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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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Fernie Brewing Company: First Trax Brown Ale

The fourth and final installment of the Fernie Brew Co. mixer pack that we tasted. The First Trax is interesting in that it claims to use eight different malts in the mix! It is a heavier beer than the other Fernies and tastes better the longer you drink it. While not overly complex, I can see this beer being more well received than some of the others in the mixer due to it’s richer flavours and full nose.

– Tristan

*****

Having tried this one before, and enjoyed it a fair bit, I expected it to be my favourite of the mixer, and looked forward to tasting it again. While I estimated correctly that it would be my favourite, I didn’t enjoy the First Trax nearly as much this time around — simply the victim of a proper analysis.

Boasting a wide variety of malts, the First Trax Brown Ale is rich, fairly complex, and on the darker end of the spectrum. The chocolate-cocoa-toffee sweetness on the nose is quite pleasant, and certainly more appealing than the malt derivatives of the Big Caboose. On the palate, it tastes and feels like a traditional nut brown — think Cannery Nut Brown or Howe Sound Rail Ale. While it’s got a fairly robust body, it’s not nearly heavy enough to be filling, and I could, quite easily, drink several of these in a short period. The finish leaves one with a lingering chocolatey sweetness that is somewhat enjoyable, but gets tiresome.

Having done the Big Caboose Red and the First Trax Brown back to back, I have realized that a good red ale requires a certain amount of hops — and a good brown ale requires a certain amount of malts — to make it appealing. The First Trax, with a sufficient amount of malts, is simply better integrated than the under-hopped Big Caboose.

Nose: 19.5
Body: 19
Taste: 21
Finish: 18.5

Kamran: 78 pts.

*****

While this was better than the Big Caboose Red Ale, in my opinion this beer wasn’t as impressive as the Griz Pale Ale or the Buck Wild Ale. Personal opinion I know, but I do see more people enjoying this one as its nose, body and flavours could be more in line with the majority of people.

The nose was sweet as a result of the malts used, but it also had a caramel-esque, chocolate, almond and pine smell from the varying malts. Intriguing yes, but a wee bit sweet for my liking. The body was a little surprising as the bitterness took the first swing at my taste buds when I was fully expecting it to be sweet as sugar. It was thicker than the prior beers from the mixer pack, so I’m not sure if I would recommend people buy a 6-pack to consume for a party or event unless they enjoy a filling beer. The Taste was bitter, almost like an espresso or dark roast coffee behind the malts. The finish was actually drier than expected, and of course… malty.

A little bolder in the malts, this beer has a slight complexity to it, but perhaps more hops are needed to even things out. Or I’m just knit-picking… either way it’s a good beer, but I prefer the first two of the Fernies we tried to this and the latter, red ale, in the box.

Nose: 16
Body: 16
Taste: 15
Finish: 15

Tristan: 62 pts

*****

Final Average: 70 pts.

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