Trip In The Woods: Narwhal Imperial Stout (Aged In Bourbon Barrels)
Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.

Trip In The Woods: Narwhal Imperial Stout (Aged In Bourbon Barrels)Trip In The Woods: Narwhal Imperial Stout (Aged In Bourbon Barrels)
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Russian Imperial Stout
Ranked #28
Ranked #532
4.35 | pDev: 8.51%
Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.
California, United States
Trip In The Woods: Narwhal Imperial Stout (Aged In Bourbon Barrels)Trip In The Woods: Narwhal Imperial Stout (Aged In Bourbon Barrels)
Notes: 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
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Reviews: 296 | Ratings: 1,904
Photo of richj1970
4.43/5  rDev +1.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Poured from 750 ml into snifter. Bottle dated 10/17/2014.

A: Pours midnight black with one to two finger mocha tan head. Decent retention and some nice stringy lacing.

S: Tons of bourbon hits you right out of the bottle. Faint chocolate and roasted malts.

T: Dominant spicy whiskey but complemented by chocolate, coconut, and vanilla from the base beer. It's a touch hot, and will be interesting to see how it ages,

M: Full bodied and nicely carbonated for a BA brew. Seems a bit lighter than the base beer.

O: Very nice beer. Enjoyable sipper, and a very different experience than regular Narwhal. I wish this was available in 12 oz format.

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Photo of BEERMILER12
4.49/5  rDev +3.2%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

A: Pours a pitch black color with a fingers worth of tan head that fades down to pretty much nothing after a minute or two

S: Malt leads the way, giving off a sweet brownie-like essence that matches the roastiness of the base. The barrel gives off some nice undertones of vanilla, coconut, and oak. Alcohol is noticeable, but very manageable for being a tick under 13%

T: Follows the nose. Starts off with a mellow cocoa sweetness that melds nicely with the roast. Alcohol comes along for the entire ride, but again is very mellow and is nowhere near the focal point. The barrel adds some more sweetness in the form of vanilla and coconut, but the alcohol and roast do a nice job at keeping the sweetness from being cloying or overbearing. Finishes with a bit more of the sweetness and some roast

M: Full bodied with moderate carbonation. Smooth

O: A very nice treatment of Narwhal. The barrel notes work extremely well with the mellowed roastiness of the base, all keeping in harmony and not clashing. A great sipper for any occasion, and definitely worth picking up at least one (or multiple to age or do with as you please)

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Photo of Jlabs
4.35/5  rDev 0%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

poured into a snifter glass via bottle

color is motor oil black

smell is bourbon up front, followed by dark chocolate and sweet figs. I faintly detect coffee as well

taste is chocolate fudge dipped in bourbon with the sweetness from the dark fruits coming in, getting some vanilla too

low carbonation

mouthfeel is creamy and fairly thick

a winner from SN

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Photo of dar482
4.79/5  rDev +10.1%

The beer comes in a dark black color with a surprising amount of medium brown head and carbonation.

The aroma is more intense than a smooth sweetness of some BA stout. Dense roasted malt, licorice, vanilla, coconut, oak, cocoa chocolate, bright whiskey.

The flavor in the front hits like Narwhal. Harsh, bitter of anise and licorice, almost charred roasted malt. It is then layered with spicy whiskey. Then onto a bittersweet chocolate, espresso bean, and then finally coconut and vanilla to compliment the dabs and touches of sweetness that the beer has.

The aftertaste lingers of oak tannins, and more sweetness to not drag the palate down from the initial onslaught.

The mouthfeel is medium plus to full.

A wonderfully balanced brew that reminds me a bit of Barrel Aged Framinghammer, with its oak flavors on the finish.

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Photo of KevSal
4.5/5  rDev +3.4%

I really like regular narwhal, and was really hoping to like this one... and i did! it actually taste exactly how you expect it to. Base beer comes through fantastically! only bummer part is the price tag, wish SN kept the price down

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Photo of timontheroad
4.6/5  rDev +5.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Poured into a snifter. Pours a very dark brown, almost black, like dirty motor oil. One finger of thick mocha head. The aroma is phenomenal, with big chocolate, caramel, toffee, roasty malt and bourbon. Also caught some very slight coffee notes. The flavor is also outstanding, also with chocolate, bourbon, woody flavors and lots of dark roasty malt notes as well. The mouthfeel was thick and silky smooth, with just a slight bit of alcohol burn in the aftertaste. Overall, this ranks right up there with any of the best BBA Imperial Stouts. I'm impressed! I've hid one in the cellar to see what a little age does to this beer.

