Tag Archives: Oak Aging

Innis & Gunn Spiced Rum Finish

With the success of the Rum Cask and refined Rum Finish, Innis & Gunn had produced a limited release of this Spiced Rum Finish, with Caribbean rum meeting Scottish ale for likely the first time ever in a beer. What results is a complex mixing of spice and sweet in the palate that either entices the drinker or confuses them as to the nature of the beer. Aged 47 days and at 6.9% this beer was a talking point at our tasting so I hope those who’ve had it before jump in to give their opinions too!

-Tristan

*****

At the time, this was my least favourite Innis & Gunn beer.  I did enjoy it, but it came as a bit of a shock how little I liked it in comparison to the others.

While somewhat heavily spiced, the flavours are rather subtle. The beer is not nearly as vibrant, fresh, or punctual as I’d like it to be. There is some nutmeg and caramel, but other than that, the spices are barely noticeable. On top of this, the oak-infused flavours, such as toffee, vanilla, and butterscotch, are all but lost, depleted by the muddled spices. This is what puts me off the most. Furthermore, the lingering spice and malt is not a taste I enjoy sitting on my palate for too long. That said, it’s still Innis & Gunn; it’s still rather smooth and crisp; it’s still better than most beers out there.

Nose: 19.5
Body: 20.5
Taste: 19
Finish: 18

Kamran: 78 pts.

*****

This beer was my favourite from the Winter pack for 2011. This fact even surprises me to be honest, as I kind of stood alone from the other three at the tasting. Perhaps this beer has a “love it or hate it”  quality about it, but personally I found it fresh and an intriguing mix of ingredients that Innis & Gunn brought to the table.

The nose was light/mellow spice with  vanilla, toffee, and a fruity tone that remained underlying throughout. The body was bitter from citrus hops and a medium level of thickness. Texture was a big part of enjoying this beer for me. The taste was complex compared to other beers from this brewery with biscuit like malt, spices, oak, and rum. The finish was spices and oak, which was smooth and drinkable.

I found thisto be very nice since it was drinkable, reasonably complex on the palate without working too hard to determine what was what. Overall a relaxing beer to drink and worth it if you’ve had the Rum Finish.

Nose: 23
Body: 24.5
Taste: 24
Finish: 24.5

Tristan: 96 pts.

*****

Final Average: 87 pts.

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Innis & Gunn Winter Ale

In the winter of 2011 Innis and Gunn released a winter pack with three beers and a collectible glass. The three beers were the Original, the Spiced Rum Finish and the Winter 2011. Needless to say Kamran and I purchased a few of these packs between the two of us. This brew was a rich savoury beer that was made for the winter night and could be sipped on next to the fire, or equally enjoyed with roast pork or rack of lamb for dinner.

-Tristan

*****

The Innis & Gunn Winter ale has a strong malt backbone, but enough hops and oak infused flavours to make for a crisp finish. While not as complex or profound as, say, the original or the Highland cask, it is quite delicious in its unique appropriation of the oak.

The sweetness of the malt integrates itself quite nicely with subtle flavours of vanilla and oak. While I miss that the toffee and caramel is all but lost on the Winter Ale, I can appreciate what it has to offer. The body is relatively creamier and heavier; unlike the original, I would prefer not to session this beer — it’s even more of a sipper. The palate is deftly complemented with flavours of roast and chestnut, that, while not long-lived, are quite enjoyable, and result in a long, consistent, and crisp finish.

Nose: 21.5
Body: 23
Taste: 22
Finish: 22.5

Kamran: 89 pts.

*****

Only two beers the night of this tasting, several months ago now, cracked the 90’s in scoring, and both happened to be in the Winter pack. This beer did so well because it seemed to be different than the tried and true approach of the brewery. It was richer and fuller while keeping the familiar sweetness, which was more subdued than usual.

