In April of 2019, Four Gate released their very first barrel finished whiskey, “The Kelvin Collaboration.” This first release was extremely well received by the whiskey community, and that led to the inspiration for their latest batch. For their first release in 2020, Four Gate has returned to the same mash bill as batch 1 but with a slight variation in barrel finishing.
In collaboration with Kelvin Cooperage, Four Gate took their now 12 year old high rye Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey, and filled three massive Cognac barrels, and a selection of dark rum barrels. Kelvin Cooperage acquired these barrels from the same rum distillery as the barrels used to finish the batch 1 offering. Four Gate is taking the “blending” approach to whiskey, and based on the previous releases I have tried, they are experts at their craft. It is very easy to ruin a whiskey with too much, or the wrong type of barrel finishing, and that is what makes blending such an artform. Let’s find out if the latest expression, “The Kelvin Collaboration II”, can live up to the price tag.
Class: Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey Finished in Cognac-Dark Rum Barrels
Distillery: Undisclosed (Sourced)
Age: 12 Years
Mashbill: 74% Corn, 18% Rye, 8% Malted Barley
MSRP: $199.99 (2020)
Sitting in the Glencairn for 15 minutes opening up, I go in for my first smell. This definitely has a classic bourbon nose, but also an entirely extra layer of sweetness, likely from the rum finishing. An almost tropical fruit medley hits the front of the nostrils first. Spiced, dried, stone fruits take over next, almost like a spiced raisin or apricot. Going into this knowing it was Cognac and Dark Rum finished, I was expecting nothing but pure sweetness. To my surprise, there is actually a good amount of spice on the nose. This could be from the proof, or from the blending that took place.
The longer this sits in the glass, the more mellowed those rum notes become. Darker, richer fruit notes begin to dominate the nose. Plums, raisins, and an almost smoked, grilled apple slice presents itself. This nose is extremely layered, complex, and does not disappoint.
There is that intense sweetness I was expecting on the nose showing up on the front of the palate. A wonderful medley of dark fruits, baking spices, caramel, and vanilla glide over the first half of the palate. On the center of the tongue, I notice a molasses-like sweetness, and syrup-like viscosity coating extremely well. In the mid to back of the palate is where the spice is most dominant. It is almost like a baking spice and spiced fruit mesh blended together, and set right on your tongue. An almost spiced oak finally settles in on the back of the tongue as you finish your first sip.
There is a wonderful mouthfeel and finish all the way through the sipping experience on batch 6. That molasses and oiliness I previously described, shows up on the sides of the palate and completely coats the front and back of the mouth as well. As the finish sets in, an almost drying white wine note takes over, like a really good Pinot Grigio. Reminiscent of a barrel tannin, I relate it more to a dry wine than I do a bourbon barrel tannin. With the exception of the nose, I’m still not finding much of that rum presence showing up in this offering. Given the high proof and non-chill filtering, this medium-to-long finish definitely leaves me wanting more.
Four different Four Gate Whiskey expressions, including the newly announced 7 year, cask strength, Kelvin Rye which will be released in the coming months.
Four Gate once again knocks it out of the park with their sixth release. This whiskey drank much sweeter the first time I tried it during my video review, but upon sipping during another occasion, much more spice showed through. I recently had the opportunity to try Blood Oath Pact 6, which was a blend of 14, 8, and 7 year bourbons also finished in cognac barrels (only the 7 year was finished in cognac casks). The “Kelvin Collaboration II” was the far superior expression. This, most likely, is partially due to the lower proof of 98.6 on the Blood Oath. The Kelvin Collaboration II is a phenomenal bourbon, and possibly my favorite finished whiskey release that I have tried from Four Gate.
Prices and costs add up quickly, anytime a company has to source barrels to do finishes on their whiskey. Not only is Four Gate sourcing their bourbon, but they are also sourcing the barrels they use to finish their whiskey. I can tell you for a fact, Cognac and rum barrels are not cheap. That being said, I don’t think the $200 price tag is outrageous for what you’re getting in this bottle. Of course, I wish it was cheaper, as we all do, but if you have the money to spend, you will not be disappointed with this release. Even more challenging than the price tag is the availability. Less than 2,500 bottles were produced. It is available in Kentucky, Tennessee, and Seelbachs.com as of April of 2020.
Maximum Price I Would Pay: $199