Mr. JK is quite the generous soul. Mr. JK was being his usual generous and jolly self during Christmas 2010 when he gave Tilting Suds an oak whiskey barrel and some ‘raw’ spirits to age in the barrel. I barreled the whiskey just before Christmas, 2010. The liquor was clear when I poured it in the barrel; It was also as smooth as jet fuel. On New Year’s Eve, 2010, I poured off a bit to sample it. It had taken on some color but was still harsh firewater, nearly undrinkable. I sampled it again on Saint Patrick’s Day and Independence Day. Each successive sample took on more color and flavor, but the firewater aspect hardly mellowed at all. I decided that I would leave the whiskey in the barrel until after Thanksgiving to give it time to cool off, so to speak. This was a tactical error on my part. While my plan to mellow the whiskey was a sound one, what I did not count on was the Angels being so parched that their share would drain nearly the entire barrel. After just under a year in the barrel, between evaporation and the oak absorbing the liquid, what started as 1500 ml of whiskey* was reduced to this:
When I decanted the whiskey from the barrel in the first week of December 2011, I had about two fingers of whiskey, and an empty barrel. The barrel smelled amazing, oak and vanilla and caramel. I needed to put something in the barrel, otherwise it would dry out. As I brainstormed ideas, my brother-in-law said, “Hey, I have a bottle of Jester King Black Metal Stout in the fridge. How do you think that would work?”
“Um, I don’t know, but it’s worth a try…”
And thus the Great 2011 Whiskey Barrel Beer Aging Experiment was on. I am a huge Jester King fan so there was some trepidation about wasting excellent beer if this was a flop, but fortune favors the bold, so we carefully poured the Black Metal Stout into the barrel, put the stopper back in, and put it in the refrigerator. We decided that we would open the barrel on Christmas Day, after my annual Polar Bear Swim (really more of a plunge and less a swim; basically I jump in the frigid pool and scramble to get my fat ass out before the ice-cold water causes a full cardiac arrest). Jester King’s Black Metal Stout is a big and bold imperial stout which I have reviewed before. It certainly has the backbone to stand up to some aging in a whiskey barrel. Every couple of days I would go to the fridge and pull out the stopper to get a whiff of the aroma. The whiskey mingling with the stout smelled outrageously good.
Christmas morning finally arrived. I watched my nieces open their presents, silently seething because yet another Christmas morning has come and gone and that fat bastard Claus still has not brought a fucking pony for me, but at least this year my crushing disappointment was tempered by the anticipation of trying the Jester King Black Metal Imperial Stout aged in my very own whiskey barrel. After the presents were opened, breakfast was made and eaten (home cured salmon with a cure of tequila, fennel, and orange confit), and coffee was drunk, the time had arrived for my arctic plunge. My brother-in-law fired up the hot tub, and I stepped out to the edge of the pool and dove in. It was in the mid-thirties that morning, not as cold as years past, but cold enough that had I been timed, I would have set a world record in my frantic swim to the steps of the pool. I had set up the whiskey barrel and some glasses by the hot tub, along with a cigar, cutter, and lighter, for my post polar bear swim restorative. After the warm water worked its magic to allow the use of my fingers again, I lit up the cigar and poured a few glasses of the stout.
The Black Metal Stout and the whiskey merged well together. The intense flavors of the stout were able to stand up to the addition of the caramel, vanilla, and oak of the whiskey. There was no carbonation at all, as expected, but the intensified flavors made up for any loss of texture brought by the carbonation. The beer is around 10% ABV so the additional alcohol from the whiskey was not all that noticeable in the taste, although I was a bit loopy after drinking it, much more than I would shave been from the beer alone. I am not going to give this a grade. I will just let this picture do the talking:
*I am going to drink the whiskey on New Year’s Eve, and will have a review posted shortly thereafter.