1. American Craft Beer Fest is this weekend in Boston, Mass. Join us for 640+ beers from 140+ brewers! Tickets for Friday, May 29 are still available. Cheers!

Narwhal Imperial Stout - Barrel Aged - Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.

Not Rated.
Narwhal Imperial Stout - Barrel AgedNarwhal Imperial Stout - Barrel Aged

Educational use only; do not reuse.

1,263 Ratings

(view ratings)
Ratings: 1,263
Reviews: 182
rAvg: 4.34
pDev: 8.76%
Wants: 213
Gots: 670 | FT: 107
Brewed by:
Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. visit their website
California, United States

Style | ABV
Russian Imperial Stout |  12.90% ABV

Availability: Rotating

Notes & Commercial Description:
Beer added by: BeerAdvocate on 01-11-2013

This deliciously dark treat is our bold Narwhal Imperial Stout aged in oak Kentucky bourbon barrels. Black as midnight, this intense stout is incredibly complex with notes of dark chocolate, rich roasted grains, and espresso seamlessly blended with hints of vanilla and toasted coconut with a slight touch of honey from aging in the oak spirit casks. Nearly as rare as its nautical namesake, try it out while you can because, like the creature itself, it will disappear into the blackness soon and leave nary a trace behind.

Additional Info:
Narwhal was aged for 8 months in fresh bourbon barrels (a combination of Willett single barrel, Heaven Hill and various Beam brands).

ABV: 12.9
IBU’s: 62
Bittering Hops: Challenger
Malts: Two-row Pale, Caramel, Chocolate, Honey, Carafa III, Roasted Barley
Beer: Ratings & Reviews
to view more.
Ratings: 1,263 | Reviews: 182
Reviews by McUbermensch:
More User Reviews:
Photo of ThickNStout
4.75/5  rDev +9.4%

Corked and caged 750mL bottle from Sprayberry Bottle Shop (Marietta, GA). 22.99. Bottled 10/14/14. Served in a Barrel and Barley teku.

Pours midnight black with a two and a half finger cap of dense, pale tan head. The froth slowly settles to a thin ring that leaves some nice patches of lace.

Sweet, rich, inviting smells of bourbon, vanilla, chocolate, burnt oak, coffee and caramel with a hint of the fairly formidable alcohol in the background. Quite nice.

Flavors are bold, rich and ocassionally bordering on hot. Dark chocolate fudge, bourbon, charred oak, vanilla, heavily roasted malts, burnt caramel, espresso, faint coconut, marshmallow, vague dark fruits and a nice blanket of booze over it all. Despite the name, this seems like a different stout than the base beer. Significantly sweeter with almost none of the anise that I recall being so prevalent. An outstanding blend of imperial stout and barrel character that goes down with an ease that belies it's near-13% abv.

Sludgy, heavy, creamy feel with an interesting, lethargic seeming carbonation. That may not read as a compliment but the mouthfeel is almost perfect for an imperial stout. Bittersweet dark fudge, bourbon and sweet barrel linger in the finish.

I remember thinking Narwhal had some real potential when I first tried it two years ago and that potential is fully realized in this barrel aged version. The barrel smooths out the flavors, adds a wonderfully sweet complexity and seems to have thickened it beautifully. This beer came out of left field and surpassed my expectations, which is a rare occurrence these days. Yes this is a tad pricey but Barrel Aged Narwhal is a benchmark example of what a barrel aged imperial stout can be and possibly the best beer I've had from the craft veterans at Sierra Nevada. Seriously- try this if you can!

Photo of maximum12
4.27/5  rDev -1.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Thanks to my beautiful wife for hunting this one down at an obscure liquor store near her work after I missed out on it. Big 750ML bottle which, I suppose, I really must split with said significant other. Sampled right after the regular old version…which kicks ass. I have high hopes.

The pour is black. Real black. Black black. Black. Carbonation is even lower than in the version that never kissed a barrel. Baby Narwhal appears to have been drowned in a barrel, because the base beer has gone away. Smells of barrel, vanilla, with a faint, perhaps imagined grain of malts.

Narwhal – Barrel Aged tastes like Narwhal that’s been stuck in a barrel. There’s a lovely shot of vanilla on top of the beer, & a low-slung murmur of bourbon with a Kenny Wayne Sheppard riff. Plenty of oak listing against my tongue, lightly roasted, lightly chocolated. Silky & smoother than the pilot episode. I could drink this again. Now. Or later.

Honestly not all that different from the base beer, but interesting to have them front-to-back. The barrel is light but inviting & adds a touch of class to a beer that was in class, in a class, classless. What the fuck. I shouldn’t drink so much. Excellent brew.

