Stewart: Elysium 1: Bourbon Edition (Scotland: Imperial Stout: 11.5% ABV)
Visual: Black. Still. Thick brown head that dissipates to a dusting quite quickly.
Nose: Vanilla. Cherries and fruitcake. Big fudge. Vanilla yogurt. Plums. Big but smooth. Rum soaked raisins. Shortbread. Rye bourbon.
Body: Smooth, almost light. Cocoa powder. Vanilla yogurt. Strawberry yogurt. Plums. Red wine and red berries. White chocolate.
Finish: Bitter chocolate. Vanilla toffee. Vanilla yogurt. White chocolate.
Conclusion: Ok, this tastes like a white stout. Okay, okay, white stout seems to have many definitions these days, some just based on stout meaning strong. This one tastes like an imperial stout, but with everything switched to white; White chocolate, the vanilla delivered as vanilla yogurt. In fact that yogurt is the element that really makes my point here. Lots of imperial stouts can feel like a chocolate milkshake – this turns that on its head and feels like its yogurt smoothie cousin.
Now the traditional stout flavours aren’t missed out, with dark fruit embedded in it and dark cocoa notes, but that different vanilla yogurt feel and taste mid body puts those traditional notes into a completely different context.
This different take on the Imperial Stout works better as it warms. Cool the yogurt dominates too much and it can make the beer feel kind of empty. Warm you get deep red wine and fruitcake notes that fill the emptiness and create contrast, like raspberries pocked in white chocolate.
In really intrigued to see how much of this is the base beer, and how much the barrel ageing. I’m used to vanilla and toffee notes from a bourbon barrel but not so much that they overpower the base imperial stout character.
Even as it warms it feels a tad too yogurt influenced to be special, a bit thick and cloying. It is very different though and I always appreciate that. I wonder if the Elysium would take better to a heavier barrel ageing. They have other variants so it may be worth a test. Anyway, overall more interesting as an experience than a beer in itself, but it has a lot of promise to make a very different take on the beer if they can just fine tune it.
Background: Grabbed from Independent Spirit, this is one of three barrel aged version of their Elysium imperial stout. The other two being Speyside whisky casks, one ex-sherry and one, I presume, ex-bourbon cask. I decided to go for the bourbon version as I have not tried Elysium and bourbon is often the smoothest and less intrusive barrel ageing method for me, so may give the best idea of the base beer. Or that is the theory at least. Drunk whilst listening to Dan Le Sac vs Scroobius Pip: Repent Replenish Repeat. I love that album.