With some unique aromas on the nose: Christmas pudding, apple, pear, dried fruit all hidden amongst the tamed malt and oak, this was an intriguing shift. The body for this Scottish ale was thick and well formed, creamy yet not heavy like a stout. The taste was primarily malty with some citrus orange zest, and a more of a rum taste than whisky in my opinion. The finish was vanilla, citrus, oak and it lingered in a nice and enjoyable mellow manner. A sipping beer through and through.

Kamran’s finishing thoughts struck the nail on the head so I wont repeat them here. However, I can only hope that next holiday season Innis and Gunn release a beer of similar caliber, and that hopefully I can purchase it sans the gift box as I now have a few too many Innis and Gunn glasses in my cupboards!!!!

Nose: 19.5
Body: 24
Taste: 24
Finish: 24

Tristan: 91.5 pts.

*****

Final Average: 90.25 pts.

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Innis & Gunn Rum Finish

The Rum Finish by Innis & Gunn is more than a re-branding of the Rum Cask, it is a change in the recipe and that’s why we are writing two separate reviews after performing a vertical taste test between the two. Be sure to read up on the Rum Cask article for our comparisons.

-Tristan

*****

Innis & Gunn’s replacement to the rum cask, I find, is slightly more enjoyable than its predecessor. I believe it retains more of the original flavours, which might come as a problem to those rum drinking lovers of the cask. Slightly darker and slightly maltier, the spices, though still there, are quite subtle, allowing the flavours of toffee and vanilla, infused from the oak, to come out more. With the malt comes a slight heaviness when compared to the rum cask, but it remains creamy; the full body is quite a delight. On the finish, the spices, particularly caramel, leaves the palate in wanting. It is consistent, fresh, and rather delectable.

Nose: 21.5
Body: 20
Taste: 20.5
Finish: 21

Kamran: 83 pts.

*****

As Kamran noted, this beer is a darker and more balanced/refined beer than the Rum Cask. Still aged for 57 days and maintaining a strength of 7.4%, this beer seems to better incorporate the different ingredients to make them more cohesive and play on one another in the palate.

The aroma is richer with a stronger smell of vanilla, rum, oak and spice. The body is less watery and more like a medium bodied porter – yet certainly not heavy! The taste is more sweet (possibly syrupy sweet is the way to define it best), a more pronounced rum taste than the Rum Cask is evident and very much appreciated. The finish sees the vanilla linger with the toffee, as per usual with Innis & Gunn I find, with very little rum as was delivered in the taste. Similar to the cask version, only this seems to last slightly longer before fading away.

While I do like this beer and find it improve over the Rum Cask, the lack of rum in the finish has been a detractor for both beers as the vanilla and toffee are very dominant. That said, this beer is great and I would recommend it to anyone who wants a unique beer that isn’t hoppy or bitter.

Nose: 24
Body: 21
Taste: 22
Finish: 19

Tristan: 86 pts.

*****
Final Average: 84.5 pts.

Side by side comparison.

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Innis & Gunn 18 Year Old Highland Cask (2011)

The Innis & Gunn Highland Cask is a once-a-year seasonal that comes out in the fall. As the name suggests, it’s a beer that has been aged in previously used single malt whisky barrels from the Highland area of Scotland. While they do not release the source of their barrels, and while it probably changes each year, it’s safe to assume they are purchasing from a major distributor, and, therefore, well-known distillery — likely owned by Grants. Highland single malts tend to be light, biscuity, and slightly sweet, particularly on the finish. These flavours and textures are transferred into the Innis & Gunn 18 Year Highland Cask which is aged for 69 days, and boasts a 7.1 alcohol percentage.

– Kamran

*****

On multiple occasions I have claimed the Innis & Gunn 18 Year Highland Cask as the best beer in the world. Since then, nothing has changed, and I have yet to meet a product that better epitomizes what a great beer should be. This is my favourite beer — this particular release. I have 4 bottles remaining; they have to last my lifetime! — I doubt they’ll last another year.

