Amid springtime in Kentucky we have a new whiskey to enjoy. Four Gate Whiskey Company offers an 11-year old American Whiskey that went decidedly against the boring habit of other sourced brands that proof down their omnipresent MGP bourbon resulting in whiskeys that carry a hefty price tag but aren’t differentiated from other sourced bourbon on the market.
Four Gate also withstood the temptation to make up legends, marketing stories, or family recipe nonsense. Instead, Four Gate took a substantial risk by sourcing 18% rye-grain Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey that easily could have been bottled in its own right, and that could have been proofed down to make it go farther. Not even close. Four Gate took a risk by finishing this bourbon in sherry casks that had been used once for rum already, with guidance from the experts at Kelvin Cooperage. Their risk is your reward.
But before jumping into the tasting notes, I have more than the typical disclaimers when I receive a 50mL sample from brand managers. Here, I know and respect the guys behind the brand. It turned out that I am also friends with some of the investors because Louisville is a small town. During the development of the brand, I was invited to and took part in a tasting that helped guide the owners to the blend used for this inaugural release. And I attended the Four Gate launch event in mid-April where I tried more free samples of the whiskey and stout aged in the bourbon barrels. So, in a nutshell, it can be fairly said that I’m rooting for Four Gate to do well. Take that for what it’s worth but know that I strive for objectivity in all of my tasting notes.
Bourbon: Four Gate Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey finished in Ex-Sherry Rum Casks
Distillery: Undisclosed; Sourced by Four Gate Whiskey Company
Age: 11 years before finishing
ABV: 61.7% (123.4 proof)
Brown with a copper-red undertone.
The aromas are some of the best that I’ve had in recent memory. The interplay of the rye spice and cinnamon with sweet sherry dark fruit notes strikes a perfect, inviting balance. It somehow combines deep soulful aromas with light sharp aromas, like striking the entire range of piano keys.
The flavors didn’t seem as influenced by the sherry and rum compared to the nose. The sweetness shifted more towards brown sugar and the high rye shone through with oak and black pepper. Despite the high proof, the first sip neat is creamy and lingers without burning.
I also enjoyed it with a splash of water. That’s not to say that it should have been proofed down for bottling; I appreciate that it was bottled at barrel strength. That lets consumers do the proofing for their particular preference and palate. Adding water brought more creaminess but diluted the sweetness.
The finish was medium in length and, at first, I thought it was mostly oaky. Then the sherry and rum sweetness came back as it then shifted to lingering rye spice. I think that the sherry and rum sweetness defines the finish, but it still has a vibrant dry oak and spice as it trails off. It’s a very contemplative finish.
Four Gate has a big winner here. The bad news is that Batch 1 is available only in Kentucky and Tennessee (and only 1,732 bottles for this first run), so it’s going to be difficult to find. But with the talent involved at Four Gate, the future is bright.
The price is going to scare off many consumers, of course, especially when barrel strength Elijah Craig 12-year and Four Roses private selections can be found with some regularity in the $60-$75 range. I used to complain about prices five years ago and maybe even swore that I wouldn’t buy bourbon for more than $100. Then things went from crazy to insane. It’s just where we are today in the bourbon market, and an extremely limited release like Four Gate that is well-crafted in its blending and finishing can fetch its suggested retail price easily.