Skeleton Key
Bellwoods Brewery

Skeleton KeySkeleton Key
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Bellwoods Brewery
Ontario, Canada
American Imperial Stout
Ranked #576
Ranked #1,874
4.29 | pDev: 7.23%
Jun 23, 2022
Oct 19, 2014
Skeleton KeySkeleton Key
Notes: Skeleton Key is an imperial stout aged for just over a year in rum barrels, with a mix of cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, anise, cardamom, all spice, and vanilla. The resulting beer is an intense showcase of dark chocolate, caramelized malts, spirit barrel, and lively spices.
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Photo of taxandbeerguy
Reviewed by taxandbeerguy from Canada (ON)

4.34/5  rDev +1.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25
500 ml bottle from the brewery served into a tulip. Comments from two tastings over two nights about a week apart. Purchase from brewery. Listed at 11.9% ABV.

Appearance - Very dark brown nearly black brew. Small finger of tan head that fizzled out in two minutes. Not much in the way of lacing.

Smell - Initially a one-dimensional spice bomb with raisins, nutmeg, cinnamon and all spice. However a second session showed butter tart, molasses, treacle and dulce de leche.

Taste - Raisin, treacle, butter tart with caramel, nutmeg and cinnamon, licorice and hints of leather to close before the spice medley comes back for round two. If sensitive to spices, this may be too much, especially with the spiced rum barrels as a backdrop, if you can get past that initial spiciness, the depth and well roundedness of the flavors is excellent. Chocolate is in here somewhere too.

Mouthfeel - Thick and oily and slick. Carbonation is modest and boozy heat rises in the back of the throat.

Overall - My first experience with Skeleton Key was that this is the best brew I have every tried that I didn't really enjoy and wouldn't but another. Fortunately I had the foresight to purchase two and the second tasting had just as much intensity but was a much more delicious and enjoyable experience. An excellent stout, balanced with flavors that none truly drives, but many take control of the wheel for a bit. Very much a worth purchase, but I recommend purchasing two as the first one may catch you a little off guard with the amplitude of spices and flavors there.
Jun 23, 2022
Photo of octortus
Reviewed by octortus from Canada (ON)

4.21/5  rDev -1.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25
500 mL Bottle. ABV 11.5%.
Appearance: Black, Half a finger of dark tan creamy head, Fairly good retention, Slight lacing.
Aroma: Dark chocolate, Lots of spices (ginger, cinnamon, slight cardamom, slight vanilla), Rum, Licorice, Dried dark fruit (raisin), Well balanced and complex.
Mouthfeel: Just slightly under full body, Quite creamy, Slightly chewy, Slightly boozy.
Flavour: Dried dark fruit (raisin), Spices (Vanilla, Cinnamon, Slight ginger, Slight cardamom), Dark chocolate, Rum, Licorice, Slight juniper berries (though I wouldn't have been able to place it blind), Well balanced and complex.
Overall: I really enjoyed the addition of all the spices in here. The appearance could be a bit more inviting but it is still a very enjoyable stout.

Review: 149
Mar 08, 2020
Rated: 4.27 by DaPan from Canada (ON)

Nov 17, 2019
Rated: 4.06 by wroywel from Massachusetts

Sep 17, 2019
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Reviewed by Beersnake1 from California

4.54/5  rDev +5.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5
2018 poured from fridge temp into large snifter. Pours jet black with gorgeous light brown head. The nose is rum and spice, and it's very nice! A touch of vanilla and some nice chocolate, but definitely secondary. The taste is insane. Rum is there, but not as dominant as on the nose. A wonderful sweetness is there - along with some nice caramel, vanilla, spice, lactose, raisin, and cherry. The mouthfeel is very creamy and robust. I absolutely love this beer.
Apr 14, 2019
Rated: 3.75 by Hayley_86 from Netherlands

Mar 05, 2019
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Reviewed by StonedTrippin from Colorado