The original flavours typical of Innis & Gunn are even more pronounced here. Notes of vanilla, caramel, butterscotch, and honey come out in spades both on the nose and the palate. To top this off, there is a mild whisky taste, that comes through on the finish in particular, giving it a crisp, refreshing, long lasting aftertaste. The level of sweetness is quite high, and the beer is incredibly vibrant, unlike the 21 year, which we tasted — for the second time — vertically. The 21 year boasts notes of citrus, and the typical Innis & Gunn flavours are relatively subdued, while the 18 year is a powerhouse of aromas and tastes.

There is something highly fresh about the Innis & Gunn 18 Year. It must be the Highland water or something. The beer just tastes exceptionally fresh. There is a touch of whisky on one’s initial taste, that subverts itself into a creamy-velvetty-ness on the palate; the beer is certainly a touch heavier than the original. Besides making it more robust, I believe the whisky, in itself, opens up the flavours of the beer more. As a result, we have the strongest predilection of Innis & Gunn flavours, making it my favourite!

Nose: 24.5
Body: 24
Taste: 25
Finish: 24.5

Kamran: 98 pts.

*****

While I scored this beer well, my favourite Innis & Gunn was the predecessor to this beer, the Highland 21 year cask. And while Kamran and I may disagree on which vintage was better, this one surely does not disappoint even if it was my “second best” of the two years.

This vintage was sweeter on the nose with more malt, oak, vanilla, and toffee. The body was smooth and even crisp, if not a touch sharp for the first few sips. Compared to the 21 year, the 18 year cask was noticeably darker in colour. The taste was malty with some bitterness. There were notes of caramel and toffee with vanilla. The whisky was clearly more present in the taste of this vintage. While the finish lasted longer by a tad, it was pleasant with the combination of malt, whisky, and vanilla.

I think part of the reason Kamran and I have the two competing for top beers is because by the time he tried the 21 year it had already been aged compared to the fresh 2011 cask. Either way, the beer was excellent and I certainly hope that Innis & Gunn continue to make these seasonal releases involving the highland casks.

Nose: 25
Body: 23.5
Taste: 23
Finish: 23.5

Tristan: 95 pts.

*****

Final Average: 96.5 pts.

Head to head of the 18 and 21

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Innis & Gunn Canada Day (2011)

This is a special once-a-year seasonal by Innis & Gunn. It is released about 3 weeks prior to Canada Day, along with an ‘Independence Day” seasonal that’s exclusively seen in the states. Clearly they’re trying to take advantage of the increase in liquor sales around Canada Day/the 4th of July. That’s fine by me, a new Innis & Gunn beer is always special. The 2011 is stored for 54 days in ex-bourbon barrels, utilizes fuggles hops, and rings in at 8.3%.

– Kamran

*****

The Canada Day (2011) is complex and unique, and changes significantly over time (Check out the notes made on the 2012 version where we do a vertical tasting). While I had enjoyed this beer last summer upon the release, we didn’t taste this until it was nearly a half-year aged already, so bear this in mind while reading the review.

Initially, the Canada Day (2011) Innis & Gunn was quite hop-forward and citrusy. After a half-year, it was still relatively hop forward and citrusy. It is certainly the hoppiest Innis & Gunn beer I’ve had — never got to try the IPA. This level of hoppiness is quite pleasing to my palate, as I enjoy a nice well-hopped beer. Besides the hops are the typical Innis & Gunn flavours, such as toffee and vanilla. They are quite pronounced, but slightly subdued by the citrus-hop finish that dies rather quickly. One may also taste the yeast. I believe this is due to the bottle being aged for a half a year, and, after a year, we will find out that my belief was accurate. The body is creamy and smooth, though slightly lighter than the Original.

Nose: 23
Body: 22.5
Taste: 21.5
Finish: 20

Kamran: 87 pts.

*****

Canada is supposedly the third largest consumer market for Innis and Gunn -which isn’t exactly too surprising- and they have deemed us worthy of a special release brew! Aged 54 days and sitting at 8.3% alcohol/volume, this beer does feel much bolder than a typical Innis and Gunn.

