Dismiss Notice
Save $5 when you subscribe to 12 issues / year of BeerAdvocate magazine by selecting auto-renew.

Subscribe now →
Dismiss Notice
Join Our Email List →

And we'll send you the latest updates and offers from BeerAdvocate, because knowing is half the battle.
Dismiss Notice

Pre-order your Respect Beer "Hipster" Hoodie today!

Plus: Free shipping (US only) on orders of $25 or more until 12/18/15. Just select "Free Shipping" at checkout.

Shop now →

Bourbon Barrel Aged Vanilla Bean Dark Lord - 3 Floyds Brewing Co.

Not Rated.
Bourbon Barrel Aged Vanilla Bean Dark LordBourbon Barrel Aged Vanilla Bean Dark Lord

Educational use only; do not reuse.

266 Reviews
no score

(Send Samples)
Reviews: 266
Hads: 1,301
Avg: 4.64
pDev: 9.48%
Wants: 3,917
Gots: 235 | FT: 8
Brewed by:
3 Floyds Brewing Co. visit their website
Indiana, United States

Style | ABV
Russian Imperial Stout |  15.00% ABV

Availability: Spring

Notes & Commercial Description:
Beer added by: mcallister on 04-27-2008

Dark Lord Russian Imperial Stout aged in a variety of Bourbon barrels with vanilla beans.
Beer: Reviews & Ratings
Sort by:  Recent | High | Low | Top Raters
Reviews: 266 | Hads: 1,301
Photo of rlee1390
4.7/5  rDev +1.3%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.5

Great vanilla flavor. Bourbon is there but mild, some oak. Chocolate as well. The soy sauce present in regular Dark Lord is not found at all. Thick as motor oil. The real deal.

 181 characters

Photo of birchstick
4.62/5  rDev -0.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Bottle 347 of 934 - 2012 Vintage

A - pours black in color with a nice white rim on it

S - nose is a beautiful bouquet of vanilla, bourbon, and sweet milk chocolates

T - sweet vanilla upfront moves on to goey milk chocolates. Spicy bourbon with a nice amount of vanilla moves in to mix things up on the palate. Ends with the vanilla and bourbon. Sweet, fudgy chocolates, vanilla, and bourbon is the theme to this beer. Mmmm

M - smooth and full bodied

D - really sweet, delicious, and complex. Something about this beer put it into the 5 category taste wise for me, making this a serious contender against any barrel aged beer out there. Now, on to the rest of the series...


 747 characters

Photo of Resuin
4.91/5  rDev +5.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

Poured from a 750 mL bottle into a snifter. 2015 vintage, drinking pretty fresh.

Pours Blake with a tiny tan head. Smells big vanilla, oak, dark chocolate, a bit of heat. Taste is vanilla, milk chocolate, big marshmallow, light oak. Really thick and creamy, velvety body. No heat in the body, super smooth. Incredibly balanced.

 329 characters

Photo of tpd975
4.92/5  rDev +6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

Hand bottle provided by Gunhaver

A: Pours as dark as they come, a very evil flat black. No real head to speak of loss of carbonation due to the hand bottling. It is a very thick beer that literally stains the glass.

S: Nice real vanilla notes. Roasted malt, coco puffs, and subtle wood from the barrel.

T: Loads of real vanilla bean right from the start. Rich dark chocolate and roasted chocolate malt. Darkened brown sugar, and hints of oak.

M: Very full in body, lacks carbonation which you don't even seem to miss with this beer.

D: Insane. It was a nip bottle shared between a few. Really wish I had more. It is reason enough to go to Dark Lord day!

Thanks Geiger!

 674 characters

Photo of mportnoy
5/5  rDev +7.8%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

I wasn’t sure what to expect with this one given the hype. Boy was I surprised. We shared the 2015 vintage and it was amazing. Vanilla, marshmallow, and bourbon are incredibly well integrated. Creamy, wonderful mouthfeel. Nice and thick. We opened BC Vanilla Rye right after it (one of my personal favorites) and it was one noted and almost undrinkable next to the BVDL. World class.

