There are 20 horses, max, in the Derby. There are often fewer -- horses get scratched all the time. It's appropriate that, 20 days until the 3030 Bourbon Week event, that I have a bourbon from Four Roses. The Derby is the Run of the Roses, after all, and Four Roses is a pretty fantastic distillery.
In stark contrast to last night's bourbon, Blanton's, the nose on Four Roses' Small Batch is fantastic. I could sit and smell this whiskey for a while -- and it's not even as good as my memories of some of the premium whiskies Four Roses makes. In fact, the nose on this guy is good, but nowhere near the level of any of the Single Barrels -- and I had to cheat a little and pop the cork open on a (already-opened) bottle of 4R Single Barrel just to confirm that assumption. That said, the nose is a bit one-note; rye, oak, and vanilla are completely dominant.
I'm a bit tired, so I'm going to make this review quick and sweet. The whiskey itself has a lovely taste, with some spice interplay, but continues to be a bit one-note. There's definitely some vanilla there, but with a sparkling spice note at the end exceeds Blanton's in intensity, if not in complexity. For a premium (mid-tier bourbon, this bottle is quite nice for the price. Rye, vanilla, a little honey, and oak are present in all parts of the drinking experience, and while the alcohol asserts itself, it never dominates. Four Roses SmB has a lovely bottle, with a raised rose, and that, plus some light heather/honey may make the drinker assume it is supposed to be a light introduction to whiskey, but that heavy rye finish always kicks back and reminds you you're having a mid-age bourbon. This is an easy-drinking whiskey, but while it is straightforward it's never shallow. The finish lingers just long enough. It lacks the value and burn of its younger/more mixed (Yellow Label) and heftier (single barrel) expressions, but the Small Batch, right now, strikes me as a great introduction to the distillery and bourbon in general. Certainly, I've won some scotch fans over with this bottle, and it does have a mild resemblance to a Speyside, swapping any peat for the common bourbon rye, corn, and vanilla, the first and third of which are in spades in tonight's drink.