Tag Archive: Belhaven


Belhaven: Innis and Gunn: Highland Cask (Scotland: English Strong Ale: 7.1% ABV)

Visual: A bright mahogany influences the dark amber centre. Off white froth and small carbonation that helps the head flare with a quick swirl.

Nose:  Quick thick and pungent. Slight salty rocks backed by the sort of sharpness I would normally associate with raspberries.  Somewhat second hand bookshops, or more likely flaky dry oak as the beer warms.

Body: Double barreled punch of caramel sweetness and old booming oak.  Hint of liquorice. Slight rock salt and smoke. Dry, but quite vinous. Toffee.

Finish: Liquorice and hint of black cherry yogurt initially with a good British hop presence. Soon becomes more banana bread, dry white wine and dusty dry chocolate.

Conclusion: Interesting. I’m having to work quite hard against my initial preconceptions and expectations on this one. You see, I had an idea of what to expect from a highland cask aged beer, and let’s just say a touch of rock and salt wasn’t on the list. Also the level of vinous nature was more akin to something I would expect from the port cask or triple matured version. So I’m pretty much wrong footed from the start.

So, to try and get this back on steadier ground let’s take a look at what we find.  Well the I&G character is distinctive and in full force. Lots of the booming oak matched with complementing sweetness. In this case the sweetness has been ramped up by the whisky ageing, which makes it come in somewhat cloying.

So we put it all together, the old and the new, expect and unexpected, so what do we end up with?

Well it seems I&G tends to struggle with whisky casks, they tend to prefer the more fruit tone lending ageing materials such as the port cask version.  The beer, whilst flavoursome seems to struggle against the whisky kick.  It’s not a bad beer, the problems with excessive sweetness are made up for by the complexity the vinous qualities add, and it’s a beer with a hell of a lot of character, but they don’t all complement each other quite as well as they could.

Not the best, racks in about the same level as standard Innis and Gunn, but with a lot more variation on the quality of individual notes.

Background: Disclaimer: Received from Innis and Gunns’ promoters for review purposes. Many thanks.  I’m guessing they would want me to say this is available in Sainsburys. Because, ya know, it is. So there you go.

There seems to have been several versions of this beer knocking about, with a Canada release last year, and a Sweden release the year before that.  This one, the first UK release I’m aware of, seems closer to the Sweden version as it is aged in an unnamed 18 year Highland Whisky casks, unlike the Canadian version which spent 49 days in 21 year old oak.

Whilst I don’t have the ageing times for the Sweden version, this one has sixty nine days under its belt.  Would have been interesting to put the three head to head, but ah well what can you do.  Incidentally has an IBU (international bitterness units) of 20. While IBU’s are pretty loose in measuring actual bitterness it would be cool to see IBU’s listed more often, as I know a few people who just can’t handle the more heavily hopped beers and the additional info would do them the world of good in making buying decisions.

So far Innis and Gunn have been pretty damn solid, with Triple Matured and Rum cask as the top of the heap and the abomination that is the I&G blond beer at the bottom.

Innis and Gunn: Triple Matured (Scotland: Strong Ale: 7.2% ABV)

Visual: Dark rum red brown with a little dash of an off white head.

Nose: Rum, oak and malt. Lots of wood and wood shavings. Wheat chaff/grain and dry hops.

Body: Thick cream, raisins and charred wood. Blackcurrent/ blackcherry. Brandy snaps and raspberry Toffee, red wine and milk chocolate. Sherried fruit.

Finish: Milk, dry textured and white bread. Toffee. Sour touches in an understated fashion.

Conclusion: This is a top notch smooth beer – lovely rum and chocolate – the distinctive Innis and Gunn style, similar to the rum cask but smoother and richer.

Probably the most accomplished Innis and Gunn beer I have tried and brilliantly rich, just a notch below the world class efforts but damn good. A beer of high quality that slips well into many a social situation, from casual drinking to classy parties.

Very well crafted.

Innis and Gunn: Canadian Cask (Scotland: Strong Ale: 7.1% ABV)

Visual: Dark cherry red and oak. Bubbly brown head, large but short lived.

Nose: Musky oak, gin and sweat. Sour cherry, raisin. Old Clothes shops.

Body: Smooth, toffee, moderate hops. Raspberry, slight bitterness. Mellow whisky and vanilla extract. Rounded oak influences on the main body. Attics and grain stores.

Finish: Fudge, bakewells. Sour cherry. Slight gin feel again. Grapes and white wine.

Conclusion: Smooth and decent, lovely fudge finish and easy going. A nice mix of just so sweetness and whisky smooth body.

A decent experience of a beer- mellow, not extravagant. Comes across more of a refinement of a standard Innis and Gunn than a completely new beer. Not a bad thing in most respects.

Slightly dry and sour, decent added complexity to the main Inns and Gunn and gives a different character to an already enjoyable mainstream beer.

Innis and Gunn Rum Cask (Scotland: Strong Ale: 7.4% ABV)

Visual: Extreme dark red with wine like elements. Fizzy head dissipates quickly.

Nose: Sea salt, distinct rum and red wine. Slight soured cherries. Spicy and draws you in. Almost nautical character. Salt and vinegar crisps.

Body: Slick and smooth, red wine and marzipan. The rum characteristics are unmistakable, Chewy raisins. Not too heavy, drips sweetly down your throat. Rich feel and seems like the liquid crumbles in your mouth.

Finish: Raspberries and cherries mixed in cinnamon. Touch of black treacle.

Conclusion: So far the best Innis and Gunn beer made. A wonderful mix of red wine and beer character with a brilliant rum influence.

It is rich and fruity with a slight salt and nautical character that rounds it wonderfully. Never too harsh, it is a drink of leisure and for remising on times of adventure and past glories, a true call to days filled with wonder.

So yes, it is a fine beer in case you were still wondering.

(Note: Thanks to Paul Henderson for providing some bottles of this fine beer)

Belhaven/Greene King: Innis And Gunn IPA (2009 Canadian Market Version) (Scotland: IPA: 7.7% ABV)

Note: This version of the IPA can be recognized by the higher alcohol (7.7 compared to 6.4% and is a significantly different beer)

Visual: Clear light orange gold. Bubbly with a solid light frothy head.

Nose: Oak and vanilla. Creamy. This is nowhere near as expressive as the legendry nose of the prior version of the IPA. Malted sugar and hops.

Body: Sweet then oaky. Rounded rich notes hit like a double bass. Caramel. Light whisky like notes. Icing sugar and a bitter yet honeyed punch.

Finish: Treacle, hops and dusty. Bitter and sea waves.

Conclusion: A much more standard IPA than Innis and Gunns prior attempt which is great pity as the prior version was legendry.

Whilst the previous beer was not as good example of the IPA style it was an amazing beer in itself and had one of the best noses I have ever encountered.

Despite that disappointment this is still a fine beer and also a fine example of the IPA style.

Sweet front, lovely sea and oak imagery and rich on the mouth. This is a firm IPA, just not the classic IPA you wish they still made.

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