There’s a commonly held belief that the more expensive something is, the better it must be. I’ve certainly fallen victim to this line of thinking in the past. Clothing, watches, cars, and drinks. A high price tag must mean high quality. And while we firmly believe in the value of top-notch products, we also love discovering budget-friendly gear. And when it comes to cheap, delicious bourbon, no one does it better than Four Roses. If you stroll through the whiskey and bourbon section of your local liquor store, you’ll quickly determine the various tiers. There’s the sub-$25, the $25-$75, and “the pricey stuff.” Bourbon enthusiasts are likely hunting for harder-to-find options at the pricier end of the spectrum. And there are those who aren’t too concerned with quality and dip into the lower side. But, if you’re looking for a budget bourbon that tastes like a higher-end spirit, snag a bottle of Four Roses.
What Is Four Roses Bourbon?
Four Roses, which was founded in 1888, is a Kentucky-based bourbon distillery. Since its inception, the brand has gone through several significant changes. In 1943, Seagram purchased Four Roses and shifted its focus to blended whiskey until in the mid-90s when Four Roses once again produced a straight bourbon in the US market. In 2002 The Kirin Brewery acquired Four Roses and discontinued its blended whiskey program, only focusing on straight Kentucky bourbon whiskey.
Brent Elliott, who has been with Four Roses for over 15 years, currently serves as the brand’s Master Distiller and was recently awarded Master Distiller/Blender of the Year at the 2020 Icons of Whisky America.
What’s the Best Budget Bourbon?
There are plenty of small-batch distilleries making some of the best bourbon in the country. Kings County, High West, and Laws Whiskey House are a few of our favorites. But, these high-quality bourbons are often tough to find on shelves and the price tags can run a bit high.
So, if you’re looking for a good-tasting bourbon that doesn’t break the bank, you’re going to want to reach for Four Roses. The Kentucky bourbon distillery is beloved for its award-winning, affordable spirits. Four Roses uses a slightly higher rye mash bill resulting in a bourbon that is a touch spicier and certainly more complex than most others. Moreover, the distillery is fairly transparent about its recipes and processes. You can find exactly what grain and yeast combination went into each bottle of bourbon. Four Roses releases a steady lineup of four spirits: Bourbon, Small Batch, Single Barrel, and Small Batch Select. They also release a variety of limited edition offerings that are beloved by bourbon enthusiasts and well worth tracking down. But, you’re here for a go-to, budget bourbon.
Four Roses’ OG bourbon usually retails around $15 and is a very solid entry-level cocktail bourbon. Use it in your Old Fashioned or Boulvadier for a solid, balanced drink. Small Batch Select is a damn fine bourbon but tends to retail for north of $65. It’s well-regarded and delivers strong, delicious flavors but might be a touch too expensive for those just starting out their bourbon adventure.
Ask enough folks in the spirits world and they’ll tell you that Four Roses Small Batch is the best entry-level bourbon. And it’s definitely a great choice. But, we think you should get yourself a bottle of Four Roses Single Barrel, the best budget bourbon.
The Low Down on Four Roses Small Batch
Four Roses Small Batch is a 90-proof, 6-year aged bourbon that features a blend of four distinct bourbon recipes selected by the master distiller. The result is a balanced bourbon that we enjoy on the rocks or in a cocktail. Although this single bourbon is comprised of four individual recipes, the final product is deceivingly simple and smooth. You’ll get notes of sweet caramel, fig, berries, and spice mingling in harmony. Nothing stands out too drastically.
Four Roses Small Batch is a great bourbon. And, as it usually retails for $35, it’s a no-brainer for the burgeoning bourbon enthusiast. It’s hard to find a bourbon with this much character at a lower price.
But, if you’re looking for a budget bourbon that’s a serious step up but comparably priced, get yourself Four Roses Single Barrel.
Why Is Four Roses Single Barrel So Good?
Four Roses Single Barrel is a high-rye, 100-proof straight bourbon. The mashbill is 60% corn, 35% rye, 5% barley and Four Roses uses their proprietary yeast V which imparts subtle fruit notes. Aged for a minimum of 7 years, Four Roses Single Barrel is strong, complex, and full-bodied but delivers delicate flavors with each sip. While we’ve used it in plenty of cocktails, Single Barrel is best enjoyed neat or on the rocks. You’ll find a pretty gentle aroma before a powerful flavor that combines spice, oak, candied fruit, and honey that will stay with you for awhile.
The most important thing to note is that high rye recipe. If you’re not a fan of rye, this might not deliver exactly what you’re looking for. But, if you savor the spice, Four Roses Single Barrel delivers the quality of a bourbon double its price. It’s won numerous accolades and is well regarded as an excellent entry-level bourbon.
Best of all? It usually retails between $40-$50. At only $5 more than Four Roses Small Batch, this is an exceptional bourbon that deserves a spot on your bar cart.
The Bottom Line
Four Roses consistently delivers high-quality bourbon at a fraction of the cost of its competitors. For hardened bourbon enthusiasts, you’ll likely want to sample the distillery’s limited-edition releases. But, if you’re new to the category or would like a cheap, reliable bourbon to stock on your shelf, pick up a bottle of Four Roses Single Barrel.
Four Roses Small Batch is an excellent entry-level bourbon that offers balance and plays well in cocktails. But, for only a few dollars more, you can snag one of the best regularly available bourbons.