Bourbon & Blues with Hans Offringa

Not the book, but the masterclass. This was the third of the back-to-back masterclasses I had booked last Saturday at Whisky Festival The Hague. Its called Bourbon & Blues, but the bourbon focus was wholly on Four Roses. Four Roses is one of Hans’ favorite brands and he and Jim Rutledge (the master distiller) are friends, which made the choice obvious.

Four Roses Distillery in 1915We got a short lecture on the history of bourbon distilling in the United States, from the early Scottish, Irish, German and Dutch farmers bringing distilling equipment to the new world and the journey west (to Kentucky at least), also some links with the Bourbon & Blues book. The slave trade towards America brought the slaves’ to the USA not too many years later.

The whiskies we had were the regular Four Roses, the Small Batch and the Single Barrel. My opinion is that the latter two far outshone the first one. Although not a bad whiskey, it was a bit too smooth for me and had a little hint of glue you sometimes get with ‘cheap’ bourbons.

Apart from the history of Four Roses we were also enlightened on the yeast strains used at Four Roses, something they are very proud of. Apparently, there are five different yeast strains and 2 different Mash Bills used, which gives them a variety of 10 recipes to work with. Two of the recipes we could taste, or the white dog they result in with one being far more spicy then the other, while both were rather floral. The spicier one had a lot more rye in it than the other:

  • OE = The mashbill that is 75% corn, 20% rye, 5% malted barley.
  • OB = The mashbill that is 60% corn, 35% rye, 5% malted barley.

The smoother of those White Dogs is the OBSV (OB: high rye recipe, S: previously used for the distillery, V: the yeast strain). This recipe is used for the single barrels, so technically we tasted the Single Barrel Four Roses and its spirit version. Very nice!

In the end we also got Hans’ new book, Bourbon & Blues, which I am currently reading. I hope to review that next week.

About Sjoerd de Haan-Kramer

I'm very interested in booze, with a focus on whisky. I like to listen to loads of music and play lots of Magic: the Gathering, and board games too. I'm married to Anneke, have two daughters Ot and Cato, a son Moos and a cat called Kikker (which means Frog, in Dutch). I live in Krommenie, The Netherlands.
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