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

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Narwhal Imperial Stout - Barrel AgedNarwhal Imperial Stout - Barrel Aged

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164 Reviews
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Reviews: 164
Hads: 1,348
rAvg: 4.31
pDev: 9.28%
Wants: 220
Gots: 705 | FT: 111
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: Reviews & Ratings
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Reviews: 164 | Hads: 1,348
Photo of akrz47
3.78/5  rDev -12.3%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 3.5

Latest version, aged for several months. It was good, not great. I didn't find it very hot, actually, like a lot of posts have mentioned. Would get better after more aging, though. Just not as complex or worth savoring as most good BB stouts. Seems like cheap bourbon. Good to try, going to age my other bottle a while, but probably won't buy the next round. (364 characters)

Photo of Zonk
3.92/5  rDev -9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4

I really couldn't get over how boozy this was, but perhaps the barrel flavors will integrate with time. A great rich creamy stout, that's just overpowered by bourbon at the moment. (181 characters)

Photo of YodersBeerEmporium
4.71/5  rDev +9.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.75

Great Bourbon Barrel aged Stout! Especially for the money! Great burbon and chocolate notes and not too hot for being fresh. Going to cellar one as well. (156 characters)

Photo of ShanePB
4.12/5  rDev -4.4%
look: 3 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

750 ml bottle. Deep black body with a tan head that settled into a thin ring. No real lacing. Aromas of chocolate, cocoa nibs, whiskey soaked oak and some roast. Lots of roast on the palate with the chocolate making a center play, too. The oak and whiskey cask are on the back-end. Thick mouth feel. Enjoyable. (310 characters)

Photo of breadwinner
4/5  rDev -7.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4

Good roast/char notes on this one, with a subdued but still noticeable barrel presence on the palate (but less pleasingly in the nose). I'm not a huge fan of base Narwhal, and while I think this is an improvement, the nose is still just a bit too spiritous. Not the greatest value either at $18/750ml. (301 characters)

Photo of Slatetank
4.4/5  rDev +2.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

I enjoyed this bottle chilled in a stout glass recently at our annual stout tasting.

The color is black with beige cream and fine bead with moderate lace stickage. The smell is a mix of light woody barrel aroma with a nice level of malt roastiness and slight caramel accent with bourbon adding to the aroma and light spice in the nose. The feel is great rich malt with subtle sweetnes and mild dry woody quality with bourbon adding a mild alcohol element to the texture.

The taste is great with the stout base that is slightly spiced with hops yet a noticeable vanilla type flavor from the bourbon barrel aging that brings out the chocolate flavors in the malt with some light dried fruit and hints of molasses. This is the stout I enjoyed most of the several we shared I just found the bourbon to be very expressive without neglecting the Narwhal's great base flavor it is a great stout that is only enhanced by the bourbon barrel (936 characters)

Photo of BuccoFan
4.19/5  rDev -2.8%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

This was ultimately a pleasure to drink. Rich, full-bodied stout sweetened very neatly with the bourbon aging. My only complaint is that it had a tad too much carbonation on its way to warming up, but as I said, it was overall a pleasure. (238 characters)

Photo of GarthDanielson
4.54/5  rDev +5.3%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

Poured from a cork and cage 750 into a snifter, the beer pours jet black and oil thick, with a fluffy, tightly bubbled brown head that quickly settles into a sparse surface coating. Aromas of rich chocolate, heavy sweet cream, vanilla, roasted coffee, hints of char and wood, and bourbon highlights. Flavors are amazingly balanced, with rich cocoa nib and sweet vanilla cream blending perfectly on the forward tongue. Wow! Highlights shine through as the beer cascades over the taste buds, with caramel, roasted coffee, tangy crème, subtle char, and spicy bourbon all peeking in here and there. There is a subtle warmth building as you drink, with the smooth, rich, velvety body layering itself over your palate and slowly sinking in everywhere it touches. The aftertaste is rich dark chocolate, cream, and coffee, all blending together in a magnificent linger. Smooth, layered, velvety soft finish that lingers perfectly. This is a tremendous beer! (950 characters)

Photo of JohnnyHopps
4.44/5  rDev +3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Appearance - The beer was black as a used motor oil with a slight tan head.

Smell - The nose was mostly a demonstration of boozy notes.

Taste - In the beginning, Narwhal showed notes of chocolate, amaretto, cherries, malt, and mellow booze. I let this one cellar for about 6 months, which may have mellowed the booze. The overall profile was well balanced, finishing warm sticky chocolate malts.

