husband, father, whisky lover, blogger, freelance whisky writer, and head of the New Jersey Whiskey Society & leading the USBG NJ efforts...currently the New Jersey Whisky Ambassador for Diageo & therefore leave the recent writing duties to guest bloggers, primarily that Bourbon loving fella named Gerard

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Monday, September 23, 2013

Four Roses NJWS Tasting

I keep banging it home often in these posts…I love the romanticism that surrounds whiskey.

The story behind Four Roses fits that bill perfectly.

As legend has it, Paul Jones Jr. (who started the company in 1884) had a sweetheart.  He had proposed to her, and she playfully came up with a unique way to accept or deny his request.

If the Southern belle were to wear a corsage of roses on her gown to the upcoming Grand Ball, it meant that she accepted his proposal.  Sure enough, she accepted, and that moment proved inspirational when it came to naming his new bourbon business. 

That beautiful story is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Four Roses, as they have had past riddled with stories.  Throughout the years there have been a few company buyouts, turmoil, and a point at which they nearly left the US Market for good.

But, not to worry, Four Roses has not gone the way of the Dodo Bird.  Quite the contrary.  They do something I love…they list out their mashbills and yeast strains and how they use them on their website.   Man, I love that technical stuff.  Essentially, they have five proprietary yeast strains, and two separate mashbills.  That leads them to produce 10 different bourbons.  Another key spec is that they use single-story rick houses instead of the more traditional multi-story houses.

Quick Reference List for Four Roses Bourbons:

  • All ten recipes are used in the brand's signature Yellow label.
  • Four recipes are used to create a Small Batch.
  • One recipe is used to create a Single Barrel.
  • Limited Edition releases of any of the above are handpicked by the Master Distiller.

Special thanks to the outstanding folks at the Baddish Group for the samples.  I was able to host a special NJ Whiskey Society meeting this past week, where I presented the entire Four Roses story, complete with obnoxious details about mashbills and three outstanding whiskeys.  Including data sheets and the Four Roses website up for viewing the entire tasting, all members had a fantastic time, and ALL three options were well received.

The only challenge was selecting a favorite!
Roses?  You shouldn't have...
Here is a quick rundown of what we sampled (with my tasting notes):

Four Roses Yellow Label Bourbon

Appearance:  Amber +1

Nose:  Floral, slight citrus (oranges)

Palate:  Vanilla, Oak, Corn, has the crispness of biting into a fresh Granny Smith apple

Finish:  A little dry, but smooth & spicy

Overall:  The flagship & brand standard.  It is Johnny Walker Red to JW, it is White Label to Jim Beam, it is Yellow Label to Four Roses.  It can be found almost anywhere in the USA for under $25 and is so surprisingly tasty that, tasted blind, I bet some folks would put it in the category of $30 booze.  Certainly some of the best Bourbon you can find that is also available in a plastic jug.  This one does not deserve to be lumped into a category with the other ‘bottom shelfers’.  Score:  82

Four Roses Small Batch Bourbon

Appearance:  Copper

Nose:  That signature floral note, peppery spices, caramel

Palate:  A bit of apple, nutmeg, a little wood

Finish:  A tiny bit of spice on the back end, caramel & cinnamon

Overall:  For the Small Batch, they combine four of their recipes in an effort to create something that is unique, smooth and still complex.  Mission accomplished.  This is a very easy-drinker, and a front runner as an introductory Bourbon for newbies.  The fact that it is a bit one-note keeps me from scoring it higher, but it is tough not to like this stuff.  Score:  85

Four Roses Single Barrel

Official NJWS Tasting Notes Sheet & 4RSB

(Warehouse WE, Barrel 8-14)

Appearance:  Dark Amber

Nose:   Big Time Vanilla, Oak, Floral (break out the Zyrtec, it’s lovely!)

Palate:  Lots going on here…Syrupy molasses, Vanilla, assorted fruits (berries)

Finish:  Long and Smooth and Warming

Overall:  This is the most expensive of the three we sampled here today, and as the name implies, it is a Single Barrel.  Meaning that this whiskey came from one barrel, and was not blended or married or vatted or however you would like to phrase it.  The beauty of a Single Barrel is that there will be some variation barrel to barrel, but when you get a great one it shines well above the price paid.  (a-la the Balvenie 15YR in Scotch).  The bottle itself is a pretty cool decanter-style presentation with a leather strap, and the 50% ABV makes me a happy man!  Keeping the proof this high really lets the whiskey shine as all of the complex flavors burst on the palate and leave you gasping for more.  One of my favorites.  Score:  90


Jim Rutledge has been at the helm since 1995 and has been kicking butt ever since.  Know as 'Mr. Four Roses', he is just awesome.  I love virtually everything that he has had his name behind, and all three of these expression follow suit.  I'd love to try their Black label and Super Premium expressions, but they are only released in Japan.  Four Roses is surely one of my favorite 'major' distilleries going right now as I simply have not had a bad one in years.  (I had a slightly off 4RSB about 4 years ago, but that is the beauty of Single Barrels, no-harm no-foul.  Even off it was better than most!)  I have had quite a few of these Single Barrels over the years, so even despite that one bottle, I can say with confidence that for the price it is still one of the most consistently outstanding bourbons you can find easily.  Overall, Four Roses makes a fine product and I usually have one of them on my shelf as a go-to grabber in a pinch as they tend to embody classic execution.  Like I stated earlier, their website is loaded with precious wonderful details, including their recipe strategy here.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Hudson Whiskey: Distilled With Determination

Having a good laugh with Ralph Erenzo

The Fall issue of Talk Of The Town Magazine is now out, and I am proud to say that Whisky Joe is a part of it!

