Darkness - High West Rye Whiskey Barrel Aged (2015)
Surly Brewing Company

Darkness - High West Rye Whiskey Barrel Aged (2015)Darkness - High West Rye Whiskey Barrel Aged (2015)
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Stout - Russian Imperial
4.54 | pDev: 6.39%
Surly Brewing Company
Minnesota, United States
Retired (no longer brewed)
Darkness - High West Rye Whiskey Barrel Aged (2015)Darkness - High West Rye Whiskey Barrel Aged (2015)
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Reviews: 57 | Ratings: 366 | Log in to view all ratings and sort
Photo of aleigator
aleigator from Germany

4.36/5  rDev -4%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

Ba darkness 2015 rye on 181127

Pours almost completely black in color with no prevailing head at all.

Offers a unique, bakers chocolate enhanced smoked oak presence, soaked into peppery, yet mellow appearing Bourbon. Offers a rustic caramel touch, melting into vanilla ice cream and old hazelnut hulls.

Has almost no carbonation left, a lighter to medium mouthfeel to it, with a bigger, warming to boozy, well balanced body.

Tastes of sweet milk chocolate, enhanced by spicy licorice, which gets toned down by cream and dried fire wood. The oak then developes an intriguing bourbon zing, gently feathered by chocolate, producing a long lasting, unique spiciness, highlighting the rye barrel very well. This offers dried plums and hard liquor grapes in the finish, cocoa nibs and soft milk chocolate, together with a great, warming oak profile.

This packs an amazing complexity, while not making any compromises as far as its balance goes. An intense chocolate spiciness gets mixed up beautifully by the profound bourbon barrel, exhibiting an old school, world class stout, which got successfully elevated to the next level.

Nov 28, 2018
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Sabtos from Ohio

4.49/5  rDev -1.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

The barrel treatment here really worked well, adding maple wood accents and dark, dry charred oak to the wonderfully sharp, rich dark roasted malt. All kinds of chocolate and nutty notes are enhanced by the barrel, and one major beneficiary is the vanilla character that was already somehow present in the 2015 base.

I finally got my paws on one of these and wow was it worth it. This is a massively different, more enjoyable BA Darkness than the 2016 version. Considering the 2015 regular was my favorite, that's no surprise.

May 23, 2018
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mrbelvebeer1 from Illinois

4.44/5  rDev -2.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Look: Dark as fuck. They should have named this beer "darkness". Oh. Wait...
Smell: Is that olives? Ok, i know there are no olives in this beer, but it has a hint of it on the nose. Probably the tart cherries giving that smell.
Taste: Wow. There's a lot going on in this beer. If there was any chocolate or coffee in this beer, it's gone. The cherries and raisins have dominated over the lesser flavors.
Mouthfeel: Viscous, like an imperial stout should be.
Overall: This is definitely one of the more unique imperial stouts i've had. Definitely recommended.

Apr 21, 2018
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Jeffo from Netherlands

3.71/5  rDev -18.3%
look: 2.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

Got this from claaark13 a while back.

From a 750 into a Darkness snifter
Vintage: 2015
Aged in Rye whisky barrels

APPEARANCE: Pours our clear dark brown and yields a two finger, looser looking, crackly light tan head with lousier retention. Clear bistre brown body with piles of carbonation for the style. Head recedes to a full cap. Swirly wisp and ring remain leaving touches of lacing down the glass as it empties. Far too light in color, unfortunately.

SMELL: Bold nose with plenty of barrel character, including lots of bourbon, oak, sweet cream and vanilla, toffee and butterscotch aromas. Boozy and barrel heavy.

TASTE: Piles of bourbon, wood and booze up front. Strong enough for sure. Toffee and butterscotch at the swallow with a bold and persistent finish of toffee and butterscotch sweetness, sweet cream and vanilla, milk chocolate, hints of coffee bitterness, as well as plenty of bourbon, wood and booze all over it. Bourbon soaked cherries with dark chocolate as well. Pretty flavorful and strong.

PALATE: Medium body with slightly higher levels of carbonation. A touch prickly carbonation perhaps, could definitely be creamier, enough weight though, goes down fine with a decent burn and finishes sticky on the palate. Plenty of heat lingers.