 391 characters

Photo of jsh420
4.4/5  rDev -5.2%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

on tap DLD

while i could not track down where in the hell this beer was at in the clusterf*** known as DLD - some kind people i met shared some with me

black black shiny motor oil black with small tan film of head

smells you guessed it vanilla with dark roasted chocolate malts

taste could not live up to the nose or maybe it did - the beer was just too sweet - big flavors of vanilla chocolate coffee and the sugar!

mouthfeel was much thinner then regular DL - very slick

drinkability - while i savored every sniff and sip it just was not as good as the regular DL

 571 characters

Photo of Raziel313
4.52/5  rDev -2.6%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.5

So finally knocking this off my beer bucket list.
Look: Black, oily. No head decent retention

Smell: Very small hints of the barrel character. Marshmallow and dark chocolate. Roasted malts.

Taste: Tastes like marshmallows a bit too sweet but not cloying

Feel: Nice thick mouth feel. Wish it was still a little thicker.

Overall: Regular dark lord definitely is above and beyond sweet. After trying the regular I knew that the barrel would add what the regular is missing, which, is balance on the sweetness and some more dryness to it. Now clearly like all beer hyped whales this just doesn't live up to the perfect beer in the whole world reputation that it has. It is however a great world class brew and amongst my top beers I have ever had. All in all I am glad to have simply tried this and happier to never give up as many beers as I did for this one ever again.

 877 characters

Photo of Deuane
4.89/5  rDev +5.4%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

BIG thanks to Kegatron for getting our group the hookup at DLD.

A-Much like Dark Lord with a deep black/brown body and a reddish tinted dark brown head that reduced to a thin veil and left spotty lace.

S-My verbatim comment upon the initial whiff...This smells just like my grandma's meat and raisin pie WITH vanilla! Wow, this is so nice.

T-Mmmm, mmm. The vanilla really smooths things out and takes the harsh edge off. Lots of vanilla, dark chocolate, brown sugar, caramel and dark roast.

M-Heavy bodied but amazingly smooth and viscous. Long lasting flavours.

D-Off the hook! This takes DL and ramps it up a notch, Without question one of the most tasty, drinkable and interesting beers I have had. Amazing!

 715 characters

Photo of brewdlyhooked13
5/5  rDev +7.8%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

Appearance - um, dark...opaque. Seems a small crime to serve this kind of beer in a plastic cup, but when you're surrounded by 4000 of your closest friends, whaddya gonna do? Minimal lacing, no cover and just a scant presence of dark mocha bubbling on the collar.

Aroma - intense vanilla and roasty malts. Wow. We purchased several oak and vanilla samples and you could always tell which one was the vanilla by smell alone.

Taste - big vanilla blending with the dark roasted, chocolatey malts.. the essence of the bean is fantastic. The swallow is very roasty, with espresso notes and some smooth abv as well. Molasses and licorice on the aftertaste. The finish is long, heady, and delicious. Feel free to lash the dark lord with vanilla beans whenever you please.

Mouthfeel - thick, oily, bring it on.

Drinkability - what a fantastic brew. Megathanks to Robert the Lithuanian for the righteous hookups. May your new Beer & Sweat glass enjoy many fills of fine brew.

 970 characters

Photo of Sean9689
4.29/5  rDev -7.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

On tap @ DLD '09.

Pours black with a brown head which leaves some nice lacing, once gone. Smells amazing...VANILLA...lots of it! Some malts and milk chocolate in there as well. Tastes exactly like DL + vanilla which is a wonderful combo! Mouthfeel is perfect, an awesome beer to swirl around and savor. I would go for this again and again (I did so @ DLD)...awesome/epic beer!

 377 characters

Photo of Jeffo
2.56/5  rDev -44.8%
look: 3 | smell: 2 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 2.5

Thanks to a few people we were able to put together the entire vertical and almost all the BA variants. Lots of fun gents!

From a 750 into a snifter
2012 vintage
Bottle 921 of 934

APPEARANCE: Just like all the rest of them. Pours relatively clear for an imperial stout. Produces a small, one finger medium-looking head that quickly fades to a wisp and ring. Black body in the glass with some carbonation evident. Only a ring remains until the end and leaves no real lacing down the glass. A little too light a pour and an average head at best.

SMELL: Vanilla extract reminding me of those vanilla candles you buy at bath stores. Artificial and somewhat off-putting. A touch of bourbon barrel under the chemical vanilla aroma, but not much. Unfortunately this is one-dimensional and artificial, especially compared to the brandy vanilla version.

TASTE: Touches of bourbon barrel and oak peek through, but this is a one-dimensional vanilla extract bomb if there ever was one. All vanilla up front and into the swallow, then a big, vanilla dominated aftertaste with some oak and sweet caramel trying in vain to get through. Tough going and very little complexity.

