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: 1,826
Photo of danasofia
4.98/5  rDev +15.5%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 5

Look - Poured from a 750 mL bottle into a goblet, produces a beautiful khaki head that dissipates quickly and leaves a thin ring throughout. Almost pitch black, allows almost no light through and only offers a ruby brown at the edges of the glass.

Smell - Sweet and slightly boozy, highlighted by dark and milk chocolate, vanilla, nuts, a bit of coffee, and a subtle bourbon note. The nose is simple and straightforward but really delivers on the notes it puts to the fore.

Taste - Wonderful chocolate flavors, hazelnuts and almonds, dark roast coffee, fuller vanilla than the nose, and wonderful bourbon sweetness and gentle oaky must.

Feel - This is the key point of this beer for me. Sticky/syrupy but just carbonated enough to make it smooth to drink and less of a sipper than some similar stouts. Incredibly creamy which highlights the vanilla and makes it a prominent component of the flavor for me, which I really enjoy. The flavor dissipates fairly quickly, leaving vanilla, dark chocolate, and bourbon as the primary notes that linger. Bourbon warmth is a nice augmentation from the standard Narwhal, while the alcohol presence is minimal for such a strong beer due to the rich, big flavors it tackles. I think if the feel was a little less carbonated and heavier, it would highlight the beer's flavors in ways that other (slightly) more impressive stouts do.

Overall - Even the standard Narwhal is one of my absolute favorite stouts, but the BBA version adds more body and balances out some of the flavors with bourbon sweetness. Only a once in a while purchase to be sure, but well worth it. This beer is top-shelf but not the absolute most top shelf, more for things it doesn't quite do than for things it does wrong.

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Photo of IvoryFoxhole
4.25/5  rDev -1.4%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

2015 vintage. Let's see how it is after a couple of years. Poured into Kane chalice and let warm for a good hour.

L: 1F light tan head with zero retention, as you would expect at this ABV. A few whiffs of lacing, and a thin ring. Beer is dark black except at the very very edge.

S: Hello Mr. Bourbon Barrel! Still quite strong up front, along with a hit of alcohol. As it warms, you get coffee, roasted malts, chocolate, caramel, vanilla.

T: A bit different from the nose. Barrel still comes in first, but alcohol definitely takes a back seat until the finish and then it is not too heated, definitely has mellowed. Finish also features a nice touch of honey to balance.

F: Full-bodied, a little bit of carbonation, but the drying driver here is the ABV. Very good construction and balance, flavors have softened and melded quite nicely.

O: This is a great RIS when allowed to age and mellow out. Just gotta be patient.

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Photo of CoreyC
4.39/5  rDev +1.9%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.5

2015 consumed Feb of 2017
A - almost black, nice tan head
S - nice roast and barrel but very light
T - very good, barrel sweet vanilla, chocolate and sweet burnt sugar like roasted marshmallows
M - very nice sticky as you would want from the style
O - very good - pricey, but a top notch BA RIS, much bigger and richer than regular Narwhal

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Photo of Tiburon
4.46/5  rDev +3.5%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

Creamy, molasses and licorice. Much tastier than regular Narwal. Superb for a Russian Imperial. Maybe a touch of prunes. Can't believe how mellow this is, considering the ABV.

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Photo of GMan310
4.6/5  rDev +6.7%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.75

great beer aged in bourbon barrels give it that smokey taste. tried a lot of these kind of beers and this one has to be the smoothest one i have tried so far.

