Sunday, October 25, 2015

Saranac Single Malt Bourbon Barrel-Aged Scotch Ale

   AROMA 8/10   APPEARANCE 4/5   TASTE 8/10   PALATE 4/5   OVERALL 16/20Chad9976 (1484) - Albany, New York, USA - OCT 25, 2015
Saranac is technically one of the biggest craft breweries in the country, but most of what they make is rather pedestrian. Every once in a while they put out something special, rare, and unique like their new Saranac Single Malt Bourbon Barrel-Aged Scotch Ale. This is apparently their Single Malt Scotch Ale aged in bourbon barrels (for how long and in whose barrels I do not know). The result is an extremely sweet drink with a palette akin to Crème Brûlée. As a sweet beer goes, it’s pretty nice; as a Scotch Ale goes it’s pretty far deviated from the style. 

I poured a 12oz bottle into a flared snifter. It was bottled on 10/28/15 and cost $3.65 ($0.30 per ounce).

Appearance: Beautiful maroon/burgundy hue. Dark but the body is clear. Pours to a two-finger, off-white, foamy head which fades quickly but never completely dissipates and does leave a bit of lacing.

Smell: Strong vanilla aroma; almost as if vanilla extract were added to it. A bit of a medicinal alcohol scent. Sweet maltiness is apparent, too.

Taste: You tend to see strong porters and stouts aged in bourbon barrels, but why not Scotch Ales? That’s a style that would seem to lend itself to the process, eh? In the case of this beer the barrel character seems to override the base brew as it’s remarkably sweet with an unmistakable Crème Brûlée flavor. Underneath the sweetness I do notice the malty character with notes of dark fruit. Hops impart some resiny flavor, but the actual bitterness is tame. No smoky or peaty characters to speak of. The alcohol is part of the palette, though it blends extremely well so as not to be distracting. Overall, I think it’s tasty beer, though not a particularly amazing feat in barrel-aging.

Drinkability: Seeing a double-digit potency number on a Saranac bottle is rare and shocking. This weighs in at 10% ABV, though it doesn’t seem quite that intense. The body is, of course, full and the mouthfeel is thick, soft and a bit sticky. Still, Saranac Single Malt Bourbon Barrel-Aged Scotch Ale is smooth with a gentle alcoholic warmth. Not quite a special occasion brew, but a fine dessert beer.

RATING: 8/10

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