Photo of RAlmeida77
3.03/5  rDev -30.2%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 2 | overall: 2.75

VERY underwhelmed by this one. Bourbon aroma and flavor was lacking for me. I like more of a bourbon presence. Also found it to be very thin for an imperial stout with an ABV like this. I really like thick drinking stouts. Disappointed.

Photo of ajz132
4.63/5  rDev +6.7%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

750 mL bottle poured into a Jester King teku glass. ~12 oz poured initially. Date was smudged on the bottle and not legible.

A - This beer is bllllllacckkkkk - as dark as the depths of the water that its mastadonic namesake dives to many times a day. 2 fingers of frothy, mocha-colored head quickly receded to one and none after the beer sat for just a few seconds. Lacing consists of many small bubbles that quickly disappear.

N - The aroma on this beer is delightful and complex - that of a high end dessert establishment. The bourbon notes are the first thing that your nose grabs, but notes of dark chocolate, vanilla bean, and espresso are present as well.

T - When the beer is still cold (~50 F), the bourbon flavors are the first thing that you get and remain throughout the sipping of the beer, with some trailing coffee flavors. As the beer warms up, there are pronounced flavors of chocolate when the beer first hits the tongue, melding well with the bourbon flavors you pick up in the middle, and finishing with lingering espresso. The taste is quite good, but the wonderful sweetness that I look for in GREAT BA stouts is just not there.

M - For being a 12.9% monster, the mouthfeel on this beer is not as huge as it could be. While it is obviously no session beer, it is quite drinkable. It does, however, drink a little bit "hot" even when it has warmed up. I don't know if it has to do with the barrels that were used or just what, but the booziness is more pronounced than in the "elite" BA stouts.

O - This beer is no question a GREAT one. I certainly wouldn't let it sit on a table and not drink it, regardless of circumstances. That being said - it is not in the same class as the other world-class BA stouts that we all love, even though it has a similar price tag.

Photo of deadonhisfeet
4.45/5  rDev +2.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Poured from a bottle into a Brooklyn Brewery snifter. The pour is very dark, perhaps not quite black, and sports an impressive bloom for a barrel-aged beer. The nose has lots of chocolate and dark fruit as well as hints of oak, vanilla, and some smoke.

Full body, fairly firm feel, and lots of great flavor. The dark fruit on the nose turns out to be nothing more than a tease, but there's a lot to like here. Toasted oak, vanilla, toffee, and chocolate do battle up front while at mid-palate the warming bourbon-laced booziness adds richness to an already rich flavor. Lots of bittersweet chocolate rushes in on the finish, which leaves lingering chocolate and toasted oak behind. Try to imagine a toasted almond dipped in bourbon and covered in dark chocolate and you get the idea. Quite drinkable for such a strong beer. Excellent sipper on a chilly January evening.

A lot of breweries make bourbon barrel aged stouts. Not many make them this delightful. This is another beautiful beer from Sierra Nevada. It reminds me a lot of Bell's Black Note Stout, only with a slightly thinner feel and a bit better nose. Pricey at about $20 per bottle, but very high quality. Buy with confidence.

Photo of cosmicevan
4.25/5  rDev -2.1%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

enjoyed side by side with a 2014 narwhal from sierra nevada 30th anni globe snifter.

a - brew pours a rich shiny silky black. great shine nice frothy offwhite head. great lace, esp for a BA brew. looks like the base, but the BA has bigger lace.

s - nose is exactly ad advertised...a big woody bourbon glazing over the nice roasted chocolate notes of the base.

t/m/o - really well balanced BA stout. has all the robust chocolate roast and chewy body of the original with a really nice glaze of woody bourbon. the barrel takes some of the extremeness of the roast of the base and sits it in the back seat. an improvement to an already tasty beer. the barrel aging really takes it to another level. very good, easy drinking and worth checking out.

Photo of Nobcefus
3.45/5  rDev -20.5%
look: 4 | smell: 3.25 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.25 | overall: 3.5

I would have enjoyed stronger bourbon notes. I also don't like using the word "notes".

Photo of smb
4.78/5  rDev +10.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.75

Great across the board. Specifically... the intense, rich and overwhelming milk chocolate, vanilla and toasted coconut flavors, as well as the chewy, slightly oaky, creamy feel that coats and envelopes your palate as the flavors linger. Maybe not as much barrel as some would like, but it's there, just subtle.

The only reason the ratings aren't higher here is because it's fairly easy to get... but it's also easily one of the best of 2014.

