Run for the Roses: Four Roses Limited Edition Small Batch 2013!

Seeing how fiercely competitive the market has been this fall for the highly sought-after bourbons solidifies the notion that the world of American whiskey is in explosion mode.

Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t a bad thing. It’s certainly good for whiskey companies and brands. It’s great for the industry. Hell, it’s good for my blog. But for the love of God, it’s making it nearly impossible to seek out the limited release bourbons, like the Buffalo Trace Antiques or the Four Roses Limited Edition Small Batch.

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Speaking of Four Roses, I suppose this year’s increase in demand for the annual fall Limited Edition release was inevitable. It is, after all, following up on last year’s impressive release which took home Whisky Advocate’s American Whiskey of the Year honors. But on top of that, the Four Roses 2013 Limited Edition Small Batch is also celebrating the distillery’s 125th Anniversary, which is denoted with a nice little insignia on the front of the bottle. Special insignias in bourbon land usually equal more frenzy.

I’m not going to lie, I’ve been really excited to see what Four Roses was going to pull out to top last year. When Jim Rutledge, Master Distiller of Four Roses, was in Boston a few months ago, he mentioned to me that this 125th Anniversary release was going to be the best yet. I don’t take words like that lightly.

Anyway, enough of the hype. Let’s dive in and address the very important questions at hand: does it live up to last year’s release and should you put on your best army fatigues to find it?

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Yes, that’s a Balcones glass. You know you want one.

The Whiskey
The 2013 Four Roses Limited Edition Small Batch is bottled at barrel strength, 110 proof, and is a blend of three Four Roses recipes: an 18-year OBSV, a 13-year OBSK and a 13-year OESK. In sum, there’s a solid heaping of rye spice and aged wood, along with some of that nice fruity Four Roses juice. On the nose, I get lots of smokey vanilla and burnt sugar, the sharp rye notes are front and center, and there’s a subtle dosing of cherry tobacco. I love the aroma of this bourbon, it’s deep, complex and intoxicating.

On the palate, the whiskey is sharp and fiery, but impressively drinkable for nearly 52%. There’s an incredible balance going on between the spicy, dry rye and the rich sweet notes, culminating in a tannic finish that continues on and on. The fruit and sweet notes open up on the palate with a drop of water; bringing with it apricot and cherry, honey, vanilla and nutmeg. In short, the alcohol is well managed, the wood is well integrated and the finish is long and spicy. It’s a completely satisfying dram, front to back.

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Frankly, I think this whiskey is fantastic. I love the rye spice and the dry woodiness complimented by the delicate sweetness. It’s everything I want from Four Roses, bundled up in a pretty little package with a special 125th Anniversary insignia which, yes, I’m a sucker for. Is it better than last year’s monumental release? Yea… it is. 93 Points

The Result
If you don’t have a pair of army fatigues and binoculars at the ready, get out to your local army/navy store asap and pick some up. Proceed to put said fatigues on and get out on the hunt immediately. Chances are, if you are reading this post and you don’t already have a bottle, it is too late (at least on the regular market). But don’t lose faith. Go. Fight. Find that son of a bitch and drink the shit out of it. It will make you happy.

Thanks to The Baddish Group for the sample. And yes, “Run for the Roses” is an homage to the late, great, Jerry Garcia. 

  • tyler

    HI: i wrote you a few weeks ago about waiting-probably forever- for a bottle of the Stagg (Sr.) to come to Boston, much less to my doorstop. (i have been searching bars in boston, and none even have the Stagg for a glass. The last time I got it was in a coffee/whiskey shop in Amherst, MA. Anyway, while I am waiting, I have been appreciating Four Roses bourbons, in all their varieties. I have had uniformly- although each variety is a little different- excellent drinks of Yellow, small batch, single barrel, etc. in the past year. I am very excited to try to new Limited Edition. (Interestingly, at that same bar in Amherst, I had a Four Roses Marriage blend, which was fantastic. I dont know if they are still producing that.

    -tyler

    • hey tyler, thanks for the comment. yea, stagg sr. should be in town within the next week or two-ish. so you should see some of the good whiskey bars starting to restock (i.e. citizen public house). But, yes, in the meantime, four roses is a great bet. i definitely think their regular single barrel is one of the best buys on the market. I’m pretty sure that the marriage blend was released in 2008 (maybe ’09 as well), and then was replaced by the LESmB. So, you’re not going to find that around anymore. but if you liked that, you’ll love the 2013 LESmB. So def keep your eyes peeled for an opp to try it!

  • Jayson ozoria

    I have the 2012 (almost gone) and 2013 single barrel. hopefully, i can get my hands on this release.

  • AmazingLarry

    The whole allocation and distributorship, by my estimation, has gone ‘full retard.’ Sorry, it has. I have 3 of the 5 BTAC’s so far, have found plenty if Elijah Craig BP, Stagg Jr, etc … but any Four Roses LE’s? Forget about it! And I was just talking with a collector who has struck out on BTAC for the most part nor could find any of the former’s, but has NINE bottles of the FR LESmB 125’s! Seriously.

    • yes, it seems like a strange allocation this year across the board. Where are you located? We haven’t received the BTAC’s in Massachusetts yet, so we’ll have to see how it turns out. But FR LESmB 125 was nowhere to be found. Seriously small allocation. Stagg Jr’s aren’t hard to come by. ECBP’s – both 1st and 2nd release – went very quickly.

      • AmazingLarry

        I’m in the Twin Cities metro, Minnesota. It all comes down to three things as far as I’ve found; the distributor, the LQ manager/”bourbon guy” and timing.

        Some stores get it and put it right out, others will sit on it for weeks. Others never see it and ask ‘where did you find that?!’ almost accusing you of lying. Some will have BTAC and are happy to sell if they know you or you’re a regular, but are ‘sold out’ if you’re not. Stopped at one store that has been around for 30 years and the owner was clueless, had never even heard of this thing called the ‘Antique Collection.’ A store not 3 miles away from probably the earliest and largest allocation in the state so far this fall. And through all of that, none might ever see any FR LE’s (Single Barrel included.)

  • bourbonHeaven

    I’m on the other end. Bought 4 bottles FR LESmB and could have bought four more, but the BTAC was hard to come by this year, could only get my hands on ER17. Just picked up my pappy 15 but the store/ or they say distributor, was forcing on an unwanted bottle. Just another way to gouge.