I did something rather drastic last night. I started the night with ten different single barrel bottles of Four Roses Bourbon on the shelf and I ended the night with four different small batch editions of Four Roses bourbon.
As I reached the halfway point of the bottles I reviewed last spring and started to get a hankering for something a little different, I realized that I was going to these bottles less and less. It’s not that there was anything wrong with them, but 7.5 liters of anything is going to get just a little old after a while.
But then, I got a great idea. Inspired by a guy I know from twitter, I decided to start mixing them together to see if I could find the world’s next great small batch recipe. I was lucky on this one, every bottle was great on it’s own so I wasn’t trying to hide anything. Instead I was trying to tease out something that was more than the sum of its parts.
Not knowing where to start, I started with like yeast codes in equal amounts. I tried OESF and OBSF first and that was pretty good. Then I tried OESQ and OBSQ…that was terrible. I added an equal amount of OESF though and it was amazing. Something about that OESF caused all sorts of magic to happen.
Blend One: OESQ + OBSQ + OESF
Details: 57.5% ABV
Nose: Starts with pear and citrus. Moves to strong oak. then settles into a buttery caramel.
Mouth: Buttery caramel and vanilla anlong with an herbal spiciness. Almost basil.
Finish: Herbal with a hint of sweetness and a lot of spice. Nice and long.
Thoughts: Considering this was a desperate attempt to salvage a bad tasting mixture, it rocks my world that it ended up so good. I love that it takes three that many people react poorly to and turned them into something wonderful.
After that second experiment I decided that I needed to approach this from a different angle. I tried pairing like with like. Four Roses says that Q yeast is floral and so I tried pairing those with a fruity OBSV. It was ok, not great. I tried pairing OBSF and OBSQ. All my notes say for this one is: No. I tried opposites. OBSV and OBSK, fruity with spicy. That was pretty good, not awesome.
I tried a few more ways without hitting anything great. As I was getting close to giving up, I remembered that I have a bunch of empty Limited Edition Small Batch bottles right there. And they have the recipe on them. First I tried recreating the 2009 that I loved so much. Two-thirds OBSK with one-third OESO. My notes for that say “Super Yum.” I tried the 2013 recipe, equal parts OBSV, OESK and OBSK. Same thing.
Blend Two: OBSV + OESK + OBSK (Replica 2013 LE SB)
Details: 58.0% ABV
Nose: Very clean smelling, like a after a fresh rain. Ripe cherries, cinnamon candies and oak.
Mouth: Chewy caramel, citrus and a big load of spices: ginger, cinnamon, clove, etc.
Finish: oak, lingering bitterness and a long warmth
Thoughts: While I can’t say for certain that this is as good as the 2013 LE SB (literally, I refuse to crack my reference samples right now) it is amazingly good in it’s own right.
Inspired, I jumped back into it. OBSO + OESK + OESQ. Spicy, creamy, super yum! OBSO + OESF + OESK + OBSF? Amazing! Finally I decided to try the big one. All ten. It’d take a lot of measuing small amounts. Especially if I wasn’t going to end up with a pitcher full. Well, guess what? Now I want a cask strength Yellow Label released. It’s simply amazing what all those flavors do with one another.
Blend Three: All Ten (Cask Strength Yellow Label?)
Details: 56.2% ABV
Nose: Ripe cherries, pear, allspice and black pepper.
Mouth: very supple mouthfeel. Sweet. Juicyfruit gum, oak and a tasty floral note.
Finish: Lingering floral flavors and a nice long heat.
Thoughts: I liked this one so much I took a little of each bottle and made my own 750 mL bottle of it.
And that’s what gave me the idea to start consolidating into various blends. I looked up the label for the 2014 Limited Small Batch and made one of those, came to about half a bottle. I made about 3/4 of a bottle of the Spicy, creamy, super yum I mentioned above. And then I was left with four heels. Having decided I wanted the shelf space I just mixed them together. While they didn’t turn out to be a super yum, the combination of one part OBSF, one part OESV, three parts OBSQ and two parts OESO was tasty enough. Especially since the recipe was a completely random event.
Did I find the next great Small Batch recipe? Maybe I did. Maybe I've just had a lot of fun. Since I started playing with blending the Four Roses, I’ve tried blending other things. I’ve been desperately trying to mix something with the Rebel Yell that will make it something I can swallow without dumping the rest of the glass out. No go. I’ve mixed bourbon with Brenne. That was pretty damn tasty. I’ve done a few other things too that I now can’t remember. It opened my eyes up to another fun part of having so many open whiskies. If I look at them as the components of recipes, I have an almost infinte number of combinations to explore.