Side by side review: 2017 Four Roses Limited Edition vs Al Young 50th Anniversary

First of all, holy crap I finished a new blog post.  Look at me!  It only took like 90 days or so and I still have about 4 or 5 half finished posts.  You might even see a flurry of new blog posts from me!  I know all 3 of you have been patiently waiting, so thank you for that.

On to a nice little side by side review.  Couple of things to note when reviewing any Four Roses Limited Edition:

  1. Never review a 4RLE just after opening a bottle.  I like to wait 2 months after opening before I decide if I like it or not.  Four Roses bottles, especially the Limited Edition Small Batches, tend to get better with some air.
  2. Never review a 4RLE with a single pour.  This should go for any bourbon or rye but really so with the LE Small Batches.  The combination of recipes and different ages can create a different flavor each time you try it.  Never judge on one pour alone.
  3. Never review a 4RLE because the marketing company asks you to after sending you a sample.  😉

2017 saw two Four Roses Limited Small Batches and each one had something missing from the bottle that still has me perplexed.  The first release was a June/July offering in honor of Al Young, a senior brand ambassador and a staple at Four Roses for 50 years now.  Called the Al Young 50th Anniversary LE Small Batch, the release was said to be around 10k bottles but for the first time that I have seen, there was no bottle number/count on the bottle itself.  Every other LE Small Batch I have seen has had the bottle count on it, but it was left off this one.  Speaking of the bottle, this particular release used a unique bottle design that we haven’t seen since 1967, the year Al Young started at Four Roses.  It’s a great looking bottle, classy and pretty, and it made for one hot item in the market when they were released.

2017’s second LE Small Batch was their standard yearly offering in the November time frame with their usual bottle look.  The bottle count was brought back with this standard LE release (almost 11k), but for the life of me I cannot figure out why they took the recipe off.  I’m still scratching my head on this one as I have to keep looking up the recipe online when I drink it.  I don’t know if it was intentional or not but man that is really annoying.  Ok – on to the reviews:

Al Young 50th Anniversary LE Small Batch


  • RECIPE: Blend of 20% 12 yr OBSF, 50% 13 yr OESV, 25% 15 yr OBSK and 5% 23 yr OBSV
  • BOTTLE COUNT: Approx 10k
  • PROOF: 107.6 (53.8% ABV)
  • MSRP: $150

The nose on Al Young is a little funky to me.  It definitely has some oak in there from the very small amount of 23 year old OBSV.  It doesn’t smell bad, it just surprises you when you get that oak with the typical Four Roses floral nose.  It has a great flavor up front, nice and spicy with flavors of cinnamon and cloves.  It fades away into a great finish with caramel and vanilla and mint ice cream as the flavors I picked up.  I will admit I didn’t think it was that great the first time I tried it.  This bottle has been open 6 months now and it’s delicious.  The secondary price on this bottle is higher than I have seen for any recent 4R LE release and it seems this one was highly regarded by the bourbon world.  A great pour for sure, just give it time to open up.

Grade:  89

2017 Four Roses Limited Edition Small Batch


  • RECIPE: 15 year OESK, 13 year OESK, 12 year OESV
  • BOTTLE COUNT: Approx 10k
  • PROOF: 108.6 proof (54.3% ABV)
  • MSRP: $129

Following the theme of ‘I don’t review it right away’, I thought the 2017 LE was a bit of a letdown from the sample I had received.  I got a full bottle and it’s been open 2 months now with about 1/3 gone.  Having had a few pours recently, I have to say the 2017 is damn good.  The recipe is strong on the K yeast, my favorite, and it smells wonderful, clove and mint mixed with the unmistakable oak from the 10+ year age of the bourbons inside it.  OESK is my second favorite recipe and at times I get a cotton candy flavor which I love.  I get that occasionally here on the palate along with the typical spice of 4R.  The finish has definitely improved as well, lingering caramel and butterscotch.  Man this one opened up great and really reminds me of the 2015 LE Small Batch.  To me this has been one of the quieter releases so far this year.  Very few people are talking about it, and even fewer are trying to flip these bottles.  That suits me just well as I can find a few more before the hype catches on.  Another great bottle.

Score: 88

Despite some glaring omissions on the bottles of these two releases, we are reminded once again that Four Roses has some amazing bourbon still in it’s warehouses.  The blends of these limited editions don’t always come together right away, but over time they just seem to hold up so well over other seasonal LE releases that are very one dimensional.  I love the fact that you can get a little different taste each time you try them.  Brent Elliott is often criticized these days for not being able to blend as well as Jim Rutledge could, but I find both of the Small Batch releases this year excellent, and on par with anything Jim was able to do.

Cheers and Happy Holidays!

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