Darkness - Woodford Reserve Rye Whiskey Barrel-Aged - 2017
Surly Brewing Company

Darkness - Woodford Reserve Rye Whiskey Barrel-Aged - 2017Darkness - Woodford Reserve Rye Whiskey Barrel-Aged - 2017
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Russian Imperial Stout
4.41 | pDev: 6.8%
Surly Brewing Company
Minnesota, United States
Retired (no longer brewed)
Darkness - Woodford Reserve Rye Whiskey Barrel-Aged - 2017Darkness - Woodford Reserve Rye Whiskey Barrel-Aged - 2017
Notes: This massive Russian Imperial Stout brings waves of flavors; chocolate, cherries, raisins, coffee, and toffee. Barrel-Aged Darkness is a limited edition variant that spent over three months aging in Woodford Reserve Rye Whiskey barrels. The aging process provides a distinct aromatic whiskey character that is oaky and spicy on top of the core Darkness flavors.
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Reviews: 25 | Ratings: 77 | Log in to view all ratings and sort
Photo of DoctorZombies
4.42/5  rDev +0.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

Pours a deep brown with ruby see through at 56 degrees; fast fizzy tan head; large fizzy island of micro dots remain along with a solid ring and small spots of soapy lacing; medium legs on swirl. Nose is chocolate and whiskey; boozy retro nasal; spicy wood as liquid warms. Sweet dark fruit - plums, ripe cherries for first impression; chocolate, whiskey, oak and soy sauce follow; sweet caramel, toffee round out the whole; no roast, no bitterness. Medium body, slick feel, moderate carbonation; minimal warmth from 12%; slight alcohol burn on tongue; dry barrel/rye finish. Overall a solid BA RIS; nice boozy chocolate linger; more fruity sweetness than I want; caramel-like flavors play well off the the spicy oaky rye barrel notes.

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Photo of dafla67
4.6/5  rDev +4.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Pours dark black. Incredible aroma which is a mix of spiciness, roasty, chocolate, whiskey & vanilla. Taste is as wonderful as the aroma. Well balance mix of the roasted malts, chocolate, whiskey and vanilla. Rich & smooth feel. I think it is better than regular Darkness. (Drank May 2020)

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dafla67 from Pennsylvania, May 16, 2020
Photo of SpeedwayJim
4.18/5  rDev -5.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

A huge thanks to Jeff for this one. I don't think I'll ever get tired of these Darkness variants.

750ml waxed and capped bottle into Night Shift stemware. Shared with schen9303.

Pours a little flat. Big bubbles. Nose is sweet soy sauce, molasses, cocoa powder, chocolate, sweet dark fruit and booze. Nice complexity with great aromatics. Beer opens sweet soy sauce, dried dark fruit, plum and raisin. I get milk chocolate in the middle along with molasses, booze, tobacco and leather. Some cocoa powder towards the end with more plum and sweet soy sauce at the finish. Milk chocolate and roasted malt in the aftertaste. Delicious. Body is medium to full with low carbonation. Rich and silky on the palate and goes down warm and rich. Sticky, lingering finish.

This one's not the best variant that I've had as the rye adds a layer of fruitiness that I don't think integrates quite right. Still, well worth having.

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SpeedwayJim from New York, Feb 22, 2020
Photo of MonDak_Joe1953
4.4/5  rDev -0.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

750ml bottle. Waxed and capped bottle. Jerrod Johnson and Ben Smith listed as head brewers on the label.
Black colored body, with a thin back lit cola brown edge. Initial pour brought forth a multi finger light brown head, but this quickly fizzes away. Rising bubbles present an active surface show. No lacing.
Aroma of dark roasted malts, slight char, dark fruit, toffee, and chocolate. Spicy oak barrel provides a slight contribution.
Taste is sweet with dark fruit (raisin, plum, and prune). Dark roasted malts introduce chocolate, slight coffee, and toffee. Perceptible smoky char. Spicy note from the whiskey barrel. Leather comes in late. Late hop note.
Thicker than medium mouth feel, with some syrup quality. Very good carbonation.
Lots of dark fruit in this one, and the rye barrel adds a spice note.