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Photo of Greywulfken
4.62/5  rDev +6.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.75

Original review of 2014 bottle in 2014:
A: pitch black but not necessarily dense-looking; slow pour won't produce more than a fine film of fizzy head; an aggressive center-pour kicked up a finger of mocha-tan head. Faint oily sheen left inside the glass.

S: roasted malt aromas conjure up impressions of cocoa, coconut, and toast; the barrel aging adds in aromas of vanilla, wet wood drying, and whiskey

T: silky chocolate married to dry bourbon whiskey - cold espresso and brown sugar linger in the background; some accents like anise or licorice, oaky wood, and earthy herbs...

M: medium-to-full bodied - the barrel aging lightens the base stout body but also add drying vapors to the finish; subdued carbonation is faintly apparent; smooth and silky and fine; slips effortlessly across the palate...

O: tremendous job barrel-aging their Russian Imperial Stout in bourbon barrels - no mistakes here - grab one of these while you can. Cheers!

Returned to in 2016 with a bottle from 2015...

Warming, sweet, and richly done, but without any heavy-handedness. Blind, I almost would've thought this a coffee stout. Massive sweet espresso was swallowed shortly by deep rich chocolate. Tendrils (yes, tendrils!) of vanilla and wet oak reach into a black chocolate and molasses sea... Despite a translucent pour, the body had an excellent body (lol) and yet an almost light feel... silky-smooth... A superior and immersive drink

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Photo of cosmicevan
4.25/5  rDev -2.3%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

enjoyed side by side with a 2014 narwhal from sierra nevada 30th anni globe snifter.

a - brew pours a rich shiny silky black. great shine nice frothy offwhite head. great lace, esp for a BA brew. looks like the base, but the BA has bigger lace.

s - nose is exactly ad advertised...a big woody bourbon glazing over the nice roasted chocolate notes of the base.

t/m/o - really well balanced BA stout. has all the robust chocolate roast and chewy body of the original with a really nice glaze of woody bourbon. the barrel takes some of the extremeness of the roast of the base and sits it in the back seat. an improvement to an already tasty beer. the barrel aging really takes it to another level. very good, easy drinking and worth checking out.

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Photo of ocelot2500
4.75/5  rDev +9.2%

Pours a deep ebony color with a tight, tan head that leaves a ring of lacing.

Smells of deep roasted note with some bourbon to it.

Tastes of rich dark malts layered with sweetness and booze. Malts lead off with notes of espresso, dark chocolate, and dark molasses. This gives way to some dark fruits as well as some toasted nuttiness. Light barrel notes come next with vanilla and wood. A slight amount of piny hops add depth. Finishes with an alcohol warmth and another kiss of chocolate.

Mouthfeel is full with a creamy amount of carbonation.

Overall, this is very tasty. The barrel notes are somewhat subdued, but I think it makes for a better blend of flavors overall.

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Photo of chinchill
3.9/5  rDev -10.3%
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 IMFletcher
3.75/5  rDev -13.8%

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 brewmastercat
4/5  rDev -8%

Great beer, but was expecting more barrel character. I purchased for $20 a bottle. Split one to try fresh, and one to age forever.
Not on the same level as Bourbon County, or Black Tuesday....
Maybe it will end up being great trade bait? Who knows...
I wouldn't say overrated, just not what expected when it comes to barrel aged...

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Photo of UCLABrewN84
4.18/5  rDev -3.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

Bottle shared at the monthly bottle share held at Flask Fine Wines in Studio City, CA.

