Cracking the Code

I like Four Roses Bourbon. I think that Jim Rutledge does some really great things with bourbon. One thing that I find most interesting about Four Roses in the variety of recipes they use in making their bourbon. Four Roses makes 10 different bourbon recipes at their distillery. This gives them great flexibility in what they can releases. It’s very similiar to the way Japanese distillieries make many different recipes (more on that another time) and Four Roses is owned by Japanese drinks conglomerate Kirin Brewery Company Ltd. For comparison, the largest bourbon distiller, Jim Beam, only makes two recipes that all their current bourbon releases come from (however, they are continually experimenting).

If you’ve ever looked at a bottle of Four Roses (except Yellow Label, that’s a mix of all 10) you will notice a four letter code on the back. That code tells you what recipe was used for that bottle…if you know what the code means. I figure that if you’ve repeatedly found your way to Whisk(e)y Apostle then you have more than a passing interest in whiskey. So for those who are interested in such things, I’ve acquired a key to those mysterious four letter codes on the bottles of Four Roses and here it is…

1st Letter: O = This means that it was made at Four Roses in Lawrenceburg, KY, it’s on all the bottles.

2nd Letter: B or E = This identifies the mashbill
B is 60% Corn, 35% Rye, and 5% Malted Barley
E is 75% Corn, 20% Rye, and 5% Malted Barley

3rd Letter: S = This means that it is Straight Whiskey by U.S. Regulatory definition

4th Letter: V, K, O, Q, F = This represents the five various yeast strains used.
V is a delicate fruity flavor
K is a slightly spicy character
O is a robust fruity flavor
Q is more floral
F is lightly herbal

So for example, the new 100th Anniversary bottle is OBSV. That means that is was distilled at Four Roses in Lawrenceburg using a 60% corn/35% rye/5% barley recipe in the Straight Whiskey style with a yeast strain that imparts a delicate fruity flavor.

That’s the code! Now you know. And as G.I. Joe used to say…knowing is…uh, never mind.

Drink wisely my friends,


2 thoughts on “Cracking the Code”

Comments are closed.