On the nose there is a light hop aroma blended with malty sweetness, while the taste carries the hops, the malt is less pronounced and seemingly less balanced than others; however, it still has the vanilla and toffee notes mixed in there. The apricot coloured body was cloudy/opaque with less carbonation than the original, with a slight bitterness and thicker texture than the others. On the finish, it was oaken with lingering hops on the palate and the standard vanilla/toffee duo.

While it was a good beer and a change from the typical malty brews, the Original is still a better bet for cost and overall experience.

Nose: 23
Body: 20.5
Taste: 19
Finish: 18

Tristan: 80.5 pts.

*****

Final Average: 83.75 pts.

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Innis & Gunn Original

You are all in for a little treat. Tristan and I have tasted and reviewed each and every Innis & Gunn product released in the last 1-2 years. Since we’ve already posted on the Highland Cask 21 year (2010), that will be omitted, but you are soon to find reviews on the Original, Rum Cask, Canada Day 2011, Highland Cask 18 Year (2011), Rum Finish, Spiced Rum, Winter Ale, Irish Stout and, finally, the Canada Day 2012 — tasted vertically with a 1 year aged 2011. With the exception of the last two, we tasted the beers one after the other, within a night, referring and relating them to one another. This is how we will review them: with reference to one another. So, if you’re like us, and think Innis & Gunn makes some of the best beer in the world, take a trip through their collection with us!

Brewed in Scotland, Innis & Gunn follow a unique avenue in beer craftsmanship: oak-aging! You heard correctly; this is beer that, like most whiskies, rums, and red wines, has sat in an oak barrel, slowly picking up the flavours — vanilla, toffee, caramel, oak, etc. — the wood has to offer. There are few breweries that perform this feat, and Innis & Gunn, the originators, are — put simply — the best.

Oak cask maturation not only gives the beer it’s colour, it transforms the flavour compounds in ways unlike anything else. The original Innis & Gunn is stored for 79 days, longer than any of the other Innis & Gunn beers, but they utilize a virginal oak cask. In fact, Innis & Gunn original was first utilized by whisky distillers to imbue whisky casks with some beer flavour. Thank God one of them realized the beer they were throwing out was delicious! You may find the original regularly in both government and private liquor stores. It comes in single 330 or single 750 ml bottles, at a relatively inexpensive price, making it a real ‘go-to’ beer.

– Kamran

*****

The Innis & Gunn Original, while not my favourite beer in the world — though pretty damn close — is probably the beer I drink the most. Though I love to expand my horizons and try different beers, I find myself constantly returning to the Innis & Gunn; If I am picking out beer for a night, I almost always grab at least one. It’s a near perfect beer that everyone must try at least once in their life!

Smooth, Creamy, Rich, Vanilla, Toffee, Butterscotch: These are the main terms to describe Innis and Gunn beer, particularly the original. It is a true sipping beer that gets better with age and aeration. So, pour it into a glass, let it sit, then slowly enjoy it over time. On the nose, the original is replete with notes of vanilla, toffee, caramel, and oak. On the palate, these flavour are not subdued. They are rather MORE pronounced. It’s truly amazing what this low carbonated beer is capable of. The finish is long and smooth, making you, at once, desire another bottle.

Nose: 24
Body: 23.5
Taste: 24.5
Finish: 23.5

Kamran: 95.5 pts.

*****

Well this is the start of something fun! Yes, indeedy folks, we have done some palate practice and tackled the recent collection of fine beer from Innis & Gunn. While some may not have heard of them before, or seen the bottles in stores but passed over it… you need to try this beer a couple of times to really appreciate it. Luckily it’s not too expensive, and if you’re looking to expand you beer palate this is a good way to start. I moved away from the typical beers when I got my first batch of Innis & Gunn due to sheer curiosity. Now it is still one of my favourite breweries.

