Whiskey Review: Four Roses 2017 Limited Edition ‘Al Young’ 50th Anniversary Small Batch Bourbon

by steve on June 7, 2017

Few people from any generation spend 50 years working for a single employer. These days, five months seems a long stretch for some; clearly not for Al Young. When a newlywed in 1967, he was a bottom-rung clock puncher at Four Roses Bourbon Distillery who would go on to become its Lawrenceburg, Ky., distillery manager, and the brand’s lead ambassador in 2007.

Al Young, brand ambassador, Four Roses. | Photo courtesy of Four Roses

In his work, Young has earned the love of his Four Roses peers and bourbon fans across America. As the brand’s chief storyteller and archivist, his baritone pipes rarely get a rest from task of sharing the history of this storied brand. So, it seems only fitting that Four Roses would release a bourbon honoring him and his career—which isn’t ending, by the way.

The 2017 Limited Edition 50th Anniversary Small Batch Bourbon, created by Young and master distiller Brent Elliott, is a blend of four of the distillery’s 10 recipes: 23-year OBSV (5 percent); 15-year OBSK (25 percent), 13-year OESV (50 percent) and 12-year OBSF (20 percent). The June 10 release (to premier during Whisky Live Louisville) of the bourbon will see 10,000 bottles moved to market for a suggested price of $150. If you love retro packaging, a great bourbon story and tasting the skill of great blenders at work, this might be your bottle. (Click here for a piece with Young’s comments on the whiskey’s creation.)

Four Roses 2017 Limited Edition 50th Anniversary Small Batch Bourbon

Appearance: Bronze to deep amber, depending on directness of light

Nose: Just delicious: toffee followed by green apple followed by maple syrup, toasted wheat bread and magnolia bloom. As it opens up, cereal grains arrive, followed by sawn cedar, bourbon ball candy and packaged chocolate chip cookies.

Palate: This doesn’t drink like a 108.9 proof bourbon, especially a Four Roses bourbon of such proof.
Some of the distillery’s high-rye recipes positively vibrate with aggressive spiciness (which I like, though in small doses or with ice), yet were one able to convert silk to liquid, this is what it would feel like at the midpalate. As revealed on the nose, the whiskey delivers on toffee, maple syrup, cotton candy, ripe apple and a bit of banana before returning to rye on the finish. It belies its age on the finish, which is barely dry and only mildly tannic. It is bourbon through and through, redolent with caramel and citrus and oak; dignified and complex, yet ever comprehendible. Just like Al Young himself.

My take: $150 easily qualifies this as a super-premium category offering, but if you’ve got the urge to splurge, put this one on the list. I’ve tasted many similarly priced whiskies this year that don’t stand up to this one. Consider it a great buy—if you can find it.

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