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

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Narwhal Imperial Stout - Barrel AgedNarwhal Imperial Stout - Barrel Aged

Brewed by:
Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.
California, United States

Style: Russian Imperial Stout

Alcohol by volume (ABV): 12.90%

Availability: Rotating

Notes / Commercial Description:
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

Added by BeerAdvocate on 01-11-2013

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Reviews: 276 | Ratings: 1,815
Photo of JLaw55
1.5/5  rDev -65.2%
look: 1.5 | smell: 1.5 | taste: 1.5 | feel: 1.5 | overall: 1.5

The alcohol issue with the regular Narwhal was even worse here. It was amplified to the next level. Super over the top booze overpowers everything else. This is not for me.

Would Drink Again: No
Would Purchase Again: No

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Photo of Xenoreactive
2.65/5  rDev -38.5%
look: 5 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 2.5

Hype brew. Even after a 6 month sit, this is far too boozey, oakey, roasty and overheated to be palatable. Maybe 18 months would do the trick, but the alcohol comes through all too much with this brew. Don't pay 20$ for this.

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Photo of ThePaleRider
2.9/5  rDev -32.7%
look: 4 | smell: 3.25 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 3.25 | overall: 2.75

Not good at all. Tried this twice now and just can't get past the flavor of pepper. Very dry and just tastes like pepper. gross.
PS. I still love Sierra Nevada

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Photo of RAlmeida77
3.03/5  rDev -29.7%
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.

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Photo of Trifecta1
3.28/5  rDev -23.9%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.25

Had high hopes, but this turned out to be a hype-bomb.

Hardly any bourbon, no Narwhal trademarks (cocoa and licorice). Woody, roasty, thin body with some alcohol heat. A decent stout, but horrible execution of a BBA stout. I'd even take Anderson Valley BBA Stout over this. Pass.

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Photo of kojevergas
3.31/5  rDev -23.2%
look: 3.25 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.25 | feel: 3.25 | overall: 3.25

(Reviewed from notes)

BOTTLE: Brown glass. Bomber format. Branded cork. Generally appealing label art.

Reviewed as an imperial stout per the label. Served cold into an Odell stem-tulip at high altitude in Fort Collins, CO. Expectations are above average; I'm not big in the original Narwhal and I'm not the Sierra Nevada fanatic everyone else seems to be.

No bubble show forms as it's poured.

HEAD: 1 finger wide. Khaki colour head. Creamy, thick, and full. Soft-looking. Retention is average – about 2 minutes. Leaves no lacing on the sides of the glass as it recedes.

BODY: Opaque solid black – pretty much what you'd predict, but not an ink black or anything. Clean; no yeast particulate or hop sediment is visible.

Overall, it looks apt for an imperial stout, but is far from unique or special looking. I've definitely seen far better in the style.

AROMA: Dark malts, chocolate malts, cream, and caramel. Barrel-wise, I pick up on some faint coconut, but no rich toasty evocative oak. There's a mild vanilla presence. It isn't as woody as I'd anticipate given the barrel aging.

No yeast character, overt alcohol, obvious off-notes, or hop profile is detectable.

Evokes a fairly balanced brew without much barrel character. Definitely seems more interesting than regular Narwhal. Seems a bit too sweet.

Aromatic intensity is moderate.

TASTE: Boasts interesting notes of faint toasted coconut, mild vanilla, and a kiss of bourbon. It's missing toasted oak barrel and barrel sugar notes. Dark malts and chocolate malts comprise the simple foundation. Comes off a bit too sweet, but it's not quite boozy. Some caramel.

No yeast character, overt off-notes, caramel, or hop profile comes through.

It's decently balanced, but leaves much to be desired in terms of complexity/intricacy, subtlety, and nuance – especially considering the style – which demands that a lot be happening, at least to set it apart.

Average depth, duration, and intensity of flavour. Decent flavour amplitude. It's nicely built, with some loose cohesion, but never comes off tasting like a gestalt whole.

I do like it, and it's certainly more interesting than regular Narwhal, but I still expect more from a barrel aged imperial stout – especially in today's oversaturated market.

