Four Roses Limited Edition Small Batch

Four Roses 2021 LE Small Batch will be highest proof yet

Four Roses Limited Edition Small Batch
The 2021 Four Roses Limited Edition Small Batch is coming soon …

During a Zoom press conference Monday, Four Roses Master Distiller walked me and fellow spirits writers through a quick tasting of the 2021 Limited Edition Small Batch, which will be released in late September in select stores and through an online lottery system on the Four Roses website.

The annual release is highly anticipated in the bourbon world, and this iteration is no joke. At 114.2 proof, it’s the highest proof yet to be released — and it’s quite tasty, as you might have guessed.

Elliott described his process of assembling the LE Small Batch. He explained he basically looks at previous releases and sets out to evoke a different flavor profile. Since Four Roses uses two different yeasts and creates 10 distinct bourbon recipes, it’s a lot of trial and error since he’s working with mature barrels that are usually distinct in various flavors.

For all the Four Roses geeks out there, here is the specific blend for the 2021 release:

  • 16-year-old OESV: 58%
  • 12-year-old OESK: 23%
  • 16-year-old OESV: 13%
  • 14-year-old OBSQ: 6%

The robust bourbon packs quite a punch, especially on the first sip. But once your tastebuds settle down, you can truly experience the nuance of baked fruit, caramel, chocolate, baking spices and even a dash of cinnamon on the finish.

“Hand-selecting the barrels to make up our annual limited edition bottling is one of my most rewarding experiences each year,” Elliott said in a news release. “The ability to work with 10 bourbon recipes each with distinct characteristics opens up endless possibilities. This year’s release brings a proof higher than any of the past Limited Editions, creating robust complexity and layers of flavors resulting from the variety of constituent batches and recipes.”

Let’s just face it: Four Roses can really do no wrong, especially when they’re using mature barrels for limited edition products like this one. If someone were to lock me inside one of their rick houses, I’d be happy as a clam sampling through their inventory like I was at Costco.

Signups for the bottle lottery will start today and continue through Sept. 12. You can only enter once, and if you win, you’ll get the right to purchase the bottle for a suggested retail price of $150. Only 14,500 bottles will be released

Four Roses 2020 Small Batch

Four Roses Limited Edition Small Batch 2020 drops in September via public lottery

So you’re saying there’s a chance …

Each September, the Four Roses Limited Edition Small Batch comes around like a cool autumn wind, jumpstarting a bottle mania of bourbon fans far and wide. These releases are always delicious — and include some pretty old bourbons by industry standards — and often are pretty limited, with just a little more than 14,000 released worldwide.

2020 Four Roses Limited Edition Small Batch

You win my love.

So when I got wind of the 2020 release trickling out next month, with a public lottery draw due to pandemic safety measures (usually a shit ton of people camp out at both the Four Roses Distillery and the Bottling Facility), I was actually pretty damn happy, because maybe this year I would have a chance to purchase the precious juice.

But first, let’s talk about the bourbon.

This year’s release is proofed at a whopping 111.4 and is non-chill filtered. It includes four different ages and recipes of Four Roses bourbon, which breaks down like this:

  • 12-year-old bourbon from the OBSV recipe (30%)
  • 12-year-old OESV (25%)
  • 16-year-old OESK (25%)
  • 19-year-old OBSK (20%)

I joined Four Roses Master Distiller Brent Elliott on a Zoom call on Monday, and he filled me in on some of the interesting aspects of this year’s LE Small Batch. He noted that the goal is always to make something smooth, mellow and, most importantly, unique — so this year’s should taste vastly different from previous years.

He also explained that each batch could have stood on its own as a single barrel offering, but the magic of the process came in the blending.

“In this case, the sum is even greater than the parts — as together these bring a perfect balance of bright, vibrant flavors and aromas from the 12- and 16-year-old barrels combined with the oak tones and aged expressions from the 19-year-old batch,” Elliott said.

Because he chose to include a mature 19-year-old bourbon in the blend, Elliott said a big challenge came with working with the dominant oak notes in a bourbon that old, although this one aged like a fine wine — meaning, yes, there is an oak presence, but it’s not dominating or overwhelming.

And it plays well with others.

