High rye mash bills – it’s what separates the men from the boys, or in regards to the world of American whiskey, it’s what separates Four Roses from all other bourbon. Few other bourbons have been blessed with such a devout cult following as has Four Roses and their cask strength single barrels. Wingtip, one of San Francisco’s preeminent spirit & wine merchants purchased one such barrel of Four Rose’s OBSF.
Wingtip is a San Francisco destination all whiskey drinkers should visit, specifically their retail shop, The Bank of Wine and Spirits at Wingtip. Undisputedly one of the most gorgeous spirit stores in San Francisco (along with its sister store Maison Corbeaux), The Bank is located in the former Bank of Italy building, built in 1909, of San Francisco’s Financial District. Inside The Bank, you’ll find a plethora of some of the world’s most desired whisk(e)ys from a 45 year old vintage Karuizawa Single Cask to Macallans of the 60’s, 90’s Eagle Rare to wax top Willetts – The Bank possesses over 850 spirits & 350 wines…but modestly nestled among the archaic and coveted is this humble, yet brawny, 8 year old single barrel of Four Roses OBSF.
Four Roses, Wingtip OBSF Single Barrel
ABV: 62.7% // 125.4 proof
Recipe: OBSF (35% rye)
Age: 8 years and 9 months
Location: Warehouse JE
Bottled: Thursday, November 5, 2015
Color: Dark Mahogany
Nose: Juicy, fresh and savory. Citrus fruit forward with ripe oranges, freshly juiced lemons and tart apricot. Assertive, mildly grassy rye grains and delicate sweet red and violet floral notes give nice structure along side all the fruit, which now, deeper into the nose, have been drenched in caramel. With the caramel, other sweet notes – rich vanilla, raisin bran muffins and some soft licorice chews can be found. Just as the sweetness hits, the nose turns slightly dusty like the smell inside the upper floors of a Kentucky rickhouse on an early summer afternoon. The nose rounds out with some herbal notes; spent black tea bags and light hickory notes.
Palate: Sticky, viscous and chewy – decadent and quite rich, which is to be expected from a cask strength OBSF. Perhaps the most gorgeous display of rye spices in a bourbon i’ve encountered to date – green and fresh, just like the nose. Unlike the nose though, there’s no fresh citrus here – the rye grains and black pepper spices take over coating the palate followed by crisp, heavy menthol, smoke, barrel char, barrel tannins, burnt caramel, sweet American oak, leather, Demerara sugars, dark chocolate covered caramels, mocha, bitter blood orange, fruit leather and a dark resiny, oaky syrup layered right on the back of the palate. The walls of your mouth are left coated with this dense, oily pine resin. I also picked up this sweet medicinal ointment note that I get in some of the more phenolic/TCP heavy peated Islay single malts, but of course minus the peat.
Finish: Very long – chewy and meaty even after its left your palate. Dark and resiny, with crushed mint leaves, hickory & wood smoke. The rye and black pepper spices are bold and dance on and on with Demerara sugars laced throughout. Saddle leather, over steeped black tea and just tons of smoke. You’re left with a green rye note as a final reminder of the sheer amount of rye in the OBSF mash bill. Stunning stuff.
Bourbon and House Rating: 94
Few producers of bourbon can match the magnitude of what Four Roses is producing right now, specifically with their 35% rye mash bills. This is my favorite palate of the year so far, providing astounding depth. Containing a colossal 35% rye, FR’s OB mash bill dwells in the stratosphere of high rye mash bills, as this is arguably one of the main aspects that sets FR apart from many others – its FR’s signature. The OBSF recipe is self described as “Mint, Fruity, Spicy, Full Body”, and this definitely sums up Wingtip’s selection.
This single barrel is well rounded, complex, and acutely vocal – it could be the poster boy for FR. It hits all the notes that a high rye bourbon lover wants in classic FR fashion, with the rye influence taking center stage. The fresh fruit and citrus notes really balance things out and aren’t overshadowed by the domination of rye. I really liked how the nose showed the fruit but then you got the heavily rye influenced palate, with some dried fruit and the blood orange to lead into the dank, resiny, dark, smoke filled, minty finish; in my opinion it was a close to perfect journey from nose to finish & showcased exactly why FR single barrels are held with such esteem. Of course being bottled at cask strength made everything shine and as usual (for FR) the sub 10 years helped retain a lot of the youth that makes these bourbons so good. Again, this is another testament to how younger whiskeys truly can be magnificent, and age, specifically older age, never guarantees quality.
Thanks to Kyle at Wingtip for selecting such a killer barrel, to Scott for being so helpful, and most of all Brian for purchasing this bottle for me.