I recently had the honor to receive samples of these two fine whiskeys and to taste them while chatting with Brent Elliott of Four Roses and Jane Bowie of Maker’s Mark via Zoom. In this time of Covid 19, Zoom meetings have been the new normal for tasting products with the distillery representative. I will be glad when a vaccine is available and we can get back to normal tastings in person.
The Four Roses Limited Edition Small Batch for this year is very good. Brent Elliott has done a remarkable job creating a flavor profile from Bourbons that are 12 to 19 years old, and not have a Bourbon dominated by wood tannins. Elliott is not only a Master Distiller, but also a Master Blender. This whiskey is bottled at cask strength yet drinks without any tannic burn from those old whiskeys. There is a limited number of bottles available and in Kentucky there was a lottery held at the distillery to determine who would be allowed to purchase a bottle from Four Roses. Neither, Rosemary nor I were selected, so I have to settle for the fact that I got to taste the whiskey from a sample bottle. I would have liked a full bottle.
The Maker’s Mark Wood Finishing Series bottle for this year is a little different. According to Jane Bowie, they wanted to get a rich caramel flavor profile from the staves this year. They found that to get the best results, they had to marry whiskeys with two different finishing times. This is the first time that the whiskey has been a blend of whiskeys in the bottle. Some of the barrels were finished for 5 weeks and others for 6 weeks. Both whiskeys had finishing staves made from French Oak that were cooked in a convection oven at medium heat and a short toast. The whiskey was then bottled at cask strength. Fortunately, everyone participating in this Zoom meeting got not only sample bottles of the finished whiskey, but also sample bottles of the component whiskeys. Maker’s Mark then threw in a 750ml of the finished product. Rosemary and I are very happy with this as there is a limited amount being shipped to the public and we don’t have to try to find one in the liquor stores.
I am pairing these whiskeys with a Nat Sherman Timeless Panamericana Epicure cigar. I find the smoke to be a nice balance of sweet vanilla and earthy tobacco with a hint of cedar spiciness. I think it will work well with both of these whiskeys.
Four Roses Limited Edition Small Batch Bourbon, 2020
Age: No Age Statement but it is made with whiskeys from 12 to 19 years old.
Nose: Fruits – berries, pears and apricots, rich caramel and oak with a hint of baking spices.
Taste: Caramel and lots of it, candied fruits – raspberries and apricots, a little baking spice and oak. When tasted with a dried cranberry the baking spice jumps forward with a little nutmeg and cinnamon being the dominant spice flavors. When tasted with a pecan, a little citrus – orange zest mostly, comes out to join the other fruit flavors and the spice fades to the background.
Finish: Medium long that starts fruity but then dries out with oak and baking spices. The cranberry enhanced the spice in the finish, pushing the oak into the background. The pecan made the finish long and dry with lots of oak.
The cigar smoke made the Bourbon a little spicier with lots of cinnamon red hot candy. The Bourbon made the smoke a little sweeter and added some dried fruit notes to the flavor. A very good pairing.
Maker’s Mark Wood finishing Series 2020
Age: No Age Statement.
Nose: French vanilla, caramel, a little baking spice and oak.
Taste: Vanilla and caramel with cinnamon and nutmeg, a little apple and oak. When tasted with a dried cranberry, the spices come forward and the vanilla is softened. When tasted with a pecan, a little lemon zest comes out and the oak becomes stronger.
Finish: Medium long with oak and spice and a little ripe apple sweetness. The cranberry made the finish shorter and sweeter, enhancing the apple notes. The pecan made the finish longer and added a little cinnamon spice to the oak.
The cigar smoke enhanced the caramel and made the spice peppery in the whiskey. The whiskey made the smoke spicier without dampening the sweet vanilla of the smoke. Another great pairing.
Photos Courtesy of Rosemary Miller