Enlightened Despot
Lickinghole Creek Craft Brewery

Enlightened DespotEnlightened Despot
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Russian Imperial Stout
Ranked #118
Ranked #2,058
4.22 | pDev: 11.14%
Lickinghole Creek Craft Brewery
Virginia, United States
Enlightened DespotEnlightened Despot
Notes: The Enlightened Despot is an amazingly rich, complex and surprisingly drinkable Bourbon Barrel Russian Imperial Stout. Notes of chocolate, vanilla, and of course the delicious flavor of Pappy Van Winkle Bourbon round out this robust stout. Aged for 100 days in 15 Year Pappy Van Winkle Family Reserve Barrels, made with 10 specialty grains and containing over 78 IBU of American Hop flavor, this truly is a one of a kind beer.
Reviews: 31 | Ratings: 212 | Log in to view all ratings and sort
Photo of cjgiant
4.32/5  rDev +2.4%
look: 5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25

2019 version "aged in oak bourbon barrels":
Beautiful obelisk of a body with a billowing brown head that consolidates into a thick foam as it slowly falls back to the liquid that contained it. Lacing is heavy at first, but clears up further down the glass.

Nose and taste keep the same general course, but do take slightly different routes to get there. Both have a strong charred wood roasted malt at their base. The nose shows a little alcohol when the beer has warmed, but offers a little marshmallow as well. The taste throws in a little unsweetened chocolate brownie with the bourbon lingering longer and longer as the beer warms.

A bold, mildly thick RIS that brings the bitter char of the stout (which dominates early) with the spice and sting of the bourbon that seeps from the barrels that housed the beer for a year. A nice representation of a straightforward big barrel-aged beer.

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Photo of the_benskii
4.37/5  rDev +3.6%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Poured 10/12/18 into a snifter - dark with a nice even khaki head. Smells of boozey with bourbon and hints of vanilla and a bit of cherry? Tastes of molasses, nuts, bourbon and chocolate with a nice mildly sweet after taste. Not too thick but smooth and light carbonation. Easy to drink and puts you on the floor.

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Photo of avalon07
4.25/5  rDev +0.7%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

L: Had this beer on-tap at Lickinghole Creek Brewery, poured into a plastic cup. Had a dark brown / black color and a thick, opaque consistency. There was a small amount of foamy, tan-colored head that quickly dissipated. Very good lacing.

S: A nice aroma of roasted malt, chocolate, bourbon, and vanilla.

T: Tasted of a good shot of bourbon (and its accompanying barrel, a tinge of hops (mostly in the finish), lots of chocolate, a hint of vanilla, and some molasses. It's a complex and big flavor, but it's not as overwhelming as you might think. It has a nice subtlety and good balance.

F: A decent amount of carbonation with a silky smooth finish. Medium-bodied.

O: On the whole, a very solidly made, easy to drink stout. Worth a try.

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Photo of TheSixthRing
4.05/5  rDev -4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

2017 release, aged in 'Oak Bourbon Barrels'. Bottle no. 85

Appearance - Pours black with cola brown edging. Cocoa colored, finger width head. Fizzes away in fair time, leaving a small island of suds that gravitates toward the edge of the glass while a razor thin, broken line encircles that edge. No lacing.

Smell - Strong aroma of chocolate, vanilla, oak, molasses and faint toffee.

Taste - Follows the nose. Chocolate, vanilla and oak upfront. Booziness hits with bourbon sweetness and accompanies molasses. Light malt roastiness on the back end. Finishes with the sweeter notes giving way to oaky wood and a hint of earth before faint cocoa sweetness returns in the aftertaste.

Mouthfeel - Full-bodied with low carbonation. Slightly syrupy texture with a somewhat harsh, dry and boozy finish.

Overall - Not my favorite BA Lickinghole offering, but pretty good regardless. The overall balance is fair; I just wish there was more roast to tie it all together. Not the smoothest drinking BA impy, either. Despite the flaws, there's enough redeeming value here to proclaim this as a must-try beer, provided it isn't too much hassle to get.

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Photo of fire34fighter
4.31/5  rDev +2.1%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Overall pretty good. This stout is WAYYYY too hoppy to begin with, and is one that definitely made to be aged for a year or to. Could also be a little thicker with a better mouthfeel, but all in all really good after aging for a little. Unless you like extremely hoppy stouts, then drink it right away.

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Photo of GreesyFizeek
4.19/5  rDev -0.7%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

This one pours a nice dark black, with a small tight head, and a little bit of lacing.

