Dieu Du Ciel: Peche Mortel: Reserve Speciale 2013: Viellie 12 mois en fut De Bourbon (Canada: Imperial Stout: 9.5% ABV)
Visual: Black. Brown medium sized head, similar to the colour of chocolate milkshake.
Nose: Bitter coffee. Fudge. Bitter cocoa dust. Very rounded in all elements. Chocolate cake and sponge. Roasted nuts.
Body: Oatmeal flapjack. Massive rounded coffee. Raisins. Vanilla toffee. Frothy texture. Rye bourbon. Shredded wheat. Sharp orange liquore.
Finish: Bitter Belgian chocolate and chocolate sponge. Bitter coffee beans. Vanilla fudge. Vanilla spirit air – bourbon style. Sharpe orange crème centres.
Conclusion: Ok, this is a beer balanced on a knife edge. I very much enjoyed Peche Mortel, but this, oh this just adds that little edge to it. It still has that booming bitter coffee, but more rounded and refined. The time in the oak gives it much more complexity in both chocolate and coffee, giving additional layers of sweetness and bitterness to both. It is that accentuation of the pre existing characteristics that pushes that part up there with Beer Geek Brunch Weasel for massive complexity to coffee expression. You can take your time even with just the aroma, feeling the fudge come out, and the coffee progressing through the aromas.
The body is buoyed by the spirit elements, an almost shredded wheat bourbon roughness, combined with vanilla sweet spirit rises up, prickling through the strong main body. This is the knife edge, the element the beer balances on. At times the perfect balancing of flavours makes it one of the all time greats, at others it rises just a tad too spirity. In both it merges all those elements before with what is an almost sharp orange liquore sub note that adds another layer of intrigue. The mix of spirit is seen even in the texture, a mix of frothy smooth and spirit needle prickles.
So, it varies, at its best it is truly up there with the best – bringing everything Peche Mortel did, but more rounded, backed by subtle extra notes and showing the full complexity of the coffee. At its worst, and this is comparative worst, not absolute – it is still very good – it is very bourbon heavy, almost like the stout is backing the bourbon rather than the other way around. Not a bad thing, but not a patch on the other way around.
Because it has that variance, even in a single bottle, it is not quite an all time great, but it has those moments where it does reach it with mad genius. This is an excellent beer. Give it a try – the standard Peche Mortel is more consistant, but this has occasional moments of absolute greatness.
Background: It has a gold band! Yay! Yep, that is the only difference is a gold label indicating it is Viellie 12 mois en fut De Bourbon – or as I put it, 12 months in Bourbon oak. I picked this up from Brewdog Bristol after the Dieu Du Ciel meet the brewers event. I had also had standard Peche Mortel on tap then, very nice.