During a visit to the Lift Bridge Brewery Taproom, I was able to pick up a bottle #1472 of the 2013 “Commander” barleywine. I was also able to have a glass of barrel-aged “Silhouette“, but it was unavailable in a take-home bottle; now after having tasted both, I wish the barrel-aged Silhouette had been available (it was excellent, by the way). I did end up with a regular Silhouette, but that’s for another time.
Lift Bridge describes their beer as “aged in bourbon barrels and features heavy amounts of malts and subtle, sweet Cardamom. Bourbon, oak, vanilla, citrus and a sweet spiciness.” My experience was that the bourbon, whiskey-like aromas and flavors overpowered everything else. If there had been a citrus or sweet-spiciness, it would have been impossible to detect. Not on ly in the aroma, the whiskey was prevalent through all aspects of the taste, too, finishing with a burning aftertaste sensation just like real whiskey.
The malt presence & character is subtle; perhaps some hints could be imagined behind the whiskey. There was absolutely no hop aroma or flavor. On the plus side, the beer was absolutely crystal clear.
“Commander”, at least as young as mine was, is definitely a bourbon beer, but not really a barleywine.