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Photo of StonedTrippin
4.49/5  rDev +1.8%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

a special bottle of beer at this point, and a gift from an almost complete stranger, incredible blessings the beer world has brought me and continues to bring, some amazing people out there, felt appropriate to break it out amongst new friends. this is rad stuff, well mature now, no sign of oxidation at all, and that this is done in rye and not bourbon barrels is extremely evident right from the beginning. its spicy and distinctive, with a vanilla and raisin hint that i have gotten from woodford reserve rye specifically, but its not overly woody or boozed up, its just an accent, which leaves a now legendary base imperial stout well enough intact to be fully appreciated and enjoyed here. there are notes of smoke, good espresso, black cherry, rum raisin, and cooked prune, more fruit hints than i remember in other variants of this, and they come out more and more as it warms. things like tobacco, port wine, and dark bread emerge from the malt, as does a rich chocolate sweetness. its all so smooth for its strength, and even without a ton of wood in the flavor, it feels very mellow to me as i sip on it. real complex, real fancy, and some of the sexiest packaging in all of beer on this vintage. sometimes i wish that after saving this bottle for over a year that i had the self control to not break it open after i had already had a fair few, but at the same time, beer is for drinking, not for having, and it was still a joy to drink, especially with new friends. slick and smooth and rich and black and strong, impossibly well constructed and perfectly aged at this point. i have to imagine this is about the climax for it, nothing that additional cellar time could do for it. one of my favorite barrel aged stouts in a long, long time!

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Photo of Rristow
4.72/5  rDev +7%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.75

Tasted from bottle. Pours black with thin beige head that quickly fades. Aroma of bourbon, cherry, dates, raisin, molasses. Thick and chewy. Flavors of cherry, raisins, cocoa, molasses and brown sugar. Awesome BA stout.

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Photo of Victory_Sabre1973
4.37/5  rDev -0.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.5

2018 release of this beer. Based on the picture, I've got the right place for this review. Consumed on 4-30-2019

Pours a thick pitch black color. Brownish head, 1 finger. Some lacing on the glass, and the retention is quite good for a higher ABV beer.
The nose is really rich and deep. I get some raisin, some chocolate, and a lot of the barrel.
Taste - Up front I get some chocolate notes. Some raisin in the middle. There's barrel mixed in throughout this beer.
This beer is a lot more mellow feeling than I was expecting. There's very minimal harshness from the alcohol. It's quite smooth. But, that being said, you know it's a high octane beer. Quite full bodied - Thick.
I've had a couple of previous releases of BA Darkness, and they all have been quite good. This one is no different in that department. I often have BA Darkness with a year of age on it, and this is no exception, but, this one is a lot more smooth than other years. My only complaint is the size - I'd rather get it in a 12 oz bottle rather than a 750ml. No matter, it's quite good.

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Photo of emyers
4.34/5  rDev -1.6%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25

22 oz bottle poured into a snifter.

Near black with a very thin light brown lacing.

Nose: raisin, cherry, dark chocolate, oak, rye. Fair amount of heat.

Taste: similar to the nose. Dark fruit notes and rye whiskey are very strong. Boozy finish.

Feel: very full-bodied, low carbonation.

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emyers from Illinois, Jan 02, 2019
Photo of barnzy78
4.78/5  rDev +8.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.75

750mL, 2017 release. Pitch black body with a thinner light brown head that fades rather quickly. Rich nose of roasted barley, boozy whiskey barrel, anise, and dark cocoa. Rich and boozy flavors as expected; extremely complex: dark chocolate, roasted barley, char, oak, spicy rye whiskey, vanilla, dark fruit (fig, plum, cherry, raisin, date), tobacco leaf, anise, and earthy hops. Full bodied, nice carbonation, sticky sweet but the boozy edge keeps it from being cloyingly sweet; roasty, boozy, and spicy rye lingers on the semi-dry finish. Wow. Just wow. Darkness is one of my favorite beers and this was a totally new level of appreciation for Darkness I'm super-happy to finally try!

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barnzy78 from Illinois, Nov 24, 2018
Photo of MacMalt
4.46/5  rDev +1.1%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

I received this from @vidblain in a BIF box. Bottled on 1/25/2017. poured into a snifter glass. An absolutely black, oily pour with an attractive, creamy khaki-colored cap and thick sheen of creamy lacing. Its nose features roasted malt, milk chocolate, toffee, nuts, oak, and a whiff of freshly-brewed coffee. As the glass warms, the smell of rye whiskey emerges. The taste is outstanding! There is rye whiskey up front along with roasted malt, rich milk chocolate, caramel, toffee, coffee, nuts, and black cherry. As the glass warms, the whiskey and cherry become more apparent. The tastes compliment each other very nicely. It has a thick, viscous mouth feel that gets chewier as it warms, with light/moderate carbonation, and the 12% ABV is dangerous because you don't feel it at first; just some moderate warming. Overall, this is a superb Russian Imperial Stout. One thing I really like is that the rye whiskey is so delicate; it doesn't distract for the flavors I enjoy in a RIS. Darkness has been on my radar for several years and I'm grateful to @vidblain for having the chance to enjoy it.

