One of the most hotly anticipated releases of the fall of 2018 was the Four Roses 2018 Limited Edition 130th Anniversary Small Batch.
In 2007, Four Roses began their limited edition barrel proof line. The first release was in honor then Master Distiller Jim Rutledge’s 40 years in the bourbon industry. A 120th Anniversary bottle followed in 2008. These early releases, however, were single barrels. Not until the fall of 2008 with the Four Roses Marriage Collection did Four Roses release the Limited Editions in small-batch version. In 2010, the name of the “Marriage Collection” would change to the “Limited Edition Small Batch” line we know today.
Like most of what Four Roses does, Four Roses isn’t shy with the relevant information on this one. This batch features four of the ten Four Roses recipes: a 13-year-old OBSF, a 10-year-old OBSV, a 14-year-old OESV and a 16-year-old OESK. The batch was then bottled at barrel strength at 108.4 proof.
This release is the third in the fall series of Limited Edition Small Batch bourbons by Master Distiller Brent Elliott. His inaugural Limited Edition release, the 2016 Elliott’s Select Limited Edition Single Barrel, was highly regarded, as were both the 2016-2017 Limited Edition Small Batches. However, the 2017 Four Roses Al Young 50th Anniversary Limited Edition Small Batch is nearly uniformly viewed as Elliott’s best work.
Would the 130th Anniversary Limited Edition Small Batch stand up to the Al Young 50th Anniversary Limited Edition Small Batch? We were dying to find out.
This release went on sale in September 2018. We were not able to grab one ourselves, but this past weekend at Stock Hill in Kansas City, Missouri, we were able to find a pour.
Nose: Funky herbal flavors; leather; sweet dark fruit like plum and prune; earth; chewing tobacco; pre-baked Apples for apple pie; oak and generally wood. Very pleasing and this presents its age very well. (4/5)
Palate: Salted caramel; plum skins; oak; apricot; green apple; homemade spiced applesauce. As warm and rich as this tastes, burn isn’t an issue. (4.5/5)
Finish: Medium to long, but warm and rich to the end. Baking spices; sweet apricot; caramel; oak; clove. The least enjoyable part of the pour, but still more than satisfying. (3.5/5)
Overall: Although we came in with high expectations after the likes of the Al Young 50th Anniversary Limited Edition, we were still impressed. The pour provided a great balance of sweet, oak, spice and leather. A very enjoyable experience. (4/5).
Value: This bottle retailed for $130 per bottle. We were not able to find a bottle, but did find this for $24 per pour. Frankly, both of those would be good deals, given the quality and the uniqueness of this batch. We would gladly pay this MSRP or the $24 pour price. (4/5)
“Although we came in with high expectations after the likes of the Al Young 50th Anniversary Limited Edition, we were still impressed.”
[Author’s Note: In July 2017, we reviewed the Al Young 50th Anniversary Limited Edition Small Batch. At the time, we at Flight Club had not yet settled upon our rating rubric (as you now see above). Therefore, that review remains scoreless. Several of us – including Scott Hill, Jamie Baalmann and Jay Cary – have since put the Al Young bottle head-to-head in a flight against the likes of Booker’s 25th Anniversary, 2017 George T. Stagg, 2017 William Larue Weller, 2017 Col. E.H. Taylor Four Grain and Four Roses Elliott’s Select. These are heavy hitters for sure. While the competition was close, in our collective scoring Al Young came out victorious.
What does this mean for the 2018 130th Anniversary Limited Edition Small Batch? Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to try this 130th Anniversary side-by-side with Al Young. But my scores for other head-to-head competitions and my overall view of Al Young as the best of 2017, I can say that Al Young wins out over the 130th Anniversary by quite some margin.
130th Anniversary is good. Very good. It is just no Al Young.]
Scott is a co-founder of Flight Club and a frequent writer and reviewer on the Club’s blog.