to help you decide which one is the best fit for you.

Four Roses whisky distillery building on bright sunny day
Four Roses whisky distillery in Lawrenceburg, Kentucky.

The Four Roses distillery

Tracing back to 1888, the legacy of Four Roses bourbon began when Paul Jones Jr. acquired a small distillery in Lawrenceburg, Kentucky and established himself as an eminent whiskey maker. His ambition was to craft an extraordinary bourbon that would distinguish itself from other libations. By making this spirit with his specially-developed yeast strain, it imparted a unique flavour that truly stood apart from his competitors.

During the early 1900s, Four Roses was purchased by Seagram’s and advertised as a premier American whiskey. By the 1940’s it had become exceptionally popular, making it America’s top-selling whiskey brand. It could be sampled in renowned restaurants, bars and hotels nationwide; but even more noteworthy, it was selected to serve as the official whiskey of U.S Military.

During the 1950s, Seagram’s made a strategic decision to end the distribution of Four Roses whiskey in the United States due to diminishing interest in this type of spirit. Surprisingly enough, despite waning popularity domestically – other countries such as Japan continued strong demand for Four Roses bourbon.

In 2002, Kirin Brewery Company acquired Four Roses, reintroducing the acclaimed brand back to the United States. Since then, they’ve created an extensive range of whiskey that continues to bourbon fans around the world. Throughout its various owners and periods of success, Four Roses has continually been renowned for providing exceptional quality spirits.

Bottle of Four Roses bourbon beside cocktail glass on wooden table
Image credit: Four Roses via Twitter

In recent years

As mixologists continue to look for ways to innovate and tantalize their customers, Four Roses has become the go-to bourbon choice due to its compelling combination of two different mash bills with varying proportions of rye. The resulting flavour profile is a perfect fit for cocktails such as the Old-Fashioned and Manhattan, elevating the depth and complexity of these classic mix drinks around the world.

Today, Four Roses is one of the most popular bourbon brands in the world and is exported to over twenty countries. It is known for its smooth and mellow taste, deriving from its balanced bourbon blends.

Four Roses Single Barrel Bourbon uses a high-rye mash bill (35%) and is aged for 7 to 9 years in a single barrel. First released in 1988, it’s one of the oldest bourbons available on the market today and a favourite among bourbon connoisseurs. Furthermore, its unique flavour notes are enhanced by only using one of Four Roses’ carefully selected yeast strands during production.

With its first release in 2017, Four Roses Small Batch Select is the latest offering from the Lawrenceburg distillery. This whiskey is a blend of six of Four Roses’ ten distinct recipes, chosen by Master Distiller Brent Elliot. 

With its extraordinary success, this whiskey has earned the respect and admiration of whisky connoisseurs and critics everywhere. In 2017 it was declared as “Best in Class” by the San Francisco World Spirits Competition, followed by 2018’s esteemed honor of receiving the “Chairman’s Trophy” at that same event. Furthermore, it scored a remarkable 91 points from Beverage Testing Institute along with being named one of Whiskey Advocate’s Best Bourbons for 2018!

The Small Batch Select is part of Four Roses’ permanent product line. With a great price and steady availability, it’d make an excellent gift for any occasion. Containing a unique blend of six bourbon recipes, it would make a great addition to any whisky collection.

Comparing Four Roses Single Barrel vs Four Roses Small Batch Select

The main differences between Four Roses Single Barrel vs Four Roses Small Batch Select are fairly distinct, coming down to their mash bills, proof, maturation and filtration process.

Briefly, if you’re new to Four Roses, it’s worth knowing about their 10 unique bourbon recipes. Very simply, they use 2 signature mash bill ratios which are used with 5 different yeast strains. This produces their 10 bourbon recipes which are used to concoct their whiskies.

Four Roses Single Barrel solely uses their ‘Mash bill B’ ratio, using a single yeast strain and single barrel for 7-9 years of maturation. It is later chill filtered.

Four Roses Small Batch Select is made of both their ‘Mash bill B’ and ‘Mash bill E’ ratios, containing a blend of 6 bourbon recipes. Each of these 6 bourbons uses different yeasts for a variety of flavours which are then individually matured in barrels for 6-7 years and later blended. This whisky is non-chill filtered.

Corn, rye and barley grains used in both Four Roses’ grain recipes | Image credit: Four Roses Bourbon

Making Four Roses Single Barrel

Single Barrel selection

The Four Roses Single Barrel is made using a single barrel selection process. This means that each bottle is sourced from a single barrel, allowing for a unique flavour profile to be bottled. As each cask has its own unique characteristics, it makes single barrel whiskies such as these, much more unique.

