Tuesday, June 5, 2012
Four Roses Bourbon: A Unique Distillery
--Detective James "Popeye" Doyle (played by Gene Hackman) in French Connection II
After long days of exploring the Chianti Classico region of Tuscany, our group often met for a final drink at the hotel bar, to unwind a bit before heading off to bed. My drink of choice was Four Roses Bourbon, one of the roughly 6 or 7 bourbons they carried. In Europe and Japan, Four Roses is extremely popular, and has been for years, but it is still very much under the radar in the U.S. That should change with time, once people realize its quality and uniqueness.
Back in August 2011, I met the Four Roses Master Distiller, Jim Rutledge, at a local media event. He was personable and quite knowledgeable, and his bourbons were quite compelling. My previous article, Four Roses Bourbon: Back In The U.S.A., discussed the history of the distillery as well as providing plenty of additional information about bourbon and tasting notes on the three primary products of Four Roses. You might want to read that article first, for background details, before proceeding with the rest of this post.
After the video, our guide, Don, led us through a tour of the distillery. Distillation operations had been shut down for the summer, giving them time to perform maintenance. Thus we didn't get the chance to view any work in progress. It is common practice for bourbon distilleries to close during the summer as the heat gets too intense for work. For Four Roses, the water table from the nearby river also decreases, making it more difficult to operate. Four Roses though closes earlier in the season than many other distilleries.
National Register of Historic Places.
So why did Four Roses stop using the older rack houses? They decided that they wanted to age their bourbon barrels in single-story warehouses, to allow for more even aging throughout the rack house. In multi-story buildings, the barrels on different levels will age at different rates as the higher levels get hotter than the lower ones. To avoid this, some distilleries will rotate their barrels though that is laborious and time consuming. Blending can also compensate for the discrepancies in aging. Four Roses though avoids worrying about this as their barrels generally age consistently together.
previous post for some tasting notes on these bourbons. In addition, they produce some limited edition bourbons each year.