Four Roses Bourbon Taste Test: Jay Cutler, Brandon Try Three Bottles to Determine the Best for Your Buck

by TK Sanders

Outsider’s own Jay Cutler and Brandon Chesbro really took one for the team last week by selflessly volunteering to taste-test different bottles of Four Roses bourbon during working hours. To be fair, the duo did slurp down the three bowls of loudmouth soup on the clock for an important reason: to once and for all answer the burning question, do you need to buy first-class spirits to have a first-class experience? Or, like a well drink in coach as the plane lands in Vegas, is life just as delicious when trying to save a buck?

Below, we’ll break down three of the most popular tiers of Four Roses bourbon — including flavor, ingredients, and price point — with excerpts from Jay and Brandon’s day-drinking extravaganza to guide the way. Wherever your preference in bourbon quality may fall, you’ll want to stick around and hear the truth straight from the experts…just as soon as we call them a cab ride home.

Four Roses Classic

  • Nose: Fruit, floral essences, gentle spice and honey
  • Palate: Crisp, soft and smooth, fresh fruit, hints of pear and apple
  • Finish: Mellow, long and pleasant
  • Proof: 80 proof, or 40% alcohol by volume
  • Aged: Minimum 5 years
  • MSRP: $24.95

Great for adding a sophisticated flair to any cocktail, the lowest-tiered Four Roses offering became a worldwide favorite for its elegant design, mellow finish, and accessible price point. Smooth and mellow by nature (but with enough flavor to tickle the senses), the classic Four Roses bourbon can be enjoyed neat, with a touch of ice, or as the backbone of any craft cocktail.

“Alright Outsiders,” Brandon began, “we decided to do this new segment for you guys where we taste three bourbons from the same brand. I’ve got to be honest with you, I drink a lot of bourbon, but this might be my first time sipping just regular Four Roses [neat].”

“It’s pretty smooth,” Jay said after his sip. “I’m not mad at this.”

“Not a lot there for me,” Brandon decided. “It would make a great Old Fashioned. It’s a great mixer. And for twenty bucks, you can’t go wrong with it, right?”

Four Roses Small Batch

  • Nose: Mellow spice, rich fruit, hints of sweet oak and caramel
  • Palate: Mellow, ripened red berries, dried spice, well-balanced, rich
  • Finish: Soft, smooth and pleasantly long
  • Proof: 90 proof, or 45% alcohol by volume
  • Aged: Minimum 6-7 years
  • MSRP: $39.95

True to its name, the Four Roses Small Batch bourbon literally blends four different original recipes into one mature, well-rounded offering. The Four Roses Master Distiller expertly selects the different fares during their peaks to create a robust, complex flavor that any liquor drinker will appreciate. Best enjoyed straight up or with a twist, the Small Batch also pairs well with a light mixer in a high-end cocktail.

“So Small Batch,” Brandon began, “instead of being mass produced, this one is coming from four select barrels. And now we’re up to 90 proof.”

“Perfect,” Jay happily replied at the bump in proof. “More flavor, a bit more of a burn. If you’re getting into bourbons, you want that flavor in your mouth.”

“Definitely superior to the first one,” Brandon agreed. “If you have friends over and don’t want to waste your good stuff, you can absolutely serve it.”

Four Roses Single Barrel

  • Nose: Dried spice, pear, cocoa, vanilla and maple syrup
  • Palate: Hints of ripe plum and cherries, robust, full body, mellow
  • Finish: Smooth and delicately long
  • Proof: 100 proof, or 50% alcohol by volume
  • Aged: Minimum 7-9 years
  • MSRP: $52.95

A premium offering in the Four Roses family, the Single Barrel unapologetically sports a complex taste with an incredibly mellow finish. Mix it if you’d like, but this bourbon shines brightest alone in a highball glass; maybe with a few ice cubes if you like it cold. Simply pour and enjoy.

“Beautiful bottle,” Jay noticed, “and I think there was a point that they were the only company using non-GMO corn.” (Note: Jay is right, Four Roses only permits corn that has been grown without modification or insecticides. According to their website, corn provides the vast majority of starch and sugar for the yeast, so quality is paramount.)

“It’s got more flavor but less burn,” Brandon noticed after tasting the Single Barrel. “But the crazy thing is that it’s not that much more expensive than the others.”

“All you kids out there that want to buy some bourbon, this [Single Barrel] is the one,” Jay agreed.

So there you have it; if you’re looking for a quality bourbon, don’t fly economy. Treat yourself to the Four Roses Single Barrel instead, which unsurprisingly won Jay and Brandon’s taste test going away. And if you see them roaming the streets of Nashville like Don Draper with an Old Fashioned in their hands, please tell them to get back to “work.”

Check back next week for another taste test.