Velvet Merkin is an Oatmeal Stout aged in retired bourbon barrels. This is limited-release that can only be found during the month of September. I’ll be reviewing a 2013 vintage bottle. Aromas include roasted malt notes of chocolate and coffee, but the bourbon barrel steals the show with heavy notes of vanilla and finer touches of oak. Oatmeal grains come through in the most genuine clarity.
The palate begins in a rich, flavorful display of chocolate covered caramels. Dark chocolate soon shifts toward a slight emphasis toward coffee. A flavor reminiscent of oatmeal cookies fills in the middle, then a modest sour element arrives as a hint of orange. At this point, the barrel begins to infuse earthy characteristics with heavy hints of bourbon. This produces the most authentic vanilla bean flavor, then gives softer qualities of oak. A whisper of spice leaves a dash of cinnamon, then finally disembarks in a thin trail of smoke. Details of sweet tobacco round out the back-end. The aftertaste reminds me of a coke and bourbon. Mouthfeel is typically smooth, more wet than dry. Carbonation is quite low, held over a medium-full body weight that acts in quick delivery, then tapers off for short sustain. Despite being dangerously easy to drink, I still feel like sipping.
Malts steer this ship with the utmost balance, presenting a controlled roast over fragile sweetness. I was initially surprised to find the malt load so low, because the body weight falls a tad empty. Hops deposit a gentle bitterness, but have very little influence. Bourbon is most certainly the star of the show, resulting in a delicious combination of chocolate and vanilla. The malt bill isn’t substantial enough to support an ABV any higher than 8.5%, but at this point I’m not detecting many off-flavors. I wasn’t too impressed with Velvet Merlin, so this is proof that bourbon barrel-aging can improve a stout under the right circumstances. I recommend it, especially to those with a passion for bourbon barrel-aging.
PS: I suggest you allow your bottle to reach room temperature before consumption.
Malts: Maris Otter, 2-Row Pale, Roast Barley, English Dark Caramel, Medium Caramel, Carafa Malt, Oats
Hops: Fuggle (grown in the US)
Paso Robles, California