Photo of Gr8Stouts
4.77/5  rDev +9.9%
look: 5 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.75

Buy it! Worth the price. Top 5 Imperial Stouts

Photo of lordofthewiens
4.5/5  rDev +3.7%

One of the best stouts I've ever had.
Aroma of bourbon, chocolate, and dark fruit.
Taste improved on the aroma.

Photo of Motleydrunk56
4.31/5  rDev -0.7%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

750 ml Bottle.Poured into 12 oz glass jet black in color.Smell is Bourbon and Chocolate with a touch of Coffee.Taste is quite an assault on your taste buds with the Bourbon up front and the Chocolate and coffee in the background.At first drink it was hard to handle but I did get used to it an it is pretty good.But for the money{18.99} I would probably stick to the regular Narwhal which is also pretty good.Give it a try.

Photo of gibgink
4.73/5  rDev +9%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Really enjoyable BA stout from Sierra Nevada. Takes Narwhal up a notch. Picked up the bourbon, but not in excess. Tasted some chocolate notes, and roasted flavors as well. Very well done. Would recommend.

Photo of MattyG85
4.52/5  rDev +4.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.75

Poured from a corked 750 ml bottle into a Surly Darkness chalice.

Appearance: Pours midnight black with a moderate amount of bubbles. Slight finger of tan head that quickly fades away.

Smell: A rich, roasty, and sweet dark malt forward aroma with big hints of bourbon, chocolate, and coffee. Big barrel presence with boozy hints of bourbon whiskey, vanilla, oak, and wood. Dark roasted barley malt with hints of dark chocolate, cocoa, coffee beans, biscuit, burnt toast, grains, smoke, and yeast. Sweet hints of molasses. Subtle dark fruit hints of cherry and raisin. Hops are pretty light. A very good rich aroma.

Taste: Like the smell indicates, a rich, roasty, and sweet dark malt and barrel driven taste with good notes of bourbon, chocolate, and coffee. Good upfront barrel presence with notes of bourbon whiskey, sweet vanilla, oak, and wood. Dark roasted barley malt with rich notes of dark chocolate, bakers cocoa, coffee, burnt toast, biscuit, grains, smoke, and yeast. Sweet notes of burnt molasses. Dark fruit undertones with notes of cherry, raisin, and prune. A really good taste.

Mouthfeel: Full bodied with a moderate amount of carbonation. Rich, creamy, and slightly syrupy. Some booze is felt as expected but it’s not really hot.

Overall: A really good barrel aged version of an already good Stout. Good bourbon presence that adds some nice vanilla flavors without overwhelming the dark roast notes.

Photo of chinchill
3.9/5  rDev -10.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.25 | overall: 3.75

(from bottle)
Probably would benefit from some aging: could be softer and less boozy. Still, a fine strong ale with a well balanced contribution from the BBL.

Rich and moderately complex. Mildly bitter.

Great aroma.

Photo of timontheroad
4.6/5  rDev +6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Poured into a snifter. Pours a very dark brown, almost black, like dirty motor oil. One finger of thick mocha head. The aroma is phenomenal, with big chocolate, caramel, toffee, roasty malt and bourbon. Also caught some very slight coffee notes. The flavor is also outstanding, also with chocolate, bourbon, woody flavors and lots of dark roasty malt notes as well. The mouthfeel was thick and silky smooth, with just a slight bit of alcohol burn in the aftertaste. Overall, this ranks right up there with any of the best BBA Imperial Stouts. I'm impressed! I've hid one in the cellar to see what a little age does to this beer.

Photo of pjvie
4.65/5  rDev +7.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.75

Quick review: Delicious. Aroma is typical roasted malts with a sweet, vanilla character. Faint woody, nutty character on the nose. Taste is strong bittersweet chocolate with a not-too-strong barrel character, imparting flavors of vanilla, oak and bourbon. Hops are not noticeable, but I get the sense that they contribute to the clean, slightly crisp finish to the beer. This beer does not coat your mouth in the same way BCBS does. Freakishly drinkable.
Overall, fantastic. Glad I was able to track this down.

Photo of timc100
3.95/5  rDev -9%

Very dark in appearance, pitch black in the glass with a big burnt mocha head as if not a barrel treated beer.

Aroma of nondescript barrel flavors: dried-out dark wood, some char. Some faint dark chocolate. Not much going on

Tastes with more flavor. More dark chocolate and whiskey. Very smooth, medium to full mouthful.

The barrel flavors are more dried out as if the barrel weren't as 'fresh' as others and doesn't impart the big vanilla, coconut, graham cracker that other BA stouts can do.