I was fortunate to get a small sample-sized taste of the 2020 LE Small Batch, and I could certainly detect those oak notes, but so many more flavors popped on my palate, including orange peel, cherries, honey, pear, spice from the high-rye mash bill, and of course those warming flavors of vanilla, toasted marshmallow and caramel.

Let’s just say I’ll be a happy camper if my name gets selected to purchase a bottle. In the meantime, I’m going to enjoy this sample and not share it with anyone. #SorryNotSorry

There are 14,040 bottles up for grabs this year in the United States, so fingers crossed we all get lottery lucky or find one at our local liquor store (yeah, right). The bottle should retail for around $150.

I guess I’ll be nice and share the link to the lottery sign-up: Click here.

→ → OK, OK, sorry. I mean click here. ← ←

Brent Elliott and Bar Belle

Four Roses’ annual Flower Hour is tonight at Nanz & Kraft!

Brent Elliott and Bar Belle

See, Four Roses Flower Hour is fun!

If you’ve never been to a Four Roses Flower Hour before, you’re definitely missing out — take my word for it! So what if you’re not into flowers. Are you into bourbon? Are you into meeting master distillers? Are you into cheese???

This annual event, which takes place tonight — Friday, Feb. 7 — at Nanz & Kraft Florists, includes all of that for a low, low price of $10, which benefits the American Heart Association. Basically from 5:30-8 p.m., you mingle, grab handfuls of cheese, imbibe cocktails and/or Four Roses bourbon and rub shoulders with Master Distiller Brent Elliott.

Plus, there are all sorts of other snacks and coffee tastings, live music from Swing Theory, and an array of silent auction items that includes rare Four Roses bottles!

If you want to go the fancy route, pay $20 at the door for a VIP ticket, and you’ll receive a goody bag full of all sorts of delicious stuff.

Think of it as happy hour on steroids — with flowers.

Nanz & Kraft is located at 141 Breckenridge Lane in St. Matthews.

Motor boating, pitching tents and much more at this week’s Louisville Boat, RV & Sportshow!

Bar Belle at the Louisville Boat Show

I’ve crashed the Louisville Boat Show in my day! It’s pretty damn fun!

Sure, January is a pretty crappy month. It’s cold, it’s dark and all your friends are on damn diets! It’s hard to find much to do, let alone people to do it with you.

But thankfully, mid-January is the perfect time to start plotting for summer adventures. And what better way to dream about oceans and lakes and warm weather than at the annual Louisville Boat, RV & Sportshow, which returns to the Kentucky Exposition Center at the Fairgrounds starting Wednesday, Jan. 22, through Sunday, Jan. 26.

Bar Belle at the Louisville Boat Show

I’m on a boat!

Now what does this have to do with drinking, you ask? Well, for one, Four Roses will have a presence at the Boat Show in the form of a pop-up bar of sorts. You’ll find the Four Roses Bourbon Lounge on the show floor, right near all the big-ass boats and RVs that cost more than my bar tabs ever will.

If you’ve never been to the Boat Show, I can attest it’s pretty entertaining to walk around and look at all the toys you could own if you won the lottery. Plus, there’s an entire section of free stuff! You know, candy, pencils, Band-Aid holders, beer koozies and lots more!

Here’s a quick overview of some of the special events going on during the show, courtesy of the press release:

  • The Hawg Trough, an interactive 5,000-gallon aquarium, will provide a unique, underwater view of how fish react to different techniques, bait and lures. Top anglers from around the area will demonstrate their fishing and casting skills in the tank during daily, free seminars.
  • The kids’ area is returning, with a number of family-friendly activities in one place. Yogi Bear™ will be at the show for meet-and-greets and autographs in the Bear Cave Fun Zone, hosted by Yogi Bear’s Jellystone Park™ Camp Resort Mammoth Cave. Kids can also enjoy free catch-and-release fishing in the Trout Pond, get crafty at the Create-a-Crankbait station and more.
  • Attendees can test their boating abilities with the Boating Skills Virtual Trainer from America’s Boating Club.
  • Super Thursday festivities will take place on Thursday, Jan. 23, including one-day-only special offers and meet-and-greets with superheroes. Kids are encouraged to dress as their favorite characters — those in costume will get a free, handmade, ice cream sandwich from Ehrler’s Ice Cream!
  • For the first time, the show will feature a Career Day on Friday, Jan. 24. High school and college students can learn about careers in the boating, RV and fishing industries.
  • The Poker Run will take over the show floor on Friday night for those 21 and older. As the winners are crowned, Nick’s Boat Dock will keep the party going at their booth. Don’t miss the chance to mingle with professional wakeboarders during this time.

