Siren: Bourbon Milkshake (England: Imperial Stout: 11% ABV)

Visual: Black. Still. Thin off white head.

Nose: Lots of toffee, caramel and vanilla. Milky chocolate and bourbon. Rye notes. Vanilla custard.

Body: Massive cherries – both red and glacier. Treacle. Chocolate milkshake and chocolate liqueur. Nougat. Lots of toffee and caramel. Light pepperminty and menthol. Golden syrup.

Finish: Treacle. Palma violets. Red cherries. Chocolate milkshake. Light greenery and peppermint. Lactose. Vanilla toffee. Light oak and menthol. Bourbon. Slight liqueur notes.

Conclusion: There’s a lot more going on to this that I first thought, or even expected. It opens with an aroma that hollers out the bourbon ageing; Lots of caramel, toffee and vanilla notes; Lots of spicy rye bourbon influence, and lots of smooth vanilla character from American oak. It is like a whole wodge of bourbons pushed into one. Pretty great, but, frankly hardly unexpected from a bourbon aged imperial stout. So after taking in the booming, detectable from afar, aroma I took my first sip.

Boom. A complete change. The first thing that hits is cherries, sweet like a barley wine with golden syrup and nougat coming in against the more expected chocolate character for an imperial stout. Still toffee and caramel from the bourbon showing through here, but with so much more as well.

So, at this point it is a milky imperial stout meets barrel ageing, meets barley wine, meets ESB fruitiness. Already thick and packed with character and varied notes. There is, however, one more, final element. And here it is both kind of good and kind of bad. A kind of minty, greenery, menthol peppermint note. It is a refreshing note, and that works well to lessen the overwhelming intensity and sweetness of the rest of the beer. However, occasionally it could do with being a bit lighter and let the rest of the beer shine more – it can be a bit too dominant at points.

Still, it is a minor weak point in a hugely complex, rich and rewarding imperial stout. Not 100% spot on, but still just managed to claw itself in as one of the all time greats of the style If you like Imperial Stout, definitely go for it. It has all the thickness and richness of a good IS, but takes it in its own distinctly awesome direction.

Background: This one was highly recommended to be by the good people of Independent Spirit, so I grabbed a bottle and put it aside for a later date. It’s an imperial stout, hardly like it is going to go off, right? It’s an imperial milk stout made with vanilla, muscavado and honey then aged in mixture of George Dickel, Wild Turkey, Four Roses and other bourbon barrels. This was the first beer I did notes on after a gap after returning from Germany and was drunk while listening to some of the excellent Miracle of Sound.

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