2017 Four Roses Small Batch LE Review

The 2017 Four Roses Small Batch Limited Edition (SmBLE) was a bonus. Four Roses already released the Al Young 50th Anniversary Limited Edition in the summer of 2017. I thought that was going to replace the 2017 SmBLE. But, to the excitement of most Bourbonr, Four Roses decided to release the SmBLE anyways. This year’s release is a blend of a 15-year-old OESK, a 13-year-old OESK and a 12-year-old OESV. If you’re unfamiliar with what the letters stand for, here is a cheat sheet.

For this review, I set up a semi-blind tasting of the Four Roses SmBLE from 2013-2017. Unfortunately, the sound is pretty bad and it is hard to follow. I decided to go ahead and do another video review for this release. I’ll include the blind tasting as well as the results at the end of this post. The results were interesting.

2017 Four Roses Small Batch Limited Edition Review

The nose is fruity and spicy. There are hints of raspberry, plum, and black pepper. It’s a little light. The sweetness is nice with caramel and floral. After revisiting, I get more mint and tobacco. The taste is initially sweet. It lacks some mouthfeel. There are notes of honey, vanilla, and black pepper. It turns slightly hotter on the finished with char and tannins.

Conclusion: Overall, this is a good bourbon. But, when compared to prior years 2017 isn’t on the same level. This is also the first year without a “B” recipe in the blend. That could play a factor as well. I know, we’re splitting hairs with this release. Every release isn’t going to be a home run. For the money, I’d prefer a couple of great Four Roses barrel picks over 2017 release.

Now for the results of the blind tasting. You’ll have to turn your volume on high if you want to hear anything. This was a semi-blind tasting. Meaning, we knew which bourbons were in the tasting but didn’t know the order. We took notes and ranked the bourbons from 1-5 (1 being the best). It’s worth noting that the bottles of 2017, 2016 and 2014 were opened that day. The bottle of 2015 had only been opened for a few months. The bottle of 2013 has been opened for at least three years. I believe the bottle is oxidized and it shows in the results. For rating purposes, I would disregard the 2013 results. Four Roses Small Batch Limited Edition 125th Anniversary (2013) is one of my favorite bourbons. I don’t think it was fairly represented here.

Four Roses SmBLE Blind Tasting


    In vino veritas (in wine there is truth) is an old saying. But I think for truth, in blind tasting is really where it’s at. Thanks for posting this, I appreciate when people put their ego aside to publicly test their palate against conventional wisdom. I find bourbon harder to critically taste than any other spirit and far more challenging than wine or beer. I’ve been wondering how much I should chase after the 2017 this year so these semi-blind panel tastings are particularly helpful and timely.

    A couple of years ago I had a chance to taste with Brent Elliot for a few minutes at a local whiskey festival. Their rep was showing the 2015 LESmB but Brent had also brought along the 2014, which he said was a personal favorite of his (nobody seemed to know who he was yet, though I recognized his face from the TTB labels filed, so I got some time to taste the 2014 with him 1:1 and chat for a while). I was also pleasantly surprised, since it doesn’t seem to enjoy the reputation of the ’12 through ’15 LE releases.

    I’d had a fantastic store barrel over a year prior but after several months and 3/4 gone, it fell apart quite a bit. I’d seen as an internet topic, if 4R had a propensity to do this. I asked Brent what he thought and he said he didn’t believe so, except possibly some of the more delicate fruity/floral nuances. That was exactly what had made my store barrel which had faded so good, fwiw. Not sure how that relates to the 125th since it doesn’t have a recipe known for “delicate” flavors, but maybe after 3-4 years all bets are off anyway. A great blind tasting would be to compare bottles that were fresh opened, at 6 months, and 2 years. I’ve seen something similar done before with fill levels but not open bottle time. Imo it can make a huge difference – sometimes for the better, sometimes for worse, and sometimes just different.

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