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Photo of Ozzylizard
4.34/5  rDev +0.7%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

$ 29.44 (Including shipping)/750 mL bottle ($ 1.16/oz) from Blackwell’s, San Francisco, CA
Received 1/19/17, consumed 1/20/17.
2015 vintage cork and cage bottle at 42 degrees into a hand washed and dried JK snifter, allowed to warm to 50 degrees. The bottle opens with a resounding “POP” and does not foam out.
Aroma – Smells like regular Narwhal – roasted malt and chocolate
Head – Large (Maximum 4.5 cm, aggressive pour), light brown, compact but low density, rapidly diminishing to an irregular three to four mm ring and rocky partial layer.
Lacing - none
Body – dark brown/black, opaque
Flavor – interesting. It begins with oaky roasted malt with chocolate and vanilla flavors coming through. Hops are noticeable in neither the nose nor taste. The 12.9% ABV is completely hidden – I don’t even get a gastric burn.
Palate – full, creamy, soft carbonation

This is one beer that breaks my dollar-an-ounce limit that might actually be worth the price.

Appearance 3.75, Aroma 4, Flavor 4.5, Palate 4.5, Overall 4.5.

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Photo of Rcaros
4.35/5  rDev +0.9%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Poured dark brown with a pinky of mocha head. Black in the glass. Good carbonation seen on the sides of the glass.

Chocolate on the nose, hints of dark fruit, big barrel amd espresso notes.

Big bitter chocolate and coffee up front, heavy barrel in the middle and finished with a lingering sweetness

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Photo of ksimons
4.13/5  rDev -4.2%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

2015 Vintage. Black in color with a thin layer of dark tan head that quickly turns into a bit of lacing around the top. Aroma is heavy on the bourbon, vanilla, some chocolate, and caramel. Taste is pretty similar but with more chocolate and a bit of roast in the finish. Medium to full body and moderate carbonation. Overall lots of bourbon sweetness and chocolate. Good winter beer.

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Photo of morimech
4.3/5  rDev -0.2%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.25

I believe this is the 2015 vintage but I honestly do not know for sure and cannot find a date anywhere on the bottle. Inky black color with a finger of head that faded away. Not a lot of lacing is left behind. Nice barrel character backs up the aroma and flavor. A lot of vanilla compliments the bourbon, chocolate, and a bit of coconut flavor. A bit of alcohol flavor and heat in the finish. Nice smooth carbonation compliments the beer perfectly and allows the flavors to envelope the palate.

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

2015 vintage; drank 1/16/16 @ the Palace.

Poured from the bottle into a glass.

Black/brown appearance.

Minimal tan head; decent lace.

Oak, dark chocolate, marshmallow & faint booze heat in the nose.

Medium thick mouthfeel.

Milk chocolate, caramel & oak flavors up front; vanilla notes on the finish. Mild booze heat emerged as this warmed. A rich, tasty treat.

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Photo of ryan1788a5
4.34/5  rDev +0.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

750ml bottle poured into a snifter.

A: Pitch black. Tan head settles after a short time. Spotty lacing.

S: Brownies, fudge, bakers chocolate. Chocolate caramel chews. Char and roast. Hint of licorice. Subtle plum. Drying oak and bourbon.

T: Rich chocolate, brownie batter, fudge sauce. Thick chewy caramel with chocolate. French roast coffee in a big way. Roastiness really kicks it up middle to end. Flashes of black currant and plum. Woody oak barrel and bourbon come to the forefront as the roast tapers, and these flavors ride into a long finish.

M: Thick in body with a silky/creamy texture. Fine carbonation prickles at the tip of the tongue. Some alcohol warmth, thought it is very tame for the size.

O: Barrel aging done right. Big, bold, and thick, but well-rounded with all flavors melding easily. A sipper to be sure, but it actually drinks more easily than expected for its size. Excellent.

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Photo of Ri0
4.24/5  rDev -1.6%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Poured 750 bottle into chalice. vintage 2015. Color is obsidian black with a thin 1 finger tan hear. Quick retention that leaves a collar and a few spots of lacing. The aroma is sensational with very soft bourbon, coffee roast, vanilla, dark chocolate, cocoa, marshmallow and thick caramel. The flavor begins with a hints of bitter coffee, rich caramel and moves into some chocolate. It evolves with a faint vanilla and bourbon with a bit of oak or wood. Medium body with creamy, smooth feel. Carbonation is spot on. Really enjoyed this bottle and found it similar to some local offerings.

