750 mL bottle with a synthetic ‘cork’, silver foil and cage with black cap. Cork is wedged in pretty tight, it is a pain to open. Also, the lack of ‘pop’ and lack of gun-smoke is a little disappointing.
In anything other than bright light, the beer looks black. In stronger light the body is seen to be a shade or two lower getting into the very, very dark brown region with even a few red notes/highlights in the extremities.
Aggressive pour was required (at least by me, since I am a fan of creating some decent head on the beer). Tan head is short-lived and recedes to give a thin, spotty film on the surface. Considering the ABV, I can live with both the carbonation and the head, even if I would like them both to be more substantial.
Nose offers tremendous sweet malts, alcohol and a light licorice element. It permeates the room from the glass!
The licorice is carried forward into the tastes, but unlike some other, similar licorice elements in other beers this one offers a sugar coated experience with a lack of bitterness. The alcohol is definitely in the picture (and at 13%, why not?), and there is plenty of rum and raisin character that comes through.
Massive sweet marzipan, other almond tastes and further brown sugar, licorice and dark fruits collide quite violently on the tongue.
The aftertaste is that of a classic, English Barleywine with a barrage of even more alcohol and further light roasted caramel and a REALLY pronounced warming effect.
The mouthfeel offers some ‘better than expected’ prickliness and a paradoxically smooth (but more ‘in character’) middle and finish.
Look, this is a BIG beer in all respects, but it does manage to pull off a tremendous combination of attributes that are all within the style. It’s NOT for the feint of heart, nor is it for those who do not like the classic dark fruit based, Belgian candy styles, or beers that are not sweet. However, if you ARE in that category (as I am), you’re gonna love this.
Considering the ABV, the beer is off the charts for drinkability. Strap yourself in and hold on for dear life! WOW!