If you’re unsure about the differences between single barrel and small batch whisky, you should check out our explanatory article here.

Distillation

The distillation process for the Single Barrel begins with the selection of the three grains to make their Mashbill B recipe. This comprises 60% corn, 35% rye and 5% malted barley. Notably, they state ‘high rye’ on the label. Because this whisky isn’t blended, this 35% rye component plays a larger role in the bourbon, yielding a full bodied, spiced flavour.

These three grains are then milled to the desired size and soaked in hot water for several hours. This process is called mashing and it helps to extract the sugars and starches from the grains. 

Do the mash

The mashing is then followed by fermentation, which takes place in large stainless-steel tanks. During fermentation, yeast is added to the mash and allowed to convert the sugars and starches into alcohol. The fermentation process takes several days, and the result is a liquid known as ‘wash’. 

Distillation

The wash is then transferred to one of the distillery’s two column stills and heated, causing the alcohol to evaporate, slowly making its way up the still becoming increasingly pure. Reaching the top of the column still, it’s then cooled in a condenser. At this point, the distillate is fairly complete, at around 132 proof, but still requires further purification.

Using a doubler still, the spirit is distilled a second time to remove any impurities for a clean and balanced new make spirit at around 140 proof.

Maturation

This new make spirit is then transferred into to new American oak barrels, where it matures for between 7-9 years. During this time, the spirit will take on flavour characteristics from the wood of each unique barrel. The whisky is then bottled at a minimum of 90 proof and labelled as Four Roses Single Barrel.

Large copper column stills within the Four Roses distillery | Image credit: Four Roses

Making Four Roses Small Batch Select

The Four Roses Small Batch Select is a unique and complex whisky crafted using the popular American style of column distillation.

Both mash bills

The distillation process for the Small Batch Select begins with Four Roses’ two Mashbill B and E recipes. The grains for each recipe are milled into 2 separate mash mixes.

  • Mashbill B: 60% corn / 35% rye / 5% malted barley
  • Mashbill E: 75% corn / 20% rye / 5% malted barley

For the eagle eyed whisky geeks out there, each mashbill and yeast recipe has its own code which is labelled on Four Roses whisky bottles.

Fermentation

Both mash mixes are then divided into 3 batches each (6 in total) and separately fermented in large tanks using unique yeast strains. It’s these yeasts that give each ferment their individual flavours which Four Roses proudly use in their 10 bourbon recipes.

Distillation

The distillation process for the Small Batch Select is performed in a 20ft tall Vendome column still. The still is steam heated which vapourises the alcohol within wash. This vapour is then collected and condensed back into liquid distillate at around 66% ABV.

To rid the distillate of any lingering impurities, it’s distilled once more using a smaller spirit still called a ‘doubler’. Again, the alcohol is heated, evaporates and is collected in a spirit receiver. Purer and much higher in alcohol, this clear liquid is the final distillate – the “new make spirit” at around 70% ABV.

Maturation

The 6 resulting liquids are then separately aged in new, charred American oak barrels for a minimum of five years. During this maturation period, each whisky gains secondary flavours and colour from the barrel. To ensure that the whisky is evenly exposed to the oak, the barrels are periodically rotated – imparting the desired flavour and complexity.

After ageing, the whiskies are sampled, chosen and blended with other whiskies of different ages. This blended whisky is then bottled, labelled, and ready to be enjoyed. The process of distilling the Four Roses Small Batch Select is a long and complex process that requires a great deal of skill and expertise.

The end result is a unique and flavourful whisky that has been crafted to perfection. It is an excellent choice for sipping, as well as for making cocktails and other whisky-based drinks.

Person holding a bottle of Four Roses single barrel bourbon

Four Roses Single Barrel Tasting notes

Nose: Balanced, rich, fruity. Notes of spice and chocolate, toffee and vanilla.

Palate: Tart stone fruits, spices, prunes, cocoa, morello cherries and vanilla.

Finish: Oak, butterscotch, chocolate.

Price: $43 / £36

Flavour profile of Four Roses Single Barrel

Straight out the bottle, you’ll be captivated by this bold, full-bodied flavour. Its aroma is confected with ripe berries and toasted oak along with a trace of caramel and spices. As you take the first sip, it coats your palate like velvet – succulent notes of sweet vanilla and delicate touches of spice blanketed in an oaky finish that’s long-lasting and smooth on release.

