2015 Bourbon of the Year – Four Roses 2015 Small Batch Limited Edition

There is a lot of weight that goes along with declaring a Bourbon of the Year.  It’s not not as easy as doing a tasting and translating some scribbles onto a blog (or in my case banging out a novelette description of aged Kentucky distillate).  I was unsure if I even wanted to do this, especially in light of one of the more high profile recent Bourbon of the Year picks, which seemed farcical (or laughable) and had everyone who enjoys the most epic drink running through the streets of the village, pitchforks and torches in hand, like a hill of fire ants that was just kicked over.  I knew by laying my cards on the table I would be opening myself up to the same level of conjecture, ridicule, agreement and criticism.

I tried to be a judicious as possible.  I poured through my notes on every bourbon I tasted over this past 12 months, the vast logs of information I had compiled on every tasting.  Star Ratings.  Smiley faces.  Words that trailed off the page like an EKG of drunken, slurred prose. I wanted to find the clear winner.

And not everything I tasted was great, or even good.  There were plenty of embarrassingly mediocre pours, certainly.  Comically, there was one bottle that was so perfect in it’s utter terribleness, coming in “A #1” in every category specified for juice bad enough to trigger your gag reflex, that for one ironic fraction of a second I actually considered making it the bourbon of the year…..

After reading through my book, I whittled away at my list, did a few more tastings, pared again, tasted more, and finally was down to my finalists. And there were some amazing pours too, three of which deserved honorable mentions.  Willett Family Estate’s  22yr B49C and C4D, and the syrupy William Heavenhill 15yr Cask Strength 144.

And that leaves me with my pick for 2015 Bourbon of the Year.  I’ve read a number of different threads espousing the virtues of this bottle or that.  But in my opinion, there is only one clear winner:

Four Roses 2015 Small Batch Limited Edition.


Let me state that again to be clear.

Four Roses 2015 Small Batch Limited Edition.

Here was my original review on it:

Epic Bourbon’s Four Roses 2015 Small Batch Limited Edition Review

The 4R 2015 SmBLE delivered perfection in spades.  The evolution of the life of the pour was like nothing I had ever experienced before.

The nose: It’s so beautifully complex yet simple to decipher. The initial spearmint bomb that evaporates into chocolate and toffee that evolves into a fruit cellar filled with walnut rinds and cherries.  Wave after wave of intense pleasure.

The flavor: A 16 year old OBSK in the recipe, are you kidding me?  You know the magic of those ultra aged Four Roses single barrels, and here it is on display.  All of the majestic, bold spiciness right there to kick you back in your seat, clearly stating that this is not a desert wine.  But it’s not all a show of strength, and has a delicate side of dried fruits and berries drizzled with caramel char, mixed with soft cinnamon candy, like Big Red gum.

The finish: I can’t come up with words better than my original review, “Big, bold, burn. Think not so much a great Chicago fire, or even Brooklyn in the 70’s, but more so a wonderful fireplace, crackling oak logs, heat that warms your soul. It’s a wood burning stove baking a juicy cherry cobbler.  The juices are overflowing the crust and dripping onto the wood, delivering a sweet scent of charred cherry.  What I really enjoyed was the hint of rich chocolate behind the heat.  It hangs high in the mouth and drags over the top of the tongue and down the back of your throat into your chest, closing like a curtain.”

So there you have it.

The 2015 SmB LE is Jim Rutledge’s parting gift to the world, and for that alone, it should be on everyone’s “must have” list.  After making my decision, I ran my final pick past numerous enthusiasts who palates and opinions I know and respect, and we all came to the same conclusion.  Everything this bourbon offers, the evolution, the journey of scents and complexity of flavors combined with how extremely easy it is to not only drink but also enjoy make it more than just a simple pour on a typical night (though it’s great then too), but move it into the realm of something more ethereal. It’s not a drink, it’s an experience.

That’s what makes the 2015 Four Roses Small Batch Limited Edition my pick for Bourbon of the Year.

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