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Review: Four Roses -15 yr. OESK, 16 yr. OBSK

Updated: Jan 21, 2021

Context: I have trouble bringing myself to wait in crowds for things. 20 plus years behind high volume bars has left me heavily dependent on the wooden barriers that separate me from chaos. Outside of that, it's also just been who I am. Family trips to festivals or Fourth of July outings usually end with me tapping out early. Being shoulder to shoulder in a sea of that many people - every molecule in my body is struck like a tuning fork. For someone who hates crowds that much, I sure found a funny way to make a living. For someone who hates crowds that much, I sure do miss them these days.

All that said, in a safer future, I would definitely wait in line for one of these. (/u/Pork_Bastard has a great review/recap of the OBSK release HERE.) I love Four Roses. I'd be completely fine if the only bourbon I purchased moving forward came from their Private Selections. The fruit forward, herbal profile of those single barrels challenged my expectations of what bourbon should taste like. Four Roses was the first bourbon I tried where the barrel notes seemed intentionally dialed back in favor of something else. In fact, I've yet to meet an over-oaked Four Roses. One 11 yr. OBSO I had was close. But even the 17 year OBSV Mutant Yeast gift shop bottle (which brought plenty of oak) didn't swing varnish-y or bitter or drown out everything else going on. That also happened to be my highest rated bourbon to date after this blind tasting.

I suppose it's safe to say I'm really excited to be trying these. The OESK was a Rutledge gift shop pick from November 2014. The 15 yr. OBSK is from 2017 - released to commemorate Four Roses new bottling facility. For me, it's always been a battle between the K and V for my favorite yeast.


Four Roses OESK 15 yr. 1 mo. - BS 73-2G - 11/2014 Gift Shop - 53.2%

Nose: The oak is pretty wonderful here - reads pine-y. Plenty of the fresh black cherry I tend to get with K yeast. Cinnamon and baking spices. Marshmallow.

Flavor: Cherry and pine again - end to end. You could question the complexity here. And you'd be right. However -

Palate Structure: Those two notes know how to dance. They share the spotlight well, giving the illusion that there's more going on than there actually is. It moves along a pretty traditional witches hat, peaking right before the finish, but it's the pacing and transitions that make it feel special.

Alcohol Integration: Unbelievably crushable. Finish is long and low heat. Nose is complex. Deep. Never gets spirit-y.

Score: 8 (Stash One) Worth the hypothetical wait in line. My calibration pour for these was the Whisky Magazine OBSK Al Young from Binny’s (9 years 6 mo.). That younger pour was more complex, but definitely shabbier around the edges. Even though this is a little two-note at times, the transitions are flawless, the structure is well paced, and the notes are deep and clear.


Four Roses OBSK 16 yr. 3 mo. - VE 12-2B - 6/27/17 - 57.5%

Nose: Less oak influence than the 15 yr. above. More desserts here - cream cheese frosting. Leather. Chocolate. The cherry reads more dried. More complex than the 15 yr. I loved that last nose, but this...

Flavor: Vanilla into medicinal cherry that lifts and spins into dry oak before a dip back down to fresh black cherries mid-palate and then the cherries lift medicinal again in the finish. The finish is long and unspools cherries, sweets, herbs and oak all the way through.

Palate Structure: The structure here is less linear and more complex - doled out in tumbling waves.

Alcohol Integration: Impeccable. Bold. Long. Loud. Never drops the notes or washes out.

Score: 9 (Stash Two) I'd wait in the hypothetical line twice for this one. The pine note from the OESK was probably my favorite note out of both of these - but the nose and structure gave the edge to the OBSK.

When I started drinking Four Roses, K yeast was king around here. Then the Vs got a lot of hype. By now I think each yeast has developed a vocal fan base. I'll keep my hat in the K ring. It was a lot of fun reminiscing those salad days of K enjoying these pours.


You May Also Dig:

Cognac - old but still bright with fruit

Jean-Luc Pasquet Lot 73 - Aficionados/Fine Drams - 2019 - 50.3%


Rating System

10 - Reevaluate The Budget

9 - Stash Two (If Able)

8 - Stash One (At The Right Price)

7 - Highly Recommend It To Strangers

6 - Solid - Above Average

5 - Acceptable For The Situation

4 - Not Vocally Complaining

3 - Wish I Was Drinking Something Else

2 - Nothing Nice To Say

1 - Drain Pour

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