Smells like heavily charred and roasted malt, a good amount of piney hops, lots of oak, very subtle bourbon, and chocolate malt.

From what I can gather, this is aged in Pappy 15 barrels, but the barrel is pretty light and subtle, which is surprising. There's more oak than actual bourbon, with some light vanilla, a surprisingly high hop presence, an an aggressively roasty, basically charred, malt profile.

This is pretty rich and thick, a bit creamy, with a good level of carbonation.

This isn't your typical BA stout, as the base beer comes through very strongly and there isn't much sweetness or barrel. Despite all that, it's still quite nice.

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Photo of HattedClassic
4.19/5  rDev -0.7%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Pours a brown foamy head that dissipates quickly. Beer is a black with very dark brown hues. It's on the border between a very very dark brown and a dark chocolate black.

Taste is very good. Nice bitter hop bite but not overwhelming. Fairly balanced overall. Bourbon notes are moderate and blends well with the dark chocolate bitterness with a nice roasted malt. Sweet comes from the bourbon and a bit of spice. Chocolate is slight sweet.

Smell is mostly chocolate and bourbon with a bit of roasted malt. Some hop note but not as strong as the taste.

Feel is great. Heavy body but thin and smooth feel. Light carbonation gives it some nice texture.

Very good. Drinkable. Great taste. Not bourbon heavy but just right.
Go for it.

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Photo of GarthDanielson
4.34/5  rDev +2.8%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25

2015 vintage, bottle #1965, poured into a snifter. Jet black and oily thick on the pour, with a low profile, clingy, light tan head that slowly settles out into a filmy surface coating. Aromas of rich vanilla, bourbon spice and booze, oak notes, rich chocolate, and heavily roasted notes. Very aromatic; rich and bold. Flavors are very booze heavy, rich in bourbon notes of vanilla, brown sugar, molasses, and tobacco. Wow, this is rich and heavily layered. Solid espresso backbone, with smoky notes around the edges. More and more reveals as it warms in the glass. Big bodied, almost chewy, with a slick feel throughout and a building warmth as you go. Heavily roasted aftertaste of chocolate, vanilla, and tobacco. The finish is smooth, heavy, and slow, with a solid linger. Great beer!

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Photo of HopBomb515
4.38/5  rDev +3.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Pitch black with spotty lacing and and small tan head. Notes of chocolate, espresso, vanilla, oak, toffee, and a slight earthy hop bite. Creamy feel with some light carb bite and a dry finish with a bittering finish.

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Photo of SportsandJorts
3.95/5  rDev -6.4%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4

Appearance: pours a nice black color, a hint of mahogany around the very edges. a finger or two of a tan head. moderate to weak retention leaving behind a slight lacing and some viscosity as it swirls around. completely dark and opaque.

Smell: bourbon giving off notes of brown sugar and oak. some roasted and other dark malts. some good alcohol and some bitterness.

Taste: opens with a strong sweet bourbon with large amounts of brown sugar, oak and some booze. strong maltiness makes it way through with notes of roast, chocolate, and light dark fruits. some vanilla and bourbon comes back in. some bitterness comes in with light earthy notes.

Mouthfeel: nice and thick stout here. a bit velvety and smooth. nice strong and warming bourbon character. some bitterness but doesn't linger too long.

Overall: a nice big stout. nice balance to it this year with the bourbon sweetness beating out the hop bitterness.

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Photo of HomerSwim
3.98/5  rDev -5.7%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

I just couldn't place it, Pappy, Not Pappy, Pappy, Not Pappy. So I did some research. Fiction can be fun, but I find the reference section a little more Enlightening. For instance, if you were to look up Breweries' "All Time Bonehead Beers," you might read about Lickinghole Creek, who missed making a stout in the closing seconds of Super Brew XVII by brewing a black IPA instead.

What you wouldn't read about was how Lickinghole Creek lost their mind, was committed to a mental hospital only to escape and brew a beer under the assumed style of a stout manipulating their way to the top in a diabolical scheme to get even with InBev for whom they blamed the entire thing! Despot isn't a stout.....It's a black IPA. Case closed.