The original is the first I tried, naturally… …while I wasn’t so used to the taste at age 19, it did grow on me the few times I revisited it a few months later! Aged for 77 days and at 6.6% alcohol/volume, it is not a light beer, but a happy medium.  On the nose it has a rich and light sweetness to it, as well as a toffee, vanilla, and oaken aroma. Very appealing in my books. The body was, again, rich and light with a sweetness from the malt, toffee and vanilla. It was also quite smooth leading to a high level of drinkability. The flavour was malty, with light vanilla and toffee under the oak tones. In terms of an aftertaste or finish, the malt lingers on the palate with the taste slowly fading away. Very unobtrusive finish, which leads to the ability to enjoy several in a night should you choose.

While not my favourite of the collection, it is a very consistent beer in delivery across the spectrum for which we score. The recent arrival of Innis & Gunn on tap in Vancouver has however reaffirmed my appreciation of this beer as the difference in taste due to freshness is noticeable. As previously stated, try this beer!

Nose: 22.5
Body: 22.5
Taste: 22.5
Finish: 22.5

Tristan: 90 pts.

*****

Final Average: 92.75 pts.

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Driftwood Bird Of Prey: Flanders Red

Apparently the first of a series of sour Belgian-style beers, Driftwood released their one-year-oak-aged (American & French Wine Oak) Flanders red last fall. If you’re unaware of this style of beer, lambics are sour, acidic, wine-like beers that have undergone spontaneous fermentation/re-fermentation through exposure to wild yeasts and bacteria, particularly saccharomyces, lactobacillus, and brettanomyces. These bacteria, while not causing any ‘harm’ — toxicity — to the beers, degrade the consistency of the liquid, causing it to impart a ridiculous amount of flavour. The complexity of lambic, or lambic style beers, is unparalleled.

Their are many styles of lambics: geuze, which is a blend of young (1 year) and old (3 years or more) lambics; faro, a blend of lambic and freshly brewed beer; kriek, a lambic where sour cherries have been added and the beer undergoes spontaneous re-fermentation within the bottle; and several others, including other fruit added variations, are also considered lambics . Technically, Belgian sours such as Flanders red and Flanders brown, also known as Oud Bruin, are not lambics; they are traditionally produced in a different area of Belgium — West Flanders — use indigenous bacteria to that region, and may use a different strain of malt, such as red malt for Flanders Red. Comparing Flanders red and traditional lambics, such as geuze, is like comparing Cognac and Armagnac — essentially it’s the same thing. In the end, all undergo spontaneous fermentation; all are sour; all are aged in oak barrels; all utilize wild yeasts and bacteria; and all Belgian sours, despite having a similar effect on the palate, are intricate, complex, and, ultimately, unique.

– Kamran

*****

When I first had this Flanders red, I was still a novice when it came to sour beers. I had just recently grown accustom to their flavours, but I still wasn’t fully enveloped in the world of lambics. The Driftwood Bird Of Prey Flanders Red is the beer that put me over that edge. Ever since tasting this delectable beer, brewed by my second favourite Vancouver craft brewery, I have looked for lambic or lambic style beers everywhere, and each time I see them on tap — Alibi Room serves Storm Brewing’s Flanders Red as well as a seasonal Oud Bruin from Ian Hill, the Brewmaster at Yaletown Brewing — I jump for joy, knowing I will get to try an incredibly complex, highly flavourful, and relatively obscure beer.

When it comes to aesthetic appreciation, of anything of perceptible qualities, even beer, I believe that one must familiarize oneself with the medium and formal intricacies of the work. I typically discuss this notion when referring to art, such as music or film (see my film blog: Aesthetics Of The Mind), but I believe the same fundamental notion applies when it comes to taste as well. From a cognitive perspective, it seems that once one has experienced a particular impulse a few times, it becomes easier for synapses to get the message across clearly — something like muscle memory. So, familiarizing yourself with something, especially something as complex as a lambic-style beer, makes it more approachable, and ultimately, more pleasant. In the end, one may cultivate an appreciation for something that first appeared disturbing; one’s mind just needed to break it down, simplify it, and make it understandable.