4.36/5  rDev +1.6%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5
a beautiful stout, cool to try the original after having a couple of the variants while i was in toronto earlier this year. this was one of my brothers favorite beers of a week long bender, and i really dug it too. the use of spices here is incredible, fresh ginger rising above all others in nose and taste, the beers is elegantly smooth for its enormity, and its about as complex as they get, with aromas and flavors of freshly lit cigar, sweet dark rum, wet decaying oak, light salt and minerals, ground anise and clove spices, good black coffee, and a swirl of cardamom above all the dark malts giving it an almost indian complexion for a second. the ginger is spicy and fresh, odd and unique with the coffee, but it grows on me as i let the aftertaste linger on my tongue. the juniper is a neat touch too, it blends in well in the aroma, but later on in the taste i can pick it out easily with the ginger, not gin like, not yet concentrated and distilled like that, less clean and breathy, its piney and intense, picks up cool chocolate notes in the malt base too, i love how much this opens up, how much is happening, and how all of these interesting ingredients and flavors come together. its almost creamy feeling, hugely full bodied, lively feeling too. i dont get much of the booze, even at temperature. a standout in the style, what an adjunct stout in a barrel should be, this really is some special liquid here, bellwoods is really making a name for themselves with this kind of thing...
Dec 27, 2018
Photo of LampertLand
Reviewed by LampertLand from Canada (BC)

4.29/5  rDev 0%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5
Bellwoods Brewery 'Skeleton Key' @ 10.9% , served from a 500 ml bottle (2018 vintage) aged 1 year in Rum barrels
A-pour is a dark cola brown from the bottle to a black in the glass with a small tan head leaving a spotty lace along the tulip
S-ripe fruits & rum barrels
T-creamy smooth vanilla , bit boozy , nice finish
MF-mild carbonation , feels full bodied , warming
Ov-has the wow factor , excellent beer
prost LampertLand
Dec 21, 2018
Photo of csmrx7
Reviewed by csmrx7 from Canada (AB)

4.38/5  rDev +2.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5
Not overly thick considering, but enough body to hold up to the spice and rum. Definately has a nice rum nose and flavor without being overly hot or intrusive.
Dec 19, 2018
Rated: 3.16 by mattsander from Canada (AB)

Dec 19, 2018
Rated: 4.5 by paulish from New York

Dec 09, 2018
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Reviewed by CAMRAhardliner from Canada (ON)

3.84/5  rDev -10.5%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75
Pours black with the slightest amber glints on the edges of the glass. The head is dark brown and compact. Prunes, raisin, cocoa, vanilla in the nose. Christmas pudding, rum, fruit compote, oak, dark chocolate in the taste. Full bodied with a light carbonation. Dark sugar and boozy warmth in the finish. Hops are awol throughout.

A nice Imperial Stout with strong rum flavors and very little roasty, chocolatey flavors. On the sweeter side with lots of alcohol kick. Worth a try if you're a rum fan.
Oct 11, 2018
Rated: 4 by Abe_Froman from Massachusetts

Aug 11, 2018
Photo of Treyliff
Reviewed by Treyliff from West Virginia

4.57/5  rDev +6.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.5
500ml bottle poured into a tulip
2017 Vintage

A- pours jet black in color with a two-finger creamy khaki colored head that has good retention and leaves some lacing behind

S- an array of spices on the nose, with ginger, cardamon & nutmeg leading the way. Undertones of anise, cinnamon & pepper are noticeable as well. Woody rum barrel seems to enhance all of the spices. Charred/chocolaty malt closes it out

T- an onslaught of spices up front; cardamon, cinnamon, ginger and allspice lead the way, similar to pumpkin-style spicing. Mid-palate continues the spices with notes of black pepper, anise & an herbal note, perhaps from the juniper berries. The finish brings our some barrel notes with oak and rum that adds notes of caramel & molasses. Th linger leaves more spices, more specifically cinnamon & ginger

M- heavy body with moderate carbonation leads to a creamy mouthfeel that continues into a chewy velvety, slightly warming finish

O- one of the better spices stouts that I've had, every addition plays a role and is complimented nicely by the rum barrel, simply outstanding
May 28, 2018
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Reviewed by BeerGlassesCollector from Cyprus

4.4/5  rDev +2.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5
2017 version.

Full bodied with lots spices and vanilla. I liked the fact that bourbon is not very heavy on the nose or taste. Complex and very enjoyable
Apr 22, 2018
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Rated by spinrsx from Canada (ON)

4.09/5  rDev -4.7%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25
Bottle from Kevin
Apr 09, 2018
Rated: 4.34 by Z-man from Michigan

Apr 02, 2018
Photo of darktronica
Reviewed by darktronica from Indiana

4.23/5  rDev -1.4%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25
My favorite of the evening from a tasting that featured a handful of Bellwoods beers--but then again, I'm a sucker for ageing in rum barrels. I did not realize at the time that the beer itself had so many spices included in it, but this makes sense given its complexity. I would not have picked out all of the various flavors individually, but it did still come together in a pleasant and coherent whole. I was mostly excited about the inclusion of raisins, which were evident but not particularly prominent.
Mar 30, 2018
Rated: 4.8 by TheGent from New Jersey

