Bourbon Review: 2015 Four Roses Small Batch Limited Edition

2015 Four Roses SmBLE Review

Every fall Four Roses releases their “small batch” limited edition. The small batch limited edition (SmBLE) release marries several different mash bills to create something exceptional. In total, Four Roses has 10 different mash bills but usually selects 3-4 to be a part of the SmBLE. The 2015 release is a combination of the following mash bills: OESK, OBSV and OBSK.

Four Roses Mash Bills - LE's - 2015

As I’ve done with several recent releases, I tasted 2015 FRSmBLE blind accompanied by the 2014 and 2013. Here are the tasting notes:

2015-12-09 20.03.58

#1 – Nose is a hit of mint, cherry and apple. The taste is more fruity and spicy. There candied cinnamon almonds and herbal like green tea.

#2 – The nose is butterscotch and fruity. Apple pie. Taste has more oak. Cherry and stewed apples with a mix of black pepper and oak.

#3 – More alcohol on the nose. Green apple and pine. The taste is fruity with black pepper. There’s a hint of coconut but it is a slightly astringent.

My preference is 2, 1, 3

The Results:

1 = 2014, 2 = 2015, 3  = 2013. WHAT?! How could 2013 Four Roses Small Batch Limited Edition 125th be third? This is a bourbon I added on my  “Try Before You Die” list. This is a bourbon that legendary Four Roses Master Distiller, Jim Rutledge, said was one of his favorite bourbons. After accusing my wife of accidently switching the samples, I tried them again. Same result. I then gave the samples to a friend to try completely blind (Thanks, Ronbourbondy). Exact same ranking as me. I decided to dig more.

Someone mentioned on my Instagram post that they’ve had problems with Four Roses not aging well in the bottles. I’ve had my 2013 open since October of 2013. It’s been about 1/3 full since early 2014. Could this be the culprit? I sampled side by side 2014 FRSmBLE that was opened a month ago and my bottle that was opened fall of 2014. There’s a definite difference in the two. Has anyone else had the same results?

Back to the review. 2015 FRSmBLE is amazing. It is probably my vote for bourbon release of the year. If you haven’t been able to find a bottle make sure to find a bar that has one.




    Of what I’ve tried this year, I would agree with you that the 2015 FRSmBLE is the bourbon of the year. It’s absolutely fantastic and I definitely prefer it to the 2014 FRSmBLE – but I didn’t do a side by side blind tasting though so there’s that.


    I literally performed the same test yesterday, however, I had very different results, picking 2013 first, 2015 and last 2014. Mine has also been open since Fall ’13 with very little left in the bottle (probably one good pour left now). However, I would agree that, to an extent, many other FR bottles I’ve had open a longer time did not fair as well. Secretariat I opened at my wedding and only again on Anniversaries and this year (2nd anniversary) I noticed I really didn’t enjoy it as much (note, my goomsmen, father-in-law, and I drank a little more than 55% of the bottle that first night we cracked it). I also noticed my 2013 LESmB has a ridiculously tight cork… so, that may be the real reason I still enjoy it more than the others. So, I’d say the 2013 was the best, however it is difficult to determine with mostly drank bottles…

    In regards to bourbon not aging well in the bottle, I”ve always understood it that oxidation is the enemy. An almost-full bottle will keep, but if you’ve got half a bottle left, you really should be polishing that stuff off within a couple of months. A good strategy is to decant it into smaller bottles to minimize the effect of oxygen on your bourbon. There are other strategies: I once went to a Macallan tasting where the presenter suggesting adding marbles to the whiskey bottle to displace the air and minimize oxidation – a bit of a novel approach, but you get the idea.

    I tend to burn through my bottles in a month (and I only keep about half a dozen open at a time) so my stuff never gets the chance to oxidize.

    Told you this bottle would be worth the #1 spot this year! Maybe you’ll see it fit that we try this at one of our tastings……oh, and Fah q!

    This was also at the top of my wish list. I live in Charleston, SC. I frequent multiple stores around and only one admitted to getting any and they only got one bottle that was sold to an employee. Are there still bottles of this floating around?

