Bourbon, Lots of Bourbon at the White Chocolate Grill
To me, the perfect date night restaurant allows you to say, “Happy (Anniversary/Birthday/Mother’s Day) Honey” to your significant other and “I’ll have the Pappy Van Winkle 15 Year, neat in a rocks glass” to your server. This type of bourbon menu is becoming more and more common in high quality eateries around the Denver area, as well as across the country. Linger and Root Down in the Highlands both provide great fare, a romantic and trendy date night atmosphere as well as a killer bourbon list. A little further south down I25 is The White Chocolate Grill (WCG) in Lone Tree. From the outside it might look like another trendy heavy chain restaurant, but believe me, inside it is very bourbon friendly.
The WCG is perfectly lit for date night, with all the trappings of a high end steakhouse and private booths all within eye sight of the busy stainless steel kitchen. The optical illusion is that the bar seems more decorative than functional from afar and unless you are seated in the bar area you never get close enough to see the front row made up of the Van Winkle line, every BTAC, Elijah Craig 20 and Barrel Proof, some local whiskies and even a barrel selection from Four Roeses.
Plus, you just walked by a Costco size American Girl Doll store seconds before entering WCG so you might not be quick to assume that this is an area that caters to the discerning bourbon drinker. Do yourself a favor and do a drive-by of the bar before you sit down. Just incase you can’t make out all the bottles, there is a sign hanging to assure you the bar is both decorative and highly functional.
Sometimes you can tell if a place stocks bourbon just to try and take advantage of the bourbon boom (cough.. Pinche Tacos), but after ordering at WCG you can quickly tell that WCG is not in that category. Order a flight and you get a paddle cut to fit three glencairn glasses. Having glencairns by itself is rare enough no matter where you go, but having paddles cut to fit them is a whole different level. Even more important, our server Chad knew his stuff. He clarified that the Weller I ordered was the BTAC, not the Special Reserve without even looking at the menu, and when our meal was done he asked if I had any tasting notes. Obviously bourbon is taken very seriously at every level of the WCG.
Since they had both a Four Roses Limited Edition Single Barrel and a private selection Four Roses Single Barrel, I decided to do those two in a flight with the heavy handed Weller BTAC to add some sweetness. This review will only be for the Four Roses.
The last released Limited Edition Four Roses won “American Whiskey of the Year,” so there has been a much brighter light on their Limited Edition line in 2013 but it is important to keep in mind that the 2012 LE Single Barrel was only 2 points shy of the award winning 2012 LE Small Batch. Any of these barrels could be contending for Malt Advocate’s American Whiskey of the Year.
Four Roses 2013 Limited Edition Single Barrel (OBSK 120.0 proof)
The Four Roses Limited Edition is a 13 year, cask strength version of their OBSK (35% rye bourbon recipe, slightly spicy flavored yeast strain). The samples sent out by Four Roses for review were 109.4 proof but don’t assume that barrels of that proof range are the best. Most of the barrels I have seen on shelves have been between 116-121 proof, but there has been amazing feedback regarding the barrels in the 120 proof range (120.0, 120.1, etc.). 120 is the proof Jim Rutledge picked to be tasted at Whiskey Fest in Kentucky, so it seems Four Roses has confidence at the lower proof of 109.4 as well as the higher proofs upwards of 120.
The WCG has barre 3-3J from Warehouse B5 which was bottled at exactly 120 proof.
Color: Deep mahogany, dark red syrup.
Nose: This nose is wide awake. Tons of ripe, dark cherry sweetness intermixed with strong shots of vanilla, carmel corn, chocolate syrup, peppery rye and a warm toasted oak char that goes way beyond what the 2012 Limited Edition Single Barrel did.
Sip: One of the thickest bodies of any Four Roses I have had to date. Tons of depth at every stage of the sip. Upfront is a much more complete sweetness than the 2012. Cherry syrup, honeyed apples, freshly caramelized sugar and toffee strike a near perfect balance with the slightly bitter char, tobacco, dark chocolate, pepper, cinnamon, chili and nutmeg in the back. The oak is all over the sip. I found it to be a great buffer between the sweet and the spice.
Finish: Not an overly lengthy finish. The private barrel selection by WCG seen below was longer, but there was a fantastic fresh cherry pie sweetness mixed with the freshly toasted rye bread and sharp cinnamon candy spice.
Overall Grade: A
Peer Review: DrinkHacker: A, San Francisco World Spirits Competition: Gold Medal
Compared to the 2012 Limited Edition Single Barrel, this Four Roses has come a long way. The levels in the flavor profile are cranked way up and the balance is much more enjoyable. This is easily one of the most balanced OB– single barrels I have ever had, as the high rye content usually has the spice taking center stage. Keep in mind this is a single barrel, so barrel 3-3J is not guaranteed to taste anything like barrel 3-3K. What you are guaranteed is that Jim Rutledge, one of the best all time single barrel selectors, hand picked each barrel. Most regions got multiple bottles of the same barrel, so if you see one at a store, call around to your bars to see if they have the same barrel behind the bar for you to try.
Four Roses WCG Private Single Barrel (OESO 115.4 Proof)
The WCG single barrel (WCGSB) is a 9 year, 5 month old OESO (20% rye, rich fruity flavored yeast strain) cask strength single barrel. If they didn’t both bare the Four Roses name and come in bottles of the same shape, you wouldn’t expect these to taste anything alike based off of the mashbill recipes alone, but that doesn’t mean some of the OE– mashbills can’t match or even surpass the higher rye OB– counterparts in overall quality.
I am not doing the WCGSB any favors by reviewing it side by side with the older, higher rye and higher proof Limited Edition Single Barrel, but these Four Roses Private Selections can surprise you. Obviously there is a high bourbon IQ at the WCG, so it stands to reason that the person encouraging a Four Roses Private Selection is an avid bourbon drinker just like you and me. Hopefully, this 9 year, 5 month OESO is a sound investment. Anything over a B grade in my book would indicate it is better than the standard Four Roses Single Barrel.
Color: Only slightly lighter than the Limited Edition. More of a honey and orange peel than a dark mahogany wood.
Nose: The WCGSB is another very lively nose, but the flavors are much lighter. There is a lot of warm honey, cinnamon, citrus, dark carmel with a lightly charred oak and toasted bread in the nose.
Sip: Slightly thinner than the Limited Edition, but still a great mouthfeel. It is perfectly oily with cinnamon sugar, vanilla cream, candied apples, raisins and a light butterscotch coating the front palate. The mid palate is layered with a cherry syrup or a plum jam. Clove, cinnamon, tobacco, a light floral note and a perfect warm charred oak finish the back palate.
Finish: The finish is where the WCGSB ears its money. The finish is seemingly never-ending. The oily mouthfeel leaves a wonderful texture that has a berry jam, spicy cinnamon, vanilla bean and firewood finish lingering long after the sip.
Overall Grade: B++
I was really torn with the final grade on this one. The spice and sweetness were perfectly balanced, it was extremely smooth at the higher proof, the finish was phenomenal and the texture was great. The only thing keeping the WCGSB from an A grade was the levels of the flavors in the sip. Though there was tons of depth, nothing was vivid or cranked way up like the Limited Edition Single Barrel and this was the only thing holding the WCGSB back from an A.
All things considered, having a Four Roses Single Barrel selection that comes within a few points of the Four Roses Limited Edition Single Barrel is something to be excited about. The OE– mashbills cater to more people because the high rye OB– mashbill is a true exhibit of spice. If you enjoy Four Roses, the WCGSB will not disappoint. If you are new to Four Roses, the WCGSB is a perfect introduction to the brand and the recipes.