With so many Kentucky-style bourbon whiskeys on the market and so many different flavor profiles to choose from, knowing what to look for in your bourbon choice can come down to your specific taste buds and the type of drinks you enjoy the most. Some are pricier than others, and while the higher price tag can often mean a very luxurious bourbon, they’re not always worth the added cost.
If you’ve been wondering about Four Roses but have yet to try the bourbon out for yourself, this review will go over everything you need to know. From how the company began and which distilling practices they use today to what type of drinks work best with this brand, we dish out all the details. Learn what real tasters say, see the long list of awards this bourbon has won, and hear what real customers say.
What Is Four Roses?
Four Roses is a Kentucky bourbon that began in 1884 by Paul Jones Jr. As the story goes, the company received its name from Jones’ sweetheart, who explained to him she would wear four red roses to the grand ball if she decided to accept his marriage proposal. She indeed showed up to the ball wearing the four red roses, and thus Jones names his new bourbon business after the event.
If his lover has not worn the roses or accepted his proposal, the name of the company may very well be very different today. As it turns out, the name is completely fitting for this rosy whiskey.
Although the company nearly closed down and faced a few company buyouts, they have preserved. Today, they have four main products that are popular among customers including:
- Yellow Label – The brand’s signature bourbon, created using all 10 recipes.
- Small Batch – Created using three or four recipes.
- Single Barrel – One simple recipe for a full-flavor barrel whiskey.
- Limited Editions – Exclusive releases from any of the above categories are hand-picked by the master distiller and brewed to perfection for a limited time.
What Makes Four Roses Unique?
There may be many Kentucky bourbons produced in the state from a number of distillers, but Four Roses have made a huge comeback from near extinction in the United States market. Today, they are the only distillery to handcraft ten distinct bourbon recipes and mingle them by hand to create award-winning brands that their customers adore.
What really makes this company unique is not that they have struggled and triumphed for so many years, but that it is the only bourbon whiskey distillery that uses five proprietary yeasts along with two mash bills with 60-75% corn to produce a total of 10 different bourbons. They use single-story rick houses to help during the aging process as well, where many competitors use multi-story buildings.
Both the distiller, which is located in Lawrenceburg, Kentucky, and the rick houses in Cox’s Creek is open for tours, so you can check out their process. If you want to learn more about their process, you can also read more on their unique recipes and check out the formula they use for success.
There is an art to making this bourbon, which is exactly how this brand survived the prohibition era, the Great Depression, Two World Wars, and even a 40-year-long period of time where they were exiled from the United States.
The company takes bourbon to a new craft and has come back from hardships swinging. They even won Whisky Distiller of the Year from Whisky Magazine three years in a row, from 2011 to 2013. Handcrafting their bourbons sets them apart from any competition, even if the process is a bit more time-consuming.
Which Of Their Bourbons is the Most Popular Option?
The Yellow Label Bourbon is the brand’s standard, and it is often compared to Jim Beam White Label or Johnny Walker Red Label for this reason. This is the bottle that you find easier than others, which most liquor stores carrying the standard label on a regular basis. Whether you’re in the mood for a mixed whiskey drink or something you can drink straight from the bottle, this whiskey is perfect for any mood.
The bourbon is floral, smooth, and has a sophisticated taste. The aroma is rosy, grainy, and spicy with undertones of honey. Taste-wise, it’s crisp and smooth at the same time, with hints of vanilla, pear, apple, and oak that melt together seamlessly. A soothing smooth finish is semi-dry, with hints of spicy orange. It’s also 80 proof, with 40% alcohol by volume.
The company’s other bourbons contain an impressive lineup with the Yellow Label only kicking things off. You may also find some releases that are exclusive to a specific country as well. In Japan, for example, you can buy the unique Black Label and Super Premium options.
The Yellow Label is a worldwide favorite, and has won a slew of awards including the following:
- 2018 Tried and True Award from the Ultimate Spirits Challenge
- 2017 & 2018 Best Bourbon People’s Choice from the Taste of the Bluegrass
- 2017 Excellent Rating from the Ultimate Spirits Challenge
- 2016 Gold Medal at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition
- 2014 Gold Medal at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition
- 2014 Gold Medal at the Denver International Spirits Competition
- 2013 Wine Enthusiast Top 50 Spirits Award
- 2010 Silver Medal at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition
- 2010 Excellent Rating at the Ultimate Beverage Challenge
- 2010 American Whisky Best Bourbon 7 Years and Under at the World Whisky Awards
- 2010 Highly Recommended at the International Review of Spirits
Another popular choice is the Single Barrel, which is widely available in Japan, Europe, and the United States. The Single Barrel and Small Batch collections were released in 2010, and they are limited editions worth trying out for yourself. They’re both great sipping bourbons for connoisseurs and those who are not as experienced at drinking bourbon. These collector-worth editions can be harder to find though.