Matured in charred oak barrels for a minimum of eight years, the Four Roses Single Barrel Bourbon offers an exquisite and smooth flavour. Its taste profile is complex yet diverse; on your nose you can detect its sweet notes of caramel, honey, vanilla as well as faint hints of oak and spice.

On the palate, its full-bodied texture is nothing short of smooth. Vanilla, cocoa and honey notes dominate the flavour profile while a gentle smokiness and subtle cinnamon hint leave an unforgettable impression. The finish trails long with sweetness that lingers in warmth; aromas and flavours collaborate to offer a complex indulgence. As caramel sweetens delicately against oak’s smoky spice & cinnamon tang, you’re presented with a pleasing, lingering aftertaste.

The Four Roses Single Barrel Bourbon is an ideal selection for whiskey lovers who desire a velvety, full-flavoured spirit. Enjoy it neat or with ice cubes, or use its robust flavour to elevate classic cocktails like a Manhattan or Old Fashioned.

For a truly tantalizing pairing, try the Single Barrel whisky with smoked meats. The smokiness of both elements perfectly combine and will make your taste buds sing. From succulent brisket to juicy pork ribs or even fragrant smoked salmon – it’s sure to be a hit at any dinner table.

For a delectable combination, you can’t go wrong with dark chocolate. The sweetness of the treat is harmonized perfectly by its bitterness, producing an entirely new flavour experience that’s sure to tantalize your taste buds! Cheeses are also amazing to pair this delicacy with; feel free to experiment with sharp cheddar, creamy brie or even pungent blue cheese – you won’t regret it!

For a sweet pairing, try it with dried fruits like figs, apricots, or raisins. You can also try it with a good quality aged steak. It pairs perfectly with the rich flavour of the meat, creating a unique and delicious combination. No matter what type of food you’re pairing the Single Barrel with, you can be sure that it will be a delicious combination.

Women holding a bottle of Four Roses Small Batch Select bourbon

Four Roses Small Batch Select Tasting Notes

Nose: Banana bread, raspberry and redcurrant, oaky spice with a bit of red pepper flake. 

Palate: Raspberry, juicy apricot and orange, supported by clove and creamy vanilla.

Finish: Woody spices with toasted sugar lasting. 

Price: $55 / £46

Flavour profile of Four Roses Small Batch Select

No doubt about it, Four Roses Small Batch Select is a superior Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whisky. Refined from six of the ten Four Roses Bourbon recipes, this premium spirit tantalizes your taste buds with its intricate flavour profile and multi-dimensional aroma.

On the nose, there’s aromas of oak, vanilla and caramel while its taste is enriched with smooth creamy notes of toasted wood and hints of spice. You’ll experience a pleasingly long finish that leaves behind an irresistible flavour combination of dried fruits and vanilla.

Its smooth and mellow flavour profile also makes it a great base for classic whisky cocktails. Whether you’re looking for an easy-drinking whisky or something to spice up your favourite cocktail, Four Roses Small Batch Select is sure to please.

Pairing with food

The Small Batch Select is the premium choice for an extraordinary culinary experience. This liquor offers a harmonious blend of spicy rye, sweet caramel and powerful oak notes that make it incredibly versatile. Serve with grilled steak or smoked salmon to savour its full-bodied flavour; the sweetness in this bourbon will mirror the smokiness of both meats while adding contrast from its spicier rye undertones.

If you’re looking for a light tipple, this bourbon is perfect. Its delicate sweetness and spiciness combine perfectly with brie or camembert cheese, cured meats like prosciutto or salami as well as fresh fruit salads. The complexity of the flavours make it stand out when paired with the right foods!

Whether you are searching for the perfect pairing to accompany a light and bright meal or an intricate and bold dish, Small Batch Select bourbon will not disappoint. This exceptional spirit is sure to tantalize even the choosiest of palates with its delightful flavour combinations.

Single BarrelSmall Batch Select
ColourAmberRusset
NoseBalanced, rich, fruity. Notes of spice and chocolate, toffee and vanilla.Banana bread, raspberry and redcurrant, oaky spice with a bit of red pepper flake.
PalateTart stone fruits, spices, prunes, cocoa, morello cherries and vanilla.Raspberry, juicy apricot and orange, supported by clove and creamy vanilla.
FinishOak, butterscotch, chocolate.Woody spices with toasted sugar lasting.
Rating8.9/108.1/10
AgeUsually, 8-9 yearsUsually, 6-7 years
RegionKentuckyKentucky
ABV5052
ClassificationStraight BourbonStraight Bourbon
CaskAmerican white-oakAmerican oak
Chill filteredYesNo
Price (USD/GBP)$43 / £36$55 / £46
Four Roses Single Barrel vs Four Roses Small Batch Select comparison table.

