Liquor Laboratory

Buffalo Trace vs Four Roses Bourbon: Which is Better? (2024)

Buffalo Trace vs Four Roses

Bourbon is an enduring favorite spirit that sometimes many distillers can’t keep up with demand.

We’re excited to bring you the head-to-head battle between Buffalo Trace vs Four Roses bourbon.

Although they’re both Kentucky straight bourbons, they have differences when it comes to origin, mash bill, proof, and tasting notes.

Let’s get started. 

Comparing Buffalo Trace & Four Roses Bourbon 

Bottles of Four Roses Single Barrel and Buffalo Trace

Buffalo Trace has a smooth yet bolder and richer bourbon flavor at 90-proof. In contrast, Four Roses bourbon is mellower on the palate and has a lower alcohol proof of 80.

In terms of price point, the bottles of Buffalo Trace bourbon are more expensive than the bottles of Four Roses bourbon.

Buffalo Trace’s flagship name was released in 1999 from its distillery in Frankfort, Kentucky, while the brand Four Roses started in 1888 in Lawrenceburg, Kentucky.

Head To Head Battle

History & Origin

Buffalo Trace has been historically known as a piece of American history, starting from its founding distillery in Kentucky in the late 1700s.

The bourbon flagship name was introduced in 1999.

It was a tribute to the ancient buffalo and the independent spirit of the pioneers that carved its path to the Kentucky River. 

Meanwhile, Four Roses started its trademarked name in 1888, but its production claimed to start in the 1860s.

Its name originates from a romantic tale that made a symbol of passion.  

Production & Maturation

Buffalo Trace Distillery

Buffalo Trace uses a column still in its production but doesn’t carry an age statement.

There are hearsays about its allegedly rumored age statement, which ranges from two to ten years.

But while it doesn’t carry an age statement, it is still a bourbon, and under the law, it should be aged at least two years in a new American oak barrel. [1]

Unlike Buffalo Trace, Four Roses bourbon is distilled twice, first in a column still and then in a doubler.

It doesn’t have an age statement, but each barrel ages for at least five years in new oak barrels. 

Mash Bill 

Buffalo Trace is known to have multiple mash bills, and its straight bourbon is classified under its Mash Bill #1, known as the “low-rye mash bill,” with 10% or less rye content at 90-proof.

Buffalo Trace doesn’t disclose its complete mash bill content like the Four Roses bourbon. 

At 80-proof, Four Roses bourbon uses a blend of Mash Bill B (rye-forward)  60% corn, 35% rye, and 5% malted barley and Mash Bill E (bright grains) 75% corn, 20% rye, and 5% malted barley.

Tasting Notes

Buffalo Trace

Man Drinking Buffalo Trace Whiskey

Palate: It has a sweet profile of caramel, toffee, and vanilla with a light amount of oak spice.

Nose: A pleasant aroma of caramel, vanilla, and honey notes with spice hints from cinnamon.

Color: It has a deep amber hue.

Finish: Medium-length finish with the full flavor of vanilla, oak, light rye, and oak spice.

Four Roses

four roses single barrel mini bottle and a glass

Palate: It has crisp yet smooth fruit flavors of peach and apricot with a faint oaky caramel note.

Nose: It has fruity and floral aromas, notes of honey, light spice, and hints of fresh oak.

Color: It has a golden copper color feature.

Finish: Long finish with pleasant fruit and floral flavors and ends with mellowing spice.

How It’s Served & Availability

Buffalo Trace bourbon 90-proof has a sweet-tasting profile, serve it neat if you want the most of its flavor, but it is best served in an Old-fashioned way or as a mixer in cocktails.

“…our goal is to create something smooth and mellow; that’s the philosophy and benchmark of all Four Roses.”

– Brent Elliott, Master Distiller 

Buffalo Trace bourbon is mostly in demand, but its increasing popularity with its production capacity can’t sometimes keep up with the demands, so its bottles are sometimes hard to find.

On the other hand, Four Roses straight bourbon bottles are a bit easier to find.

With its 80-proof fruity flavors and light spice, Four Roses is a nice sipper, so it is best served neat or on the rocks.

Ownership & Distillery

hands holding barrel head

The Sazerac company owns Buffalo Trace, and it’s distilled in its Buffalo Trace Distillery in Frankfort, Kentucky, the oldest continuously operating distillery in the US. [2]

Meanwhile, Four Roses bourbon is owned by Kirin Brewery Company.

It is distilled in one of the historical places in the US, the Old Prentice Distillery, now known as the Four Roses Distillery.

Price Point

Both bourbon bottles are affordable. Buffalo Trace bourbon costs around (Drizly) per 750ml bottle, but a 750ml bottle of Four Roses is cheaper and costs around $25 (Drizly).

Note: Price may vary depending on the liquor store.

FAQs Related to Buffalo Trace vs Four Roses Bourbon

Which is a better cocktail mixer, Buffalo Trace or Four Roses?

Buffalo Trace is a better cocktail mixer than Four Roses. Its higher alcohol-proof and sweeter tasting notes will make a richer cocktail drink.

Does Four Roses have a bolder flavor than Buffalo Trace?

No, Four Roses don’t have a bolder flavor than Buffalo Trace. It has a lower alcohol-proof and mellower profile than Buffalo Trace.

What is the mash bill of Buffalo Trace compared to Four Roses?

Buffalo Trace typically has a mash bill that includes corn, rye, and barley, whereas Four Roses uses a combination of corn, rye, and malted barley in different proportions, resulting in distinct flavor profiles.

How does the aging process differ between Buffalo Trace and Four Roses?

The aging process for Buffalo Trace and Four Roses involves aging the whiskey in new charred oak barrels, but the duration and warehouse conditions may vary, influencing the final flavor development.

What are the flavor differences between Buffalo Trace and Four Roses?

Buffalo Trace is known for its smooth and balanced flavor profile, with notes of caramel, vanilla, and oak, while Four Roses offers a more complex and nuanced palate, with floral, fruity, and spicy undertones.

Are there any cocktails that pair better with Buffalo Trace or Four Roses?

Both Buffalo Trace and Four Roses are versatile and can be used in a variety of cocktails, but their flavor profiles may lend themselves differently to certain drinks. Buffalo Trace is often used in classic cocktails like the Old Fashioned or Manhattan, while Four Roses’ complexity may shine in more intricate cocktails.

Can I use Buffalo Trace and Four Roses interchangeably in cocktails?

While both are bourbon whiskies, their flavor profiles may affect the taste of cocktails differently, so it’s essential to consider the specific characteristics of each when choosing them for cocktails.

Final Verdict 

The winner of the Buffalo Trace vs Four Roses head-to-head battle is—Buffalo Trace.

Flavor-wise, we find this bourbon better and richer in profile from the nose to the palate.

However, the upper hand goes to Four Roses bourbon for a more beginner-friendly bourbon and a cheaper option than Buffalo Trace.

So if you’re into a bolder and higher-proof bourbon, Buffalo Trace will suit you.

But if you’re new to bourbon and looking for something cheaper, Four Roses bourbon is a good fit.


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