Sold at a reasonable price, this bourbon is found in any major liquor store. Prices to the standard label bourbon range between $-$$ depending on your location. To find a distributor near you, check out this PDF, complete with addresses from the company.
Other limited release bottles or the Small Batch typically cost a bit more, so expect to add on around $ to your final price. However, this is still one of the lowest priced brands you can find anywhere.
You can also shop accessories from the company’s official website. However, you may not be able to buy alcohol online in some places.
What the Public Thinks of Four Roses
Overall, people enjoy this bourbon. It’s budget-friendly and easily found in any liquor store. It works well for cocktails and those who are new to sipping bourbons, with its subtle flavor profile and low proof. Most customer reviews say it offers an amazing taste for the price range. The affordability of this bourbon means you can enjoy it every day. Customers especially enjoy the nose, flavor, and finish of the Yellow Label. They say it smells like a forest on a rainy Autumn day and tastes sweet. However, the sweetness is not overpowering.
Most people say the taste is great, but some negative reviews have called it artificial and as if there is more ethanol it the recipe than competitors like Jim Beam, for example. One review noted that if you open the bottle and allow it to sit for ten minutes before drinking, then add a few ice cubes in your glass before your first sip, you can really explore the flavor more fully.
Although the Original blend is not complex, and people say they would never describe it as such, it is drinkable straight up and wonderful in a mixed drink. The flavor does not overpower the other ingredients in a cocktail, and the floral and honey hints make it smooth to sip. People who enjoy sipping on a fine bourbon frequently won’t be blown away by the Yellow Label option though. If you’re looking for a drink to sip neat, the Small Batch is a better way to go. This option has a higher flavor profile that matches up to competitors nicely.
How Four Roses Stacks Up to the Competition
Although there are other Bottled in Bond bourbons out there that are comparably priced to the Yellow Label, it is about 20 proof points lower and has a more balanced taste. It’s perfect for beginners who are new to sipping bourbon or anyone who is looking for a cheaper alternative that doesn’t sacrifice taste and quality along with the price.
While bourbon connoisseurs find this to be a less exciting flavor compared to others. However, this does make it ideal for mixed drinks. It’s also nice to have an affordable bourbon on hand, so you don’t go overboard on the expensive sipping bourbons as well.
When compared to Jim Beam’s Devil’s Cut, a customer says the blend is smoother and tastes way better. It’s not as sweet and sticky as some of the other brands you can find easily available, and it barely holds an alcohol-like smell. Jim Beam fans, however, have said they prefer it.
In one customer review, an anonymous user shared that they would drink the Yellow Label over Jack Daniels any day. Another said that they tried the bourbon only when the bar they were visiting ran out of Jack Daniels, and they never turned back. They even switched their preferred bourbon choice.
People often compare this brand to McClelland’s Single Malt Lowland and Sonoma County Distilling Company’s 2nd Chance Wheat Whiskey as well. Where the Sonoma Whiskey is less fruity, the McClelland’s Single Malt is less floral. So, if you don’t enjoy the fruity or floral tastes found in their original Yellow Label, these brands might fair better for you.
Many customers who enjoy the Original flavor may also go for Eagle Rare 10-Year-Old, Jefferson’s Bourbon, Buffalo Trace Bourbon, or Bulleit Bourbon Whiskey. While these brands are all comparable in price and flavor profiles, Four Roses top the ranking. Plus, it offers a bit more alcohol content.
Even though this brand blends together up to ten of their unique recipes to make the Yellow Label, unlike many other bourbon competitors, you don’t notice a slew of different flavors hitting your tongue at once.
Instead, the recipes blend together seamlessly to provide a base of flavors. It also helps to mute unwanted characteristics in any one specific recipe, masking any imperfections each individual barrel or recipe may have. The result is a blend that offers complete control and consistency from bottle to bottle, batch to batch.
When it comes to the warmth you feel in the pit of your belly after drinking bourbon or straight whiskey, this company will hold up to competitors. It’s perfect for a cold, snowy day, and is perfect to keep on hand in case you get snowed in.
What We Think
Although this is an entry-level bourbon that comes with a cheap price tag, it is very good. The attention to detail in each recipe and the classic ways to brew their perfect batches makes this company one of the best. They truly care about the craft of their whiskey, yet keep prices lower to allow it to be enjoyed by the masses. And you can find the brand worldwide for this reason.
We think this bourbon is worth a try for anyone, and if you don’t like the flavor profile, perhaps a higher priced option is better for you. Overall, this drink is smooth and warm with a minimal burn and great sweet, earthy taste.