Jun 12, 2013

Full Sail Bourbon Barrel Aged Imperial Stout

There’s nothing more that I love in the beery world than a big, full-flavored imperial stout. Age that rich stout in retired Kentucky bourbon barrels for a year and you’ve got yourself a new best friend. Well, most of the time — there are some examples within the imperial stout world that need some refinement. This bottle of Full Sail’s Bourbon Barrel Aged Imperial Stout, however, does not need any further tweaking. it’s pretty damned good as it stands.

My experience with the brewery’s standard imperial stout back in 2010 and ended up having mixed feelings. It was a decent beer, but didn’t wow me. This slightly bigger (9.6% ABV) version that the company brewed in 2011 an then let slumber in a variety of bourbon barrels — Maker’s Mark, Four Roses and Jim Beam — for the past year certainly makes up for it in spades.

Rich, bourbony and still deceptively smooth, this big stout is a beer that I would love to get my hands on again, though if memory serves me correctly, this was one of the last few sitting on the shelves when I made my purchase. Hopefully, a return visit will prove fruitful.


This imperial stout pours like any respectable example of the style: thick and black with a full stack of dark brown foam.


A smooth bourbon scent wafts from the surface with light hints of wood, vanilla, dark roast coffee and chocolate. The brew smells wonderfully rich and balanced.


This is an excellent full-bodied imperial stout. The smooth flowing bourbony character arrives immediately and travels confidently (though respectfully) over dark malt, wood, light vanilla and dark chocolate notes to an appropriately warming finish. A touch of hop astringency forms late in the lasting finish. The slick mouthfeel delivers one of the more well-balanced imperial stouts I’ve had in some time.


I’m not sure what the ratio or blend is amongst the various barrels this beer was aged in, but the brewery nailed it. The bourbon traits that you want are there throughout the life of the beer but not in an overly dominating fashion &$151; it sits comfortably amongst the other elements of the imperial stout’s flavor profile, complimenting all of them and never really demanding all the attention. Full Sail have themselves on hell of a beer here.

Rating: 4.25/5

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