Posts Tagged ‘Innis’

Beer Review: Innis & Gunn Rum Cask Oak Aged Beer

2 February, 2012

IF you’re reading this, chances are that you’ve also read my ancient Innis & Gunn Original Oak Aged Beer ‘review’. And judging by the comments, you loved it as much as I did. So, here it is again…

Innis & Gunn Rum Cask bottle

Or is it? At first glance, it looks nearly identical to its Scotch inspired cousin. The same little bottle with much the same labels. Examine it a little closer however, and you realise that this is going to be a different type of first-class beverage. That comparing this to its cousin would be like comparing a Gieves & Hawkes suit to hedge fund. That said, I did purchase both (the Innis & Gunn beers, not the tailoring or investments) from Tesco at well under the £2 mark.

Innis & Gunn Rum Cask neck label

Oak ageing is to be encouraged. In fact, so enthusiastically have they been encouraged by Innis & Gunn’s lead, that other brewers now make similar ale. Which means that Innis & Gunn is no longer “Oak Aged Like No Other Beer”.

Assuming you didn’t notice the different colour (which I didn’t); it’s only when you reach the main front label that you notice the difference. Not even I missed the fact that this beer was oak aged in rum casks.

Innis & Gunn Rum Cask front label

To its credit, practically everything you want to know about ‘Rum Cask’ is right there on the front labels. Including that it’s “Brewed In Small Batches” and “Hand Crafted Scottish Beer”. Helpfully, they even print basic tasting notes. In this case (or should that be ‘cask’), they describe it as “Fully Bodied Scottish Beer Bursting With Fruity And Spicy Notes”. Experienced ale drinkers will think that looks like the tasting notes for hoppy English ale. Is that what it tastes like?

Down here, we spot another important difference between Rum Cask and Original.

Innis & Gunn Rum Cask lower front label

Original was matured for 77 days. Rum Cask here was matured for 57. Are those missing twenty days important? If you think they are, then you know what to do in the comments section at the end of this post.

Rotate the bottle one-hundred-and-eighty degrees, and you find a neat little semi-transparent rear label.

Innis & Gunn Rum Cask back label

It begins with a helpful blurb. From this blurb, we learn that Innis & Gunn have been experimenting with variations on the theme of oak barrel maturation. That this one, Rum Cask, is one of their favourites. Apparently, they use American oak and rum infused oak. And that this “has impoarted this beer with a delicious warming character that is bursting with fruit and lively spiciness”. That sounds delicious on a cold winter’s night like this one. But I can’t help wondering if they’ve inadvertently re-invented the hoppy English ale. Whatever the case, I can hardly wait to find out.

Next, they helpfully suggest a serving temperature. In this instance, between 4 to 6 degrees C. I guess that equates to room temperature in my cold London flat. Americans and Australians, you might want to store it in a refrigerator during the summer months. It’s also worth pointing out how blindingly obvious it is to put serving temperatures on an expensive bottle of ale. So obvious, that most brewers don’t. So well done Innis & Gunn for being user-friendly.

Even further down the back label are the vital statistics and small-print. First, the alcoholic volume which is a hearty 7.4%. In this 330 millilitre bottle, that equates to 2.4 UK units of alcohol. Or in the vicinity of half of what doctors say you can safely drink per day.

Next, there’s Innis & Gunn’s contact information. For the obsessively curious, it gives their Edinburgh address. For the casually curious, it gives their web address of www.innisandgunn.com. On their helpful and interesting website, you’ll find their Rum Cask product page at http://www.innisandgunn.com/the-range/rum-cask.aspx

The last nuggets of useful information on the back label, are that Rum Cask is a “Product of Scotland”. That it is “Strong Beer”. And that it “Contains Barley Malt”. Nothing surprising at all.

So at long last, here is the bit where I open the bottle and use words to describe what the contents smell and taste like. If you scrolled straight down to this bit, I don’t blame you. So, using the wrong type of glass, chilled by my chilly flat, here is Innis & Gunn Rum Cask poured.

Innis & Gunn Rum Cask poured into a glass (out of focus, sorry)

Pouring was a doddle, thanks to a very controllable head. The cream coloured head, once poured, reverts back to liquid within two or three minutes. With other beers, that would be an annoyance. But with Innis & Gunn Rum Cask, it feels more like a feature, designed to make you wait, and savour it properly.

In the glass, the colour will come as no surprise. I’d call it somewhere between red and brown. Not quite copper, but not far from it. What does Innis & Gunn Rum Cask smell like? It’s pungent enough to hit your nostrils during the pour, but working out what it is you can smell is puzzling. The first impression you get is that it smells light and fresh. Some thorough sniffing later, and all I can discern are a sort of fruity vanillaryness. In short, it smells intriguing and delicious.

Abandoning my attempt to understand the odour, I turn my attention to how Innis & Gunn Rum Cask taste. Remembering that the label used words like “warming”, “fruity” and “spicy”, I’m delighted to say that the very first sip delivered precisely those three words. And so does the second sip. And the third. It’s not at all the variation on English hoppy ale that I was expecting. But as with the smell, finding words to describe it within the limits of a single little bottle are difficult. If you’re lucky enough to have had a few of these, add your own insight in the comments below.

