Guest Blogger: Jim Rutledge, Four Roses Distillery
Good Lord! Am I blogging too much? Let’s let someone else speak this time.
Jim Rutledge is the second guest blogger to grace the pages here of “What Does John Know?”. He’s the Master Distiller at Four Roses. Four Roses is doing some amazing things right now, and they have many formulas they can tap into when making their whiskey. Below Jim talks about the formulas and actually gives us the explanation of the various codes you find on the labels of Four Roses whiskey. Is that cool or what? Not many distilleries are willing to do something like this. And le also tells is what he has planned for new releases this year. Thanks Jim!
So, if you have any questions for Jim about what he posted below, ask them, and maybe he can answer some of them. (He’s a busy guy, so give him time to respond.)
The Uniqueness of Four Roses
Four Roses Distillery will introduce another Limited Edition Single Barrel Bourbon in mid-June 2009, and as we have done in the past with this series the bottles will be filled with Bourbon using one of our unique ten recipes that has not previously been on the market, as a “stand-alone” brand. The recipe we’ll use for this special offering will include a yeast culture that generates a floral essence plus light fruit characters. The selected barrels are few and will have been aged 11 years by the time we bottle in May. I think we will fill nearly 2,000 bottles, but we won’t know for sure until the barrels are dumped and processed. The bottles will be filled with barrel strength Bourbon that will not be chill filtered, so it’s as close as a consumer can get to sampling a Bourbon straight from the barrel and that’s the best of the best.
Four Roses is a unique Bourbon operation. Most distilleries use one mashbill (grain recipe) on a regular basis and one proprietary yeast culture. Numerous flavor characteristics, for various brand labels, may be filled in this manner by offering combinations of different age Bourbons and different strengths, plus unique flavors are created, and later close to duplicated, based on the warehouse or location within a specific warehouse in which barrels are aged – for example, using specific floors of a warehouse for a specified brand. Four Roses consistently mashes (synonymous with cooking) grains from two mashbills – 65% of one recipe and 35% of the other. Both recipes use more small flavoring grain (rye) than other Bourbons, which results in robust flavors with a touch of spiciness. One recipe uses 20% rye and the other a whopping 35%. Four Roses also uses five proprietary yeast cultures in conjunction with the two mashbills; hence, ten unique Bourbon recipes, and distinctively different flavors, are distilled and aged separately in barrels. Basic flavor characteristics generated by the yeasts include: 1) a light and delicate fruitiness, 2) spicy characters, 3) robust fruitiness, 4) herbal essence, and 5) floral essence with a hint of fruitiness.
The 2009 Limited Edition Single Barrel Bourbon has combined the mashbill using 20% rye grain with yeast number 5 above.
With ten Bourbon recipes, Four Roses has an infinite number of flavor options available for its Limited Edition renditions, and also its regular Bourbons on the market – Yellow Label, Four Roses Single Barrel and Four Roses Small Batch. Each Four Roses Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey brand will always have its own unique blend formula and all are different in character, aroma and flavor. To illustrate the significance of this, our single barrel and small batch Bourbon brands are so different it would be highly unlikely that an evaluator, participating in a blind tasting, would recognize they are from the same distillery. The recipe used for its regular Single Barrel is not used in the recipe for its Small Batch.
We are very close to selecting the formula proportions of two recipes, which will be used for the 2009 Mariage Collection, which will be introduced this September during the Kentucky Bourbon Festival. One of the recipes (OBSK for those who closely follow the Four Roses brands) is our highest rye content mashbill combined with the yeast that generates a touch of spiciness. We will use some 19 year old barrels and 12 year old barrels of this code. The other recipe (OESO) uses the mashbill containing 20% rye and the yeast that creates the robust fruity characters. These barrels have been aged 12 years, and as with all single barrel and small batch Bourbons in the Kentucky Bourbon industry, the barrels are super selects. I promise this will be exceptional Bourbon, and as always it will be one of a kind and never duplicated.
(“Mariage” is the French spelling of marriage. The idea behind this special Small Batch Bourbon is 1 + 1 does not equal two, but instead 1 + 1 = 4 or 5 – something very special, like a marriage should be.)
Because of the versatility of the Four Roses Distillery and the various regular Bourbon brands, plus our Limited Edition series we offer consumers, Four Roses was presented with Malt Advocate’s award for “Distillery of the Year” at WhiskyFest in New York City in November 2008. At WhiskyFest in November 2007 John Hansell presented me with Malt Advocate’s “Life Time Achievement Award.” I can’t express the surprise, astonishment and excitement I felt when John called my name. I was nearly humbled to the point of tears as I walked on stage to accept the award, but even that moment did not compare to the emotions I felt as I accepted the 2008 award on behalf of all our employees and staff, who are as passionate and dedicated to our brand as I. “Thank You” is not adequate nor any where near totally expressive of my gratitude, but Thank You, John and Amy, for the recognition you’ve given Four Roses.
Now, my taste buds have settled and I must head back to the lab for more organoleptic analyses of the Mariage options. A tough job!
10 Total Recipes
Corn 75% 60%
Rye 20% 35%
Malted Barley 5% 5%
Five Yeast Cultures:
Yeast Codes: V, K, O, Q, F
Basic Flavor Descriptors:
V – Delicate fruity flavor
K – Slight spicy character
O – Robust fruitiness
Q – Floral essence
F – Light herbal essence
Four Roses Distillery