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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 justinp444
4.9/5  rDev +13.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.75

Poured into a mini snifter of draft it has a black body with a thin white ring of beige head. Smell of roasted malt, chocolate, vanilla, slight bourbon, and coffee. Taste is fudgey chocolate, spicy bourbon, roasted malt, vanilla, almost a mascarpone flavor, and a nice bit of sweet coffee. Mouth feel is full as well as body with a moderate carbonation. A fantastic ba stout, it is very dessert like but bridges the gap of very sweet ba stouts and more semisweet stouts, basically the perfect amount of dessert flavors within a stout.

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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 jp32
4.45/5  rDev +3.2%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

Pours dead black in color. A small, greyish colored head fizzles around the top. The foam isn't as dark as I'd expect considering the style and how black the beer is.

Aroma of roasted malts and coffee with some notes of oak and bourbon. You can tell it's barrel aged just by smelling it.

It's flavor is of roasted malts, subtle bourbon and oak, dark chocolate, and leather. It has a soft mouthfeel with mild carbonation.

Full bodied, but clearly not the biggest mouthfeel I've gotten from a RIS. It's almost like the barrel aging process toned its mouthfeel back a notch from the original Narwhal product.

Definitely a great beer, and one I wouldn't mind trying again.

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

A: Poured into a snifter to a thick black beer topped by a finger of dense tan head that fades quickly to a collar around the edge of the glass with minimal lacing
S: Smells of fudgy dark chocolate, espresso, caramel, vanilla and oak from the barrel.
T: Taste is dark chocolate covered espresso beans with some roasted malts, caramel, vanilla and oak with a little charred wood and smoke. There are some hints of dark fruits at times as well. Swallow is cocoa powder, espresso and more barrel notes with some more caramel, vanilla and oak. Nice smoke and char toward the end as well.
M: This one is big and silky in the mouth with soft but adequate carbonation and a dry finish.

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Photo of ChazMania
4.27/5  rDev -0.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Liquid glory! Motor oil darkness with one finger dark full head. For 12.9%, this was seductive and smooth. Shared with my brother who thought it was one of the more outrageous beers he had ever tried. The barrel notes are not over the top, just a good hint of bourbon (not as strong as say Abyss).

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Photo of FBarber
4.35/5  rDev +0.9%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Pours pitch black, with a thin mocha colored head. Head has decent retention. Appears viscous on the pour and to the eye.

Smell is chocolatey, roasted malts, bourbon, oak, hints of vanilla, marshmallow and coconut.

Taste had notes of chocolate, roasted malts, vanilla, marshmallow, coconut. A touch sweet, but not cloying. Nice strong barrel character with hints of bourbon and oak. Strong and prominent but never overpowering the base beer. Rich and decadent.

Feel was decently viscous, mild carbonation, smooth and velvety.

Overall one of the better BA russian imperial stouts out there. A must try.

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

2015 bottle opened today...looks pretty darn black, with a half-inch of dark tan foam. Smell is wonderfully complex, and the barrel aspect is very well integrated with the rest of the beer. Bourbon and vanilla notes mingle with chocolate and a kaleidoscope of dark fruits. Taste is all that, with the addition of some coffee flavors. Almost no alcohol flavor. Sweetness is very well balanced with a bit of bitterness.

Feel is a medium-plus, very drinkable. A wonderful BA RIS.

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Photo of Franziskaner
3.94/5  rDev -8.6%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Black as night with no light penetration and a fingernail of Brown on top. I smell sweet bourbon and marshmallow. I taste sweet bourbon and roasted barley. The mouth is th hick,chewy,and has warming sensation from the alcohol.

