On the first day of RIS-Mas my true love gave to me…The Abyss!

Last year for the month of December, my wife Sj and I each had our own boozy Advent calendar from Drinks By The Dram.  This was a great excuse to have a little taste of unusual whiskeys (or Armagnac for Sj) each night of the month.  However, this year they can’t send these amazing gift boxes to Minnesota so I decided to make my own nightly Advent involving Russian Imperial stouts.  Since I had been on call for the first 3 days of December I figured I would go along with song and go 12 days like the song!  So here goes…

Deschutes’ The Abyss 2011

The Abyss was one of my favorite Russian Imperial stouts for years.  When my mom lived in Oregon she would mule me a whole case of these bombers back for me to slowly dole out over the coming year.  Each year’s beer is a blend of unoaked and oaked beer so every year is a bit different.  This particular 2011 vintage consists of 6% bourbon barrel aged, 11% fresh oak, and 11% wine barrel aged beer.  In addition to complexity from barrels, the beer also has molasses, licorice, vanilla, and cherry bark added to the process.

Aroma: Plenty going on here!  Licorice right off the bat, followed by creme brulee burnt sugar notes.  Malty sweetness.  Hint of vanilla.  A bit of oxidation but not as much as expected for its age.

Appearance: Black as…well…the Abyss?  A well named beer, for this is impenetrable to the eye.  A fine deep tan head is present but fades fairly quickly.  Head is rousable with light swirling of the glass.

Flavor: Full to bursting with bitter dark chocolate, as well as dried cherry and raisins.  There is a hint of vanilla as it warms up and slight papery oxidation as well.  Mouthfeel creamy initially and thick.  This has a firm bitterness and tannic bite that makes it end fairly dry, cutting the thick and creamy front end of the taste.  I can’t pick up distinct bourbon or wine but think they play into the overall impression and complexity.

Overall:  Still a great beer.  I was worried this one would be a cardboard-bomb from oxidation, but has held up well in the cool and dark of my extensive cellar.  This is a sipper, mainly due to complexity and bitter finish–it keeps going on the palate for a while after you taste it.  It took about 45 minutes (an episode of The Punisher to be exact) to get through a 10 oz pour.  Goes well with gratuitous violence and brooding.  A dark chocolate covered cherry in a glass.

Rating (on a 0-5 scale):  4.25


Stay tuned for more RIS-Mas beers to follow!  Next up Founders Canadian Breakfast Stout…