A bit on the carbonated side, the beer takes a little time for the Bar tender to pour. It has a frothy, darkish tan colored head and is a hazy, murky, muddy brown color. Initial hit of rich toffee and caramel aromatics quickly picks up a spicy, alcohol / Bourbon character that lingers in the nose a bit. The Bourbon does not overwhelm though and melds nicely with the caramel notes.
The taste seems fairly dry up front, but then picks up a soft, caramelized sweetness towards the middle but finishes with some spicy, Bourbon / oak notes. Some spicy, almost warming alcohol kicks in as well. This seems fairly light bodied, it is still on the cool side of things though, but does have some malt heft to it, though perhaps not as much as the regular version does. Pairing this with Tortilla soup brings out more caramelized character and a bit more malt richness, including flavors of toasted, chewy-whole-grain bread crust and a more noticeable, caramel-malt influenced texture / body. In the finish is noticeable a touch of toasted malt character (biscuit, browned cracker), but this has a hard time peaking through the spicy Bourbon character at times.
This has been in the barrel for 12 months, luckily this is the second use of the barrel since being emptied of the original Heaven Hill Bourbon. I say luckily because the Bourbon & oak character is actually extremely soft for the amount of time this has been aging. It is still prominent, but doesn’t completely overpower the base beer notes. This seems to have picked up caramelized character from both the base beer and the barrel aging. As the volume of my pint glass recedes I am able to pick out a bit more complexity in the nose, interesting notes of salty-smoky character and a touch of roast / char. There is a slight, but more noticeable as the beer warms, nuttiness to the finish that seems to get wrapped up in the spicy oak character some how.
Pairing this beer with food like I did seems to have actually helped my enjoyment of this beer a notch or two. The alcohol can be a touch hot at times, but only just so. This is definitely more interesting, because of the balance between base beer and Bourbon / Barrel character, than the Bourbon barrel aged Oatmeal Stout.