Feb 26, 2018
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Reviewed by Ciocanelu from Romania

4.7/5  rDev +9.6%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.5
Black color with creamy mocha head. Aroma has apple brandy, spicy rum, cinnamon and dark chocolate. Taste has cinnamon, spicy rum, booze soaked dried fruits like figs and raisins, dark chocolate fudge, bittersweet finish. Full bodied, smooth on the palate. Really tasty, well balanced, smooth, a bit warming but overall excellent.
Jan 16, 2018
Rated: 3.96 by groleau from Canada (QC)

Dec 27, 2017
Rated: 4.64 by Simon212 from Canada (ON)

Nov 16, 2017
Rated: 4.82 by StormAles from Canada (ON)

Jun 29, 2017
Rated: 3.61 by CheapBeerBuzz from California

Jun 04, 2017
Rated: 4.52 by Ultra-Plinian from Connecticut

May 21, 2017
Photo of GreesyFizeek
Reviewed by GreesyFizeek from New York

4.44/5  rDev +3.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5
Bottle purchased from the Bellwoods reserve list in Toronto, ON.

This one pours a pretty dark black, with a very small head, and no lacing.

This smells like cinnamon, spiced rum, licorice, oak, chocolate, coffee, tobacco, black pepper, and ginger. I don't get all the spices on the nose, but I get most of them.

This is a really unique stout- the spices here work exceptionally well. The cinnamon, licorice, and pepper are the strongest flavors. The rum works well, too- providing a sweet spice and some vanilla flavors, and a hint of oak. The base stout is also very nice, with a little bit of fruit, and lots of fudgy chocolate. This is delicious.

This is medium bodied, with a creamy mouthfeel, and a good level of carbonation.

It's cool to see a new unique spin on the barrel aged stout thing- this is very tasty.
Apr 12, 2017
Photo of Cramshawbar
Reviewed by Cramshawbar from Canada (ON)

3.75/5  rDev -12.6%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75
Had it during the 2017 Peche Day.
I am not a fan of the bourbon infused stouts, so I was somewhat apprehensive about rum. The nose was boozy as expected but the first taste was surprisingly pleasant, with a non-obtrusive sweetness. It was also spicy. But inevitably, and surprisingly quickly, the rum took over and I had a hard time finishing just 6 ounces of this. With it, I will most likely stop sampling barrel aged beer altogether. It makes me nauseous.
Mar 13, 2017
Rated: 4.25 by yasky from Canada (ON)

Feb 10, 2017
Rated: 4.25 by JamLand from District of Columbia

Nov 02, 2016
Rated: 4.24 by Jerk_Store from Canada (QC)

Oct 12, 2016
Rated: 4.5 by GJKerr from Canada (ON)

Oct 03, 2016
Rated: 4.45 by andrenaline from Canada (ON)

Oct 01, 2016
Rated: 4 by SmithyAlan from Canada (QC)

Sep 26, 2016
Rated: 4.09 by AMZB from Canada (ON)

Jun 11, 2016
Rated: 4.18 by HopBelT from Belgium

May 28, 2016
Rated: 4.31 by bobv from Vermont

May 27, 2016
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Reviewed by bylerteck from Canada (ON)

4.35/5  rDev +1.4%
look: 3.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.5
A - Head went really fast. Black as night body with a ring of dark, dark brown foam. Carbonation coming up fairly well through the abyss. No lace, no retention. Expected for ABV. Blackness is lovely, but other traits don't do us any favours.

S - Dark and sweet. Wood and heat. Black coffee and baking chocolate with a big spiritous note. Very inviting and sweet, but not with the expectation of cloy.

T - More sweetness pushes its way through. Plums and dates maybe. Lot's of sweetness which I assume is rum barrel descendent. I get just about no spice that I can detect aside from Juniper. No wood like the aroma. Alcohol is definitely present. Roast, chocolate, spirit sweetness

M - Carbonation is fairly strong, body is full and sweet leaving a drying plum flavour that lasts quite long and a sticky layer in the mouth and on the lips.

O/D - This is a really complex beer that is easy to drink. Maybe too easy for its strength. Flavours work well together but all the spicing definitely flies under the radar, which is good for me, but for someone looking for all those flavours, might leave some disappointment.
May 26, 2016
Rated: 3.9 by hilgart1 from Illinois

May 25, 2016
Rated: 4.25 by dleiner from New York

May 15, 2016
Rated: 4.31 by ncelauro from New York

May 01, 2016
Skeleton Key from Bellwoods Brewery
Beer rating: 95 out of 100 with 97 ratings