Final thoughts on Four Roses Single Barrel vs Four Roses Small Batch Select


The Small Batch Select
is a blend of six bourbons that are carefully selected and aged for a minimum of five years. If you’re looking for a more rounded Four Roses experience, this would be our best choice. This bourbon is truly excellent with a smooth and balanced flavour profile that keeps you coming back for more. Containing decadent tasting notes of honey, vanilla, and spices, the Small Batch select is a great harmony of flavours we thoroughly enjoyed.

The Single Barrel is by nature, less complex due to it’s single recipe, single cask maturation. But as far a single-barrel bourbons go, this has to be one of the best we’ve tried. With a lengthy ageing period of eight years, it offers bold flavours of toffee, dried cherries, and oak. If you’re looking to try your first single-barrel bourbon, this would be a magnificent entry to the category. As one of the oldest single-barrel bourbons on the market, this would make an excellent foray into this style of American whiskey.

If you’re a bourbon fan, both the Four Roses Small Batch Select and Single Barrel expressions are worth your consideration. Both of these bourbons provide exceptional flavour profiles that can be appreciated by any level of connoisseur! While each one offers an enjoyable drinking experience on its own, they offer something distinct – making them great choices for those looking to broaden their bourbon taste experiences.

Whether you’re looking for a smooth and balanced flavour or a bolder and more robust flavour, Four Roses have something for everyone.

Four Roses single barrel bourbon being bottled on production line

Four Roses recipes explained

If you’re new to whisky (or bourbon) this section explains the unique aspect of Four Roses’ approach to making their spirits.

First off, whisky is primarily made of three simple ingredients;

  • Grain(s)
  • Water
  • Yeast

Four Roses use these three ingredients, but use two different mashbill recipes instead of just one. Each recipe uses different ratios of corn, rye and malted barley. For ease, these are called Mashbill E and Mashbill B. See below.

These two mashbills could then be mixed with a single type of yeast to make two types of bourbon. Instead, Four Roses use 5 different types of yeast, each with their own unique flavour and corresponding letter code.

  • V = Delicate fruit
  • K = Spice
  • O = Rich fruit
  • Q = Floral
  • F = Herbal

Combining the two mashbills with these 5 yeast strains results in their 10 bourbon recipes. Recipes 1-5 use Mashbill B and recipes 6-10 use Mashbill E. See a screenshot of all 10 of the Four Roses recipes in the diagrams below.

Diagram screenshot of Four Roses recipe for mashbill B
Diagram screenshot of Four Roses recipe for mashbill E
Black coloured diagram explaining the Four Roses recipe system
Black diagram explaining the Four Roses recipe system

Depending on the flavour profile they’d like to make, Four Roses can solely use or blend any of their 10 bourbon recipes. As there are only ever two variables in each code, you can quickly navigate which mashbill and which yeast was used.

Four Roses Single Barrel recipe

Recipe: 1 OBSV

  • O = made in Lawrenceburg, Kentucky
  • B = Mashbill B
  • S = Straight whiskey
  • V = Yeast strain (Notes of delicate fruit.)

Four Roses Small Batch Select recipe

Four Roses Small Batch Select label

Recipe: 1 OBSV

  • O = made in Lawrenceburg, KY
  • B = Mashbill B
  • S = Straight whiskey
  • V = Yeast strain (Delicate fruit)

Recipe: 2 OBSK

  • O = made in Lawrenceburg, KY
  • B = Mashbill B
  • S = Straight whiskey
  • K = Yeast strain (Rye & spice)

Recipe: 5 OBSF

  • O = made in Lawrenceburg, KY
  • B = Mashbill B
  • S = Straight whiskey
  • F = Yeast strain (Herbal notes)

Recipe: 6 OESV

  • O = made in Lawrenceburg, KY
  • E = Mashbill E
  • S = Straight whiskey
  • V = Yeast strain (Delicate fruit)

Recipe: 7 OESK

  • O = made in Lawrenceburg, KY
  • E = Mashbill E
  • S = Straight whiskey
  • K = Yeast strain (Rye & spice)

Recipe: 10 OESF

  • O = made in Lawrenceburg, KY
  • E = Mashbill E
  • S = Straight whiskey
  • F = Yeast strain (Herbal notes)

Next time you pick up any bottle of Four Roses, why not check the label to see which of their 10 recipes was used to make the whisky? If you’re a long time fan, or you’re just getting into this Kentucky bourbon, it can be fun to learn which recipe suits your flavour preferences!

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