Earlier this week Dan Priseman and Master Distiller Jim Ruteledge of Four Roses hosted a ‘bourbon and burgers’ evening at Hawksmoor Seven Dials to launch the brand’s Single Barrel Limited Edition 2011.
With only 180 bottles being released onto the UK market, the much-abused ‘Limited Edition’ moniker is well and truly deserved; in fact, Priseman joked that the whiskey was so precious he’d smuggled the bottles from the distillery in order that we could taste it. Taste we did, and were suitably impressed; 12 years old, and bottled at cask-strength (55.5%-58.5% abv.) the 2011 release is pleasantly lacking in the kind of burn we were anticipating, but has a fantastically viscous mouthfeel and a creamy maple syrup finish. The nose is floral, with suggestions of toffee and cayenne pepper; on the palate this spiciness translates to a more subtle cinnamon flavour, tempered by parma violets and rich, sweet rye. The unexpectedly delicate nature of the expression is attributed to the use of Four Roses’ Q-strain of yeast, replaced every 10 days to ensure a consistent result.
Ruteledge made sure that his audience was acutely aware of the unique nature of this expression, stating that he will never again bottle at cask-strength, as his personal preference is for a smoother finish, with as little burn as possible, stating ‘The nose doesn’t count for anything if the finish is rough, it’s all about the finish. There’s no way I’d have approved such a high abv. if it didn’t go down so easily.’ The smoothness is again attributed to the Q-strain of yeast, of which Ruteledge is clearly more than a little fond. ‘We used it in the 2009 Single Barrel – one day in the warehouse I walked by the casks and was knocked back by these amazing rose and honeysuckle aromas; they took me right back to being 11 years old, barefoot in the garden, trying to catch honey bees.’ Ruteledge recalled. Four Roses Single Barrel Limited Edition is not yet available in the UK, but will be soon and is to be distributed by Inspirit Brands.