And with that, comes the fact that some of the more rare recipes are now even harder to find. In my situation, I’ve been able to find Q, V and F yeast strains the easiest, but one of the hardest ones to find have been the O yeast strain.
According to the label, the O yeast strain has fruity traits but the high-rye mashbill gives it a spicy nature. So I decided to pit two OBSO’s against each other in a matchup that will surely not be a likely combo in anyone’s collection.
I have an 8 year, 6 month old 111 proof OBSO from Grape and Grain Exchange in Jacksonville, FL and a 9 year, 11 month 116.2 proof OBSO from Crown Liquors in Indianapolis, IN.
Side By Side Comparison
I am doing this review partly because of my desire to have a competition between all 10 recipes of the Four Roses lineup, but I need to pick the best of the best first before squaring them all off. The store workers at Grape and Grain Exchange had high praise for their OBSO pick, which came in at a wallet-shattering $95 before (ridiculous) Florida sales tax. The Crown pick, on the other hand, was a paltry $73.99. It amazes me the increase in prices once an ocean comes close to your store. I sampled these two semi-blind, neat and in a Glencairn.
Blind Glass #1
Nose: Fresh picked mint, a new leather baseball glove, cherry blossoms, cinnamon stick and a Christmas fruitcake all round out a somewhat basic array of high-ryed bourbon flavors. But as the session goes on, very heavy sweet baking notes appear such as brown sugar, caramel and a chocolate silk pie.
All of this is surrounded with a piercing wood varnish smell, somewhat along the lines of Old Forester Birthday Bourbon. The depth and layers can’t help but reel in your nose for sniff after sniff of satisfying aromas.
Palate: Cinnamon Cake hits first, but then an extremely spicy sensation. The heat stays with the palate throughout, much like drinking barrel-proof Fireball Whiskey. But the spice can be overcame and behind it you’ll find a rich and creamy mouthfeel, on par with some terrific Wild Turkey products. There’s also toasted orange rind , semi sweet chocolate chips and cherry cordials.
Finish: A high rye telltale sign of pine, cedar, drying oak, wet tobacco, cinnamon and black pepper heat all coated with some delicious dessert notes of chocolate mousse pie and tiramisu.
This dram is a chocolate lovers dream (a fact I get a lot with the O yeast strain)
Blind Glass #2
Nose: Melting milk choclate, nougat, vanilla almond-flour cake and then a pleasant array of floral and fruity notes like apricots, cherry blossoms, rose petals and musk melon (?!). There’s even some musty wood, which is extremely strange for the age statement of these two bottles.
Palate: Spice forward just like Glass #1, There’s white pepper with a touch of chili powder. But also like Glass #1, there’s a lot of sweetness that’s mixed in. T
hick caramel, semi-sweet chocolate chips, cinnamon sprinkled in a cup of apple cider, raw stone fruit (bitter) and bitter tea leaf.
Finish: A nice restrained rye spice adds more spicy pop to the finish as citrus notes appear with lime and lemon zest. T
here’s some fresh tobacco and anise to round out the odder, undeveloped rye notes too. As the dram goes on, the finish gets more bittersweet. It’s really unique and tasty but begins to decline over the course of the dram.
Glass #1: Crown Liquors OBSO
Glass #2: Grape and Grain Exchange OBSO
Winner: Crown Liquors OBSO!
Yet another example of the higher-aged Four Roses recipe winning over its younger sibling. If there are two traits that Four Roses lovers know, it’s that you seek out proofs over 120 and age statements over 10 years. If you can’t get either, get as close as you can to them.
This contest was no different. The Crown OBSO wins because the spice and chocolate scents play nice with each other and are a delicious compliment.
The G&G Exchange OBSO, on the other hand, started out strong but developed this bittersweet tendency towards the end, enough to knock it down a couple of tenths and make it the loser of this competition. But in reality, there is no loser if you own a Four Roses Barrel Strength pick. For the taste and uniqueness, I don’t think it can be matched around the $75 price point.
1 | Disgusting | Drain pour (Example: Jeffers Creek)
2 | Poor | Forced myself to drink it
3 | Bad | Flawed (AD Laws 4 Grain BiB, Clyde Mays anything)
4 | Sub-par | Many things I’d rather have (Tincup 10 year)
5 | Good | Good, solid, ordinary (Larceny, Sazerac Rye)
6 | Very Good | Better than average (Buffalo Trace, OGD BiB)
7 | Great | Well above average (Old Ezra Barrel Proof, Old Weller Antique)
8 | Excellent | Exceptional (Michter’s Barrel Proof Rye, Four Roses Barrel Strength)
9 | Incredible | Extraordinary (GTS, 13 Year MGP or Canadian Rye)
10 | Insurpassable | Nothing Else Comes Close (William Larue Weller)
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