Friday Tastings

Four Roses Single Barrel Bourbon

The intrepid Gilt Man team tries out America's best-selling bourbon from the 1930s-50s and discovers our tastes haven't changed in the slightest.

Unless you were alive during the decades following the repeal of Prohibition, you probably didn’t know that from the 1930s through the ’50s, Four Roses was America’s best-selling bourbon, until Seagrams (who then owned the brand) decided to focus their attentions on blended whiskies, corking sales Stateside. Although the drink flourished in Europe and Asia over the proceeding decades, it was entirely unavailable in the U.S. for 40 years, until Kirin purchased the trademark in 2002. And thank goodness they did.

The company now makes eight different varieties — including the much touted Single Barrel Limited Edition that’s released once a year and generally sells out on the spot — but we sat down on a rainy Friday afternoon to taste the company’s perennial classic Single Barrel. It’s a smooth, mellow bourbon with a distinctive scent of burnt sugar that comes on strong in the mouth, before developing into a rich warmth on the way down. The website will tell you it’s best served straight up or on the rocks, but here in the Gilt Man offices, several members of the team enjoyed it with a splash of soda to take a little of the edge off.

“It’s my favorite bourbon to come home to after a hard week — or, let’s be honest, day — of work,” said category manager Bryan Zupon. “With other bourbons I might add a dash of bitters, but I prefer the Single Barrel with a single ice cube.” Kevin Vanase in marketing got a little nostalgic on his third glass. “It took me back to my high school years when I’d raid the top shelf of my parents’ liquor cabinet.” And Michael Jagodzinski, a merchandising assistant on the men’s contemporary team, was an instant fan. “Smooth and light with a side of vanilla. Is this my new favorite whiskey? Yes!”

Four Roses Single Barrel, $54.99, widely available.

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