PALATE: Slightly lighter than the base beer, but still big enough. Just like the other DL variants as well. Medium body with medium levels of carbonation. Creamy enough, goes down fine and finishes rather sticky on the palate. A bit of a burn and some heat lingers.

OVERALL: I can see why some people might like this. There is lots of vanilla, much like a vanilla cake or something like that. As a beer though, this is not something I'd want more than a small taste of. One dimensional, artificial and quickly tiring, this is not something I'd get too excited about drinking again. The brandy vanilla version was more natural than this one. Still, definitely a fun pair to try. Cheers gents!

 1,863 characters

Photo of homebrew311
4.52/5  rDev -2.6%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

Sampled 2012 and 2013 side by side. Will review the 2012 vintage. Pours a thick brownish black. The nose is loaded with vanilla bean paired with deep dark fruits, currants, chocolate, berries, and boozy bourbon. The vanilla bean manages to stand above the rest of the flavors which is impressive considering how bold of a beer Dark Lord is. The taste is very sweet like the base beer, but the barrel aging and addition of vanilla take it to a much different level. I find the base beer to be a bit too sweet, but when the sweetness is tempered with bourbon and vanilla, it just works. There is still a fair amount of boozieness, but it is tame compared to the base. Mouthfeel is thick and mildly carbonated. Overall, this beer is very good. I don't know that it meets the monumental level of hype it has surrounding it, but it is delicious nonetheless.

 852 characters

Photo of ehammond1
4.57/5  rDev -1.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

On Tap

2012 Firestone Walker Invitational Beer Fest
Paso Robles, CA

Black throughout and thick in body, though it appears thinner than untreated Dark Lord. Very small brown head on my pour that leaves the glassy oily and spotted with lace.

Rich and sweet aroma of dark chocolate, sweet and earthy vanilla, oak, whipped cream, coffee creamer, and a little bit of brown sugar. Really, really nice.

The flavor is incredibly well integrated and marvelousy smooth and drinkable given this beer's astonishingly high ABV. The vanilla, oak, and whipped cream flavors are dominant, along with big notes of dark chocolate, and mild roast. Pretty amazing stuff.

Medium to nearly full bodied with low carbonation.

A beer I'd written off as one I simply would never be able to try: it's worth the hype (whatever that means).

 817 characters

Photo of GbVDave
4.9/5  rDev +5.6%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

Served in a 16oz cup at Three Floyds 4/26/08. Thanks to HeatherAnn for the assist!

A: Black, black, black. Used motor oil from a Diesel engine black. Small and creamy dark brown head.

S: Unbelievable aromas of chocolate, vanilla, dark fruit, brown sugar/molassas, rye bread, cherry, and a bit of booze.

T: See above. It's crazy how so much flavor is packed inside this beer.

M: Sticky! This sticks to everything. Like drinking a RIS milkshake.

D: Suffers slightly, like all the other Dark Lords, from the appearance of alcohol towards the end of the glass.

 562 characters

Photo of thebigredone
4.1/5  rDev -11.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Many, many thanks to Chris for popping this sucker. 2013 batch, let's skip straight to taste.

I imagine if you took a lot of dark fruits, stewed them together, and then added a ton of sugar, you'd have something very similar in flavor to this Dark Lord variant. The vanilla does come through, but unfortunately almost no roast or char flavors are present. I personally did not pick up a very strong barrel presence. The flavors are certainly complex and enjoyable, but the sweetness is really off the charts.

Overall, this is a solid beer. However, I can't help but feel that the sky high ratings are solely a factor of the rarity and expense of this beer. I was glad we were sharing this bottle with another 10 gents, as the couple ounces I drank were about as much as I could handle.

 788 characters

Photo of nrbw23
4.97/5  rDev +7.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

I missed this one at '08 Dark Lord Day so this is one that was must for this year.

A- Pretty much like the DL that I drank on tap minutes before this one. Pitch black with a nice brown head.

S- Just like the regular version with the exception of vanilla. Wow make that a ton of vanilla.

T- Thought it tasted just like DL with an up in your face vanilla. Wonderful my favorite of the three DL.

M- Big full and I think a little bit lighter in carbonation than the regular.

D- Very awesome beer wish I had some more.

I had all three of these pretty much back to back and gonna give the edge to the vanilla bean but I don't think you could go wrong with any of them. Nice work!

