Almost a year ago, we reviewed the Narwhal Imperial Stout by Sierra Nevada, a glass of pitch black malty goodness that is one of the most delicious winter treats. This year we were fortunate enough to get our hands on the incredibly rare 2015 Barrel Aged Narwhal. Sierra aged this already ridiculously delicious stout in Kentucky bourbon barrels for maximum flavor depth. Having already been impressed by the Barrel Aged version of Sierra’s Bigfoot Barleywine, the expectations for this brew are uber high. Let’s see how it stacks up.
Barrel Aged Narwhal pours a viscous pitch black with a creamy, beige head. The velvety foam has a slight tint of ruby that foreshadows the complexity of this stout. The aroma is similar to the original version but with a much stronger chocolate/cocoa presence and, of course, vanilla and cherry bourbon notes. Dark fruit and espresso also linger on the nose.
The chocolate flavors are intensified exponentially with the barrel aging. With creamy vanilla, dark fruit, and earthy oak, this stout is like a bourbon soaked chocolate cake. While the sweetness is robust, it does not overpower the beverage or impart any candy-like qualities. Tart cherry, espresso, and roasted coconut close out the profile with a lingering boozy resin. The body is heavy, smooth, and velvety, the perfect canvas for the rich chocolate and bourbon flavors.
Aging the Narwhal stout in a bourbon barrel takes this malty masterpiece to a completely new level. Robust, rich, and complex, Barrel Aged Narwhal is a craft beer heavyweight that conceals its incredibly high ABV in a sweet, chocolaty guise. If you have the willpower, cellaring this beast would be an excellent idea. However, no one would blame you for breaking into this cocoon before it becomes a butterfly.
- Appearance: Black / Creamy, Beige Head with Ruby Tint
- Aroma: Cocoa, Vanilla, Bourbon, Dark Fruit, Cherry, Espresso
- Flavor: Cocoa, Dark Chocolate, Cherry, Vanilla, Oak, Espresso, Cream, Coconut
- Mouthfeel: Heavy, Creamy, Velvety
- ABV: 12.9%