Mouthfeel - The carbonations was appropriately low, the booze and sweetness giving a sticky impression.

Overall - Sierra Nevada hits one out of the park with this beer. I sleep well tonight. (591 characters)

Photo of Fatehunter
3.79/5  rDev -12.1%
look: 3 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.75

Pours a thin head on a black body.
The aroma is licorice, anise and oak.
The taste is sweet, wood and alcohol heat.
The texture is smooth.
It's delicious. (155 characters)

Photo of Brondeau
4.09/5  rDev -5.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Tasty but a bit too strong. The alcohol is forward. Reminds me of drinking SN's Bigfoot Barleywine for the first time. Alcohol forward. It's good, complex, dark. Not worth the $20 I paid for a pint, 9oz bottle. (210 characters)

Photo of Nugganooch
4.44/5  rDev +3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

From the 750ml C&C bottle to my Sierra Nevada balloon luettich - of course!
Notes taken on 01/18/2015

A: The BA Narwhal pours a muddy black in appearance with not much sheen to the body. Entirely opaque with a solid two finger stack of mocha tan suds formed over. Impeccable hang time there and a few creamy streamers running along the glass walls.

S: Rich and decadent with a chocolate coconut crème and bourbon vanilla spice character. There is a touch of smoky roast to this and fair hints of coffee bean as well. Nice layers of dark malts and brown sugars in between. A really refined nose with some great coconut and bourbon presence.

T: Flavors develop more of the same which is a beautiful blend of bitter chocolates, dark roasted malts, toasted oats/grains, Bourbon, coconut, and vanilla. It really is a perfected amount of bourbon influence here. Only complimentary to the beer itself and never too harsh or hot. Lightly earthy with some hop bitterness coming in on the back end and a touch of char. Alcohol is extremely well incorporated throughout. So smooth and frothy light while still packing in some great depth. Really good shit.

M: For an impy stout aged in spent oak barrels this has such a smooth and lush feel across the palate. Full bodied but greatly balanced between light and thick. Never syrupy or overbearing. Nice touch of bitters lend some drying stages towards the finish. Light ABV warmth on exhalation.

D: A mighty fine sipper. Big hats off to Sierra Nevada. I was pleasantly surprised by this one and found it to be masterfully blended. Everything comes together in great harmony and overall this is a far better brew than the base Narwhal Stout. (1,712 characters)

Photo of FrostyFoster72
4.61/5  rDev +7%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.75

The nose is way more mild than the intense flavor. Not as boozy as you would think in the smell or taste. It looks perfect in the glass with a slightly aggressive poor. The taste is so complex, gets even better as it rises to room temperature! A truly monstrous stout! (268 characters)

Photo of zeledonia
4.52/5  rDev +4.9%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

Tasted 10 April 2015.

Pours black and thick, opaque. One finger of deep brown head, good retention and lacing.

Smell is richness, sweetness, and fullness, epitomized. Chocolate, soft bourbon corn sweetness. Waves of complexity. It's like a tropical sea at night. I want to dive into it and be surrounded by its warmth.

Taste comes through with a twang, that I assume is the alcohol. But given the ABV, it's dangerously well hidden. Molasses, licorice, and plums. Not as lovely as the smell, primarily due to that slight sharpness that's present throughout. But plenty good enough.

Feel is solid. Solid like a block of wood soaked in a delicious stout. Chewy, rich, with just enough carbonation to keep things in motion.

My mouth wants more of this. My head says 750ml is enough... or perhaps too much. A stellar beer, in the upper middle of the BA stouts I've had. (869 characters)

Photo of Damian
3.71/5  rDev -13.9%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

Drank from a 1 pint 9.4 fl. oz. corked and caged bottle purchased at Busa Wine & Spirits, Lexington, MA
Served in snifter

Dark brown/black appearance. Medium viscosity. The liquid was topped by a one-finger tall, frothy, creamy, mocha colored crown that quickly faded to a thin ringlet. No lacing whatsoever.

The aroma was subtle initially but also quite boozy. Roasty, smoky and ashy with a strong rubbing alcohol presence. Espresso was noticeable. Touch of brown sugar. Slightly sweet. As the beer warmed, the nose turned much smoother and more fragrant. The bourbon came forth but the sharp booziness also settled down. Sweet vanilla notes appeared. Raisins and dark fruits were detectible as well. Touch of oakiness.