OVERALL: This is solid stuff at this point. I never had this vintage out of the gate, but the 2014 barrel aged version managed to kill off the hop character of the base beer while failing to deliver much in the department of barrel character. This one is not quite the same. While the hoppy stuff that makes Darkness so unique isn’t all that prevalent, the barrel component is much bolder and more impressive than the 2014. It works here. There’s more than enough going on and it’s definitely enjoyable and interesting. The look seems is rather less than impressive and the feel could use a little smoothening out, but the rest of the experience is good stuff. Thanks again, claaark13! Always a pleasure.

Apr 11, 2018
Photo of Buck89
Buck89 from Tennessee

4.44/5  rDev -2.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.5

Poured into a snifter. An opaque dark brown color with a sturdy and resilient tan head. Whiskey, vanilla, and cocoa on the nose. This was phenomenal: well-balanced bourbon, oak, vanilla, and chocolate with a phenomenal feel - not too sweet but not thin. Unbelievable how well this is dialed-in without too much booziness. Much better compared with the 2015 version.

Dec 24, 2017
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Radcpa from Washington

4.52/5  rDev -0.4%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

After aging for years, this is excellent. Very dark appearance with slight tan head that dissipates quickly. Aroma is a solid malt with whiskey. Taste is very smooth malt with whiskey that has a solid feel.

Dec 13, 2017
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WesMantooth from Ohio

4.51/5  rDev -0.7%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.5

2015 "bat" edition 750ml bottle poured into a snifter. Actually consumed and reviewed on 12/17/16, but I had listed it under regular Darkness.

Fairly viscous looking black with a moderate dark brown head that retains a solid ring for quite awhile.

Outstanding aroma! It smells like rye, whisky, chocolate, dark fruit, tobacco, leather, and charred grains.

Spicy rye flavor and a bit of alcohol up front, followed by a bitter bakers chocolate, some sour cherry, raisin, oak, tobacco, ashy/burnt grains, some brown sugar, and a stong lingering rye bread and piney bitterness.

It has a very solid, almost oatmeal like, chewy body. Among the more viscous barreled beers I have had for sure. Reminds me of a Parabola.

My biggest knock is that this beer is a little too bitter. Not in the moment necessarily, but a very resinous, lingering hop flavor. Other than that, it is world class, and the best rye stout I have had.

Jun 28, 2017
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MichaelCoyne from Michigan

4.68/5  rDev +3.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.75

Sat on this one for a while and WOW. Very balanced, great taste, feel, etc....Highly recommend seeking this beer out and sharing it with others who appreciate a great BA stout

Apr 21, 2017
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Ri0 from Wisconsin

4.75/5  rDev +4.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.75

Poured 750ml into tulip glass. Pitch black with a thin 1 finger deep tan head that quickly fades away and leaves no lacing behind. The aroma is simply marvelous with rich malts, fudge, rye whiskey, vanilla, sweet caramel, dark chocolate and marshmallow. There is an explosion of all those dessert flavors... Massive roasted malts, plenty of dark chocolate brownie fudge loaded with caramel. Vanilla and rye whiskey move in to to finish it off. Velvety smooth and rich full mouthfeel that is slightly sweet. I unintentionally let this sit for 1.5 years, but damn if it isn't a wonderful beer that rivals my favorites from Central Waters.

Apr 16, 2017
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Treyliff from West Virginia

4.49/5  rDev -1.1%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

750ml bottle poured into a tulip glass

A- pours a deep black color with a one-finger creamy khaki colored head that reduces to a ring around the edge

S- smells of dark chocolate, green pepper, caramel, dark cherry, whiskey barrel, spicy rye & raisin

T- opens with dark chocolate malt & caramel, quickly turning to lots of whiskey barrel, spicy rye, earthy wood & vanilla. The finish gives just a hint of cherry and raisin, with a linger of more whiskey

M- medium body and low carbonation leads to a foamy mouthfeel and a slightly warming finish

O- not as much cherry notes as previous batches, but more barrel forward than 2014

Dec 17, 2016
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yesterdayfaraway from Missouri

4.74/5  rDev +4.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.75

L: pours brown, but black in the glass with no head
S: smooth bourbon sweetness but not a huge aroma. Slight chocolate, and some dark fruit juices.
T: starts sweet and ends sweet. The middle has the smooth bourbon, and more dark fruit juices than chocolate. Very good for sure, but prefer more chocolate notes.
F: medium thickness, a syrup feel, so very smooth.
O: this is the best ba stout that isn't chocolate forward imo. Usually I don't like them at all, but this is different. Very nice indeed.

