For me, this beer is like taking two of your favorite things in life and combining them into one phenomenal experience. To give you an example, this beer is like watching UVA’s basketball team beat Duke to win an ACC Championship….yep this beer is that damn good. The guys at Lickinghole Creek have taken an already delicious brew, a Russian Imperial Stout, and aged it for 100 days in Pappy Van Winkle 15 Year Family Reserve Bourbon barrels. For those of you who are not bourbon drinkers, it really falls into two categories…Pappy Van Winkle & everything else so needless to say if you were going to pick a bourbon barrel to age your beer in this 107 proof gem would be the one. I was lucky enough to track one down for $2 just moments before the keg kicked at Mekong here in Richmond, and while you might not be able to find it for the same price I highly recommend you pay whatever the going rate is if you are lucky enough to stumble upon this beer before it disappears until 2015.
Enlightened Despot, Lickinghole Creek Craft Brewery (Goochland, VA)
Bourbon Barrel Russian Imperial Stout, ABV: 11.3%, IBU 78
Presentation: Draft pour into a snifter.
Appearance: Black/Dark brown, very thin light brown head dissipating quickly.
Taste: Strong notes of dark chocolate blended with a touch of vanilla and hard kick of hops comprise the initial taste of this complex stout. It finishes with a delicious bite that accentuates the 100 days this beer spent aging in the barrels of some of the finest bourbon produced in America.
ABV/IBU: Enlightened Despot’s high ABV will not shock anyone who has consumed a bourbon barrel stout, but what will surprise anyone trying this stout for the first time is how the multi-layered taste of this beer makes the high alcohol content easy to forget. You cannot miss the hops in this beer but there is so much going on in regards to taste from start to finish that they are not the first or last thing to cross your mind.
Overall: I feel like I have not been direct enough with our readers up to this point in terms of this review, so in case you are still unsure about where I stand on this beer…I really really enjoyed it. In one moment after my first sip of Enlightened Despot I was tempted to call in sick to work tomorrow so I could have five more and reminded of why I once spent more than $100 to split a bottle of Pappy Van Winkle at a bar in Charlottesville (but that’s a story for another time). This is truly a great beer for lovers of stouts, bourbon aficionados, and really anyone else who can appreciate a craft beer made with care and enhanced by time. If you cannot track an Enlightened Despot down before this year’s supply is gone, remember to check back with Lickinghole Creek Craft Brewery next spring. Like most good things in life, this aged bourbon barrel stout is worth the wait.