#499: Innis & Gunn Irish Whiskey Cask – Innis & Gunn, Edinburgh, Scotland
Innis & Gunn seems to be more divisive than I would have ever expected. I know people that truly adore the beers. On the other hand, a lot of the good beer veterans I know cast them aside rather quickly. What I don’t think anyone could argue against is that Innis & Gunn certainly has a distinct and consistent flavor profile throughout their beers. Maybe not everyone likes that, but it’s there. As for me, I do tend to like their beers. Not love, but like. So I was happy to see that a stout had been added to the range, and apparently it’s been aged in casks that were used by a “famous Irish distiller.” So let’s see what that’s about. Brewed with chocolate malt and unmalted, roasted barley, and hopped with Fuggles. 7.4% ABV.
Pours with a towering, creamy, dense mocha-colored head, sitting atop a thick, opaque black body. The aroma isn’t anything too fussy as far as the dry stout checklist would go; a potent roasted malt character, bit of dry cocoa powder and some mild espresso notes, with just a subtle hint of anything having to do with whiskey. In the battle of beer vs. whiskey, beer wins the first round. But things get much more competitive on the palate. It’s an interesting beer, really, because the whiskey notes only show up in flurries. The velvety, creamy mouthfeel passes over the palate with ease, carrying those time-tested stouty flavors of bitter dark chocolate, burnt malt and dry roasted coffee, but things heated up when I started swirling the beer around my mouth. Every time I did it, a distinct caramelly whiskey flavor was left behind, though this was never quite apparent on the tongue itself. Interesting. One might argue that the beer, then, doesn’t integrate the whiskey flavor very well, but I kind of enjoy it. The finish brings it all together a bit more, leaving some dry roast and caramel on the throat.
The Verdict: Perhaps my favorite Innis & Gunn beer to date. The buttery character I often find in their beers is much more subdued here, and it has the combination of dark malts and whiskey heat to thank for it. When it’s all put together, it works quite well. I’d happily have another.
It would’ve made a much greater deal of sense had I put up this review on July 4th, right? Sadly, that’s not how I do. On July 4th I drank Orval with my lobster dinner. Deal with it. Onto today’s beer, a limited edition brew to mark the American Independence Day of July 4th. It checks in at 7.0% ABV, brewed with American hops and Scottish barley, though I couldn’t find specifics on either one.
This one foamed up carefully and slowly. At first I was a little concerned that there would be no attractive layer of foam gracing the top of the beer, because such things make me happy. But it didn’t let me down, as an off-white rim of foam did appear, capping off the rubyish red/scorched amber body. A dip of the nose above the rim and the following mental sequence occurred: VANILLA VANILLA VANILLA VANILLA VANILLA VANILLA. And a slight skunkiness… I’d assume the clear bottle had a role to play in that one. Sigh.
A particularly sweet beer indeed. Innis & Gunn does seem to lean ever so slightly towards sweet with its beers, so that’s no surprise, but even for them this is uncharted territory. As evidenced by the nose, there’s a massive hit of vanilla from front to back. You never really forget that it’s there. This is joined by a touch of caramel, in a buttery sense, which in this context I quite like. The feel on the palate is interesting, kind of a cross between syrupy and well-carbonated, one over taking the other at different parts. Oaky bits in the finish, as well as the faintest touch of booze.
The Verdict: As I hammered throughout the review, a pretty sweet beer here. Quite nice, though, as it’s well-supported by the body, and the flavors are lovely.
#314: Innis & Gunn Original – Innis & Gunn, Edinburgh, Scotland
A review I had to get to sooner or later. It seems it’s that kind of week so far; doing bucket list reviews. Innis & Gunn as a company was kind of an accident. The original idea was to create something like “Ale Reserve Whisky,” so beer would’ve been placed into the barrel, set to age, and then removed and discarded, so whisky could take its place and be infused with ale flavors. Apparently the beer was too good to get rid of. Innis & Gunn Original is aged in oak Bourbon barrels and matured for 77 days, imparting all sorts of lovely flavors into this 6.6% ABV brew.
I always get annoyed when I see these clear bottles, I can’t help it. But I will say, it did look very, very, very appealing when I pulled it out of the ‘fridge. Looking at it in the bottle, it really does look quite a bit like whiskey. It has that scorched orange color that the drink is so well-known for. The head creamed up initially, but quickly settled out to the thin rim you see there. The aroma is just damn delightful. Tons and tons of vanilla, to go along with strong toffee and caramel, and a touch of that whiskey-ish booze.
And yet somehow it still manages to taste like beer, even with all of the flavors that have been imparted. The vanilla continues to come right on through, though it’s comparatively soft when you stack it up next to the nose. Certainly strong caramel and toffee flavors take up a good portion the room, joined by an underlying smokiness and that rich, warming whiskey-ish flavor that hangs on the edges. All of these flavors are wrapped nicely in the body, which has a nice “oomph” to it. Oak comes through in the finish, as it always does.
The Verdict: A must try, quite simply.