Bourbon the Fourth of July Part 4

So, once again, for the penultimate time, I find myself at The Rockstone, for another four of the bourbons on the card.

First of today’s four is Seagram’s VO. It has a slightly sweet aroma to it, which also transfers to the taste. It drinks rather nicely, with the burn being more warming than offputting. Seagram’s VO fits in nicely with the types of bourbons that have been my favourites from the three previous sessions.

Next up are two bourbons from Old Fitzgerald, Old Fitzgerald and Old Fitzgerald 1849. The 1849 is slightly darker, which is to be expected from a bourbon that has been in the barrel longer. There seems to be a slight difference in aroma, with the 1849 seeming less sweet.

The standard Old Fitzgerald has a burn that lingers at the front of the mouth. The burn seems pretty much instant in its attack as well. Whereas previous bourbons have had some sort of taste, then an afterburn, this seemingly doesn’t.

In comparison, the 1849 had to linger somewhat longer before some sort of burn starts to kick in. Even then it’s not as strong as the standard Old Fitzgerald. The 1849 also has an aftertaste that comes through after the burn, which is a pleasant surprise.

Last of the session today is Planton’s Special Reserve. It is tempting to work through the remaining four today and get my t-shirt and name on the board, but I feel that a plan should be stuck to, and that another four would have me drunk, rather than just feeling nicely warm and pleasantly happy.

The Planton’s Special Reserve has an unexpected aroma, in that I’ve never detected it before on a bourbon or whiskey, and that is summer fruits. I’ve gone back to it a few times, and it’s definitely there.

There also seems to be summer fruits on the palate as well, a mixture of raspberries and blackberries and strawberries. They’re not overly strong, but they’re detectable, and it makes a pleasant change from all the bourbons that have been either vanilla or burn.

Of this session, The Planton’s Special Reserve has been my favourite. I now have four bourbons left to go. After the next session, I shall be finding a time to drink my favourites from each of the five sessions, in an attempt to determine which one I like the most.

And then, Mission: Ginpossible…


Dancing Man Brewery – Gunslinger IPA

A few weeks ago, whilst in The Platform Tavern to consume the rather delightful Pole Axed, I was handed a pre-release bottle of Gunslinger, that had been bottled the week before. I opened it that weekend, fully aware that it would not be fully conditioned yet. I did write a review of that bottle, but I felt it unfair to judge the beer as it was, especially when I served it a bit too warm.

Gunslinger went on sale this week, and if there is any left (around 120 bottles were produced I believe) you can find it on sale at The Platform Tavern, or Bitter Virtue.

I bought four bottles myself, and have opened the first of those tonight. I don’t think I’ve made any secret of my liking of the Dancing Man beers on this blog. There has been a constant improvement in the core range since the brewery first launched their beers in January 2012. Even Troubadour, which I described as “the perfect example of a dull brown ale” I have since found to be actually quite nice.

So, just where does Gunslinger fit into the range? For some reason, it doesn’t seem right to compare it to the likes of Pilgrims, Big Casino, and even Pole Axed. If there’s one thing I can say with some certainty, it’s that Gunslinger doesn’t knock Pole Axed off the spot of my favourite Dancing Man beer (and that of “Dancing Man beer that should be brewed more and stuck in bottles”).

I like Gunslinger. It’s strong, bitter, and full of citrusy hoppy goodness. Also, it drinks like an 8.5% IPA, which in my mind is a good thing.

Having heard about the plans the brewery has for it’s future, I suspect there could be more one off releases like Gunslinger. If you’re in Southampton in the next few weeks, try and buy some, it’ll be worth it.


Edwin Tucker’s Empress Porter – A Vertical Tasting.

Some when, between 2003 and 2006, I visited Tuckers Maltings, in Newton Abbot, and bought a bottle of the 2003 Empress Porter. It was one of 2008 produced for that vintage. As such, I was somewhat reluctant to drink it.

In the decade since, I have acquired at least one bottle of each of the vintages released, 2006, 2010, and 2013. With that first bottle being 10 years old, and with four different vintages in my possession, it seems like a good time to open them up, one after the other, to see the effect time has had on them.

I’m starting with the 2013 bottling. Each of the beers is 10.5% in strength, Some beers have the alcohol on the nose, however, this seemingly doesn’t. Perhaps the most surprising thing about this beer, for me, is that it doesn’t taste like a 10.5% stout. I was expecting some rather warming alcohol to be present, that would mellow out over time. It would seem that it’s perfect to drink now (unlike Goose Island’s Bourbon County, which I have found benefits from a bit of time to let the alcohol mellow, and the flavours come out).

Flavourwise, there’s everything that I want from a stout in here, rich chocolate and dried fruits, and a burnt malt aftertaste, it is, I feel, a perfect beer for me and my personal tastes, and that is just as it is, before it has been aged for 3, 7 or 10 years…

The 2010 vintage is next. There’s a distinct difference on the nose. It smells richer, and as if there is more alcohol in there, it seems rather dominated somewhat by dried berry fruits. This comes through in the taste as well. It seems more like a 10.5% beer than the 2013 does. The alcohol feels much more warming, and the overall experience is much more enjoyable.

Third  for the night is the 2006 vintage. Contrary to my expectations, the apparent alcohol seems to be increasing with the age of the bottle. With this bottle, the alcohol can be detected on the nose. The mouth feel this time is different, with the beer feeling much more tingly on the tongue. The flavours of the 2013 are still there, but they are shadowed by the warming effect of the alcohol.

