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Four Gate Release 5, Foundation Review

Four Gate Release 5, Foundation Review

Four Gate burst onto the scene in the fall of 2019 as a non-distiller producer (NDP) that would concentrate on a combination of blending whiskey and finishing it in new and unique ways. Much like Barrell Craft Spirits, their releases would come out periodically (about once every 2-3 months) and no two releases would be the same. Their distribution has been limited to only seven states after three years of production which means that scarcity is very real.

The main thing that separates Four Gate from competitors like Bardstown Bourbon Company Collaborative Series or Barrell Craft Spirits has been the price. Four Gate’s releases are, on average, twice the cost as those two. This puts them on par with the ultra-premium shelf category with brands like Kentucky Owl and Old Carter at around $200 per bottle. This is not a brand you just walk into a liquor store and buy on a whim.


Four Gate Fandom


For all of their scarcity and cost, Four Gate has received very high praise from the enthusiast community. This acclaim seems to indicate that people are okay with the $200 entry point. I can’t say I’m one of those people (yet) but the more I read about them, the more I like. They seem to put a lot of thought and creativity into every release. One of my favorite ongoing experiments involved how they tinkered with barrels by taking them apart and rebuilding them with alternating staves from various casks. I can only imagine how ridiculous(ly cool) these “zebra” barrels look when they’re put back together, especially the ones that contain sherry cask staves in-between.


The bottle I’m reviewing today is “Release 5” which was given the name “Foundation” and was released in late 2019. All releases have a name that either represents something near and dear to the company or about the whiskey itself. This release had quite a bit of controversy behind it when it first came out in 2020 because of the mash bill. Four Gate’s website lists the age as being 9 years and 9 months and the mash bill as 75% corn, 13% rye and 12% malted barley. This mash bill is shared by Jim Beam and Wild Turkey, so most people would immediately assume that it came from Jim Beam since Wild Turkey is notoriously frugal about letting any of the barrels they distill end up in someone else’s hands.


Would a Wild Turkey by any other name smell just as sweet?


The controversy reached a boiling point when rarebird101 hinted on his social media that the barrels used in this batch were contract distilled by Wild Turkey (he chose his words carefully though). The story didn’t stop there as he received pushback from multiple directions about how it was not, in fact, “Wild Turkey.” However, the even deeper dive into this had to do with the fact that Wild Turkey/Campari/maybe-the-Russell’s did not want the name Wild Turkey associated with anything that was not destined for a Wild Turkey bottle.

The story lifted back layers of industry-wide secrets that gave us a glimpse into the world of contract distilling. For many distilleries (like MGP, Barton and Bardstown Bourbon Company), they fully own the fact that they will take on contracts to produce a certain amount of distillate or a certain number of barrels. That’s part of their business model. But other distilleries will front that they don’t contract distill yet they still negotiate behind closed doors with third parties to make their whiskey. This is allegedly what happened in happened in this instance. There was a Non-Distiller Producer (NDP) that was rumored to be Duke Timeless Spirits, who had some barrels contract distilled before backing out. This resulted in barrels that were unclaimed being aged for over 9 years in Lawrenceburg, KY.


While this story only fanned the flames of interest for this release, it also distracted people from the simple fact that this bottle (if the story was true) was essentially a knock-off Russell’s Reserve at barrel proof and four times the price. It didn’t matter though, these were quickly snatched up wherever they sat. People couldn’t resist a good story. I’m getting to this bottle years after its release but I’m ready to finally see what the hype was all about. Will I be convinced that this is Wild Turkey and was it even worth the $200 pricetag? There’s only one way to find out. I sampled this neat in a glencairn.


Tasting Notes

Nose: Sweet and fragrant wood scents like oak and cherry. There is a surprising amount of chocolate in the nose which is a strange note to find among the two distillers in question. I find warm scents of vanilla fudge and the sweet, grain-forward aroma of Thanksgiving corn pudding. Overall, it is a very pleasing nose.

Palate: The first taste bristles with loads of baking spices and a nuttiness similar to peanuts and almonds. Toffee and vanilla cake give my tongue enough sweets to enjoy while fruity flavors like raisins and black cherries poke through creating layers of flavors I was not expecting. There is a decent amount of oak for the age and it joins together with tobacco leaf to make each sip seem older than it is.

Finish: Dark fruits take over the finish with delicious notes of figs, plums and dates. There is even a cherry flavor but it comes off more like cherry-flavored pipe tobacco. It’s very rich though. Oak flavors mix with caramel, vanilla and almond butter and are a satisfying end to a really tasty dram.


Score: 8.3/10


This bottle of Four Gate Foundation was even better than I expected it to be. It had a lot of the same flavors and scents that I find in Beam or Turkey products except with a surprising amount of fruit notes. This makes me believe that what’s inside has more in common with Wild Turkey than Jim Beam. It’s not that I never find fruit notes in Beam products, but I tend to always find more in older single barrels of Wild Turkey.


The one thing that’s stopping me from recommending this bottle is the price. Is source Wild Turkey really worth $200 per bottle? The secondary market may prove me wrong, but to me this still tastes like a really high-end Russell’s Reserve Single Barrel (with an additional 12 proof points). It also falls in line with some of the better Knob Creek Single Barrels I’ve tasted. I may go as far as to say it’s even similar to some Elijah Craig Barrel Proof batches minus some oak. This is all to say that Four Gate Foundation is only on-par with bottles that are at least a hundred dollars less.


Final Thoughts


To wrap it up, I will give one last point why you don’t need to seek out this bottle. It all has to do with bourbon enthusiast’s lust for something called “Dusty Turkey” which is Wild Turkey bottled in the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s. The flavor profile was totally different back then (and more desirable). By contrast, modern-day Wild Turkey profile tastes more mainstream (and slightly boring). But many bourbon lovers already know this, yet they were the ones to fawn over a release like this and build its hype. My question is “why?” While this was a delicious bottle to drink, it’s not exactly that special in the grand scheme of things. It didn’t taste $200 special either. This all goes back to what you’re really chasing. Is it the hopes that it tastes similar to Dusty Turkey because you’re paying a lot? I think a lot of people that bought this bottle thought so. But that’s the kind of attitude that usually generates a lot of buyer’s remorse within the community these days. So I leave you with this bit of caution: there are a lot of bottles that are marketed to appeal to enthusiasts’ feelings of nostalgia. There are a lot of bottles that have high prices to make you think they’re more valuable than they really are. Learning to recognize these traits and pass on those kinds of bottles will save you a lot of grief and money in the end.

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