    Having a bottle down to 1/3 for a couple years is usually a problem. When I get down to that amount I usually try to finish it up within 3-4 months, or switch it to a smaller bottle if I really want to save it.

    That’s the funny thing with whiskey and oxidation…. You can’t tell if it will hurt the taste or help it… As previously mentioned, and as I understand it, once a bottle is about half empty the effects of oxidation often become perceptible. I mostly hear about people not liking the changes to bourbon. However, it is not unusual for scotch ratings to improve… I have a bottle or 2 I don’t really care for and am hoping time will help.

    I’m sorry but why even bother with this? Totally useless to 99.999999999999999999999999999999% of people out there who will never get it. Reeks of showing off. Bad form.

    The same could be said about all of the limited release bottles. Should no one ever give thoughtful notes about them? I don’t have any of them but have tried the 2014 and 2015 and enjoy reading others thoughts on those and others I haven’t had the chance to try.

    There are 12,600 bottles this year so it’s more like 75% not 99.9999%. While it’s not sitting on shelves people are getting them. There’s dozens of comments on other posts about scores. Just because someone has something that YOU don’t have doesn’t mean they’re showing off or in bad form. They’re simply enjoying something they worked hard to find and are excited about. That’s easily remedied if you go to a good bourbon bar and try it. Which I would highly suggest.

    Aside from the review the point of the post was about bottle storage. A problem everyone should know about.

    Blake, is the foreign releases the same juice just in 700 ml bottles?

    And I got this from some wine and whiskey folks, I bought the inert spray (argon) and have have been using it for a while on some of the better bottles i plan on keeping it open. Some need some air but after a while and some drinking I’ve been using it and I think, not noticing much change. Inexpensive as well.

    I second this. If the open a bottle and really like it I use Provate Preserve (search Amazon) to spray inert gas into the bottle after the first couple of pours to ensure that air doesn’t come I. Contact with the juice. It works really well.

    Dude….Blake is far from the guy you hate here. He never flashes his bourbon collection around like he is better than anyone. Very humble guy and very generous with his bourbon collection.

    FWIW I noticed a really funky and poor tasting alcohol/acetone taste when I first opened my 2014 SmBLE. I remember being pretty disappointed with it but a year later it has become one of my favorites. Letting the 2014 breathe over the last year has really helped the whisky shed the funky taste and smell and now it’s delicious. Maybe your 2013 hasn’t degraded as much as the 2014 has improved?

    Hope to be able to try this sometime, but whenever I see talk about Four Roses Bourbon, it reminds me of a tale a close friend told me about his first experience with Four Roses Bourbon. He was staying with a friend in Italy in the late 70’s who asked what Americans drank. He said usually bourbon (we were cotton farmers from Mississippi). They were at some sort of bar/diner and the owner went back to the back, climbed up on a ladder and pulled out from a storage bin a bottle of Four Roses Bourbon that he had had since World War II. My friend said it was wonderful!

    The FR has been my favorite release this year as well (although I’ve yet to try the ’98RR). I find 15 and 13 qualitatively equal, just different, and prefer both to the ’14.

    FR across the board has reacted to air more than any other on my bar. The 125th, IMHO falls apart fast. I’ve had some single barrel selections that have taken months to unwind (and improve). I think this year’s LE will trend the later. It seems tightly wound, and will get better the longer it’s open. It’s a great Bourbon, and a fitting swan song for Jim.

    Yes there are still bottles roaming around out there. I stumbled on a bottle of the 2015 FRSmBLE at a small liquor store around my mother’s house in Queens, NY just this week. They had a lonely bottle behind the counter. I guess they knew what they had because they were asking $449.99 for the bottle. They would probably get somebody who just has to have it, at that price I’m not that person.

    Blake- I just want to affirm you in you excellence in writing! You have always presented some of the most objective writing pertaining to bourbon. Though I haven’t tried the 2013 FRSmBLE, I was lucky enough to obtain the 2015 release, and really appreciate your perspective on it. Agree, oxidation is a key point to review as we all like to savor these rare bourbons!

    Was lucky to taste this at a bar in Portland this year at a not-too-outrageous price… this was my first SmBLE and I was surprised at how spicy it was. A great bourbon for sure, but I prefer the 2015 WLW that I sampled later that night.

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