Coffee and roast came through in the flavor profile. As was the case in the nose, the alcohol was rather overwhelming. Espresso was noticeable. Baker's chocolate appeared as well. The boozy, almost stinging finish contained notes of earthy, bitter hops and roast. Slightly acrid. Lots of dry, oaky, woody tannins were also present. Hints of char lingered after the swallow. With time, the flavors smoothed out a bit.

The beer was thinner bodied for the style but still creamy and slick on the palate. A fine, mild effervescence gave the beer a soft suppleness.

Although this barrel-aged release of Narwal takes the edge off some of the excessive roastiness and hoppiness found in the original version of the beer, it is also significantly boozier. I cellared my bottle for approximately a year, but it certainly could have been pushed out a while longer. (1,580 characters)

Photo of superspak
4.52/5  rDev +4.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

750 ml bottle into snifter, bottled on 10/16/2014. Pours dense pitch black color with a 1-2 finger dense dark tan head with good retention, that reduces to a small cap that lingers. Light spotty lacing clings around the glass, with a fair amount of streaming carbonation retaining the cap. Aromas of big dark chocolate, cocoa, coffee, molasses, caramel, toffee, toast, vanilla, coconut, bourbon, oak, light dark fruit, light butterscotch, and roast/oaky earthiness. Incredible aromas with awesome complexity and balance of dark/roasted malt and bourbon barrel notes; with good strength. Taste of big dark chocolate, cocoa, coffee, molasses, caramel, toffee, toast, vanilla, coconut, bourbon, oak, light dark fruit, light butterscotch, and roast/oaky earthiness. Light herbal/roast/oaky bitterness on the finish; with lingering notes of dark chocolate, cocoa, coffee, molasses, caramel, toffee, toast, vanilla, coconut, bourbon, oak, and roast/oaky earthiness on the finish for a while. Incredible complexity and robustness of dark/roasted malt and bourbon barrel flavors; with an insane malt/barrel balance and zero cloying flavors after the finish. Light-medium carbonation and full bodied; with a very smooth, creamy, silky, and lightly slick mouthfeel that in incredible. Alcohol is extremely well hidden with only a slight alcohol warmth lingering after the finish. Overall this is a world class barrel aged imperial stout. All around insane complexity, robustness, and balance of dark/roasted malt and bourbon barrel flavors; and very smooth to sip on for the huge ABV. A truly mind blowing offering. (1,605 characters)

Photo of stevoj
4.71/5  rDev +9.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.75

Everything its reported to be, and more. Pitch black with beige\ruby foamy head. Nice smoky aroma, wood, roast malt, burnt toast, some alcohol that singes the nose hairs. Taste is a bit mellower, lots of alcohol warmth, more roastiness, lots of wood. A sipper... (262 characters)

Photo of CHickman
4.06/5  rDev -5.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

2014 Bottle: Pours pitch black color with a thick creamy 2 finger light brown head that was full of bubbles and faded slowly, leaving good foamy lacing that slides down back into the brew.

Smells very earthy and oaky with the bourbon barrel influence making an immediate impact. Nose is a mix of cocoa powder, bourbon, toasted coconut, sheet metal, wood like sticks or tree bark, nuts still in the shell, coffee grinds, bakers chocolate and light vanilla. The earthy notes keep the bourbon in check and seem to bring out herbs, dry floral hops or a potpourri essence that then lead into charred wood and a lot of roasted notes at the end. The alcohol pops through but does not show it's real strength.

Tastes very similar to the aroma with the earthy and oaky flavors of bourbon barrel showing up first and bringing out metallic, tinny flavors that resemble yeast or a dirty penny. The booze seems like Jim Beam and leads into black licorice, dark roasted malt, cocoa powder, bourbon,light vanilla, toasted coconut, coffee grinds, a touch of dark fruit, twigs, sticks, tree bark and other woody, earthy or oaky flavors on the finish. This hides the 12.9% ABV very well but has less of the malty complexities that I enjoyed in the base beer.

Mouthfeel is thin and smooth, with some chewiness but a more watery presence than expected considering this is bourbon barrel aged stout. There is a slight coffee bitterness in the finish that fades off with black licorice and lingering earthy and leafy notes. The aftertaste is metallic, which is odd and unexpected - perhaps its the yeast.