Finally, the oldest of the lot, the 2003 vintage. The aroma is much more burnt rubber than dried fruit, though the dried fruit is still present in the taste. Of the four, this is certainly my favourite, though the 2013 is just as worthy of praise as it is now.

I went into this with a vague idea of how I expected a 10.5% imperial porter to age over the course of a decade. Whilst some of those expectations were met, many weren’t. In either case, it’s been a very enjoyable night, and I look forward to building my collection, and doing it again in 20 years time.



Bourbon the Fourth of July Part 2

A few weeks ago, as part of The Friday Pint’s “Year Without Buying Beer”, I visited The Rockstone, in the Beovis Valley area of Southampton and started working through the range of bourbons listed on the collection card. There are 20 in total, and I have decided to work through them in five sessions of four.

Today’s session begins with Eagle Rare. It’s nicely mellow, and doesn’t burn much on the aftertaste. Saying that though, it does seem a bit too easy to drink, and doesn’t really have any characteristics that would make me want to buy myself a bottle

Next on the list is Cabin Still, it’s slightly darker, and somewhat harsher, yet seemingly better for it. The aromas and flavours, whilst similar, seem somewhat stronger.

Bourbon number three for today, and seven in total, is Pikesville. It smells sweeter than the others, with a hint of orange in amongst the vanilla that has been present in the others. In terms of taste, it seems the harshest so far, though the aftertaste doesn’t linger as long as the initial taste would suggest.

Lastly for this group of bourbons is Rittenhouse Rye. It seemingly has little to no aroma. I can detect slight hints of vanilla, but nothing as strong as any of the seven that have preceded this. Tastewise there doesn’t seem much to it either.

Overall, my favourite of these four is the Cabin Still. It had a good bit of flavour to it, and wasn’t too harsh.


Vibrant Forest Pale Ales

Vibrant Forest Brewery is situated in Totton, on the edge of the New Forest. The Brewery was opened last summer by Kevin Robinson, and has since won praise and awards for it’s beers, Flying Saucer, Wheatwave, and Black Oktober in particular.

This summer, Vibrant Forest has brewed a series of single hop pale ales, each brewed to the same alcohol and bitterness level, with the same malt base, using a different hop in each brew. The first three single hop pale ales from the brewery are Chinook, Nelson Sauvin, and Citra.

The Chinook is a rather bitter hop, that lingers rather unpleasantly on the tongue. The aroma does little to excite me as well. The beer seems to be a nice, well made beer, yet it would seem Chinook isn’t the hop for me.





The Nelson Sauvin however, has changed me from being indifferent about the hop, to being quite a fan. The aroma has a distinct smell of white grapes, which carries on slightly into the taste as well. This bottle seems to be a little bit sharper than the one I had earlier this week, yet it’s still a very enjoyable beer.

Pale Ale #3 is Citra, a hop I’ve had mixed reactions with, mostly verging on disappointment. So far, in terms of beers hopped solely with Citra, only The Kernel‘s IPA Citra, and Anchor’s Brekle’s Brown have been on the positive side of the scale. For all the hype that initially surrounded the hop, only those beers seemed to have hinted at it being worthy of the excitement that seemingly surrounded it.

Unfortunatley, this pale ale doesn’t really do anything to improve my opinion of the Citra hop. There’s a rather grassy bitterness to it, that lingers rather unpleasantly, coating the mouth and making you go back for more, just because the taste is better than the aftertaste. As I said with the Chinook, the beer seems like a really good beer, and I’d love to see more single hop pale ales from Vibrant Forest, especially Amarillo and Moteuka ones if the hops are available. For me though, Citra is a hop that disappoints, more than it satisfies.


Now that I’ve tried the three individual pale ales, time for some beer geekery, inspired by Steve Lamond’s Hop Mixology post. First, I shall be trying Citra and Chinook, followed by Chinook and Nelson Sauvin, Nelson Sauvin and Citra, and finally, a blend of all three pale ales.

The Citra plus Chinook mix is marginally better than it’s two component parts, but only marginally. The initial taste when the two are combined is actually a lot better, and actually, there isn’t as much of a lingering bitter after taste either. I prefer this over either Citra or Chinook, but I don’t really like it.

The Chinook and Nelson Sauvin combine to create a rather soapy, and somewhat unpleasant beer, in many ways the least enjoyable so far. The grape nose of the Nelson Sauvin is still there, and there is a slight redeeming malt element in the aftertaste, but neither of them distract enough from the soapyness of the taste.

With the Nelson Sauvin/Citra mix, the Nelson Sauvin seems to dominate the Citra, with little of the latter hop really dectable. This is a somewhat unexpected result for me, as I was expecting the taste to be more bitter, and for the Citra to overpower the grape qualities of the Nelson Sauvin.

Combining the three gives a wonderful aroma, by far the best of all of them encountered whilst writing this post. The combined taste is almost, but not quite as good. There’s a distinct clash between the hops which means it doesn’t quite work. It’s still perfectly drinkable, but as far as hop combinations go, Chinook, Nelson Sauvin and Citra isn’t the way to go.

Of the three beers, Nelson Sauvin is by far my favourite. The fact that I personally didn’t particuarly like the Chinook and Citra ones shouldn’t say anything about the beers themselves. As I made clear earlier in this post, Citra is a hop that I’ve only enjoyed on two occasions. If you’d like to try the pale ales for yourself, and more in the Vibrant Forest range, they are available for sale from Bitter Virtue in Southampton.

A full list of Vibrant Forest outlets is available here.