That said, if you’ve tried a lambic or Flanders red before, and didn’t like it, keep trying. Some people frown at the saying, “you just don’t get it” — it appears condescending — but sometimes it’s appropriate. And it’s not a negative thing, it simply means you’re missing out on what makes this thing great. I know, personally, that sour beers are a taste one cultivates; they grew on me.

Now, to the review. Driftwood’s Bird Of Prey: Fanders Red opens with a strong tartness. A reason many may not get into sour beers is that they don’t let themselves experience anything more than the tartness. Amidst this acidic flavour though, are notes of yeast, barnyard, sour fruit, sweet fruit, sour candy — think cherry warheads — oak, orange peels, wildflowers and bacteria — think rotten fruit or moldy bread, but in a pleasant way, complemented by acidity (yes, I’m serious).

The level of sourness differs between all the styles, and even within particular styles; Driftwood’s Flanders red is certainly highly sour, but not extraordinarily so. The sourness is not overwhelming, and I actually find tamer lambics quite boring, so Driftwood basically hit the nail on the head with this one. Despite the sourness, which makes it more of a sipping beer, it’s quite light and easy on the palate. Though I never got to do it with this particular beer, I have had several instances at Albi Room where I drank sour beers all night without tiring of them. While the tartness remains, the level of acid makes the finish extremely crisp. It’s kind of like the crisp finish that a highly bitter IPA imparts, except with a remaining sensation of sour sweetness rather than bitterness — quite an appealing pleasantry. I really wish I had realized it at the time and bought a case while it was available.

Nose: 24
Body: 23.5
Taste: 24.5
Finish: 24

Kamran: 96 pts. 

*****

Well what’s left to be said after an expose like that?!?! Lambic 101 and a review! I’ll keep this short and sweet. This was my first foray into lambic beers and by God did it make a damn fine impression. Even when I first tasted this beer I noted, “a privilege to drink!”, and to the others agreed. While I applaud some of the other lambics available in Vancouver, as mentioned by Kamran, Driftwood’s still stands out as a memorable beer.

The nose was appealing and similar to Belgians I had had before (sweet, fruity, even citrussy), but unique unto itself. From the scent alone you could not determine this beer was packing a sourness to it. The body too had a nice mix of sourness and floral belgian fruity combinations that tickled the tongue. It was not overpowering and a nice light consistency.

The taste was “zingy” as my notes recorded. In finish, the beer lingers slightly over a brief period (I wished it would last longer), but is light and makes you wish you could open another once the bottle is finished.

Overall this beer put me on the path to try other lambics, which are my favourite variety of Belgian beer. I do hope that Bird of Prey will return again later in 2012 but somehow I feel I shouldn’t set my hopes too high on that as sources say this was a one-off production. I’m just glad I could get my hands on it!

Nose: 25
Body: 23
Taste: 24
Finish: 22

Tristan: 94 pts.

*****
Final Average: 95 pts.

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Tullibardine 1488, Premium Whisky Beer

Tullibardine are best known as a distillery who produce a highland single malt scotch, but they also produce a collection of beers. One of which is their award winning strong English ale, the “Tullibardine 1488 Premium Whisky Beer”. This bottled beer is strong at 7% and certainly one of the most expensive we’ve seen for its size. The process in which it is made is similar to the Innis & Gunn style of aging the ale in casks. The Tullibardine brewery age the ale in freshly disgorged casks for up to twelve weeks to add not only the richness of the oak barrel, but the inclusion of whisky that had been absorbed by the wood orginally. It has a strong nose, body and flavour, if whisky beer is your niche perhaps this one is up your alley.

