Hangar 24 Pugachev Royale - An Evening with the Elitein Products
Hangar 24's Pugachev Royale 2014
Russian Imperial Stout Aged in Bourbon and Brandy Barrels
16.3% Alcohol By Volume
Description: Royale begins as Hangar 24's monster Russian Imperial Stout, Pugachev's Cobra that is released every December. However, unlike the traditional Cobra (if such a beer could be called traditional), Royale is aged in bourbon barrels that are packed with cacao nibs and vanilla beans. After an 8-month slumber, the beer is then transferred into Brandy barrels for an additional 10 months. What emerges is a thick, bold, chocolatey attack on the senses. Royale is packaged in smaller format 12 oz. bottles that feature the signature rustic, weathered labels that Pugachev fans are used to. Finally, each bottle is hand-dipped in black wax to finish it off.
For the purposes of a review, this bottle of Royale was served on release day (12/6/2014) in a Hangar 24 tulip glass at about 40 degrees. This is well below recommended serving temperature (54 degrees), but the bottle was consumed over the course of approximately 30 minutes.
Appearance: Black as night, two shades before midnight, standard crude oil, and all of the other cliches need apply here. This beer pours very, very dark and with a lot of body. The pour creates a small, tan head that forms atop the beer, but dissipates rather quickly. The carbonation level on this beer is minimal, but sufficient for a beer of its style. One quick swirl around the glass, and the beer begins to form what wine drinkers refer to as "legs" on the sides of the tulip glass. On the SRM scale from 0-40, this one comes in at 40, no doubt.
Aroma: Right off the bat, I'm picking up chocolate brownie batter much like last year's offering. I also picked up hints of bourbon and a sharpness that hits my nose, this is understandable seeing as how this beer was just released and hasn't had much time to mellow yet. The sharpness isn't enough to where I would consider it intrusive, but it's hard not to notice it. Once through the chocolate and bourbon aromas, toffee and sweet vanilla begin to pop out. I can tell from the first few whiffs, that this is going to be a big, rich dessert beer.
Taste: Wow. My palate is hit with layer upon layer of complex flavors. Firstly, chocolate, vanilla, toffee, roasted marshmallows, bourbon booziness. The Brandy flavors come out as a slight dark fruitiness, but this is minimal. Once the beer warms to the appropriate serving temperature, the booziness fades just enough to allow the desired flavors to dance around on your palate. Last year, I described this beer as bourbon brownie batter. This year's offering seems to have a bit more complexity and a few more layers of flavor.
Mouthfeel: Very thick, velvety smoothness. These sensations are balanced with a slight alcohol astringency. This beer is fresh out of barrels, so I expected this. Like the aroma, it isn't what I would call "off-putting", but I do think it needs a little more time to be perfect. Each sip of Royale warms me all the way down. My palate can feel every bit of the 16.3% ABV. Still, it goes down smooth for being such a beast.
Overall Impression: Hangar 24 doesn't need my help in selling you this beer, it's already gone. But I will attempt to anyway. This beer is truly something special that I would place into the upper echelon of elite barrel aged stouts. It is big, decadent, boozy, complex, and delicious. It is a tad bit "hot" at the moment, that may be a detractor, but give it a few months and it will have mellowed into the perfect combination of bourbon, chocolate brownie batter, and marshmallow-ey greatness. If ever there was a beer to get yourself stirred up over, this one is it.
My score: 4.95 out of 5