Bristol Beer Factory: Imperial Stout Bourbon Cask (England: Imperial Stout: 10.5% ABV)

Visual: Black with a moderate dark beige creamy froth head.

Nose: Coconut. Milky Chocolate. Sour cream. Rum soaked raisins. Vinous notes when warm.

Body: Smooth. Chocolate. Vanilla toffee. Coconut macaroons. Light aromatic herbs like the light side dishes at an Indian restaurant.  Milky coffee backdrop. Raisins. Vinous notes and white grapes.

Finish: Fudge. Bitter chocolate. Caramel traces. Some bitter coffee. Chocolate orange. Red wine. Light oak. Coconut.

Conclusion: I am a sucker for Imperial Stouts with a coconut aroma. Blame it on Good King Henry Special Reserve which is still probably my favourite of the type. That smell instantly makes me want to like a beer.

It helps that the beer is dangerously smooth, it evens tastes full of light delicate flavours that don’t feel overpowered by the base beer. No burn involved, no kick.  Just delicious chocolate and coconut macaroons mixed with vanilla toffee. Considering I came in expecting a ball kicker of beer this kind of wrong footed me.

In a way it feels like a beer to go with mild curry, the lighter herbs and coconut just scream that it would be perfect for that. I don’t know if it would work real world, but if I had another bottle I would definitely test it.

As the beer is, the bitter chocolate and coffee slowly showed themselves from under the coconut as the beer warmed. You then get vinous notes and the beer starts feeling bigger and richer. There is a real progression in flavour as the heat comes in, bringing a different but still impressive beer.  Cool you have coconut and a lightness of touch, warm you get a more rich and playful yet still smooth beer.

To my memory I prefer Good King Henry, but then again, in memory that beer has become nigh unbeatable. I will have to drink the beer again to see if it holds up to that memory.  This doesn’t have quite the same great viscous levels nor the same vibrancy. There is a slight heaviness of flavour after a while that means later sips don’t taste as excellent as the early ones.  Then again, these are flaws only when compared to one of my favourite beers of all time, that still says that this beer is doing something very well. Not many Imperial Stouts go down this route of flavour and I’m glad that this one implemented it so well.

Complex but easy to drink. Reacts brilliantly to changes in heat and different to any flavours that I would have expected from bourbon ageing. It has the minor flaws in the flavours feeling heavy after a while and the smoothness seems to drop the vibrancy slightly that I mentioned but that is nit picking.   Overall a beer I very much enjoyed and one that surprised me. A good combo.

Background: Another of the twelve beers of Christmas 2012 edition. This one aged in Bourbon casks. I liked the base Imperial Stout but didn’t find it as special as some of BBF’s stouts, previous cask ageing have been exceptional though.  Unlike previous ageing which listed the distillery, this year just had bourbon with not hint to the distiller. I must admit much as I love Stouts and Imperial Stouts the amount I have had in my cupboard recently has been insane. After this I am looking forward to some nice light coloured ales.