This is an Imperial Stout that is released annually by the Port Brewing company of San Marcos, CA. It was first released in 1997 (according to the bottle), and is the Port Brewing company's 'annual insurance policy against lumps of coal in [their] stockings'.
As far as imperial stouts are concerned I was not greatly impressed. It stuck to the conventional qualities of most imperial stouts: bourbon-esque smoothness, use of numerous malts (specifically two row, wheat, domestic and english crystal, roasted, black and chocolate malts according to the Port Brewing website), and little head retention.
The one thing that stood out about this imperial stout, compared to others, is that when I smelled it I composed a vision of the fermentation room where i think this beer aged. For this stout I imagined a dimly lit room with red brick floors, columns, and walls that are blanketed with shadows. A lone, halving path that runs the length of the fermentation room that is illuminated by what few lights there are. In my mind it seemed like a great place to visit, or stroll through.
Back to the beer: the aroma brought to mind chilled kalua and bourbon. The latter not that surprising, but I did not expect the kahlua to come to mind. A pleasant surprise.
The dark smoke quality of the taste buffered the alcohol and caused me to nearly miss the taste of heated cinnamon that came out near the end of each quaff. The taste itself was layered in that the alcohol seemed to be the wave upon which the aforementioned malt rode over my tongue.
As far as head retention is concerned, a peripheral ring of browned marshmallow foam remained throughout the tasting. The color was surprising in that most imperial stouts I have tried tend to have a darker brown color. Twas not a problem, it was merely a small surprise.
The one negative, that was surprising, was the piece of flem-like material that found it's way into my girlfriend's glass. I figure it was some yeast that did not get filtered out, but I am not sure. Have any of you come across a similar hanger-on?
In the end, I was not greatly impressed with this imperial stout, and I would not recommend this to someone curious about the style. I would be more inclined to suggest Bell's Expedition Stout, Great Divide's Yeti Imperial Stout, or Founders Imperial Stout