Overall it was a very nice beer, but I hoped for a richer molasses and/or dark fruit addition from the barrel aging, whereas this brought in more wood, earthy and metallic notes. I like the base Narwhal stout better, but this was a good beer. (1,831 characters)

Photo of barnzy78
4.48/5  rDev +3.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

750mL bottle, 2014 release
A - near black with a tall, dense tan head that holds great retention
S - chocolate, oak, bourbon, vanilla
T - bold flavors with dark cocoa, roasted barley, bourbon, oak, vanilla
M - full bodied, ample carbonation
O - excellent bourbon barrel aged imperial stout, just as expected. Bourbon is present but not overpowering providing excellent complexity to the stout. A nice treat, but I doubt I'll buy it in the future secondary to its high price point. (480 characters)

Photo of LiquidAmber
4.39/5  rDev +1.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

Wow! My 2500th review for BA; it doesn't even seem possible. It was hard to pick something great that I had never tried and it came down to this and Anchorage Deal With the Devil, both highly reviewed and sitting in the cellar. Tough call, but I went with a brewery that has never let me down and has always been in my top 5 favorites. 2014 bottle, properly cellared.

Poured into a Fremont small snifter. Pours pitch black, opaque in the glass and a thin light brown head that is persistant and leaves nice lacing. Aroma of dark toasted malt, light chocolate and bourbon. Like the base beer, this has a surprisingly light aroma, but a good one. Rich flavor of dark toasted malt, choccolate, coffee, light oaky vanilla and very nice bourbon. Finishes with well balanced chocolate malt and bourbon flavors. Medium bodied, a bit lighter than expected from a barreled RIS. A beautifully balanced imperial stout with everything I expect and want. The bourbon is up front, but does not dominate the other flavors. Very smooth and integrated. I had to taste this several times trying to detect any booziness and it's not there. Warming, but ABV well covered. This seems to have less char and smokiness than the base beer, and although I liked that, it is not missed here, there's plenty of complexity to keep this interesting. This was a perfect choice for this BA milestone review. Thanks Sierra Nevada! Keep them coming. (1,416 characters)

Photo of MunsonRoyE
4.59/5  rDev +6.5%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Had my first bottle back in November and it was boozy and tough to drink... Had another bottle last night from the cellar and it was waaaaaay better than the first time. Looking forward to trying another one in about 6 months. (228 characters)

Photo of maximum12
4.27/5  rDev -0.9%
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. (1,205 characters)

Photo of InkedinRi
5/5  rDev +16%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

Tasting a 2013 bottle in 2015.. This stout is so outstanding! If you can find a few put one aside for a few years you won't be disappointed! Really mellows out the alcohol, Big coffee, roasted malt, coffee, coconut and that sweet Bourbon barrel taste! 5/5 (255 characters)

Photo of redsahx
4.91/5  rDev +13.9%
look: 4.25 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

Poured in a snifter. Dark black but not quite as pitch black as other imperial stouts. Nice mocha colored head that settles. Nice aroma with solid but not overpowering bourbon. I think I pick up a pleasant hop aroma buried in there as well. Flavors of roasted malts, coffee, bourbon and even a hint of hop bitterness smoothed out with the bourbon and alcohol. One of the most well-balanced bourbon-barrel aged stouts I've had. I still put the Bourbon County Coffee and regular stout ahead, but this one might top the rest (including KBS) for me. Tough call there. Anyways this is truly well done. (596 characters)

Photo of HattedClassic
4.41/5  rDev +2.3%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

The beer pours a nice, foamy dark tan head. The beer itself is an opaque black that has a nice solid look to it.

The beer smell has some very strong vanilla, oak, and bourbon notes. However, the strength of those notes do bury the chocolate, roasted malts or very light hop note in the smell. In fact, the notes also give off a nice honey and coconut smell.

The beer taste is similar to the smell. The taste has all the same notes, which blend very well together. However, the hop note is slightly stronger in the taste and gives the taste a more bitter aftertaste. Also, the honey note does not quite transfer as well as it should into the taste. The coconut is also present but not very much. Regardless, the taste is still pretty good and completely different from the regular Narwhal.

The mouthfeel is slightly viscous but still fairly smooth. The beer is clearly heavy bodied with biting carbonation. The beer finish is very smooth with a nice soft texture to it.

Overall, a fantastic beer and one worth getting your hands on if you can and very well suited for a winter release. Highly recommend. (1,107 characters)

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Narwhal Imperial Stout - Barrel Aged from Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.
95 out of 100 based on 164 ratings.