 680 characters

Photo of Overlord
4.65/5  rDev +0.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4

Many thanks to Shane for sharing this brew. If he ever visits the O.C., I owe him.

Pours a dark, viscous black. It's a handbottle, so much of the carbonation is gone. Perhaps a few splashes of bubbles.

Smells like a chocolate vanilla milkshake. Maybe a hint of maltiness, but primarily, it bombards you with sweetness. The mouthfeel is syrupy, thick, and overwhelming. Huge dark molasses/chocolate notes, and a ton of vanilla. Really an incredible brew.

Yeah, it was slightly oxidized, but not as much as I expected. Still delicious, and handily beat out other "fresh" brews.

 578 characters

Photo of mcallister
4.65/5  rDev +0.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4

Looks like the regualar Dark Lord which is black, inky and thick Poured with virtually no head except for some tan spots of foam.

Smells of black fruit, thick dark chocolates with some residual sugar shining through. Vanilla comes through but is still a little laid back compared to the thick chocolatey, coffee aromas. Caramel, black licorice and earth.

Huge thick and creamy. Just an absolute monster of a beer. The vanilla bean aging seems to have smoothed out things more than added vanilla flavor. Now there is a good vanilla bean flavor in the middle and onto the finish but it is still just a huge visceral dark chocolate, sweet malty, coffee induced monster of a RIS. Black fruits, and some hints of hop on the finish. Creamy rich and full of alcohol, mollasses, and hints of honey suckle.

 799 characters

Photo of grub
4.2/5  rDev -9.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

sampled on tap at three floyds on dark lord day, april 25/09.

pours deep opaque and inky black with a small dense dark brown head. the head drops fairly fast but leaves spotty lace behind.

aroma is great. big blast of vanilla, anise, caramel, and fruity citrus sweetness. light alcohol. lightly toasted whole wheat bread. biscuit. crackers. dark and bittersweet chocolate. bit of coffee with cream. light lactic sweet and sour character too.

taste is good. my first thought is actually white chocolate rather than the dark and bittersweet chocolate i got in the aroma. sure, they are there too, but the vanilla and the light lactic sweetness makes me think more of white chocolate. light coffee with cream again. biscuit and whole wheat bread. light alcohol. light citrus - orange and tangerine mostly. anise and vanilla.

mouthfeel is great. silky smooth medium-low carbonation level. nice big chewy body.

drinkability is surprisingly good. it hides almost all of its alcohol with a near-perfect balance. nice level of vanilla that compliments rather than dominates. good stuff. that said, i wasn't as blown away by this one as i was with the oak aged dark lord. maybe it's just my palate at this late stage of the day, or maybe it's my lack of appreciation for vanilla, but i'd take regular dark lord or even the oak aged version over this one.

 1,350 characters

Photo of nickd717
4.32/5  rDev -6.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Well, I had this beer from a hand bottle awhile back, and my review of that got deleted, so then I hauled my ass all the way to a random corner of Indiana to try it on tap. Unfortunately for VBDL, the hand bottle was better, but I'm reviewing the tap version this time.

This pours really black and thick, appearing to have a final gravity somewhere in the 'hood of 1.050. The smallest of brown heads sits on top. I'm talking brown, not tan. The head is dark on this bad boy.

From the glass wafts a scent of vanilla bean and Dark Lord. By Dark Lord, I mean rich chocolate, coffee, roast, caramel, soy sauce, molasses, and a mess of other subtle notes. Lots going on. Some whiskey and barrel notes in there as well.

Flavor is heavy on the vanilla. Roast, chocolate, coffee, Indian dessert sugar (which they actually used in this), candied dark fruits, oak, and bourbon. On the finish, I get an odd smoky note and a little soy sauce. Some booze as well. Even as sweet as it is and with some mild off-flavors of sorts though, it's a damn good beer.

The palate is thick, and it is also slick. Sorry about the unintentional rhyme there. Carbonation is very low.

Overall, what do I say? This is a behemoth of a RIS. In a way it's hard to get down, and in another way it's very drinkable because it's just so awesome and intense. I gave this an A+ before, but wasn't that impressed this time. This was excellent, but I liked the regular (2010 vintage) and oak-aged versions better.

