On Tuesday morning at its Lawrenceburg distillery, Four Roses Bourbon will be celebrating two milestones — the formal reopening of the facility after a $34 million, four-year expansion project and the release of its first permanent edition product in 12 years, the Small Batch Select.
The expansion and renovation were part of Four Roses’ $55 million growth spurt, which included adding a new bottling facility and more rick houses at its Warehouse & Bottling Facility located in Cox’s Creek, Ky. And when the dust settles, the distillery will have doubled its production capacity and will be capable of filling more than 130,000 barrels a year.
This will allow Four Roses to fulfill the ever-growing demand for its three flagship products — Four Roses, Single Barrel, Small Batch — its newest Small Batch Select that’ll join the permanent line, meaning it should be readily available soon in five states and its limited-edition releases and private barrel selections.
Insider was invited to check out the newly opened distillery and meet with Master Distiller Brent Elliott last week to learn more about the Small Batch Select and how it fills a niche on the bourbon shelf that the brand was missing.
In 2006, Four Roses came out with the Small Batch offering at 90 proof. It was then they realized that by playing around with various recipes (Four Roses is the only distillery with 10 bourbon recipes that come from two mashbills and five yeast strains), they’d get vastly different tastes.
Elliott has used various combinations of these recipes when creating the Al Young 50th Anniversary Bourbon and last year’s 130th Anniversary Small Batch Bourbon — two of his favorites in the last couple of years — so he had in mind exactly which recipes mingled well with each other.
He also took into account what the more informed bourbon drinkers are looking for. Two major demands from bourbon aficionados were a must — high proof and non-chill filtered.
“We feel like there’s a need now because consumers are getting more astute, they’re demanding something a little different — in particular higher proof bourbons and non-chill filtered bourbons,” he said. “We wanted a product that would meet the demand, would be something to be proud of and would showcase our different recipes.”
In other words, it would fill a niche that Four Roses was missing. Other than the private selection single barrels, which can be hard to find, the highest proof it currently has is the Single Barrel at 100 proof. According to Elliott, bourbon’s sweet spot lies somewhere between 104 and 108 proof.
Of course, there are some, like Booker’s, that can reach higher than 120 proof for those who really want to knock their socks off, but anything over 100 is generally considered to be “high proof.”
Elliott crafted the Select using six of the 10 recipes and using barrels that were between 6 and 7 years old. That would ensure the company has enough inventory to keep the bottle readily available on store shelves, first starting in five states — Kentucky, New York, California, Texas and Georgia — and eventually expanding from there.
For the Four Roses fans who know each recipe by heart, Elliott says both mashbills were used in the Select, and he chose to only use the Vs, Ks and Fs, leaving out the Os and Qs. The magic that helped make the two limited editions mentioned above were the Fs and Vs.
“When those two come together, they create a unique herbal, fruity character that really leaves a good impression and long finish,” explains Elliott. “And the Ks help balance it and add spice. I was looking for a well-balanced product that had the herbal, mint, fruit and spice notes.”
The Small Batch Select should start showing up in stores and in bars starting Wednesday, April 17. The suggested retail price will be more than the Single Barrel, so around $55-$60.
After the tasting, Elliott showed off the renovated distillery, which has been closed in various stages to the public since construction began in 2015. The additions included two new buildings — by the Louisville-based Joseph & Joseph architecture firm — one new column still, one new doubler still, additional equipment and more fermenters.
The new fermenters include a mix of stainless steel and Douglas fir, the latter which is being used to replace the older cypress wood fermenters since that wood source is no longer available to distilleries.
Four Roses is now offering full tours again, and those can be booked on its website.