The most disappointing whiskey I’ve tasted this year is a vintage Four Roses: Single Barrel Reserve.

The aromatic approach is elegant, floral and with hints of caramel, vanilla and hazelnut. The palate is light with hints of fig, caramel chew and slight hints of salt water taffy. But there’s almost no finish. It’s what I’d call a dead whiskey and could very well just be this bottle.

Vintage whiskey depends largely on the storage, and you just never know how things are stored.

What is this whiskey? Well, as soon as a friend gave me the bottle, I had a theory of what it might be: early 1990s single barrel for Japan. I was correct, but what I learned from the former master distiller Jim Rutledge was even more fascinating: They introduced this into the U.S. market (five states) for a single day in July 1997, and it was pulled off the market for oversized cork problems and the coating being pulled off after repeated pours.

Of course, Four Roses eventually works out its issues and reenters the U.S. national market in the 2000s. The whiskey of the past 15 years is far better than this vintage pour. For what it’s worth, I’d score this a 79.

 

Fred Minnick is the author of Bourbon: The Rise, Fall & Rebirth of An American Whiskey