Four Gate knocked it out of the park on their first release so I was excited to receive samples of the next three batches, all crafted differently to showcase barrel finishing versus the good ‘ole “foundation” of bourbon.
Batch 2 uses a unique barrel finish of orange curaçao liqueur barrels (back when orange liqueur was gaining popularity in the 17th Century, an orange found only on the Caribbean island of Curaçao was a favorite) that were then used for gin before being used by Four Gate.
Batch 3 is called “Foundation” for a reason—it’s pure bourbon from the traditional, historical mash bill without any finishing, plus it’s age-stated, barrel-proof, and non-filtered, so all of the boxes are checked.
Batch 4 is where Four Gate and its partners at Louisville’s Kelvin Cooperage went all mad-scientist. They crafted toasted barrels, then #2 char barrels, then #4 char barrels, broke them all down and rebuilt them by alternating the staves. The end result looked like one of those optical illusion spirals. Then Four Gate filled the rebuilt barrels with a blend of 5½ year-old and 12 year-old Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey, resting for another five months.
Batch 2—Outer Loop Orbit Tasting Notes
Bourbon: Four Gate Outer Loop Orbit orange curaçao gin finished bourbon
Age: 5½ blended with 12-year
ABV: 60.15% ABV (120.3 Proof)
Botanical gin hits right away, faint orange zest, herbal notes, and fresh pine.
As predicted by the aromas, the gin is big again, with some pleasant chocolate orange cream. The botanicals of the gin overpower most of the bourbon notes as pine and nuttiness return.
At first I thought that it was short, but then it built into a long but subtle finish with soft—not tangy—orange citrus and more botanicals.
Batch 3—Foundation Tasting Notes
Bourbon: Four Gate Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey
Age: 9 years, 9 months
ABV: 59.7% ABV (119.4 Proof)
Brown side of amber.
Classic bourbon at first impression (caramel and vanilla balanced by spice and oak), and then it expands beyond caramel and spice to dried dark fruit, black pepper, lilac, praline, and oak.
A robust version of the aromas, but without the floral elegance. It’s all power, but with great balance, and wow, it’s satisfying. Maybe it’s the pastry sweetness that balances the spice so well.
Nice firm hug that fades but lasts with the right amount of oak.
Batch 4—Split Stave by Kelvin Tasting Notes
Bourbon: Four Gate Split Stave Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey
Age: 5½ blended with 12-year
ABV: 57.8% ABV (115.6 Proof)
Most brown of the three with slight gold hues.
Oaky right away. Oak. Then more oak. Finally some brown sugar, cocoa, mint, and black tea.
Yup, oak again. Rye spice, earthiness, leather, cinnamon, and char. The sweetness is deep, but mostly hidden by the oak. A drop of water made it a creamy delight like custard.
Shorter than Foundation, but really overall different. It starts bigger and richer—think rich, gooey chocolate and old library leather—but fades faster.
Foundation was a monster hit for me. This is what barrel strength bourbon is supposed to be, and it proves yet again that 8-10 years is one of the sweet spots for bourbon. And for a bourbon with a percentage of rye grain lower than I normally seek out, I don’t miss the rye. It reminds me of a certain “straight from the barrel” bourbon.
Split Stave wasn’t too far behind Foundation for me; I love the creativity and the outcome. My fingers are crossed that Four Gate will find a way to use the Split Stave barrels for an imperial stout. Outer Loop Orbit was a little more difficult for me to handle because of the strong botanical influence of the gin. Plenty of people like that, but I’ve always been resistant to more herbal bourbons and ryes, and I’ve never been a gin fan, so this isn’t really any surprise for my personal palate. All in all, we continue to see tremendous ingenuity and results from Four Gate.
Disclaimer: The brand managers kindly
sent me samples for this review,
without any strings attached.