Four Roses Bourbon 2000's [In Depth] Review

Four Roses Bourbon (Early 2000's)

Four Roses bourbon 2000 review

Four Roses Bourbon (Early 2000's) Details

Distillery: Four Roses

Type & Region: Bourbon, USA

Alcohol: 40%

Composition: Unknown

Aged: NAS

Color: 1.1/2.0 on the color scale (burnished)

Price: $30 (purchased in Japan)

From the back label:


four roses bourbon 2000's overview

Many are familiar with the modern day release of Four Roses Yellow Label, but I have the fun opportunity to review an old version from I think the early 2000’s, or at least I think it’s the old version of Yellow Label (the label is extremely yellow). I state a general time period because I’m getting some conflicting information between the internet and what I see on the bottle.

The bottle’s lasercode is L1064L, which hints at 2010 if you assume that the first 2 numbers indicate year, but there’s another marker imprinted into the bottle (12 0 99 Z0-1) that might suggest that it’s from December 1999.

Some internet sleuthing from searching a photo of the bottle also indicates that this could be an early 2000’s bottle. At the end of the day it probably doesn’t matter for the purposes of this review, but bourbon lovers (including myself) do love to be exact as possible about when bourbon was made.

Today, Japan seems like an afterthought for Kirin and Four Roses (by the way Four Roses is part owned by a Japanese company). To my knowledge there are 2 export-only releases today: the 43% ABV Super Platinum and 40% black label. 

And from what I’ve seen so far, Japan doesn’t seem to get any unique single barrel and/or barrel proof releases, although I have seen some US store picks pop-up and I know that the Small Batch Limited Edition is sold in Japan as well.

Still, there’s nothing nearly as compelling as Wild Turkey 13 Year Distiller’s Reserve, Rare Breed NCF, or Evan Williams 12 Year. I wouldn’t be all that surprised if Kirin and Four Roses are focusing most of their efforts on the super hot US market right now and are content to leave Japan as-is.  Come on Four Roses, don’t leave me hanging here.

Before getting to the review, I recognize that reviewing old bourbon is not particularly useful or actionable for anyone. Still, it’s interesting to try something different and the experience does provide additional context for what bourbon was like in the past. It can give us a better understanding of how distilleries / brands have evolved over time. And for just $5, I figured I’d give it a try.

Let’s find out if this older release is anything unique or special in this early 2000’s Four Roses Bourbon review.

Four Roses bourbon 2000's back label
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1980s Old Forester 86 proof bourbon smell

This dusty Four Roses has lightly toasted honey, musty oak, licorice, fennel, pear, fresh cherry, vanilla, toasted oak, clove, and cinnamon. While it’s light as expected for 40% ABV, it’s not thin or flat. My best guess is that while the blend contains mostly younger whiskey (4-6 years), the mustiness and noticeable complexity suggests that there’s older bourbon blended in there as well.

Regardless of the age, it has a light, yet nice oakiness and oldness with no youthful graininess. The scents aren’t big and burly like the 100 proof single barrel or Small Batch Select, but it feels pretty well developed.

Swirling really brings out the darker honey and fruitiness. There’s pear, green apple, cherry, fennel, licorice, pineapple, slightly musty toasted oak, clove, cinnamon, and vanilla. If anything, the scents lean towards MGP rye territory, but with not as much intensely herbal licorice and dill.
If I were smelling this blind, there’s a decent chance that I’d mistakenly think this was rye. Regardless, this dusty Four Roses does a good job covering the range of dark and bright traits that actually become darker and richer over time. That herbalness and tropicalness also make it fresh and vibrant…an interesting juxtaposition.
For what it is, this early 2000’s Four Roses Bourbon still has a decent amount of richness that wasn’t washed out by the dilution, which is a pleasant surprise.

four roses bourbon 2000's taste and aftertaste

The flavors have moderately dark honey, cherry, apple, pear, orange, licorice, darker fennel, roasted oak, clove, cinnamon, and vanilla. It’s all very nice and easy-drinking from the pleasant dance between the brighter and darker sweetness. No single note stands out, but as a whole the fruity and herbal sweetness with background darkness holds my attention.
“Chewing” gives me toasted honey, licorice, fennel, pear, pineapple, vanilla, green grape, dry oak, clove, cinnamon, and rosemary. Again, this dusty Four Roses jumps between dark and bright sweetness, herbalness, and fruitiness that offers enjoyable richness, viscosity, and depth.

I’m purely speculating, but I get the sense that while this was likely intended to be the most affordable Four Roses option in Japan, there’s seems to be enough older bourbon in the blend to provide extra fruity and oaky layers I didn’t expect to find.

The finish is sweet, slightly dry, and pleasing with with honey, licorice, fennel, toasted dried oak, pear, and fresh cherry that leave a lingering bright fruitiness, herbalness, and overall freshness. “Chewing” leaves a similar sweet, herbal, fruity, oaky, and slightly earthy finish of honey, licorice, fennel, dry oak, pear, green grape, clove, and dried rosemary.

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Four Roses Bourbon 2000's Rating

Mid shelf+

I took a gamble on a $5 dusty, and I’m pleased to say that I won because this dusty Four Roses Bourbon turned out to be very drinkable and moderately complex. This could have gone very poorly, as older Four Roses bourbons (not that cheap blended whiskey stuff) don’t seem to have much of a reputation as compared to dusty Heaven Hill, Wild Turkey, and Buffalo Trace (or whatever it was called before the 90’s when it was owned by someone else).

It offers a fairly varied experience that’s bright and vibrant, dark, herbal, fruity, oaky, and more. It’s just enough to get it to “Mid Shelf+”. Make no mistake, this isn’t some game changing dusty bourbon that will change the perception of old Four Roses, so I don’t feel the urge to buy a full 700mL bottle for $15-20 if I happen to see one (and I have multiple times). 

This is one of those cases where you’re not really missing out because today’s releases are very good. Four Roses Single Barrel and Small Batch Select are two fantastic and available-ish options, albeit more than $20. The barrel proof picks are outstanding too, although they’re really tough to find.

The thing is, it’s still the best $5 I’ve ever spent on bourbon.

And since I also have a sample of the modern day Four Roses Yellow, I’ll be sure to compare the old with the new to understand how the blend may have changed over the years.

Alex author
Meet the Author: Alex

I have far too much fun writing about whiskey and singlehandedly running The Whiskey Shelf to bring you independent, honest, and useful reviews, comparisons, and more. I’m proudly Asian American and can speak Cantonese, Mandarin, and some Japanese.

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