Review: Nickel Brook Kentucky Bastard Imperial Stout (2016)

Ah, I've been keeping this in my hoard since my birthday last year, waiting for the right time to review it.. but sometimes the best time isn't a celebratory time, rather just sometime in the present. Last year, Nickel Brook Brewing brought out an Imperial Stout called Kentucky Bastard, which was based off of their Bolshevik Bastard Stout (9.0% ABV), aged in Kentucky Bourbon barrels. Their Half Bastard (4.5% ABV) was part of last year's International Craft Beer Advent calendar, but I found it wasn't as good as most of their beers I've had.

Kentucky Bastard tops out at a seriously potent 14.5% ABV and 70 IBU - wow.. 14.5%.. this ties it as the second strongest beer in ABV I've ever had!

Appearance: Kentucky Bastard pours just like your typical Imperial Stout.. thick, black as the night, and with a gorgeous burnt caramel hue on top. This definitely looks like something that will be the end of my evening.

Aroma: Wow, this is an incredibly potent-smelling stout. The aroma of the Kentucky Bourbon barrels is made well aware the moment that the bottle is open. Bourbon and oak is definitely going to be be the defining aroma here - there are notes of burnt caramel, oak, vanilla and a rich oakiness that I love from barrels. There's also a presence of dark chocolate (yum!), a bit of roasted maltiness to give it a bit of coffee profile to it, and a bit of dark fruitiness (plums, raisins).

Taste: Seeing that this is 14.5% ABV, I was expecting my initial tasting notes would have this tasting harsh and overly boozey.. but this was actually quite pleasant! The initial profile I got from tasting this beer was a rich, dark chocolate profile with a mild Bourbon presence. It's not giving off the typical boozey heat as I was expecting from a boozey stout, which is very shocking. There's a hefty amount of burnt caramel/toffee, roasted coffee from the malt, vanilla, oak, and a hint of nuttiness at the very end. There's also a light amount of dark fruitiness of raisins/plums here and there. The few sips I've taken so far.. I'm definitely warming up a decent amount from the hefty alcohol content.

Overall Thoughts: This is an absolute amazing stout and I'm glad I picked up a bottle. At $30 per 750mL bottle, it may seem expensive to some, but seeing that it's tied at being the second highest ABV beer I've ever had, it makes sense. This Imperial Stout is rich, creamy, smooth and has a rich Bourbon flavour that doesn't give me goosebumps, rather.. it's a bit too smooth. If this stout ever comes back to Manitoba, I will certainly buy another bottle or two.. it's worth every cent. Dear Nickel Brook, keep making amazing beer!

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