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Photo of clayrock81
4.03/5  rDev -4.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4

*Had 2016 version on draft on Despot Day
Poured a black body with one finger tan head that slowly died and left little lace patches. The first smells that hit me are of dark fruits (no minor thing since I was standing near a BBQ food truck and smoker) of figs, raisin, plums, then some vanilla/booze/wood, caramel and/or toffee (those two are sometimes interchangeable to me) and chocolate. Full bodied and sticky, a thick beer designed for slow sipping, it passes over smooth thanks to boozy woodiness and then these tastes of dark fruits like plums and figs hit me right before traces of vanilla, chocolate and toffee (I just picked one). Balance is mostly kept between fruit and sweet flavors with a roasted, possibly coffee or charred malt presence, and it has a rather subdued and clean finish considering both the dry malt aspects and the booziness of it. Not sure this beer is worth the hype (which is mostly due to the low supply/high demand for this beer) but it's pretty damn good.

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Photo of Stolenface1
4.24/5  rDev +0.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Pours jet black with tan head. Great bourbon aroma along with roasted malt, cacao, vanilla, light coconut, dark fruit, caramel, toffee and smooth chocolate. Flavor is identical to aroma with somewhat aggressive bitterness, molasses and piney hop notes. The feel is med+ and coats the mouth nicely. Carbonation is on the low side of medium. Overall a very drinkable RIS w/ wonderful bourbon notes.

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Photo of ThisWangsChung
4.03/5  rDev -4.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

The aroma is nicely barrel-laden, bringing plenty of oak and vanilla. Like many LCCB stouts, it's a little hoppier than normal. Still, notes of roasted malt and dark chocolate keep it interesting. Its flavor profile follows it closely, as it opens up with some coffee and roast. Again, there's a subtle undercurrent of pine to balance the sweeter qualities. The finish is slightly bourbony - all the nuances I like are there, but in a reticent manner. I also pick up some smoke and caramel. Complexity isn't top caliber, but the balance is superb. It feels thin on the palate, but it thankfully isn't bogged down by excess syrupy sweetness. Even with its gentle, bourbon-esque booze, it goes down way too easily for something so big. Carbonation is pretty low. Compared to a BCBS, this isn't as sweet, but it's far more easygoing. The hops might take a bit of getting used to, but this is still great in my mind. I'll gladly attend Despot Day for this one again, that's for sure!

4.03/5: Think Catherine the Great would chug this one? Probably

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Photo of Davepoolesque
4.42/5  rDev +4.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

Welp, this smells amazing. Vanilla, bitter dark chocolate, cocoa, some oak and booze. Medium thickness/mouthfeel. Good bitterness to balance out the sweeter flavors.

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Photo of MissSmisje
4.08/5  rDev -3.3%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

L: black with chestnut edges, light mocha head
S: cacao, bourbon, some sharp vanilla
T: similar to nose, still hot.
F: a little syrupy
O: good, not great. Might prefer it with some more age on it.

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Photo of UCLABrewN84
4.11/5  rDev -2.6%
look: 3.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

Thanks to DCLAguy11 for sharing this one at Wowcoolman's tasting.

2015 vintage. Bottle No. 574.

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 powder, earth, char, bourbon, and wood aromas. Taste is much the same with cocoa powder, char, vanilla, bourbon, and wood flavors on the finish. There is a medium amount of roast and wood bitterness on the palate with each sip. This beer has a lower level of carbonation with a slightly crisp and medium bodied mouthfeel. Overall, this is a very good beer with great aromas, but the bourbon barrel aging comes through slightly better in the taste to me.

Serving type: bottle.

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Photo of brentk56
4.31/5  rDev +2.1%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Appearance: Pours out fudge brown topped by tannish foam; not much of a bubble show but quite a few strands of lacing linger

Smell: Chocolate, caramel and Bourbon barrel tones

Taste: Up front, the chocolate and caramel are joined by Bourbon, oak and vanilla flavors; in the middle, the hops add only modest bitterness with the result that the finish is on the sweet side

Mouthfeel: Full bodied, with moderate carbonation; warmth in the gullet from the ABV

Overall: While a very nice beer, I found this a bit one-dimensional; I didn't pick up the dark fruit that I associate with the best of the RIS category and the overall sweetness was a factor, too

Thanks, julielynndubee, for the opportunity

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Photo of BeerAdvocate
4.23/5  rDev +0.2%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

From BeerAdvocate Magazine #89 (June 2014):

Brawny, Roasted, Molasses, Warmth

The uber beer geeks love their Imperial Stouts, a small handful garner hype enough to draw massive crowds around their release. This one is just as deserving as the next. A sweet malt bomb with roasted grain and alcohol is not all going on here, layers of chocolate and coffee meet the alcohol warmth. Something to savor.