TEXTURE: Smooth, wet, full-bodied, unrefreshing, lightly boozy, somewhat soft, fairly moderately thick and overcarbonated. Overall presence on the palate is nice but wanting. This texture doesn't elevate the beer and doesn't feel custom-tailored specifically to the taste, but it suits the taste decently and doesn't hold the beer back.

Not oily, gushed, astringent, harsh, rough, scratchy, or dragging on the palate. It does have a noticeable alcohol warmth, however.

OVERALL: Definitely an improvement on the base beer, but still ultimately underwhelming considering the style. There are far better beers available in the style for less money, but this is decent and I do enjoy it. Sierra Nevada continues to fail to impress me, but I'm glad I tried this once. Unfortunately, the barrel character just never melts into the base like it should. A nice stab at the style, with a good premise. The toasted coconut stands out, but is too subtle in my opinion. More drinkable than a sipper, but by no means easy to drink.

Low B-

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Photo of billshmeinke
3.32/5  rDev -23%
look: 4.5 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

Poured in a wine glass.

Pitch black with a nice finger of foam on top. Head retention and lace are impressive.

Smells of butterscotch, booze, and oak. Some soy sauce. A bit astringent. Not off to a good start.

Luckily the taste is much better, booze and astringent fragrances aren't as prevalent. Hints of chocolate and vanilla. Still some butterscotch, and some mineral, and earth booziness, reminiscent of tequila (and yes that's in a bad way).

Mouthfeel is a little thinner than expected. Still fairly sticky, and low carbonation.

Disappointing overall. A lot of bad flavors that better barrel aged imperial stouts don'e exhibit. Let it warm and breath some. It helps, but not enough.

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Photo of rdilauro
3.46/5  rDev -19.7%
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

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Photo of johnnnniee
3.5/5  rDev -18.8%

Bottle from Colonial Spirits
Solid opaque black color with a decent sized tan head that has some retention and lace. Aromas of chocolate, caramel, light brown sugar, oak with a hint of bourbon and vanilla and just a hint too much cardboard. The flavor is big roasty chocolate with hints of caramel vanilla and oak. Light dark fruitiness with a pleasant warming alcohol that lasts long into the finish. Medium body with a light level of carbonation and a silky creamy mouthfeel. Nice sipper, I enjoyed it for a couple of hours. I would have liked a bit less cardboard especially with the enormous price tag this bottle came with. Nice to try but I probably would pass on this in the future.

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Photo of Bosoxfan20
3.59/5  rDev -16.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 3.25 | feel: 3.25 | overall: 3.5

A- Near black. Comes out of the bottle slightly thinner than the non-barrel aged version. Dense mocha head and fair lacing.

S- Big on the bourbon notes. Charred malts, vanilla, coconut, and fudgey chocolate

T- Bold. Fresh. Caramel, chocolate, and a very sweet undertone. Maybe a bit green as it runs a little hot. Messy at times. Could probably use some aging. Body is full and silky.

O- In full disclosure, I wasn't huge on the non-barrel version. It is hard to make a BB aged stout that I don't fall in love with these days, but that is exactly what happened here. I will either age my other bottle or find a trade partner.

$15 for 750 ml bottle

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Photo of SomethingClever
3.61/5  rDev -16.2%
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 

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Photo of Shermski
3.66/5  rDev -15.1%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 3.75

Disclaimer: I should have aged it more.
L - Dark viscous, head retention is deep brown like most good BA stouts.
S - Not that complex, boozy more than anything with some oak.
T - Bourbon, once again not that complex. Some BA stouts come together like magic, this one still needs time. Could either develop or fall off. Not the most enjoyable right now but age could be key.
F - Thick and sticky, wish it tasted better besides being a booze bomb. I want the sweet decadence like BCBS.
O - Texture and feel are very much there, should not have opened and saved for another 2-3 years. For now, I like the base narwhal better, it's an excellent non BA stout. That being said my mind wanders, there has got to be a way to age this to make this beyond world class.

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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.

