05 November 2009

BEER REVIEW: Samuel Smith's - Imperial Stout

Samuel Smith's Imperial Stout is a Russian Imperial Stout with an eye-catching, old style label reminiscent of its Victorian roots.  It is 7% ABV but other than that, they really don't tell you much else about it.  I first had it at a tasting event some time ago and enjoyed it very much but haven't gotten around to reviewing it until now.

It pours with an opaque, dark black color with the slightest ruby hints at the edges that could only be revealed by direct, bright light.  It developed a tall, light-brown head that was creamy and fluffy.  The initial aroma was very light and only of sweet malt which I thought was a bit odd.  That is when I realized that it had been chilled to standard refrigerator temperature which is well below its recommended serving temperature of approximately 60 degrees.  After allowing it to warm a bit, the aroma evolved into one you could really stick you nose into.  It was deep and complex but all its notes were subtle and required hunting, which is part of the fun for me.  The malty sweetness remained but I also detected slight notes of vanilla and chocolate.  The first sip doesn't disappoint either.  The mouthfeel starts with a moderate tingle on the front of the tongue which subsides quickly, developing into a thick, creamy feel all over the mouth.  The taste is initially slightly sweet which instantly gives way to the hops and alcohol, which blend excellently.  The flavor has complexity, but like the aroma, the notes are subtle and you have to work for them.  I detected bitter chocolate, hops, some roast, and smoke.  It finishes dry  with slight black coffee notes and lingers a little.

Samuel Smith's Imperial Stout is an excellent beer.  It is right in line with the expected characteristics of this style while maintaining great balance throughout.  I recommend you use a sniff and sip technique while drinking and enjoy it slowly to get the most out of it.  It has the qualities to be enjoyed alone or with food.  It even has the legs to stand with a full-bodied, maduro cigar.

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