De Struise: Black Damnation: 09: Beggar’s Art (Belgium: Imperial Stout: 18.1% ABV)

Visual: Black. Still. Fairly small brown bubbled head.

Nose: Oily. Moss. Medicinal air. Wholemeal brown bread. Hints of blue cheese. Crushed chocolate bourbon biscuits. Kippers. Peat smoke.

Body: Oily. Thick. Cherries. Chocolate fondue. Medicinal. Beef slices. Peat smoke.


Finish: Meat feast pizza toppings. Oily. Slight salt. Peat smoke. Cherries. Medicinal. Milky chocolate. Milky coffee. Cream. Bready. Hint of blue cheese.

Conclusion: Ardbeg is surprisingly hard to use for barrel aging a beer. It can become so dominant in its harshness that it overpowers the base beer, but also in doing that loses the subtleties that makes it work so well as a complex and booming whisky.

I think that they brewed this at over 18% abv just to try and give it a chance to go up against that Ardbeg character, and you know what? It works.

The aroma is very Ardbeg led, though a bit more oily that what I would expect from that dram. In fact that unexpected oiliness follows through into the entire beer and is very pleasant at it, giving EVEN more weight and character. There is then familiar medicinal notes and peat smoke in an almost kippers like fashion. Also very pleasing to me, there are very subtle blue cheese notes that remind me of my favourite Ardbeg expression I have ever tried.

The beer, when you actually push past the aroma and sip it, manages a heavy, thick chocolate fondue style to creamy, complex coffee body, which is amazing, then utterly brutalised by Arbeg character. In a good way.

It is smoother than you would imagine, both in lack of alcohol burn and creaminess of character but uses that to show the peat smoke, meat and that oily element off well. Somehow, with all that going on, despite the weight of the Islay character occasionally sweet cherry notes manage to poke their heads above the parapets to be enjoyed. It took 18% or so, but they did it, they made a beer that can stand up to Ardbeg.

This is a beast and I love it. It is big enough to be big and chewy by itself, and the Islay influence is huge but managed. I mean how can I not love something that occasionally brings out those blue cheese notes amongst the Ardbeg influence. Do you like Imperial Stouts? Do you like Islay? No question then, get this, it is great.

Background: A big De Struise fan here, but never managed to get hold of any of their big Black Damnation imperial stouts. Then first one I do is this, an over 18% abv one aged for two years in Ardbeg casks. Well that is a heck of a way to kick things off. Not much else to add, one grabbed from Independent Spirit. Wanted something operatic and metal for a beer this big so went with Nightwish: Dark Passion Play.