– Tristan

****
As a whisky enthusiast and Tullibardine advocator, I can’t help but love the idea of this beer — I became quite excited when first hearing about it. My excitement was some what dampered when I saw the price — even with $1 off, it’s almost twice the price  of the original Innis & Gunn, which is a relatively expensive beer in its own right. Money aside, I had to try this beer, and have done so several times before we conducted our tasting. Perhaps this explains why I like this beer so much more than James and Tristan; the Tullibardine Whisky Ale seems to be a beer of acquired taste. I think my familiarity with whiskies as well as this beer in particular permitted me to enjoy it more than the others.

With that said, despite being an enjoyable whisky beer, assertively flavoured with a delicate touch of Tullibardine sweetness, this whisky ale is not for everyone, and even for those that it does work for, it’s not quite worth the price — I’d much rather have an Innis & Gunn in each pocket. The subtle complexities and obvious whisky notes of this ale are to be enjoyed but once in a while. One is enough, you don’t find yourself wanting another anytime soon, and it’s a nice treat  to sip this unique beer from time to time. As one’s palate becomes accustomed to its flavours,  I believe that it gets better and better with each visit.

Nose: 20
Body: 21.5
Taste: 21
Finish: 19

Kamran: 81.5 pts.

*****

While  whisky beers have become a favorite of mine, as with the brewery Innis & Gunn, I cannot help but find this particular ale of Tullibardine to miss the mark… or rather overshoot it. Instead of delivering a well rounded whisky beer that truly compliments the other ingredients, I’m left wondering what else could be in the ale aside from the oak and whisky. Upon first sniff I was overwhelmed by the strength of the whisky and could not locate the vanilla that the brewer claims is in there. The ale, honey or light amber in colour, was quite opaque and appeared more of a wheat beer than a traditional ale. It was a strong bodied beer to be certain, but the whisky taste seemed to overpower the sweetness of the vanilla or nuts that were added. The finish was what really fell flat for me. There was only the slightest amount of spice to the ale, and the whisky taste was certainly short lived. Personally this beer was too heavy on the whisky side and poorly balanced unlike their traditional 1488 ale. Unlikely I’d buy this beer again, even if the price dropped to a more reasonable amount.

Nose: 19
Body: 18
Taste: 16.5
Finish: 13

Tristan: 66.5

*****

To continue the whisky beer theme, we offer you an immediate comparison to Innis & Gunn with Tullibardine and their version of whisky-inspired beer. Offering a similar scent to the I&G 21yr, yet with a more obvious citrus presence compared with hints of vanilla, it is a perfect invitation to try this beer. Initial impressions are good, with a low carbonation that creates a smooth texture, but also makes the beer quite heavy, lowering its consumption factor.

What causes this beer to fall, in my eyes, is the taste and finish. With the Innis and Gunn, the whisky qualities are subtle, adding to the character of the beer. Tullibardine, on the other hand, has a domineering whisky flavour, overpowering any other flavours which may be present. It is powerful enough to take away from the flavours naturally occurring in the beer and replace them with a glass of whisky. The finish does not help matters by dying extremely quickly, leaving the drinker wondering what happened?

For those who like their whiskys, this may be the beer for you, as it essentially feels like having a very large, cool, whisky. For all others, I recommend trying this once, but no more than that.

Nose: 22
Body: 20
Taste: 15
Finish: 12.5

James: 69.5

*****

Final Average: 72.5 pts.

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Innis & Gunn 21 Year Old Highland Cask (2010 Edition)

Brewed in Scotland, Innis & Gunn follow a unique avenue in beer craftsmanship: oak-aging! You heard correctly; this is beer that, like most whiskies, rums, and red wines, has sat in an oak barrel, slowly picking up the flavours — vanilla, toffee, caramel, oak, etc. — the wood has to offer. There are few breweries that perform this feat, and Innis & Gunn, the originators, are — put simply — the best.

Oak cask maturation not only gives the beer it’s colour, it transforms the flavour compounds in ways unlike anything else. In the case of Innis & Gunn’s annual Highland Cask, the beer is stored for 49 days in a previously used Highland scotch Cask — note that the original Innis & Gunn is stored for a longer period, but in a previously unused oak cask.  While Innis & Gunn do not reveal the source of their Highland cask — the distillery or whisky used — those who are familiar with Scotch may be aware that the Highland area of Scotland is typically known for producing rich, subtlysweet, unpeated/mildy peated whisky.

