When I first tasted Fraoch from Williams Bros I was surprised by the honey sweetness, the alien flavours of herbal heather and distinct lack of hop character. It was well out of my normal preferred flavour range, and yet I liked it. Then I drank it with some amazing food at Thai Aroy Dee and it made sense, the sweetness worked so well to quell the heat and the herbal heather came out a treat.
Still, it always felt a little one dimensional to me. Very good, interesting, but not thrilling.
Well Fraoch 22 is a very different Beast. An 11% version that's been aged for a year in ex-sherry casks previously used to mature Auchentoshan single malt. It's a proper, grown up, multi dimensioned brew that I feel very lucky to have sampled.
It has to be said that my last experience of a Whisky Aged beer was BrewDog's Bitch Please, which I found to be a pretty much undrinkable mess of TCP and harsh wood resin (although the Rum aged Bitch Please was bloody beautiful, why didn't they bottle it!?) - so I was a little apprehensive going into this beer if I'm honest.
I needn't have worried.
It pours a light golden orange with very low carbonation and a head that disappears quickly, although that's nothing to worry about for a beer of this sort really.
The aroma is a very light whiff of Whisky phenols, plus plenty of honey and alcohol.
The flavour is initially sweet honey then there's a smack of whisky and a fully woody malt flavour which appears after. It's all very balanced and restrained though, the flavours merge really well and even for 11% it's extremely drinkable with a light, slightly oily texture.
The big sweetness of Fraoch has been rounded off by the ageing, but not overpowered. It's great, and a perfect beer to buy and age for a few years.
My only regret is that I haven't tasted enough Whisky to appreciate the specific type of barrel ageing, and the flavour profiles and subtleties of the Whisky used.