Wellington Imperial Russian Stout and Sputnik

Find the video review here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lWUL-MwJARw&feature=youtu.be

IMPERIAL RUSSIAN STOUT

Stats

8% ABV / Unknown IBUs

Appearance 

Opaque black-brown body with cola like carbonation. Medium beige-cream head with medium retention

Aroma

Mostly processed dark chocolate (think 70% cocoa). Some light coffee in the background. A slight milky, lactose-like sweetness. 

Taste

Processed dark chocolate again (like chocolate syrup). Figs (roasted), Fig syrup, some alcohol warmth in finish. Bitterness is present but restrained. 

Comments 

Somewhat like an amped-up porter. Definitely firmly within the English RIS tradition. Reminds me a lot of the Samuel Smith’s Imperial Stout. Amazing value.

SCORE: 9

SPUTNIK 2014

Appearance

As with the IRS, the body is black with a cola-like consistency. However, there is far less head and what does appear dissipates quickly.

Aroma

Some cashew. A feint banana note. Quite muted in comparison.

Taste

Bourbon-soaked. Notes of vanilla seem to overwhelm the familiar IRS flavours which are now far in the background. Alcohol is much more present. 

Comments

A slightly messy bourbon RIS. This beer almost drinks like the standard with a small portion of bourbon mixed into it. There is no obvious oak influence outside of what one might get in the spirit itself and the flavours do not seem to have been given time to meld. I have a hard time understanding how this is the same strength since all signs (the lack of head, the presence of alcohol in the nose and palate) point to an increase. It is possible that Wellington simply did not re-assess the strength after aging. 

All that said, the flavours are all pleasant if you are a fan of stouts and bourbon (which I am) so the beer, to me, is quite tasty and certainly worth a try. 

SCORE: 7.5

Cumulative Comments 

While I liked Sputnik well enough as a beer, the point of this comparison was to address some larger issues in the craft world. I generally support the idea of barrel aging and indeed experimentation of all sorts but I worry that there is a potential for customer abuse when it comes to such processes which evoke feelings of opulence and rarity. I think as we’ve seen in this comparison, barrel aging is not a panacea which magically improves all beers. As the cost of craft products continues to rise, we need to be more mindful of what it is we are paying for. 

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