And that’s the gist of the Louisville Boat Show. Admission is $12 for adults. Who knows, maybe it’ll inspire you to pitch a tent or invest in a pontoon — and we all could gather, drink beer and float in a lake. Boat up!

Al Young

Al Young: A bourbon legend, an industry champion and my friend

Al Young

Al loved to ham it up when events got a little stagnant. | Photo by Sara Havens

“Brent (Elliott) said, ‘We’re coming out with a limited-edition release for your anniversary, and I need to know what you want it to be. I was honored they even decided to do it. So I thought for a while, and then I set the perimeters of what I was looking for.” —Al Young, on his 50th Anniversary Four Roses Small Batch

This morning as I scrolled through my Facebook feed, I expected to see photos of unwrapped presents, of families gathering around the tree, of special bourbon bottles being open and shared. But what I didn’t expect to read was the gut-punching news that the bourbon industry had lost a legend on Christmas Day: Al Young, brand ambassador extraordinaire of Four Roses Bourbon.

As confirmed by his daughter on his personal Facebook page, Young was 77 and is survived by his lovely wife Gretchen and three children.

Al Young

Al and me at the Nov. 9 Barrel Through Hunger event.

I had just run into Al on Nov. 9 at the Barrel Through Hunger event, and I actually sat right next to him and his wife Gretchen for the dinner portion of the evening. He was as lively as ever and was looking forward to some time off for the holidays.

In recent years, Al has traveled far and wide touting Four Roses — a role he was destined for and that brought him back to his love of theater.

In 2017, when Four Roses released the Al Young Limited Edition 50th Anniversary Small Batch Bourbon, I met up with Al for a feature story on his career, his new bourbon and his thoughts on the booming industry.

We chatted for over an hour — and sampled his delicious bourbon — about everything from his first internship at Actors Theatre to his rise through the distillery and his recent role of ambassador and storyteller.

You can read that story here, if you’re interested. Gretchen told me that night in November that she often pulls up my story to show friends and family — a compliment that means so much more than any Facebook “like” ever could.

No matter where I ran into Al — whether it was at Churchill Downs during Thanksgiving or an official Four Roses event — he always seemed genuinely happy to see me, to talk bourbon with strangers and to champion for the industry that defined his career. It’s cliche, but I don’t think Al ever met a stranger.

Al will be missed by so many. I know he had a million stories left to tell, and no doubt those stories he did share will continue to be passed on through everyone he spent five or 105 minutes with.

I had Al sign my bottle that night, even though I have several signed by the legend. Since he was sitting next to me, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity for another autograph. Most distillers simply scribble their names, but Al paused a moment and wrote, “For Sara: Be mellow! Al Young 2019.”

Sure, “Be mellow” is a brand saying, but I was impressed he knew the correct spelling of my name and left that pesky “h” off. Attention to detail was one of his assets for sure.

It’s a gift I will forever cherish, although I can hear Al telling me that bourbon should be drank and I should open the damn bottle!

Cheers, Al. You will be forever remembered in my heart and the hearts of millions.

Justin's House of Bourbon

Justins’ House of Bourbon opens in Louisville, plus Four Roses’ NuLu Cocktail Challenge starts Saturday

Did you really think I’d let the Night Before Thanksgiving — Louisville’s biggest night to go out and chug Claws/compare lives with former high school classmates — go by without a word from your tried and true Bar Belle? Hell no!

Because I’ve got some news you can use that is all about booze.

First of all, what the heck happened over at Left Field Lounge? Looks like someone crashed into the little dive bar that sits just off Bardstown Road in the Highlands. That’s one of my favorite spots, so hopefully they’ll get it patched right quick and we can get back to droppin’ dollars in the juke box and sippin’ on Old Fo Sig.

