I enjoy whisky barrel-aged beers (there, I said it!); so when Brewdog announced the release of Tokyo which had been aged in respectively a Highland and Lowland cask ("Tokyo Rising Sun") my interests were piqued and in the interests of science *ahem* purchased them* to report back.
I also decided to compare the beers to a representative whisky from each of the regions to see if I could discern any of the flavours transferred. I'd also have liked to compare to original Tokyo, but this has long since sold out and fresh (now 18%) Tokyo* will have to suffice.
Lowland up first then (only one cask of this). Pours unctuous pitch black with a temporary cola head and steady stream of effervescence. Caramel, molasses, tobacco, chocolate, cocoa, whiff of peat. Thick in the mouth, some definite tcp and smoke, sweet malt, apple cigars, cold hearth. Sweet in the finish, almost distracting from the stout richness.
Medium golden Glenkinchie in comparison smells very one-dimensional and quite grainy. Taste wise there's grass, beechwood and a fairly fiery finish. I'm not sure this was the cask used, though there's only a few lowland distilleries so the probability is quite high!
Highland Tokyo Rising Sun pours oily black with a fluffy cola head that soon collapses to a lacing. Oily legs and big aroma of peat bogs, sour cherries, campfires and mead. Slightly more carbonation in the mouth and a lot more charred wood and cranberry than the lowland. A touch of cola, less residual sweetness soon leaves the tongue but long finish around the mouth and down fruit. Warming but not noticably alcoholic. I’d say people may find this a bit more of a struggle to drink.
Dalwhinnie** this time and with a mouth full of smoky beer the woodsmoke notes overpower the honey nose i usually get from this. It almost smells like new make spirit. Its extremely sweet in the mouth with pineapple up front, vanilla and some applewood smoke. Very fiery again, something the beer seems capable of accentuating in the whisky.
To finish things off nicely I've a bottle of Tokyo*. This 18% beast is a souped up version of those aged above but should still be an interesting comparison. Last time I tried it however I wasn't too impressed, it was a tad oxidised with an unpleasant acetic nose. Dark Brown with fluffy tan head, cranberries and chocolate malt on the nose but still a touch acetic. Thick body, rich, tart cranberry, chocolate, coffee, caramel, vanilla. This is much better than the previous bottle! Long sweet and boozy finish with a touch of roast barley and malt astringency. Jasmine comes in late with more malt sweetness.
I preferred the Lowland aged Tokyo to the highland aged one, by some way, but both are good beers in their own right and up there with the best Paradox brews. If someone offers you to share a bottle, I'd accept! But in terms of buying for yourself you're better of with getting the Tokyo* and drinking a glass of whisky alongside, its just not worth £25.
*Although aided by my 20% shareholder discount, they're still among the most expensive beers I've purchased. I can understand why though, the base beer wasn't exactly cheap with cranberries and jasmine added, then there's the purchase of the whisky casks, 3-4 years storage time, limited label run and of course beer geek tax.
**Yes, I am aware of the irony of picking two Diageo owned brands of whisky. For those of you who aren't see #DiageoGate.