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My Handcrafted Opinions on Whiskies, Distilleries and Other Related Stuff

Four Roses, Kentucky, USA

Distillery number two on day two of the Kentucky Bourbon Trail (KBT).  A very interesting Spanish Mission style building, with no warehouses (which was a pity because apparently Four Roses unusually only use single storey warehouses) or bottling hall on site and so the tour focussed on the recipes, actual fermentation and distilling of spirit.  Four Roses was one of the first bourbons I ever tried in 2009 (after getting "into whiskey") while living in the UK and liked it, but  as part of the tour we learned that in USA the name had been associated with a very poor blended whiskey and so while it popular overseas, especially Japan where it is the number one bourbon, the Four Roses brand is "rebuilding" as a bourbon in the USA.  It is rather unique (or at least appeared to be) in that they actually make 10 different recipe bourbons using two different mash bills, one with high rye and one with a low rye content, and then use 5 different yeast strains for fermentation.  5 yeast x 2 mashbills = 10 recipes.  This was interesting as my experience in Scotland had been yeast was bit of commodity (packs of Anchor Distiller's Yeast could often be seen around the washbacks in Scottish distilleries) yet in USA, and especially at Four Roses, yeast is treated with same reverance and importance to the final product as the Scots tend to reserve for their water supply.   I have to say the impact of yeast on final taste seems a lot more credible to me that the mythical water source stories ever did.   That is not to say Kentucky distilleries don't talk about their water.... they all do, but they talk about the more generic "limestone filtered water in this part of Kentucky" rather than their specific source or spring.  Anyway the tour finished with three nice samples, the Four Roses Yellow Label (blended with all 10 recipes), the Four Roses Small Batch (made with 4 of the 10 recipes) and the Four Roses Single Barrel which of course can only be one recipe and contains the higher content rye mash bill.   Another free tour and one I truly enjoyed (perhaps in part because there was no bottling hall to endure).  Definately a distillery on the rise and a gift shop that actually sold 5 cl mini bottles, 4 of the previous 5 distilleries (if they sold at all due to licence issues) just sold 70 cl standard bottles at prices, due to local KY taxes, much higher than I can buy the same whiskey in Texas.

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Yellow Rose Distilling, Texas, USA

Yellow Rose Distilling, Texas, USA

I was very fortunate to live in Aberdeen for almost three years. For that time I was a short drive from Speyside, the Highlands and just 11 miles from the nearest single malt distillery, Glen Garioch. Moving back to Texas in 2011, even though Texas whisky was starting to appear on the scene in form of Balcones, Garrison Bros and Ranger Creek I never expected to be living so close to a whisky distillery again. Then Yellow Rose Distilling moved from the outskirts of Houston to an industrial park less than five miles from my house. Five miles!   Not yet operational (they have a new still but are not rigged up yet) I went to visit the site, sample some of the house products and meet the master distiller, Troy, in January 2014. It is always nice to be taken around a site by the actual distiller and Troy’s passion is clear. Yellow Rose started making their Outlaw Bourbon with a tiny hand-made still they purchased from Portugal.   They will continue to make their Outlaw Bourbon when their new still is up and running (though I have to wonder how similar the product will be as the stills are very different?) but also have a line extension strategy which includes making vodka with the same still, a blended “Canadian” style whiskey and a Rye whiskey, both of which they have made for them offsite out of state and a Double Barrel bourbon which they also have made for them offsite and then put into Californian red wine casks for additional maturation onsite. Think Angel’s Envy. As well as the warehouse space they will use for distillation and maturation they are developing a nice visitor experience with the original Portuguese still on display, a bar with all of the Yellow Rose products for sampling, some of the usual goodies like Yellow Rose Glencairn glasses and they can even sell bottles (under the archaic Texas licensing laws they can sell up to 2 commemorative bottles every 30 days per person). If you want the “classic” distillery experience… this definitely is not it. But the whiskey is good, the people are nice and you have to drive a long way from Houston to find the next nearest distillery.

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