Secondly, be safe out there tonight so you can stuff your face tomorrow. Here’s a Lyft code for you to plug into your phones RIGHT NOW ($10 off a ride), courtesy of the Kentucky Distillers Association and SafeRideKY: THANKSGIVINGKY19. Don’t say I never gave you anything!

OK, now for the news …

Justins’ House of Bourbon opens Louisville location

Justin's House of Bourbon

Introducing Justins’ House of Bourbon!

If you’ve never been to Justins’ House of Bourbon in Lexington, now you don’t even have to get on a highway to visit the newest location, smack dab in the middle of downtown Louisville. It’s part liquor store, part liquor museum (with dozens of vintage bottles) and part bar — featuring both cocktails and tastings.

The guys behind this also run The Bourbon Review magazine (which I am proud to write for now, so go get those subscriptions!) and also put on The Bourbon Classic, which will be here before you know it. So they’re champions for bourbon and the bourbon industry, and they’ve been so for years.

There have been some rumblings in the bourbon community that the everyday shelf prices of some of the bottles at Justins’ House are a bit pricey. And that’s true. Just remember, not all small-business owners can charge low rates for stuff and keep the lights on. Plus, I guarantee people are willing to pay it. There’s not a big selection of liquor stores downtown, so something about supply and demand applies here — I just wouldn’t know, because I got a C in Economics.

So stop your bitchin’ and stop in for a nice pour of something special. The prices at the bar are great, and they’ve got some bottles you can’t find most places. Plus, they do lots of store picks, and those you can get for a fairly reasonable price.

Justins’ House of Bourbon is located across from the White Castle, at 101 W. Market St.

Here are some more images:

Four Roses’ NuLu Holiday Cocktail Challenge starts Saturday

Cocktail at Taj

This one looks promising: Taj’s Night at the Movies

My ears tend to perk up when I get wind of a neighborhood cocktail challenge, because while the handful of contestants duke it out over who has the best cocktail, I just sit back and guzzle them all down. Case in point: Four Roses’ fifth annual NuLu Holiday Cocktail Challenge, which starts Saturday, Nov. 30.

Five bars are competing with holiday-themed cocktails, and it’s our job to go around and sample them all, and then vote at the link above. This event always seems to produce some great cocktails, and here’s a look at all five:

  • Against The Grain: Chai Need a Holiday
  • Garage Bar: Thurman Murman
  • Nouvelle: Winter’s Heart
  • Taj: A Night At The Movies
  • Rye: There Goes Christmas

While the competition will go through Dec. 20, there is the NuLu Days Sip & Stroll this Saturday as well, from 5-9 p.m. The event is a partnership between Four Roses, Do502 and Lyft, and you can even get a 10% discount on a Lyft ride home that night with the code: SIPNSTROLL.

So I’ll see you all on Saturday, sippin’ through NuLu.

Four Roses Bourbon

Four Roses’ 2019 Limited Edition Small Batch is a sugar daddy

Four Roses Bourbon

Who’s your daddy?!

The term “sugar daddy” has two meanings, and strangely enough, the new Four Roses Limited Edition Small Batch encompasses them both.

The first is a candy invented in 1925 by Robert Welch that is basically a slab of caramel served on a stick. It is now manufactured by the Tootsie Roll company, which also makes its counterpart, Sugar Babies.

I used to gnaw on a Sugar Daddy at the movies (sounds bad, but that’s because you’re thinking of the other meaning), and my trick to not pulling out all my fillings was to first warm it up in my hands (OK, that still sounds bad).

Anyway, I learned from doing research for this post that the original name for a Sugar Daddy candy stick was Papa Sucker, which also sounds dirty.

And that brings us to the second meaning of the term: a rich older dude who provides financial benefits, typically for certain relations.

So what does any of this have to do with Four Roses’ latest release?

Well, it’s not only as tasty as a slab of caramel on a stick, but the barrels selected for the Small Batch are much more mature — refined if you will — providing pleasurable benefits for your taste buds.

In fact, let’s go ahead and coin a new hashtag: #barrelswithbenefits

If this bourbon was on Tinder, I would not only swipe right but seriously launch a Facebook stalking campaign just so I could run into it at its favorite bar.

But I digress.

