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Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Four Roses & A Funeral

Four Roses Small Batch Bourbon lends some fairly honestly earned folklore to American bourbon, as anything involving Kentucky, decline and dormancy, and a savior Japanese corporation might. The uneven but still engaging history of the brand, redeemed by money and experts, has been presented well elsewhere. The bottom line is that there are a few of us, and admittedly dwindling numbers, who remember the brand from "the bad days of bourbon." And thus we remember it as something different than it has been since 2004: a high-rye special blend slouching towards mellowness without the usual fuss for aging.

drunken soldier in my limes, good with 'em too
The requisite bourbon lore regarding Four Roses is that it was named for a cluster of roses that led to a betrothal. That delights not me. But I had some after a funeral, in fact, and only then was compelled to keep a bottle on the shelf at least as long as I can think of something else that needs to occupy the space. In my own spirits lore compendium, callously unmoved by marketing, I associate bourbons more with the harvest time anyway. Indeed we may also benefit recalling (if we ever knew at all) that when Finnegan finally wakes at his own wake in Finnegans Wake he cries for whiskey. If you want to associate bourbons with weddings, however, go ahead, I'll wait for you to catch up with me.

The throwback shape of the bottle, something deliberately archaic, which hogs both space on your shelf and store shelf space too, originally displeased my wife, who is not fussy for red roses either. I will tell you gentlemen as an aside, and as a newly-trained rose garden docent at The Huntington, that in general it is men who like red roses, or at least who imagine they do, and women who like all roses but red ones. But she has cottoned to it as both sufficiently flavorful and sufficiently mellow and she likes the way it blends with limes this time of year to fashion one of her favorite drinks, the tangy Commodore.

You too have your own taste, so again I'll not bother you too much with mine. I will say, however, in an attempt to persuade, that there is some oddball conventional wisdom afoot that mixing drinks with thirty dollar bourbons is a too dear practice and a bad idea. I think cocktails made with thirty dollar bourbons at their base are a good idea. Four Roses Small Batch is a fine classic cocktail bourbon; I've tried it in everything and it responds well to both citrus and bitters. My own palate finds it a touch too sweet (though it is not very sweet) for a manhattan, but yours may not if you are from the south or a pastry chef. Or if the idea is to find a hint of sweetness somewhere, such as in a barbecue sauce (I know he's using the single barrel but let's not ourselves get carried away), here you have it, then. Also, as a former banker I should advise you that if you are in some jackety straits in which thirty dollars seems too dear a price for bourbon to mix it with lime juice, sweet vermouth, Campari, &c., you very likely should be consuming less bourbon anyway.

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