Four Roses Single Barrel Private Selection OBSQ vs. OESQ
In case your are unfamiliar, or in need of a review, below is the Four Roses infographic from the company website explaining the two mash bills and five yeast strains utilized to yield the ten varieties of Four Roses Private Selection Single Barrel, Barrel Strength bourbon:
As I wrote previously, it is not the high-rye and low-rye mash bills that piques my interest with this lineup. It’s the proprietary yeast strains. The yeast strains’ development is also fascinating, as it is woven through the re-launching of the Four Roses brand.
Each yeast strain and mash bill combination yields a particular flavor profile, as seen in the hangtag accompanying one of the bottles below:
I’ve recently acquired the high-rye and low-rye bottles containing the “Q” yeast strain, which is said to be much more floral than the other strains.
For each post, I’ve tried to include some interesting facts about what makes Four Roses unique. The previous posts discussed the yeast strains. Today, it’s the aging process.
If you’ve ever visited Kentucky’s bourbon trail, or visited one of Kentucky’s large-brand distilleries, you have probably noticed the warehouses where the barrels are aged. These warehouses, typically, are several stories tall. The variables within distilling and aging bourbon are very sensitive. A barrel aged just one floor up or down from another will yield very different results.
Four Roses, however, uses single-story warehouses. This is meant to achieve more uniformity between their barrels. To determine where a particular bottle of Four Roses’ single barrel bourbon was aged, all you need to do is look at the label.
Similar to the four-letter code used to indicate the mash bill and yeast strain, the bottle’s label includes a code to found out where exactly the barrel was located.
So, for example, there are two OBSQ bottles that are reviewed below. They contain very similar codes for the warehouse and barrel information: warehouse LE barrel 36-2M; warehouse LE barrel 36-3O.
The warehouse code contains two letters. The first letter is which particular warehouse (A-?). The second letter is the particular quadrant the barrel was located in the warehouse – north, east, south, or west.
The barrel code contains a number, a dash, then a number and letter. The first number is the rack – like a shelving rack – one which the barrels sit. After the dash, the next number is the particular tier on the rack. Finally, the letter designates the particular barrel.
So, putting this all together, the two OBSQ bottles are from warehouse “L”, in the eastern part of the warehouse, on rack 36. One was on the second tier, the other on the third.
So, how different are the OESQ and OBSQ recipes, and is there much variation between the two OBSQ bottles? Here are the reviews:
OESQ (Davidsons, Colorado, 8 year 6 months, 122.4 proof)
Nose: More sawdust than I’m used to with FR. The floral (dried rose petals) and fruit (candied strawberry) are present. Herbal notes of soft annise and mint.
Palate: Hot, the hottest Four Roses I’ve had to date. Even after sitting for 30 minutes. The heat is overpowering most of the flavors. Some red hots, white sugar, like pixie sticks. After adding water it is incredibly sweet. Hard red fruit candy. Then some caramel and brown sugar.
Finish: Long. The burn stays with you. red licorice. Caramel. Dark chocolate.
OBSQ (Davidsons, Colorado, 9 year 4 months, 118.6 proof warehouse LE barrel 36-3O)
Nose: Similar sawdust to the OESQ, but without the herbal notes. Ethanol. Light strawberry toothpaste.
Palate: Less harsh. Still very sweet. Same red fruit hard candy. Red pepper flakes. Baking spices. Red sprinkles. Oily.
Finish: Medium long. Spearmint and strawberry cool aid. Cinnamon sugar.
OBSQ (BevMo! Palo Alto, California, 9 year 1 month, 114.6 proof warehouse LE barrel 36-2M)
Nose: Oakier than the other two. Lower proof is evident with noticeably less ethanol. Some very soft floral notes, like hydrangeas. There’s a sweetness, more like honey than sugar.
Palate: Peaks quickly. Quick burst of sweet honeycrisp apple and strawberries. Some peppery rye spice with a bit of banana.
Finish: Shortest, but still medium. A very soft bitterness comes on that was not present with the other two. But the banana and sweet strawberries are stronger.
The first thing that stood out to me was the OESQ’s heat. It’s the highest proof of any Four Roses I’ve had, but much hotter than some of its slightly lower proof brethren. With some water, the flavors started to develop more and were not quite so overshadowed by the heat.
Even giving the OESQ some room to breathe and water to dilute the proof, I still think I preferred to OBSQ. This has become the clear pattern, where I like the higher rye recipe better. These two OBSQ bottles were so full of fruit. The Davidsons pick had much more pronounced spices, while the BevMo! pick had more herbal and floral notes. The banana note in the BevMo! pick was probably the biggest surprise of all. I had never experienced that in any Four Roses product.
I came away from these feeling like the two OBSQ bottles were nearly as different from each other as they were from the OESQ. Just goes to show you the variability between single barrel picks.
The remaining bottles I need to acquire are OESV, OBSO, OBSK, and OESK to complete the set of 10. If you find any out there, feel free to leave a comment or send a message.