Nov 23, 2016
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CarlosSpicyWeiner from Minnesota

5/5  rDev +10.1%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

I didn't think that darkness could get any better and then they made the 2015 barrel aged version. This one add notes of bourbon, oak, vanilla, and toffee to the base beer. Extremely well done. I can see why this won gold at gabf.

Oct 26, 2016
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Dactrius from Wisconsin

4.49/5  rDev -1.1%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

A great choice for beer #2000. Black with no head. Smell is excellent with tons of chocolate and coffee. Flavor follows suit with a ton of dark fruit flavors. The barrel is really well integrated and provides additional sweetness. No noticeable bitterness. As it warms the rye barrel comes out even more which actually screwed up the balance a bit. Nice thick mouthfeel. Overall a one of the best BA stouts I've had.

Oct 07, 2016
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Fireman_RK from North Carolina

4.83/5  rDev +6.4%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.75

L: Rich, dark mocha and onyx hues with a generous khaki/cinnamon head
S: A bit of barrel upfront recedes into dark chocolate, roasted malts, and black licorice
T: Big oaky rye barrel notes complemented by fudge, brownie batter, cocoa, milk chocolate, and a slight hint of coffee
F: Medium bordering on thick mouthfeel with a slight carbonation
O: For this was a huge improvement on the base beer. On occasion, to my palette, barrel aging can sometimes take away from a solid base beer's subtle and distinctive notes (e.g., Birth of Tragedy), but the rye barrel aging imparts a distinctive sweet booziness to Darkness that I quite enjoyed. Overall a very solid BA stout and one I'm glad they're making again in 2016.

Sep 24, 2016
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mjpolzin from Wisconsin

4.05/5  rDev -10.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

Solid but not spectacular. Bourbon nose and taste was present but the heavy malt taste that is Darkness was still fairly prominent. This was on tap at a pre Great Taste event. In fairness, this was my fourth barrel aged stout of the night so my palette wasn't great.

Aug 19, 2016
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Gambyt20 from Illinois

4.92/5  rDev +8.4%
look: 5 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 5

On tap. nose was solid and the taste follows, not boozy at all, very smoothly balance of barrel notes, chocolaty, vanilla, super roasty greatness. Definitely great BA Stout worth seeking out to try!

Aug 10, 2016
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Alieniloquium from Florida

3.6/5  rDev -20.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

2015 bottle. Black body. Smells of licorice, chocolate, booze, and some whiskey. Tastes of more whiskey up front. Still very sweet. Licorice and fudge. Oaky in the back end. Heavy and sweet. Gets sluggish and too sweet after a big pour, but at first it was really tasty.

Jul 12, 2016
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angrybabboon from Massachusetts

4.17/5  rDev -8.1%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

Consumed 6/24/16

A: Pours deep, dark brown, black at its core - yes, Darkness is dark - pours with a medium sized, light tan head - slowly fades to a wispy cap, retains a small collar, leaves some nice streaks of lacing

S: All of that chocolaty, roasty goodness of Darkness with an undercurrent of whiskey - dark, roasty, and burnt - chocolate malts, dark chocolate, chocolate cake, and fudge - some roasty coffee aromas - molasses, burnt sugar, and caramel - some dark bread - potent but not overly potent whiskey aroma - some nice oak - some heat in the aroma as well

T: Pretty much what you would imagine, but that's not a bad thing - dark chocolate, baker's chocolate, fudge, and burnt brownies - lightly burnt overall with some charred malts - vaguely smokey - some sweetness, with burnt caramel, burnt sugar, cooked malts, and molasses - nice whiskey flavor, with some oak - lots of whiskey flavor, but not too much thanks to the fact that Darkness as a base is just so burly - some alcohol flavor, but it seems appropriate

M Rich, medium-full body, very smooth, with some lingering woody dryness

O: Yes, worth the wait

Getting a bottle of Barrel Aged Darkness was not easy. More specifically, waiting overnight in a chilly, rainy MN was not easy. The main point of the exercise was to acquire (normal) Darkness. The BA Darkness was kind of a bonus... I've grown tired of barrel aged stouts over the years, but this one works. It's a sipper, but Darkness is so robust that the barrel-aging really works.

