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Four Roses 125th Anniversary 2013 Limited Edition Small Batch

This is bourbon heaven. The 2013 Four Roses Small Batch Limited Edition is just plain amazing and it is miles above their regular Small Batch release. It’s superior to the best Single Barrel releases I’ve had so far and Jim Rutledge himself (the Master Distiller) describes it as “what could be the best Bourbon we’ve ever put in a bottle”. I couldn’t agree more. This stuff is incredible. It’s by far my favorite Four Roses product and in the top 5 of my favorite bourbons of all time.

The 2013 Limited Edition Small Batch release celebrates the 125th anniversary of Four Roses which, as we know, has gone through some rough patches over the years. It’s truly amazing to see how this once popular brand slipped into relative obscurity when its Canadian overlords forced it to belch out rotgut for 40-something years only to emerge like a corn-powered phoenix from the ashes to take the bourbon industry by storm. In just 13ish years it went from rot-gut to now enjoying Pappy-like fanaticism for its annual Limited Edition releases. Now THAT’S a comeback.

Overall it’s absolutely stunning on every single level. Big bold doses of sweetness come galloping out of the bottle to hit my olfactory system just right and make it an almost sinful sniffing experience. The Juicy ripe fruit wrapped in a blanket of rye and bourbon spice gracefully tumbles from the glass and across my palate perfectly accented by the more traditional corn and malt-driven bourbon notes creating a whiskey so well balanced you could set it on a tight rope.

I know that Buffalo Trace is working away diligently to create the perfect bourbon, but for my palate, it seems like the folks at Four Roses are a few steps ahead and are already hitting pretty close to the bullseye with releases like this. Damn good job on this one Jim.

If you’ve had this marvelous dram leave your own notes or thoughts in the comments below.


ABV: 51.6%
Distiller: Four Roses

OBSV -18 years
OBSK – 13 years

Dark caramel

This has one of the richest caramel notes I’ve encountered. Keeping time with it is bold rye and heavy dark fruit. Cinnamon, oak, brown sugar, cherries, charcoal, nutmeg, light vanilla, and a dusting of pepper make this one of the most complex and intriguing bourbon noses I’ve had the good fortune to experience.

Voluptuous caramel waltzes across the palate with rye, cinnamon, nutmeg, and a juicy ripe dark fruit. A dusty oak, some citrus that didn’t come through on the nose, and that same dusting of pepper make this a whiskey that has a taste on par with the nose in complexity.

Smooth as a well-polished dance floor and effortless as a professional ballerina.

RYE! It dominates the finish, but as the tempo slows notes of caramel, oak, citrus, and some dark fruit come out. This long, slightly dry, finish slowly fades to oak and remains a pleasant dance partner the entire time.

George T. Stagg 2019 – Review

On the nose: A lush cherry cordial aroma immediately fills the room (glass included) along with a rich leather that makes me think of eating maraschino cherries on a brand-new Chesterfield sofa. Soon soft cinnamon, caramel, and vanilla ice cream notes float to the surface along with some allspice, the faintest whiff of dark chocolate truffle powder, oak, and figs. Spending time with this nose is a lot of fun, as it’s densely packed with classic bourbon aromas along with sweet dessert-like notes that are right up the alley of anyone with a penchant for bakery visits and assorted after-dinner treats. The “low” proof is also very apparent, making it a delight to visit and then revisit with deep inhalations. Finally, I’ll note that the sweetness is on the surface, but just beneath it the notes of oak and dark chocolate are joined by turmeric and tomato paste which provides a savory balance.

In the mouth: Vanilla ice cream, maraschino cherries, and as an intriguing twist, there is some red pepper notes that pop at first taste. Caramel, dark chocolate, clove, and black pepper unfold at midpalate which leads us to the finish where the age is apparent Vis a Vis an oaky presence that is slightly drying in such a way that curbs any bitterness that might encroach on our enjoyment. It has a robust albeit not particularly long finish that’s replete with more of a black cherry flavor and some tasty barrel char. It’s also slightly effervescent on the finish, reminding me of a half-flat Dr. Pepper without leaning into the cloying sweetness of the soda. All in all, it’s a truly delicious pour that has a bit of everything, including a touch of rye spice that beckons after sitting with it for a while.

In the three years since its release, this was maligned at times for being a departure from the “punch you in your face” experience that one typically expects with George T. Stagg bourbon. While the 2019 expression certainly turns down the volume, it still features the full chorus of flavors that made George T. Stagg one of the most vaunted expressions in Buffalo Trace’s legendary Antique Collection lineup. The cherry-forward flavor profile is on full display and provides a sumptuous base along with a deft balance that really makes it sing.

I have to admit that, despite the above, this is not my favorite George T. Stagg iteration, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t also note that everyone I shared this with was bowled over by the richness of its flavor. Without exception, the generosity of sharing this bottle was well received and for many (including several folks who drink whiskey professionally) this was among their favorite pours of the year once I shared it with them. All things considered, it’s tough for me to grade this one objectively owing to the experience I gained in sharing it with so many different people… but then, what review is entirely objective?

Thanks to my experience with various George T. Stagg bourbons, I can appreciate this one within the wider portfolio for being something different. Judged against its contemporaries it definitely still holds up as an exceptional experience. What we have here is a beautiful bourbon, too often dismissed for its proof point and too often marked up for its reputation, but a beautiful bourbon nonetheless. When grading this in accordance with Malt’s Scoring Bands at the retail price of $549.99 I feel comfortable awarding 2019’s George T. Stagg a favorable score.


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