The release marks the first Four Roses limited-quantity bottling to feature a 21-year-old bourbon from the distillery’s OBSV recipe. It also includes some 15-year-old OESK, 15-year-old OESV and 11-year-old OESV.

The result is a rich, sweet, honey-forward, spicy bite of hand-warmed caramel that melts in your mouth and immediately queues up some Marvin Gaye in the background.

“Our 10 distinct bourbon recipes provide the ability to handcraft new and interesting expressions, and with this year’s Limited Edition, we found some exceptionally well-rested bourbons in some of our higher aged barrels,” said Four Roses Master Distiller Brent Elliott in a news release. “Combining the delicate fruit flavors and light spice from our V and K strains resulted in a uniquely nuanced whiskey.”

Yes it did.

The bourbon — which will be released on Sept. 21 at both the Four Roses Distillery in Lawrenceburg and the Bottling Facility in Coxs Creek — will be bottled non-chill filtered at 112.6 proof and retail for about $140. This one will be hard to find — just like most limited editions — since there are only about 13,440 hand-numbered bottles hitting store shelves.

But like a good partner, it will be well worth your time and effort. Who knows … this might just be the one.

And with this and yesterday’s Old Forester Birthday Bourbon release, we’re off to a great start of the official Bourbon Release Season.

Happy National Bourbon Heritage Month, everybody!

Martini Italian Bistro wins Four Roses’ Rose Julep Contest

Jolly for Juleps!

Jolly for Juleps!

Sometimes my job is extremely taxing, and sometimes I get to taste seven mint juleps. Last night was the latter, and I was humbled to be a selected Rose Julep Contest judge at the annual Derby Festival/Four Roses “Festival Unveiled” event.

Four Roses master distiller Jim Rutledge and Rose Julep winner Colleen McCarthy-Clarke.

Four Roses master distiller Jim Rutledge and Rose Julep winner Colleen McCarthy-Clarke.

I — along with four other judges, including the Bourbon Babe — sipped and scored all seven takes on the classic mint julep. We judged the cocktails based on aroma, presentation, creativity and taste. The winner was Colleen McCarthy-Clarke from Martini Italian Bistro, whose “Rosé Runner” added a twist of rhubarb syrup to the mix, along with procecco, mint, lemon and rhubarb bitters … oh, and Four Roses Small Batch, of course. It was delicious and will be available at Martini on Monday.

McCarthy-Clarke also won the People’s Choice award, which ought to be reason enough to go try it yourself.

Second place for the judges’ choice went to Jason Stark, also of Martini Bistro, and third was Saints’ Pizza Pub’s Jennifer Jarvis and Bruce Jarrett. Second place for People’s Choice went to Troll Pub’s Karla Ramsey, and third place was the Saints crew again.

Now I am ready for spring to take hold of this city and commence the Derby fever. Mint juleps for everyone!

Oprah: “You get a mint julep!” “You get a mint julep!” “You get a mint julep!” “You get a mint julep!” “You all get a mint julep!”

The winning julep: Rosé Runner.

The winning julep: Rosé Runner.

Four Roses releases Limited Edition Small Batch bourbon

2014LESmallBatch_Front_USIn celebration of National Bourbon Heritage Month, Four Roses is releasing its newest Limited Edition Small Batch bourbon, which combines four of the distillery’s 10 recipes from barrels ranging in age from 9 to 13 years old. Master Distiller Jim Rutledge hand (tongue?) selected four of his favorites to create this limited-quantity release.

I got a chance to sample Rutledge’s newest creation, and it was simply divine. Notes of caramel, vanilla and citrus tangoed with my tongue, and the barrel-strength bourbon left a warm trail as I swallowed it down. It’s definitely one of those “very special bourbons” that you only whip out to impress company or if there’s a tornado warning in the area. (I can’t be the only one who hides out in the basement with a flashlight and a flask of good bourbon when those sirens go off.)

“It’s exciting and challenging to select the bourbons that will be used in various percentages for a special and different Limited Edition Small Batch,” Rutledge says. “We’ve only scratched the surface with what we can do with our 10 bourbon recipes relative to varying flavor profiles for special releases.”

Four Roses will release more than 11,000 bottles of the Limited Edition Small Batch starting this month. Look for it at liquor stores near you.