Four Roses Small Batch Select Review

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With over 130 years of history behind it, the Four Roses brand has persevered through many challenges to become the renowned icon of bourbon it is today. Once the top-selling Bourbon in the U.S., a takeover by Seagrams in the late 40s resulted in Four Roses Kentucky Straight Bourbon becoming an export-only product to the EU and Asia for decades. It wasn’t until the early 2000’s that the purchase of the brand and its production facilities by the Kirin Brewing Company resulted in its return to the US market as a Kentucky Straight Bourbon. Under the watchful eyes of then-Master Distiller Jim Rutledge and now Brent Elliott, the past 16+ years have seen the brand become extremely popular once again in both the US and globally. The Four Roses core range consists of their Kentucky straight bourbon, their Small Batch bourbon, their Single Barrel Bourbon, and their Small Batch Select. They also release much sought-after limited-edition barrel-proof bottlings of either their Small Batch bourbon, Single Barrel bourbon, or both on an annual basis to eager fans.

When it comes to making their bourbon, the Four Roses distillery boasts 10 distinct bourbon recipes, made by combining two separate mashbills (E with a low percentage of rye -21%, and B with a high percentage of rye- 35%) and 5 proprietary yeast strains (V, K, O, Q, F), which are exclusively aged in single story rack-houses which face in particular directions (North, South, East, West).  Four Roses are very transparent in their approach and strongly emphasise both the contribution of their two mashbills, aswell as the unique flavour characteristics imparted by their five yeast strains on the finished product. In fact, Four Roses go so far as to educate their fans on these specific unique flavour profiles and according to their website, their five yeast strains produce flavours such as: delicate fruit (V), slight spice (K), rich fruit (O), floral essence (Q), and herbal notes (F). Four Roses Master Distiller Brent Elliot uses these 10 distinct recipes, either individually or blended, to produce the entire Four Roses product range. Their Kentucky Straight Bourbon uses all ten, their Small Batch uses four of the recipes, their Small Batch select uses six, and their standard Single Barrel uses just one. Through this process of blending the unique flavours of their 10 recipes and using single-story rack-houses, Four Roses achieve more consistency across their products.

Released in 2019, Four Roses Small Batch Select saw the first permanent addition to the Four Roses core range in over 12 years and is the first permanent extension brought from concept to bottle by Master Distiller Brent Elliott. Referred to as the ‘Fourth Rose’, this bourbon provided Elliott with the opportunity to showcase some of the more delicate Four Roses recipes whilst simultaneously giving the fans what they want: A well-aged, higher-proof bourbon bottled without chill filtration-all at an accessible price. To create this bourbon, stocks of matured bourbon aged 6-7 years old are pulled across the two Four Roses mashbills (High Rye B and lower Rye E) and three yeast strains (V,K, and F), before being married in varying percentages to produce the target flavour profile. This is then proofed down to 52% and bottled with only the filtration required to ensure no lumps of barrel char make it in.

Today I’ll be looking at the batch of Small Batch Select currently available in the UK. Having launched there two years after the Bourbon’s domestic launch, the UK is currently the only market it’s found outside the US with a limited run of 3,000 bottles making it across.

Vital Stats:

Name: Four Roses Small Batch Select
Age: NAS (Blend of bourbons aged a minimum of 6 years)
Proof: 104 Proof (52% ABV)
Type: Kentucky Straight Bourbon
Mashbill: Mix of Four Roses B Mashbill (60% Corn, 35% Rye, 5% Malted Barley) and E Mashbill (75% Corn, 20% Rye, 5% Malted Barley)
Producer: Four Roses Distillery, Lawrenceburg, KY.
Glassware: Glencairn


Nose: The nose opens with thick golden caramel, rich and faintly tart strawberries and subtle cherries dusted in powdered sugar. This is followed by delicate floral notes, vanilla, and herbaceous chocolaty oak in the back. As you nose deeper the herbaceous note gains a right bit of momentum with some cheeky char also coming through persistent caramel and floral notes.

Palate: The palate opens viscous and follows the nose with golden caramel quickly turning to sweet red fruits covered in powdered sugar before notes of tart cherries, earthy baking spices, black pepper spice, and herbaceous notes emerge. As these mellow on the palate, faint floral notes also emerge alongside a touch of lemon peel oil, some subtle barrel spice, and dark chocolate char.

Finish: The finish opens with lingering spices and candied fruits before becoming more herbaceous alongside notes of sweet dried fruit, Werther’s Originals, herbaceous tannins, baking spices, and leading into a warm long minty aftertaste.


This bourbon is a triumph of complex and robust flavours all flowing seamlessly into each other whilst carried by a creamy, indulgent mouthfeel. As a blend of Four Roses ‘delicate’ recipes, it delivers a profile that’s both modest and refined yet still brings the intensity and complexity you’d expect from their other high proof bourbons- especially given some time to breathe in the glass!

As a core range offering, it ticks all the boxes for greatness: it’s non-chill filtered, aged to perfection, bottled at the perfect proof for the profile, and accessible to a greater number of fans who may not otherwise get to taste Four Roses’ bourbon at this proof or caliber. In further Four Roses fashion it also tastes great and gives us something unique without bumping into the other core releases. In fact, compared to the rest of the core range it easily outcompetes even the Single Barrel, bringing more complexity, robust flavours, spice, and thus bridging the gap between the core range and the annual limited releases perfectly.

Brent Elliott and his dedicated team deserve all due acclaim for recognising an existing gap in their core portfolio, and then filling that gap with an exquisite bourbon. This is truly Brent Elliott’s Magnus Opus and a homage to the many great things possible from Four Roses. It‘s also very interesting to taste something that uses recipes we don’t typically get to taste without the presence of the more robust recipes (especially not outside the Single Barrel program in the US) and it’s great to taste Elliott’s blending prowess in a whiskey that he’s brought from concept to bottle.

Try or Buy?

With a retail price that’s nearly £15 higher than the Single Barrel in the UK I sat on my hands with this release thinking that compared to the Single Barrel this wouldn’t be worth the extra price. I was wrong. Don’t be me – buy with the knowledge that you’re in for a proper treat.


Before you go…

Before you go…

Before you go…

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Your contribution is appreciated and will ensure I can keep this website impartial, operational, and stocked full of new content. Cheers!


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