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MacMalt from New Jersey, Oct 14, 2018
Photo of jzeilinger
4.4/5  rDev -0.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Many thanks to tacosandbeer for this bottle.

A - Dark brown pour that's borderline black with thin toffee colored lacing.

S - Oak, dark chocolate, spice, bourbon, light smoke and char.

T - Spicy rye, chocolate, oak, and cherries.

M - Thick and silky soft texture with some alcohol effervescence permeating the sinuses and some heat on the back end.

O - Really enjoyed this beer.

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jzeilinger from Pennsylvania, Aug 06, 2018
Photo of tempest
4.41/5  rDev 0%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Found on tap at MSP's Stone Arch bar. Wow, what a beer. I'm not often impressed by giant stouts, but this is rich without being heavy and there's a crazy chocolate and bananas foster aroma. Tons of a cocoa and cold brewed coffee, initially sweet with a little cherry before the balancing bitterness rolls in. Hint of heat in the nose as it warms.

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tempest from New York, Jul 09, 2018
Photo of KingTen144
4.89/5  rDev +10.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 5

This is definitely one of the best beers I have ever had, possibly the best. Dark brown pour with light tan head. Aroma of vanilla and caramel, along with the scent of the rye whiskey. Taste is similar, but adds some chocolate notes and brings just the right amout of earthiness from the barrel. Has the perfect amount of bite in the aftertaste as a reminder of the booze that used to be in the barrel. I don't know if I'll ever get my hands on one of these again, but I'd happily welcome the opportunity!

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KingTen144 from Illinois, Jul 01, 2018
Photo of hophugger
4.3/5  rDev -2.5%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

Almost pitch black. Half finger of tan head that disapates rapidly. Aromas of vanilla, dark fruits, sweet malts. Taste is well balanced and quite complex with raisins, dark cherries, unlit cigar, sweet chocolate and a nice blend of bourbon and barrel. Clean finish. Slightly thinner body than I would have expected but an amazing beer

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hophugger from Virginia, Jun 21, 2018
Photo of GuyFawkes
4.25/5  rDev -3.6%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Released February 2018; drank 4/24/18 @ the Yarchives.

Black appearance.

A violent pour yielded a big tan head; thick tree-rung lace.

Raspberry, oak, milk chocolate, mild whiskey & faint spicy rye notes in the nose.

Creamy, thick mouthfeel. 1

Milk chocolate, raspberry & oak flavors up front; mild whiskey & faint citrus notes on the finish.

A satisfying stout; not mind-blowing but certainly above average. I'd have another...

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GuyFawkes from Illinois, Apr 25, 2018
Photo of AyatollahGold
4.5/5  rDev +2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Excited to try this. Will be my first Surly beer besides a Sierra Nevada collab. Not even had the base Darkness.
Well the beer pours a pitch black with a thin crown of caramel/mocha color. Love the color of the crown but would like a little more of it.
The smell surprises me with the rye that comes through. Rye, vanilla, cholcolate and a whiskey that leaves a sting in your throats after a deep breath.
The taste is much of the same. Has sweet notes of caramel, vanilla, chocolate and even molasses followed by the whiskey and the barrel. Even some slight tobacco notes. Really well balanced.
The feeling is warm all the way through. A little thinner on the body than you would expect from the style but not too thin. It works great.
Overall, I didn't know what to expect from this with threads of it not being good and then some arguing it is. Seemed like very mixed reviews. Well I guess I'm on the high side, because this is a very solid beer to me. Great balance and well made. Very multi dimensional. Thanks Surly.

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Photo of REVZEB
4.63/5  rDev +5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.5

In a time where bourbon barrel aged stouts are getting darker, heavier and more syrupy, this one stands out as more uniquely constructed. It dares to embrace a lighter feel, don't worry it is still plenty dark and heavy, but for a BA RIS it is lighter, yeastier, more balanced, almost how a great trappist ale is balanced. Flavors are outstanding, everything stands out well while complimenting one another. Each sip is a little something different. Serve warmer for a treat!

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REVZEB from Illinois, Mar 21, 2018
Photo of darktronica
4.32/5  rDev -2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.25

Pours thick and, well... dark. A thin layer of effervescent, audible head that quickly dissipates like a soda. Vinous notes from the base RIS that get amplified by the barrel treatment, which gives a very tempting level of rye spice, as well as some more Belgian esters of banana and clove, capped off by a full, nearly-perfect mouthfeel.

