De Molen: Hemel & Aarde (Netherlands: Imperial Stout: 10% ABV)
Visual: Black. Moderate brownish creamy head.
Nose: Iodine. Peat bogs. Smoked kippers. Seaweed. Blue cheese. Beef broth.
Body: Smooth textured body. Iodine. Light cherries. Chocolate. Salt. Caramel. Beefy – soft and falling apart beef chunks. Milky coffee. Cane sugar. Smoke. Light blue cheese comes out late on.
Finish: Bitter cocoa. Iodine and salt. Coffee. Charred oak. Smoke.
Conclusion: Ok, first things first – this is not as good as the legendary Octomore Barred Aged version of this. How could it be, that thing was liquid heaven; I seriously wish I had done tasting notes on it. This, unfortunately does not manage to quite scale those heights.
The aroma does come close though – big, chewy with blue cheese, seaweed and peat. Beefy, yet medicinal, it is an absolute luxury of big, strong flavours – albeit ones that are learned pleasures – everything is challenging and all mashed up in an aromatic meal.
The body doesn’t quite match that – it still kicks the iodine out, backed by caramel sweetness – still a mix of sweet, bitter and beefy notes, but not overly well integrated. This is where the Octomore barrel ageing in the other version took it to the next level – it took each of these strong elements and mixed it into a coherent whole. Here it is still a mix of big flavours, but you get either the strong medicinal, or the strong sweetness but rarely both at once.
It still has a lot of punch – smoke, cane sugar, coffee – Unfortunately the blue cheese takes a very long time to turn up in the mid body, which is a missed opportunity I feel. I love a good blue cheese filled strong beer. Filled with flavour, not literally blue cheese, of course. Anyway, this is utterly unbalanced – in can be sickly sweet at one moment then drying medicinal the next. I love the flavours it uses but it is very far from polished.
As you have probably worked out already, the octomore aged version rocks on toast. This one is an interesting, but not coherent, experience.
Background: I have tried this beer before! Well, not this exact beer, the octomore barrel aged version. It was heavenly (no pun intended, as the beer name translates as “Heaven and Earth”), an absolute legend of a beer. Unfortunately I did not have my review kit to hand, so now, I try this, the standard version grabbed from Independent Spirit. This imperial stout is made with the most heavily peated malt from the Bruichladdich distillery, so is right up my alley. Drunk while listening to The Algorithm: Brute Force – originally on their youtube channel, but have since bought my own copy of it as I enjoyed it.