Last issue I touched upon some playful ice ideas with Bourbon, and this time a Distillery Tour is on tap.

Ralph Erenzo of Tuthilltown Distillery took some time to let me interview him, and then we went on a tour of the distillery. 


Please check it out as you relax with a cup of coffee one morning this weekend.

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Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Glenmorangie Tasting

Many moons ago, I attended one of the Whisky Guild events in Morristown, NJ.  It is put on yearly, and is a lovely event if you can attend.

One of the neat features is usually a special class that goes on before/during the event for a few lucky folks that elect to join in.  A couple of years ago, I attended the Glenmorangie sampling class, and it was fantastic.

First, it was hosted by the always fantastic David Blackmore.  He was awarded Brand Ambassador of the Year in 2012 and 2013 by Whisky Magazine.  (the only person to have won the award two years running)  Rightfully so as well.  David was energetic and spirited, and truthful/charming in a way that only he can be.

Next, we got to sample a whopping 7 expressions from the Glenmorangie range.  Please note, I had to hop in my DeLorean to put these notes together, as this event was back when Artein was just being released.

We sampled:

Glenmorangie Original (reviewed here)

Glenmorangie Quina Ruban

Glenmorangie Lasanta

Glenmorangie Nectar D’Or

Glenmorangie Artein

Glenmorangie 18

Glenmorangie Signet

In an effort to capture this whole tasting in one post, I am going to do some quick reviews of each expression below.  Since the Original has already been reviewed, I will start with the Quinta Ruban:

Glenmorangie Quinta Ruban  46% ABV  Around 12 Years Old

Appearance:  One of the darkest of the lot.  Likely due to the Port Finish.  Gold.

Nose:  Fruity and Rich, specifically citrus & raisins, and a bit nutty.

Palate:  More citrus (oranges), and chocolate now, but refreshing chocolate like Junior Mints!

Finish:  Fairly long with more chocolate

Score = 87, After 10 years in white oak, the Port Pipes really add dimension to this one.  I’m a sucker for Ports…and the price for this Port finish is great compared to many of its contemporaries.


Glenmorangie Lasanta 46% ABV  Around 12 Years Old

Appearance:  Light Straw

Nose:  Spices & Sweetness (sticky kind of sweet, think honey)

Palate:  Sherry, very sweet cherry & citrus combine with warming spices (cinnamon)

Finish:  Medium to long with more sherry & a touch of nuttiness

Score = 85.5, the Oloroso Sherry casks due make it soft and deep, but just a little unbalanced.


Glenmorangie Nectar D’Or  46% ABV  Around 12 Years Old

Appearance:  Literally looks like honey

Nose:  Lots of honey and citrus…fresh squeezed oranges & lime sherbet

Palate:  Slight spices (nutmeg) and thick syrupy Grade A Honey.

Finish:  Long & sweet.  Lemon sherbet now with vanilla notes.

Score = 86.5, another solid one for the sweet tooth, good use of Sauternes barriques.

Glenmorangie Artein  46% ABV  NAS

Appearance:  Dark, deep reddish-gold

Nose:  Fruit!  Lots of berry notes and honey

Palate:  Fuzzy fruits (peaches, plums) and chocolate covered cherries

Finish:  Long but bright and feisty, slightly creamy

Score = 87, another strong expression that is complex and intriguing.

Glenmorangie 18 Years Old

Appearance:  Dark Honey

Nose:  Like a bouquet of flowers, hard to pin down one

Palate:  Malt & honey, rich fruits like figs, Oak

Finish:  Long & Dry, definitely the malty/nutty flavors of the sherry

Score = 87.5, that nose was so floral and lovely…large percentage of this high grade is from that outstanding nose.

Glenmorangie SIGNET  46% ABV NAS

Appearance:  Amber in the shade

Nose:  Chocolate!  Lots of rich scents…fresh brewed dark coffee

Palate:  Sweet and bitter at once, in a good way.  Beautifully complex like a chocolate covered coffee bean with spices sprinkled on top.

Finish:  Long and starts to brighten up a little (oranges), but so lovely and rich.

Score = 92, the best of the bunch in a landslide.  Simply stunning and complex.  By far the most ‘chocolate-like’ Scotch I have ever had…left me wanting more!


I must say that this event was fantastic.  David deftly used a PowerPoint presentation more to highlight certain aspects of the Glenmorangie Distillery and practices, rather than to bore you.  The whiskeys were quite solid all the way around, and the SIGNET just blew me away!  The core Glenmorangie spirit lends itself to cask experimentation, and it really shows through these expressions.  I highly recommend exploring this range either via samplers or a tasting like this.