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Photo of IMFletcher
3.75/5  rDev -13%

Poured from a 750ml. Head was tall and cream-colored. Nice nose, but hints at being heavy on booze. Body is thin, too thin. There are some nice coffee and cocoa notes, but then, BAM! You've got a glass of flavored bourbon in your hands. I tend to sweat (happily) when I eat spicy food, and this Narwhal has so much heat, my head started to steam.

I'm putting the others I purchased away for at least a year. Hopefully they mellow out.

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Photo of SteveB24
3.75/5  rDev -13%

This wasn't bad but the alcohol taste is very strong, and overpowered the malt flavors. i didn't get any of the rich, toffee, caramel or dark fruit taste advertised on the bottle, there was some coffee and malt flavors but they were quite mild.
Not bad but far from the best barrel aged stouts i've had,

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Photo of ilikebeer03
3.77/5  rDev -12.5%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.75

Nose is a combination of toasted grain, chocolate, and espresso.
Taste is dark roasted grains, spicy bourbon, a touch of chocolate, vanilla, and coffee. Nothing dominates. A hint of smiley charred barrel. Body is fine, but not the best I've ever seen from and imperial stout.

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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.

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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.

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

'14 vintage
Quite a bit disappointed with this. Perhaps I should not have waited and instead had it fresh. Barrel presence is practically non-existent in both aroma and taste. Flavor is bland across the board - nothing stands out at all. Mouthfeel is fine. Will try to seek this out fresh but will not get another for the cellar certainly.

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Photo of Tommo
3.82/5  rDev -11.4%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4

In 2015, you really have to come with more than this to be a top BA Stout. Compared to many offerings, the bourbon character is very lacking. While very smooth, it is also very sweet and somewhat thin. I think this is very good, but kind of overrated

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Photo of argock
3.87/5  rDev -10.2%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4

Poured from a 750 ml brown corked and caged bottle into a clear glass tulip. Purchased about 2 months ago at Wine Warehouse (Charlottesville, VA).

A: Black with rim of light beige head which leaves a few tiny scraps of lacing.

S: Aroma is mostly roast, woody oak, alcohol, and piney hops.

T: Flavor is a little harsh and rough with pretty hefty alcohol, roast, and oak characters which covers the more subtle nuances of bourbon, vanilla, and coffee which are there but not up front. There is dark chocolate too, again understudy to the dominant flavor. Hops are herbal and pine with medium bitterness. Heavy booze in the aftertaste.

M: Great body and crisp with more carbonation that most which prevents it from falling into the syrupy trap.

O: NOt worth the price and I would take Epic Big Bad Baptist or Heavy Seas Siren Noire over this everytime -- actually could buy two for the bloated price of this decent bottle.

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Photo of mlockman
3.88/5  rDev -10%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

this really needed a night to air out a bit in the fridge before he flavors I was looking for really developed. On the first night, I found the flavors to be a jumbled mess and rather bitter; after having a freezer bag rubber-banded to the bottle neck and sitting in the fridge overnight, the bourbon notes really came out when I revisited it the next day. That being said, no other aspects of it really blew me away, and while the flavor was good on the second day (and indeed, flavor is what I base much of my "overall" upon) my odd/less-than-pleasant experience on the first day inclines me to not rate this as highly as other reviewers.

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Photo of chinchill
3.9/5  rDev -9.5%
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.

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Photo of ONovoMexicano
3.91/5  rDev -9.3%
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

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Photo of BMMillsy
3.91/5  rDev -9.3%

Bottle from Hop City in Atlanta. Pours black with a two finger mocha brown head with excellent retention. Creamy looking. Aroma of graham cracker, roast, cardboard, light whiskey. Flavor is sweet chocolate and vanilla bourbon booze, big roast, lots of oak, rich and sweet, some dark fruits here and there. Silky heavyish mouthfeel with medium carbonation. Really good but just doesn't stand up to my stack of Bourbon County. Definitely worth having though, and probably better than my score indicates (lack of aroma knocked it down more than it deserves). Very good brew.

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Narwhal Imperial Stout - Barrel Aged from Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.
4.31 out of 5 based on 1,815 ratings.
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