Innis and Gunn are a company that I mainly associate with blame. They were the first people to bring out a whisky barrel aged beer (that I am aware of) and since that initial release maturing beer in whisky barrels has become a bit of a fad. Now, that’s not blame in a bad way as there have been some rather good ones, but it’s also spawned a glut of rather dodgy beers finished in wood and hiked in price to express their specialness. The regular Innis & Gunn beer, brewed by Belhaven, is matured in bourbon casks for between 1 and 30 days before being mixed with other batches in a marrying tun and then left in order to reach a total of 78 days (if my maths is correct) of maturation. The story is that it was an accidentally discovered product, with the idea originally to season casks with beer for a beer finished whisky (Grant’s Ale Cask Reserve), throwing away the beer after the seasoning was done. However, on trying the beer (which was ‘of course’ disposed of properly previously – the staff took it home) they found it wasn’t all that bad, chose a new company name (combining the middle names of Dougal and Neil Sharp, the brewer behind the recipe and his brother) and started selling it. In 2007 William Grant decided to sell its share and Dougal Sharp bought it, a good move as the beer is now selling worldwide with turnover in the millions. In other words, it’s all his fault. Well done.
I’ve tried their Rum Cask matured beer, which I find to be overly sweet and cloying, and a unaged beer, that I can’t find mention of on the internet, that I found to be a bit boring. However, a cold bottle of the regular oak aged version is a nice refreshing beer which I occasionally turn to when I can’t find much else. They do love their special editions though. The Rum Cask seems to be one (although for a special edition it’s quite widely available) and they also have a triple matured one, that suggests bottle conditioning from the descriptions, an oak-aged IPA and various others including the one that I recently tasted – Innis & Gunn Canadian Cask.
A limited run of 150 barrels, this is matured for 71 days in casks that previously held Canadian rye whisky and was originally produced for Canada Day in 2009 (with the IPA being only available in Waitrose or Canada I would guess they have some good sales over there). I picked up a bottle in Royal Mile whiskies in April 2010, so it looks like they either held some back or didn’t sell it all.
On the nose it’s very Innis & Gunn, maybe a bit sweeter, maybe a bit more fruit, but with the normal maltiness with a slight metallic tang. To taste it has a sweet almost buttery taste with a fresh malt fruitiness and nice bitter finish. It’s not as sweet and whisky-like as the regular Innis & Gunn, with the overpowering vanilla of the bourbon barrels almost entirely absent, and I like it a bit more. I’m still not a huge fan of the I&G beers, they share a distinct ‘bottled beer’ flavour that rounds off the taste and makes it less interesting than I’d hope, but this is a nice special edition and definitely worth a taste if you like the regular editions.
Innis & Gunn Canadian Cask
7.1% Canadian rye whisky barrel aged beer
Available from specialist retailers. I got mine from Royal Mile Whiskies for £3.