Four Roses Straight Bourbon Whiskey Small Batch 2013 Release 125 Barrel Strength


SPIRIT: Bourbon

VOLUME: 750ml

ABV/PROOF: 51.6/103.2


Today Four Roses is among the world’s most esteemed distilleries, but it wasn’t always that way. After World War II its parent company, Seagram, divided the distillery’s output: Straight bourbon would be sold in overseas markets, primarily Japan and Germany, while a lower-quality blend would be sold domestically. The brand’s reputation in the United States, once sterling, plummeted.

In the late 1990s Seagram decided to diversify into entertainment, a disastrous decision that ended up destroying the company. The Four Roses distillery was operating on a starvation budget, and the future was looking grim. One day in December, the distillery’s quality-control engineers came to Jim Rutledge, the master distiller, with a problem: The yeast in one of the fermentation tanks had mutated, creating a mash that was barely acceptable. Four Roses makes 10 distinct combinations of mashbill and yeast; this one, OBSV, combined its high-rye “B” mashbill with its “V” yeast, creating a delicately spicy whiskey. Rutledge was a famous stickler for quality, but each batch cost up to $30,000, and he couldn’t afford to throw it out. So he told his team to distill and barrel it, and hope for the best.

It was a smart move. As the whiskey aged, it began to display a unique kaleidoscope of aromas and flavors; Rutledge later said that it was the best whiskey he had ever distilled. Unfortunately, he did not record the details of the mutant yeast, nor did he keep a sample, making it an irreproducible result. 

By the time it was ready to bottle, in 2013, Seagram was no more, and ownership of Four Roses had passed to Kirin, the Japanese company best known for its beer. Kirin poured money into the distillery, and Rutledge oversaw a renaissance in its reputation.

He had already released a number of limited-edition bourbons, but the 2013 Limited Edition Small Batch stands out. Rutledge blended into it a hefty proportion of the mutant-yeast whiskey, creating a singular and storied bourbon, unlikely ever to be replicated. 

Release: Four Roses 2013 Small Batch Limited Edition Bourbon Whiskey

Misc.: The bourbon was released to commemorate the distillery’s 125th anniversary. 

Collectors’ tips: The mutant-yeast bourbon was also blended into the 2012 small-batch limited edition, and it was the sole component in a 17-year-old single-barrel, distillery-only release in 2017.

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