Pours an opaque black with a foamy dark khaki head that settles to wisps of film on top of the beer. Tiny dots of lace form around the glass on the drink down. Smell is of dark roasted malt, cocoa, black licorice, bourbon, and wood aromas. Taste is much the same with cocoa, vanilla, bourbon, and wood flavors on the finish. There is a mild amount of roast bitterness on the palate with each sip. This beer has a good level of carbonation with a crisp mouthfeel. Overall, this is a very good beer with a bourbon barrel aging that adds well to the base beer.

Serving type: bottle.

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Photo of BenwayPHD
4.75/5  rDev +9.2%

Pours pitch black with a 1 1/2 finger mocha head. The nose is mild but nice. Vanilla, bourbon, mocha, chocolate ice cream, slightly roasty. The flavor is fucking delicious. Chocolate, vanilla, bourbon, almost no booze. Very pleasant. Great, creamy mouthfeel.

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Photo of DovaliHops
4.25/5  rDev -2.3%

2014 from bottle. Pours a black as night color with small tan head. Scent is dark chocolate with toasted oak. Roasted chestnuts and malt with vanilla and some toffee. Hints of bourbon, but the toasted malt and other toasty aromas make the most of the aroma. Taste is bourbon and booze up front with some chocolate and vanilla. Toffee comes next with more oak and robust flavors. Mouthfeel is full bodied... just would you would like in an imperial stout. Drinkability is high. Overall, this beer is fantastic. I am a huge fan of Narwhal, and the bourbon barrels just increased its complexity and depth. Need to buy more of this.

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Photo of ArsenicDrone
4.37/5  rDev +0.5%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

On tap at Monk's in Philly for New Year's day.

A: Well, it's a barrel-aged stout. It's dark and there's no head. It looks very inviting, but it's also what you would expect.

S: Bourbon. Sweet bourbon and malt. Definitely going to drink this, no doubt about it.

T: In order: bourbon, licorice, vanilla. There's nothing wrong with the regular Narwhal, but it doesn't have these flavors to this degree. The licorice is a nice touch. While it's pretty tough to get spoiled on bourbon-aged stouts (though not a bad proposition), if you ever did, the licorice would set this one apart.

M: Thick and smooth. Again, if this weren't the case, you'd be pretty surprised.

Well done, Sierra Nevada. Aside from the prominence of the licorice, there's nothing shocking about this beer (when compared to the best bourbon-aged stouts out there), but that makes for a really nice brew.

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Photo of macher0
4.41/5  rDev +1.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

On tap at the Beer Trappe in Lexington, KY

Pours solid black with minimal head that retreats to a fine bubble rim. The nose comes over sweet from the barrel aging but with notes from the roasted malts and hops. The taste follows the nose with a healthy dose of bourbon soaked oak. The feel is thin with minimal carbonation and a heavy booze aftertaste.

This is an awesome ba stout that is knocking on the door of the big boys of ba stouts. If you can find this ale - drink it.

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Photo of BEERchitect
4.46/5  rDev +2.5%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

Incredibly powerful, yet full of grace- Sierra Nevada's Barrel-Aged Narwahl is woven into a seamless bourbon cocoon. And with wine-like tones, the Stout is so much more than just roast and booze.

As the beer is delivered to the table, a quick swirl seems to encourage the Stout to crawl around the glass on its own, trailing with inky legging as much as it does a scattering of lace. Its mocha-stained sheet of foam is creamy but loosely knitted together, eventually succumbing to its massive strength.

Its bold and fragrant aromatics lead with obvious roast overtones. Smooth like espresso, dark chocolate, roasted nuts and a hint of dark fruit. As the sweet bourbon notes release caramel, vanilla and weathered wood, it also highlights its floral, plumb, berries, grape and overall vinous, sherry-like tones. Warming a bit, its citrusy hop character pull from the roast and booze in a surprising turn before that first sip.

Its masculine sweetness wraps around the tongue with those espresso and bittersweet chocolate malts like fudge and chocolate-covered espresso beans. Hearty sweetness of burnt toffee and molasses supports the roast character to near perfection. Its bourbon infusion delivers a plethora of complexity at middle palate- vinous sherry, charred berries, dates, figs and plum that's pulled together by the natural caramel wood sweetness, vanilla, mature oak and cherry wood spice. Turning assertively bitter in finish, only the slightest grapefruit taste discerns its hop-derived bitterness from charred bitterness.

