It’s easy to forget how fortunate we Kentucky-based whiskey writers are. Not only do we get new release samples well ahead of the general press and the public, they’re often poured on site at lavish release parties (as was the case at last week’s Old Forester event) or hand delivered to our offices, as happened yesterday with the Four Roses 2016 Limited Edition Small Batch. Life’s good when someone brings you a few ounces of a precious potable, and it’s even better when a bourbon wonk buddy drops by unplanned to taste it with you.

As the name states, this is a Small Batch, meaning the bottled result is a blend of multiple barrels. Four Roses master distiller Brent Elliott chose an undisclosed number of 12-year-old barrels containing the distillery’s OESO recipe, its 12-year-old OBSV recipe and its 16-year-old OESK recipe. The blend was bottled at barrel strength, 111.2 proof.2016-FR-LE-Small-Batch-web

According to a news release, Elliott selected the OESO recipe as the blend’s anchor recipe because his tasting panel was “able to highlight its exceptional fruitiness and balance it out with more age and spice from the two other recipes.”

Four Roses’ tasting notes mention “sweet cherry and crisp green apples, mingled with rich apricot and structured rye aromas. Tart citrus flavors greet the palate, then give way to hints of sweet molasses, peppery spices and decadent crème brulée. The finish is long and gentle, with delicate honey and light mint.”

My friend and I did not read the release before our sipping and nosing, yet we got the following similarities: aromas of stone fruit, cherry, spearmint and toasted wood, and rich flavors of toffee, oak and custard. The texture was lush and creamy on the palate, which gave way to a slightly dry finish. As he finished his pour, my friend muttered, “Balanced, really balanced.”

The Lawrenceburg distillery said 9,258 hand-numbered bottles will be released in the U.S. only, and that fans could look forward to it on retailer’s shelves by mid-September. No price was mentioned in the news release, but given that last year’s Small Batch retailed for $129, it’s likely to cost similarly.

For what it’s worth, I like this release far better than the 2015 Small Batch release, which was hot on my palate, though its proof was lower at 108. My WhiskeyWash.com colleague, however, loved it.

This release, as my friend said, is wonderfully balanced, not to mention rich and fruity. Just excellent all around. While likely expensive, it would be one I’d love to receive for my upcoming 52nd birthday. Just sayin’ in case there’s a generous bourbon benefactor reading this.

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