Total Score: 8.7/10
Review #900! Only 100 more reviews till I get a free sub and perhaps a captains hat (Seinfeld reference). So what better way to go out than with this barrel aged version of one of my favourite Russian Imperial Stouts: Sierra Nevada Narwhal. I review a lot of Sierra Nevada brews, and they rarely disappoint (except for Otra Vez of course), so I really wanted to save something special for #900 and it had to be something BIG [Bearing Immense Gusto], and dark, and barrel aged – well looks like we’ve found ourselves a tasty… and no I’m not going to attempt to drink the entire bottle tonight… 750mls of obsidian nectar of the Gods in our good friend Narwhal – really, really looking forward to this – is perhaps an understatement.
Poured from a 750ml corked & caged bottle into a Duvel tulip.
A: Black like the inkiest depths of the vacuum of space with a thin tan ring that does little to offset the terror to be found in this dark murky soup. Less impressive beers abound freely in comparison to this Goliath. 9/10.
S: The aroma: Inescapable – a rich melange of sweet bourbon whiskey, dark fruits, molasses, a woody/oaky note, chicory, licorice, and cacao nibs. “Get down on your knees and pay me respect now” – Barrel Aged Narwhal Imperial Stout 2015. This aroma is scary assertive. 9/10.
T: Maybe it’s the 2 yrs age on it but this is nothing near as powerful as I expected from the aroma. First sip is a bit of a bourbon nip with a slight burn, dark fruits (raisin, plum) and the molasses/oaky note. Second sip comes in and dumps chicory, licorice and a raw espresso character. Aftertaste comes in with a touch of medicinal herb and espresso bitterness. 9/10.
M: Feels less viscous and heavy than regular Narwhal – which is a surprise I wasn’t even expecting! Mid to heavy bodied with a thin carbonation. 8/10.
D: It’s overall civilized, but at 12.9% ABV one gets the feeling that maybe “it’s a little too much”. Too much ABV, too much flavour going on – it’s not as good as regular Narwhal in that respect, regular Narwhal had more balance. So yeah, what I’m trying to say is that I would actually take a regular Narwhal over this, and that feels a bit of an odd statement from me – shouldn’t barrel aging make a regular beer better??? In the case of Narwhal for me the answer is a slightly perplexed “no”. Oy vey I’ve got a lot of barrel aged Narwhal to drink now… I’ve never been so daunted by a 750ml bottle of beer in my life… I need beer friends. 8/10.
Food match: I had cigars on regular Narwhal and it’s even more relevant here.