Its certain full and chewy body uses its embedded carbonation to give a marshmallow texture to the mouth. Its creamy sweetness dissolves in stride to give its finish remarkable semi-dryness without harsh astringency. Lingering with espresso roast, bourbon warmth and a wisp of campfire- the Stout is perfect as after dinner digestive.

Where the standard Narwahl is formidable in its own right, the bourbon aging really pulls out the fruit, floral and hop tones as much as it provides complexity of barrel, booze and controlled aging- savory inducing taste.

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Photo of mdfb79
4.17/5  rDev -4.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

From NOTB notes from last month; had a few samples of this one and liked it a lot.

a - Pours a pitch black color with two inches of thick tan head and moderate carbonation evident. Looks great, just like the normal Narwhal.

s - Smells of roasted malts, bourbon, vanilla, bitter chocolate, toasted malts, burnt malts, light coffee. Awesome nose; really nice mix of sweet bourbon, vanilla, and chocolate.

t - Tastes of sweet bourbon, roasted malts, oak, vanilla, bitter chocolate, dark fruits, toasted malts, and burnt malts. Very nice again, though I liked the nose a little better. Little more fruit and bitter chocolate here.

m - Medium body and high carbonation. Thick and smooth, definitely doesn't feel like 12.9% ABV. Nice mouthfeel.

o - Overall I liked this one a lot; I had high hopes for this after having the base beer and this did not disappoint. Looks great, great mouthfeel, and an awesome nose full of swete bourbon and vanilla. I know they are different beers, but liked this one a lot more than the BA bigfoot. Hoping to see this one again sometime.

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Photo of Smakawhat
4.41/5  rDev +1.4%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4.5

Poured on tap at Pizza Paradiso Dupont DC into a small snifter. From notes.

Super dark walnut black body, can't see even up to the collar head. Tan collar with thin bubbles and very opaque.

Classic bourbon barrel nose. Lost of soft vanilla, sweet caramel, and sense of oak depth. There is no heat coming off of this at all.

Palate hits with a wonderful thick caramel richness. Roast charring malts and oak complete the aftertaste. Vanilla washes all over the palate with good depth. Body is a little fizzy strangely, detracts from the flavor a bit, just a bit too much carbonation, but still allows everything to be enjoyable.

A solid RIS that took a barrel real well, this could be the start of something big. Possible future BCBS killer or just an easier one to drink?

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Photo of jaasen64
4.41/5  rDev +1.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

On-tap at Meadhall for the pre-EBF Throwdown. ~10oz served in a Sierra Nevada snifter.

A- Jet black with about a quarter finger of creamy mocha head that has decent retention but recedes slowly leaving some spotty foamy lacing . Decent carbonation for a BA stout with nice consistency.

S- Milk chocolate, cocoa nibs, a bit of vanilla balanced nicely with sweet bourbon. Bourbon isn't too overpowering lending a nice sweet aroma and making it's BA presence known while still letting some of the base beer shine through.

T- Milk chocolate, cocoa nibs, toasted marshmellows, finishing with a smooth sweet bourbon taste and a light oak presence. The integration of the bourbon presence is what really makes this beer spectacular. It provides a nice complexity while still retaining the base beer characteristics. It also adds a nice sweetness without becoming too boozey, which is what I hate about a lot of high abv bourbon barrel-aged stouts.

M- Definitely a sipper, but very drinkable and incredibly smooth for being almost 13%- almost to the point where it's dangerous. Nice level carbonation and overall almost perfect feel for a BA stout.

O- I wasn't sure what to expect going into this beer having never had regular Narwhal and not being a huge fan of the few SN barrel-aged beers I've had. This beer was a pleasant surprise though, was definitely our favorite at the throwdown, and easily stands up against some of the best BA stouts I've had. I really hope they bottle this and I definitely would like to revisit it in the future. I might even go as far as saying I liked it slightly better then bourbon county.

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Trip In The Woods: Narwhal Imperial Stout (Aged In Bourbon Barrels) from Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.
Beer rating: 96 out of 100 with 1904 ratings