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Photo of bbtkd
4.2/5  rDev -4.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

Surly Woodford Reserve Rye Whiskey Barrel-Aged Darkness 2017, 12% ABV. Pours black with a real nice one finger brown head. Wondrous nose is whiskey, chocolate, dark fruit, and vanilla. Taste follows with slight sweetness and moderate bitterness. Excellent mouthfeel, overall outstanding. But not as outstanding as my final bottle of 2016 BA Darkness which I had a few weeks ago.

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bbtkd from South Dakota, Mar 09, 2018
Photo of SFACRKnight
3.33/5  rDev -24.5%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Kinda sad about this beer. Another uber hyped Midwest beer that landed on local shelves. Pours nicely, almost black with a dark brown head that dissipates quickly. Nose is booze, roast, burned sugars. That's all. No barrel, no rye whiskey. This beer is sweet. Brown sugar, booze, burned coffee. Mouthfeel is pretty thin for a big ass stout by today's standards. Overall, while I was initially put off by the sweetness it wasn't undrinkable. It's a throwback to the heyday of regional barrel aged stouts garnering hype. Colorado has ba yet I from the same period. But compared to beers like ba dark star, this beer is an antique.

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SFACRKnight from Colorado, Mar 04, 2018
Photo of Evilyak
4.26/5  rDev -3.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

I'm going to add Surly Darkness to the list of things that millenials have ruined. Used to be something you'd have to chase - now it's gathering dust at my local packie. These damn kids and all their new beers.

I wasn't as impressed with the base beer this year, but the barrel aging adds a nice element to it in the nose and there's definitely some spiciness from the rye. Cherry sweet.

I paid way too much for this bottle but I enjoyed it.

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Evilyak from Minnesota, Feb 24, 2018
Photo of morimech
3.97/5  rDev -10%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4

No faulting the appearance of this beer with its sinister black color and dense head. Moderate amount of lacing is left behind. Strong aroma of licorice with more subtle hints of whisky, vanilla, dark fruit, blackstrap, earth, and alcohol. For barrel-aged, this is pretty weak with the barrel. Not getting a lot of whisky, oak, or vanilla in the flavor. The barrel is more for the aroma than a flavor component. The result is a hoppy stout with a slightly sweet, boozy kick in the finish. More than a bit disappointed considering the price point. I do get a lot of licorice and earth with some dried fruit. The body is big and bold but perhaps a bit over carbonated.

With every brewery in the state able to turn out a relatively decent barrel-aged stout, and a few better than BA Darkness, Surly either needs to seriously step up their game or get more reasonable with the price. There have been more than a few grumbles out there about this beer. And why does every vintage of this beer has a separate listing?

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morimech from Minnesota, Feb 17, 2018
Photo of gatornation
4.32/5  rDev -2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4.25

Pours a nice black color with a dark mocha head. Smell is spicy,hoppy, with wood,vanilla and roasted malt. Taste is chocolate forward its sweet and spicy, finishes with a mellow wood roast and light rye finish ...very good. Mouthfeel was sweet and on the thin side it was very smooth and silky and light on the rye barrel. This however is a very good BA RIS, its better than '16, no where near '15 (taste and barrel), but a great bottle to seek out.

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gatornation from Minnesota, Feb 11, 2018
Photo of mothman
4.5/5  rDev +2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

On tap. Tan head. Black color.

Lots of spice from the rye. Great barrel flavor. Marshmello, oak, and rye whiskey. Fudgy and chocolate. Caramel and molasses.

Fairly thick. Reminds me a lot of bourbon county. Better than the critics are saying. Light roast in the finish.

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mothman from Minnesota, Feb 11, 2018
Photo of SaxmanRick
4.91/5  rDev +11.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

Regular Darkness is such an apex of this style (IMO) that barrel-aging almost seems unneeded. However, it is quite pleasant to see what this added step contributes to the breath of the experience.

Pours a very dark liquid with minimal head and just a slight lingering lacing.

Aroma is complex…Dark fruit, alcohol and, yes, rye whiskey.

Taste is Darkness PLUS…Roasted malts, chocolate/coffee/oak…plus brandy or cognac hints…plus a fabulous and significant selection of dark fruits – clearly driven by the proper hop additions.

BA Darkness is a variation – and a great one at that – but I wouldn’t pick this as my one and only (I might pick regular Darkness). Having a few of these in my cellar is the icing on my Darkness cake.

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SaxmanRick from Minnesota, Feb 09, 2018
Darkness - Woodford Reserve Rye Whiskey Barrel-Aged - 2017 from Surly Brewing Company
Beer rating: 94 out of 100 with 77 ratings