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

L: Black with a nice finger of brown head. Light lacing as you drink.
S: Bourbon chocolate oak coconut vanilla
T: Chocolate bourbon oak roasted malt
F: Full bodied imperial stout
O: This can hang with the best barrel aged imperial stouts. Great beer.

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Photo of BucannonXC5
4.07/5  rDev -5.6%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4

Type: 750-ml bottle
Glass: AleSmith Barrel-Aged Reserve snifter glass
From: Costco in Mission Valley (San Diego), Calif.
Price: $12.97
Purchased: Feb. 25, 2016
Consumed: June 17, 2016
Misc.: Bottled in October 2015; Cork and cage top

Reviewed this base Narwhal almost three years ago and thought it was very good, but nothing special. But when you’re wife calls to see if you want the barrel-aged version for a discount price at a Costco, you instasay yes.

Poured an almost pitch black color with 1-to-2 fingers of tan, frothy head, which thinned out quickly. Rather serene setting underneath the head. Good, spotty lacing. Average retention. (Sight - 3.75)

Smelled a very nice mix of rich, dark chocolate and smooth bourbon to start. Also toffee, caramel, cocoa, chocolate syrup, hints of toasted oak, light coconut, vanilla and dark espresso. A tad boozy on the nose late. Very nice though. (Smell - 4.25)

Taste was not as refined as I had hoped. Initially got cocoa, toffee, chocolate and caramel, all finishing with a long warming feel. Also smooth buttery bourbon, vanilla, espresso, toasted coconut flakes, woody notes, crayon, fudge, toasted molasses, hints of tobacco and faint red wine (the kind with heavy tobacco notes). Kind of boozy, but not quite 12.9 percent boozy. (Taste - 4.00)

Full body. Creamy-to-sticky texture. Average carbonation. Long, semi-boozy finish. (Feel - 4.25)

This was very good, but not as good as I hoped. Can’t quite put my finger what was missing. Would have it again though. (Overall - 4.00)

4.07 | 91 | A-

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Photo of ccg
4.35/5  rDev +0.9%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

2015 Vintage, poured into a small Founders snifter.

Look: Jet black with minimal head. Pours thick-looking with a tiny ring of bubbles around the edge. Nice bit of lacing and very thick legs. 4.25

Smell: Oak, vanilla, coconut, and cherry cola. Some roasted malt but mostly sweet, syrupy goodness. It smells like something I should be pouring over a bowl of vanilla-bean ice cream. 4.25

Taste: More oak, vanilla, coconut, and cherry, but also a nice layer of cocoa powder. Little bit of smoky roasted malt on the finish. There's just a hint of a bitter bite at the end from some hops, and that helps keep it from being too sweet. I find the base Narwhal stout to be too bitter, but in barrel-aged form, it is perfectly balanced. Excellent. 4.5

Feel: Nice chewy viscosity, sticky and mouth-coating. So good. 4.25

Overall: Possibly the best BBA stout that you don't have to wait in line or buy tickets to get. 4.25

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Photo of bluejacket74
4.34/5  rDev +0.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

750 ml caged and corked bottle, 2015 vintage. 092215 is stamped on the bottle so I'm assuming that's the bottling date. Served in a DFH snifter, the beer pours dark brown/black with about an inch tan head. The head stayed around for a while, and there's a decent amount of lacing. The brew smells like bourbon, vanilla, coffee, roasted malt, woodiness, and some bittersweet chocolate. For the most part I think the taste is pretty much just like the aroma, but there's also the addition of some coconut and molasses. Mouthfeel/body is medium/full, it's coating and creamy with a moderate amount of carbonation. It's easy enough to drink for a 12.9% ABV beer. I thought it was a pretty good imperial stout, I wouldn't mind drinking a bottle of this again. Definitely worth a try if you've never had it before. $20.99 a bottle.

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Narwhal Imperial Stout - Barrel Aged from Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.
4.31 out of 5 based on 1,826 ratings.
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