 1,478 characters

Photo of CuriousMonk
4.37/5  rDev -5.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

The '13 DL was a major let down as it was too cherry/sweet for my tastes, so I was eager to try a '13 BBAVB DL. Pours motor oil black/brownish with a thin mocha head that quickly dissipates without leaving any trace on the glass. Smell is sweet with roasted malts, tons of vanilla, quality dark chocolate, dark roast coffee, vanilla fudge, bourbon, charred wood, coconuts, molasses, caramel, honey, toffee, burnt cookies and hints of sweet soy sauce. The cherry taste from the regular DL is very present along with sweet with roasted malts, tons of vanilla, quality dark chocolate, sweetened dark roast coffee, honey, vanilla fudge, caramel, toffee, fresh oak, bourbon, charred wood, roasted nuts, sweet soy sauce and sweet liquorice candy. Mouthfeel is silky, sticky sweet, round, slightly boozy and near full bodied. Finish is sweet and tiny bitter with roasted malts, dark roast coffee, vanilla essence, bitter chocolate, vanilla fudge, toffee, caramel, bourbon and charred wood. Probably a bit too sweet for my taste, but glad to have tasted the vanilla beans which made this DL a better beer!

 1,097 characters

Photo of Kramerbarthomer
4.88/5  rDev +5.2%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.75

'13 Vintage: Serious signs of infection with sour milk taste completely overwhelming the palate. Will re-review when I try another vintage.

Re-scored based on my second taste of an uninfected bottle. Just be careful when trading for the '13 vintage.

 250 characters

Photo of _morandi_
4.97/5  rDev +7.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

Truly an experience.
Appearance is black-as-night and opaque as you'd expect from Dark Lord. Very little head that settles as a small ring. Has legs for days.
The nose is a loads of vanilla with hints molasses and slight oak/booze.
The taste follows suit with heavy vanilla, fudge, sweet molasses, slight bourbon oakiness as booze but largely sweet and perfectly hidden by the vanilla. Never cloying, like a perfect dessert you can't get enough of.
The mouthfeel is stick-to-your-guts phenomenal. This is a beer to chew on and enjoy over time. Slow sipping and letting it come up to temperature will be rewarded.

Bourbon Vanilla Dark Lord is an experience unlike any other beer I've tried. Just perfect. I thought a bottle like this could never possibly live up to the hype, but it far and away exceeds it. Well worth seeking out.

 845 characters

Photo of smb
5/5  rDev +7.8%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

2013 vintage

L: Pours sludgy and oily black, nothing shines through even when held closely to the light. Maintains a half-inch thick mocha head across the entire glass... which is unreal for a barrel aged beer of this size.

A: Marshmallow, vanilla, milk and dark chocolate, oak and butterscotch. You can easily pick each aroma out individually but they blend together seamlessly.

T: Follows the nose but magnified. There's a depth of flavor here that's richer than any other barrel aged beer I've had... including BCBS Vanilla, Rare, Parabola, BA Vietnamese Speedway, etc... certain aspects of those may be more complex, but this is just more enjoyable.

M: At 15% you taste no alcohol and only get a slight, but pleasing warming sensation on the drink down, with massive marshmallow, chocolate and vanilla-oak goodness lingering forever.

Overall: I can't do it justice in words, but it really is the Dark Lord of barrel aged beers. More than worthy of the hype.

 971 characters

Photo of jampics2
4.77/5  rDev +2.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4

On tap at DLD 2010.

Finally! I couldn't believe when it was handed to me buy the FFF volunteer minion - I owe you, dude. 2 6oz plastic cups went into my snifter, producing just a touch of head on top of this thick black beer.

Smell is out of this world. The vanilla beans are so inviting and smooth. Touch of chocolate and molasses.

Taste is perfect. It's a toss-up for me between this and VB Bourbon County for the best tasting beer I've ever had. I'm a vanilla freak, love using it to kick up porters and stouts I brew, and this is just so damn good. Chocolate cake with vanilla frosting. A touch of wood and roast. This is like a liquefied Hostess cupcake. And I love it. It's an indulgence that's only once a year and thank god, I imagine drinking this weekly would lead to diabetes.

Mouth is dense, thick, and lovely.

Drinkability takes a hit just because every sip is probably 25 calories. Also, the alcohol is just a bit noticeable at the end.

A legend that I feel lucky to have tried. A wonderful beer!

 1,016 characters

Bourbon Barrel Aged Vanilla Bean Dark Lord from 3 Floyds Brewing Co.
100 out of 100 based on 266 ratings.