Jun 25, 2016
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yumbeer from Florida

4.63/5  rDev +2%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.75

Significantly better than the original, non-BA version of which I wasn't a big fan. A really interesting finish, very different than most barrel aged RIS. I can't put my finger on what exactly was so different, but it was a nice surprise and something I really enjoyed after not being too excited that it was part of tonight's share.

Jun 12, 2016
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Chriscrundwell12 from Minnesota

4.58/5  rDev +0.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

Have had on a couple occasions. Phenomenal beer!! The Bourbon shines in this beer, chocolate vanilla goodness, nice buttery bourbon flavor, not too hot, has mellowed over the 8 months since they were released. Perfect dessert beer to enjoy on a cold winter day or on a hot summer day in June. Very happy to have a couple more of these!

Jun 09, 2016
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wulfie85 from California

4.54/5  rDev 0%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

One of the best barrel aged stouts of 2015. This one will aged extremely well and reward you up front as well. Excellent oak and bourbon notes from the barrel merge with the bitter chocolate notes from the base stout to make an excellent beer here.

Jun 03, 2016
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Sludgeman from District of Columbia

3.33/5  rDev -26.7%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.25

On tap at Church Key during Savior Week. Poured into a small snifter.

Regular darkness is so much better. Too much barrel! Glad I caught this at a tap takeover where I could get a 4oz. 3.25

A – Pours a syrupy opaque black with low carbonation and a thin brown head. Beer shows big alcohol legs and good lacing 3.75

S – Bourbon barrel is the predominate aroma. Some roasted malts and chocolate find their way through the alcohol. 3.75

T – Bourbon, some vanilla an roasted malts. Not a “hot” beer, but who put beer in my bourbon? 3

MF - Heavy body, slick, very warming. 3.5

Jun 02, 2016
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John_M from France

4.53/5  rDev -0.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.5

Generously provided by Ottodyer the other night.

The beer pours the expected blackish brown color with excellent lacing and head retention. The beer looks great, but frankly, it smells and tastes even better. On the nose, there is considerable rye whiskey, along with milk chocolate, milk duds, caramel, light coffee and vanilla. The flavor profile replicates the nose pretty closely, in a rich, fairly sweet, seamless package. The beer is soft, creamy and very, very smooth on the palate, making it all the more difficult not to just gulp this down. Alcohol is exceptionally well integrated into the flavor profile, and the finish is long and very smooth, with a touch of whiskey flavor at the end.

Just exceptional. Almost certainly the best bottle of darkness I've ever been fortunate to drink. Thanks David!

May 21, 2016
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SpeedwayJim from New York

4.51/5  rDev -0.7%
look: 3.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.75

A huge thanks to Jeff for this one. Waxed and capped 750ml bottle into a Cigar City snifter. Shared with schen9303.

Pours huge, black and menacing. Nose is chocolate, fudge, cocoa powder and peat and bourbon. Tickles the nose but its not overly aromatic. Flavors of bourbon up front complemented by raisin, prunes and other dried dark fruit. Chocolate, fudge, cocoa powder, roasted malt, molasses and tobacco. Excellent excellent excellent. Sweetness is perfect with the booze notes. I can't ask for more. Rich and viscous in the mouth with little carbonation. This one is heavy, boozy and just right for the style and flavor profile.

Just an outstanding beer all around. The sweetness is perfect with the booze and the feel is actually just perfect. Surly continues to impress!

May 19, 2016
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hardy008 from Minnesota

4.66/5  rDev +2.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Pours dark black with a 1 finger mocha head with nice retention and lacing. The first thing I smell immediately is the Rye Whiskey, followed by chocolate, vanilla, dark roasted malt, and dark fruit.

Tastes sweet with chocolate, Rye Whiskey, dark fruit, vanilla, dark roasted malt, and caramel. I am also surprised that this beer does not taste boozy, given how strong the smell of the Rye Whiskey is.

full bodied, creamy, smooth and easy to drink. An outstanding beer to say the least.

May 14, 2016
Darkness - High West Rye Whiskey Barrel Aged (2015) from Surly Brewing Company
Beer rating: 99 out of 100 with 366 ratings