Herein we are reviewing the 2010 edition, which was aged in a 21 year old Highland cask; the bottle has therefore been sitting idle for about a year, and, since the alcohol by volume (ABV) is not nearly high enough to preserve it indefinitely, some minor changes may have occurred. Nonetheless, we each strive to appreciate and score the products we review by focusing squarely on 4 characteristics — nose, body, flavour, finish; we do not allow preconceptions or politics to interfere with our judgement.

– Kamran

*****

Innis & Gunn is perhaps my favourite beer producer — it’s a toss up between them and Phillips — and, as a whisky enthusiast, the annual Highland Cask is, to me, amongst the pinnacle of beer creation. While I’m not nearly as big of a fan of the 2010 edition as I am of the newest (2011, 18 year cask) one — perhaps it’s the softening effect that an extra 3 years of oak maturation admits, or the fact that we drank a bottle that was a  year old — I was still pleasantly satisfied with this particular Innis & Gunn beer.

Boasting many typical Innis & Gunn characteristics, the 2010 Highland Cask emits a bouquet of vanilla, caramel, and toffee, is rich, full bodied, and complex — best when *sipped* at somewhere between refrigerating and room temperature — and has a long lasting, savoury finish. Unlike the original or 2011 edition, this Innis & Gunn hosts notes of citrus on the nose and palate, somewhat reconcilable with Innis & Gunn’s Spiced Rum Finish (appears in the 2011 Winter 3-pack).

While the palate is somewhat more refined and complex than the 18 year Highland Cask from this year, it is also somewhat lighter, more fruity-citrusy, and less caramel-vanilla-toffee-like. This only proves how each cask provides a different flavour profile for the product stored within it; the particular cask, where it’s from, what it was previously used for, where it’s stored, and how long the aging lasts: all these things make  a difference, and this unique Innis & Gunn beer is one not to be missed — count yourself lucky if you can find one!

Nose: 22.5
Body: 23
Taste: 24

Finish: 24

Kamran: 93.5 pts.

*****

Since 2003 Innis and Gunn have made their mark in the beer world. This particular edition of their limited releases is a personal favourite of mine. Aged 49 days in the cask, as Kamran’s intro wonderfully describes, this honey coloured beer is light, smooth and has little head when poured, yet still full-bodied. This strong beer is fruity and sweet in its nose compiled of a toffee, caramel and vanilla aroma that causes anyone to greatly anticipate the moment of the first sip. The complexity of vanilla, oak and bitter notes are masterfully captured and blended in the flavor. The aftertaste on the palate is balanced between one of oak, and a spiced vanilla nature. Certainly a refreshing and smooth feeling/tasting experience.

Nose: 25
Body: 23.5
Taste: 25
Finish: 24

Tristan: 97.5 pts.

*****

If you have read my piece in the About section, you will know that there are few beers that can make a threshold of 90 or above, so anything that comes close should be considered noteworthy. This is the case with the Innis & Gunn 21yr Highland Cask, as its highly unique arouma combined with a one-of-a-kind flavour make it a special drinking experience. The influence of the Highland Cask is easily detected right from the start, as the scent of this beer bears a striking resemblance to that of a strong spirit. As you proceed to the tasting, you find a full bodied, yet smooth beer, which gives the illusion that you will be enjoying a very heavy drink, when in fact the beer is surprisingly light, giving it a higher consumption factor. This is emphasized by the beer’s distinctive caramel overtones, which are strong enough to notice, but are not overpowering, allowing you to enjoy the taste over a prolonged period. The finish continues this sensation, with a light bitterness to tell you that you should take another sip!

Nose: 22
Body: 22
Taste: 22
Finish: 22

James: 88 pts

*****

Final Average: 93 pts.

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