To pull this ‘review’ back from that cop out, I’d describe the flavour as being almost absent. There are some very mild hints of savoury, oaky, fruity, initial bitterness. But Innis & Gunn Rum Cask comes alive with the aftertaste, finish and feeling it gives you. It is dominated by a rich, smokey, oaky, somewhat spicy, fruity and mildly bitter finish. Rich and momentarily intense, but not strong, not overly bitter or too long lasting. And yes, after a good few sips, you even I can detect a tiny taste of rum. All of these qualities make for a warming and distinctive drink.

What am I enjoying about Innis & Gunn Rum Cask so far? As you can probably tell, quite a lot. I love how unusual the taste is. It provides a much bigger taste experience than the Scotch based Original. Oversimplifying, it’s taste of oak and rum is unique, as far as I know. The taste matches the bottle label descriptions, which was unexpected. It is rich and warming to drink, which makes it a great autumn and winter beverage. At 7.4%, I’m discovering that this small 330 millilitre bottle is adequately strong for a weekday evening drink. It’s relatively hard to find, which makes it exclusive and makes you look like a connoisseur. And if you can find a supermarket like Tesco that sells it, purchasing it won’t empty your wallet.

What am I disliking about Innis & Gunn Rum Cask? Not much. To pad out this paragraph, only nitpicking really. A sweeter, fruiter flavour could have been welcome. Or any real flavour, for that matter. But it’s hard to see that playing well with the massive aftertaste and finish. It is however, quite dry, and would be a challenge to drink a lot of over a single night. Nevertheless, I’m up for that challenge. Lastly, price and availability appear to depend on chance and where you live.

How can I sum up Innis & Gunn Rum Cask? It turned out to be completely different to the taste of hoppy ale that I was expecting. It delivers everything it promises in the taste and character departments. By loading the aftertaste with rum driven fruitiness and spiciness and oak powered smokiness, it is bonkers in a sophisticated way. Like Timmy Mallett becoming Chairman of the English National Opera. Personally, I loved it. But not everyone will. If you like intense originality, then add Rum Cask to your ‘to do’ list. If you’re not so keen on that sort of thing, wait until autumn or winter, and then give it a try. If you’re timid, then try the Scotch based Innis & Gunn Original and you’ll love that.

Have you tried Innis & Gunn Rum Cask? Then share your opinions, recommendations and places to buy, in the comments section below.

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Beer Review: Innis & Gunn Oak Aged Beer

31 December, 2007

WE begin this post with a greeting to my growing list of readers and respondents. Recommendations of your own, information and advice (especially if you’ve got the authority of actually being from a brewer (thank you Alex from Viru Beer)) are strongly encouraged. If you haven’t left a comment yet, then what are you waiting for! Be part of the phenomenon that is my Bloggy Woggy right after you’ve finished reading this post.

Now onto today’s post. And it is, surprise surprise, a review of a bottle of beer. This time however, it’s the most difficult bottle yet. How can a bottle of beer be difficult to sum up? By being a bottle of Innis & Gun Oak Aged Beer. Let me explain… This is a beer that thinks it’s a Scotch Whisky. Or a Scotch Whisky that thinks it’s a beer. You need only look at the bottle to see what I mean.
Bottle of Innis & Gunn Oak Aged Beer

The bottle shape, the Innis & Gunn label and the colour of the contents within are all Scotch Whisky-esque.

Let me make something clear at this point. I am not a drinker of Scotch, Whiske, Bourbon or whatever you care to call it. That stuff makes me wretch. But in the interests of beer drinking, I’m prepared to approach this with an open mind and enjoy it for what it is. Even if I will probably never get as much from it as a Scotch Whisky drinker would.

If you are not one for label reading, then make this the exception to your rule. To understand what this brew is all about you don’t just need to read it, but study it. Brewed and bonded (what does bonded mean?) in Edinburgh, this drink was the 2004 International Beer Competition Supreme Champion. I’ve not heard of it either, but it’s the sort of accolade I would want on a beer. So what makes it so special? A process apparently discovered by accident. The drink spends all of 77 days including time maturing in an oak barrel (a la whiskey) and in a marrying tun, whatever that is. It is this that makes this the most complicated smelling and tasting beer I’ve ever tasted.

Innis & Gunn Oak Aged Beer front label

Poured into a glass, this has a good beer-like head. That’s one beer trait I’m glad they kept. Here is also where the description on the bottle label comes into its own; in helping you to make sense of that incredibly complicated smell. The label describes aromas of vanilla, toffee and “hints of citrus”. I can’t disagree with that, but without the explanation, I wouldn’t have had a clue what it all was.

Innis & Gunn Oak Aged Beer poured into a glass

It’s a similar story with the taste. That is to say, complicated. But once again, the label is there to help you decipher it’s complicated, whisky-ish taste. The label goes with “malty, lightly oaked” and “warming”. There’s no way to expand on that, really. It truly smells and taste like whisky in beer form. Or vice-versa.

At 6.6% volume, it’s also gratifyingly strong. And modestly priced too, at least from my local Tesco.

To sum up then, Innis & Gunn have produced something apparently unique in the beer world with their Oak Aged Beer. Everything about the smell and taste is complicated in a whisky-like way. Even though I’m not a whisky fan, I’m going to try this one again. Even if it’s only to try and make more sense out of this complex brew. A lot like those films that you have to watch more than once to fully understand who did what, and why.

Rating: 4 (or thereabouts)


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