STYLE: Russian Imperial Stout | ABV: 11.3% | AVAILABILITY: Limited

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Photo of Alieniloquium
3.56/5  rDev -15.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

750 mL bottle poured into a snifter.

Appearance - Black body. Medium khaki head, Chunky collar.

Smell - Bourbon. Heavy roasted malt. A little bit of booze.

Taste - Not as much bourbon. Vanilla. Heavy roast. Moderate bitter roasted malt finish.

Mouthfeel - Medium heavy. Roasty finish.

Overall - Somehow not as roasty as the other variants of this beer. Still works pretty well.

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Photo of uvachief
4.21/5  rDev -0.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

2013 aged draft. 12oz pour. Let set for 15 minutes to warm up. Poured pitch midnight black with a full finger of tan head. Aromas of dark roasted malts, chocolate, coffee and hops (ru oh). Tastes much the same. I really don't like hoppy stouts. Great beer otherwise. Thick and full in the mouth but that hoppy aftertaste isn't for me. Not Resolute. Not Shut Up. Would have been perfect except for the high ibus.

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Photo of maximum12
3.87/5  rDev -8.3%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Thanks to irishrogue for this bottle, a 750ML split with my wife. For some reason I really like the kittywampus thin label on the top: looks classy. And I know classy, shitballers.

The pour is marginal black & flatter than a starving supermodel. The most prominent smell is chocolate, backed by slight roast, sweetness, & a bit of vanilla, only because I’m prospecting for it. Not sure I could tell this was barrel-aged without using my tongue.

Enlightened Despot is a great name for an old History Minor, I’d love to know who the brewery had in mind. This particular pleasant tyrant clearly had a soft spot for chocolate, because this is like chugging liquefied brownie batter. There a strong vanilla shot courtesy o’ the barrel backing it up, deep roastiness, tongue-thickening sweetness. Ends with nougat (which I’m not sure I’ve ever tasted in a beer, huh) & a sharpness that may be bitterness from the chocolate or the echo of hops. Lovely thickness, creamy, almost sludgy, which is the high point here. And that makes it so easy to drink. Would be nice to have a mug of this with SpongeBob on a Saturday morning.

This would be the kind of beer that would lure little girls down the Big Bad Beer path: it’s like the candy cigarettes of craft beer. Lickinghole: quit tempting minors! Me, I’m old enough to be two legal drinkers, so I’ll suck it down happily. This is a very good brew.

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Photo of msscott1973
5/5  rDev +18.5%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

Look: I don't care much about looks. This is dark as expected, got some nice head (hehe) from the pour.

Smell: Bourbon is pretty strong in the aroma, with some roasty goodness.

Taste: mmmmmmmmmmm very balanced flavor, bourbon is not too dominant

Feel: velvety smoooooooth

Overall: I gave this beer a perfect score a few months back (my only 5 to date), and my latest bottle just not change that. it is delicious.

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Photo of BEERchitect
4.2/5  rDev -0.5%

As the trend for contemporary imperial stout to compete with extreme alcohol, roast, sweetness and that tar-like body, its easy to forget the finesse, elegance and regal quality of a sensible Russian-style imperial stout and all the subtle nuances that it hides within.

Lickinghole Creek brewers pay homage to those British-to-Russia versions with its own inky-black stout. Building a dainty creme of froth, its robust aromas of french-roast coffee, dark chocolate, burnt toffee and bourbon spice entice the nose while a silky smooth chocolaty taste greets the early palate.

Its luxurious malt flavors slather onto the tongue bringing smooth espresso, bittersweet chocolate, light fudge, heavy whipping cream and deeply woven seared toffee and sweet oaky booze. With the confident stout warming, its fruit flavors emerge with black cherry, licorice and red grape.

Long and savory late, the sipping stout nestles into the soft tissues of the mouth and delivers a firm dessert-like texture. Spicy and undeniable Pappy Van Winkle bourbon offers up its own vanilla roundness, caramel sweetness and powdery, spicy warmth that lingers well into the next sip.

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Photo of KYGunner
4.25/5  rDev +0.7%

As any good Russian Stout should do this poured with amazing thickness and tar like darkness. The nose is as thick as the pour with dense chocolate sweetness and creaminess. The flavor is big and creamy with giant chocolate taste and a dry bitter coffee finish. Thick and flavorful this is well done.

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Enlightened Despot from Lickinghole Creek Craft Brewery
Beer rating: 93 out of 100 with 212 ratings