Photo of rdilauro
3.46/5  rDev -20.3%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.25 | overall: 3.25

I have been waiting for this one.
I've enjoyed so many of the newer style bourbon barrel aged stouts. So, I was expecting nothing but the best from this one. It started out with everything I liked, the bourbon burn, the full flavor, but it came up short on one end. It was over carbonated as far as I was concerned. I like my stouts with a lot less carbonation and more body and thickness.
This lacked in both areas.
Hopefully, since I do have another one, I will let it cellar age, the carbonation die down a bit and the body pick up a notch

Photo of JamesStreet
4.29/5  rDev -1.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Caged and corked bomber poured into hotel coffee cup (sorry out of town)
A- Looks like a can of motor oil poured with a foamy brown head
S- oaky bourbon and chocolate at the forefront
T- follows the nose with a bit of heat from the alcohol and the addition of vanilla. More subtle notes of coffee and a bitter finish from the hops
M- Not as thick and creamy as expected. A bit thin. A little warming from the high ABV
O- About what I expected from the barrel-aged version of Narwhal, which is an exceptional RIS.

Photo of ONovoMexicano
3.91/5  rDev -9.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Served in a snifter from the bottle.

Pours viscous. Finger of oatmeal and dark khaki-colored head. Frothy and creamy. Pitch-black liquid. A wall of lace at the edges of the liquid. 4.5

Not sure what to make of the aroma. Has a wine-like barrel aroma. Dark chocolate. Yeast is notable. 3.5

Flavor is oak-heavy and suggests wine again, as does the yeast. Chocolate is there and complements the wine and oak well and there are subtle vanilla and caramel notes. Dark fruit presents itself too. With some warmth this gets a bit sweeter and the alcohol flavor moves to the back a bit where it earlier was so prominent. Dark fruit and dark chocolate meet booze on the finish. 4

This beer has a Belgian quality to it with the heavy yeast feel and carbonation. Booze is very noticeable and though I can't call it hot, it's hard to ignore. I find there's even a bit of Belgian candy syrup in the mix here. Very syrupy sweetness underpinning this. 4

Initially, the booze kind of dominated this beer. I had to let it warm up to discover a number of enjoyable nuances. I think this could get better with age, so I'm glad I stocked up on a number of them. Right now it's both good and interesting. 4

Photo of Magbas
4.25/5  rDev -2.1%

It pours a little hot, but not noticeable after the first or second drink. A considerably better beer than the BA Bigfoot, which was somewhat disappointing. If you can trade for this within reason, it's worth it, however for the 20 I spent, I'd of rather spent the extra five to get Mother of All Storms.

Photo of SomethingClever
3.61/5  rDev -16.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

22 oz corked and caged poured into snifter

A: pitch black a little off white head 

S: Nice bourbon smell vanilla oak toffee

T: very bourbony not overly sweet has a small hint of hops 

M: medium feel nothing astonishing 

O: this is a pretty good beer it doesn't really bring anything new to the table but it's pretty solid 

Photo of Roguer
4.4/5  rDev +1.4%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

Black as midnight, topped by a nice dark tan head. OK retention, fading to a line circling the glass.

No mistaking the bourbon on the nose, which mingles with a full bodied stout aroma of chocolate, coconut, bananas, charred oak, coffee, dark fruit, and a hint of vanilla.

Much smoother flavor profile than regular Narwhal, and the bourbon is delicately integrated. Tons of dark chocolate, muted roasted barley, oak, vanilla, cream, a bit of char, coconut, and bourbon.

Medium-full feel, sticky with a long finish. No hint of the ABV until the heat hits your chest. Fairly noticeable foaming if you chew the brew or let it sit.

What a fantastic and smooth BBA stout. I can't imagine it would be any better with age; it's that smooth and delicious right now. For such a high ABV BA stout, the alcohol is well hidden, and the bourbon perfectly smooth.

Photo of pchrishatfield
4.37/5  rDev +0.7%
look: 5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.75

Awesome look and feel. Feels pretty special for a beer when you open it. Great bottle.

Photo of Alieniloquium
4.03/5  rDev -7.1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

On tap at River of Beers. Served in a snifter.

Appearance - Black body. Medium khaki head.

Smell - Bourbon is strong. Dark chocolate. Sharp oak.

Taste - Dark chocolate is the strongest flavor. Oak secondary. Moderate sweetness amd chocolat flavor. Never quite dark and bitter. Always a little sweet.

Mouthfeel - Medium heavy. Medium carbonation.

Overall - I expected greatness. I got a high quality beer. I think prefer regular Narwhal.

to view more.
Narwhal Imperial Stout - Barrel Aged from Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.
96 out of 100 based on 1,263 ratings.