Carlsberg Jacobsen Vintage #2

Jacobsen Vintage #2
Style: Baltic Stout
380ml 8.7% abv

There seems to be a need amongst the marketing types these days for their beers to be the “most something” in order stand out from the crowd. Quality and flavour doesn’t seem to be enough. We regularly see the “world’s most bitter beer”, the “world’s strongest beer” or the “most expensive beer”. So, when Carlsberg bring us “Probably the world’s most expensive beer”, they at least had the good grace to leave room for doubt. Of course, it is an extension of their “Probably” campaign, which I never really understood anyway – is it the best beer in the world or not? But I digress….

Carlsberg’s Jacobsen Vintage 2 bills itself as “one of the world’s most expensive beers” and it’s hard to argue as the beer costs 2009 Kroner – or roughly A$422 depending on the day’s exchange rate – per stubby-sized bottle. (The 2008 Vintage #1 cost 2008 Kroner).

Carlsberg’s brewer, Morten Ibsen, wanted to “challenge the luxury wine segment” and he has certainly succeeded in terms of price. With only 600 bottles of each vintage made it is as exclusive as it is expensive. As such, your expectations are always going to be high…but does it deliver?

The bottle comes in a wooden presentation box. Impressive at first glance, but the plywood feels slightly flimsy in the hand ruining the effect. Upon opening, the vaunted hand-stencilled lithographic print by artist Marco Evaristti looks to be hand-cut as well, with jagged paper trimmings left on and the corners not quite fully adhered. Hand made doesn’t guarantee precision. Comparatively, Fosters beats it in the appearance stakes with the presentation of their much cheaper but more impressive-looking Crown Ambassador vintages in 2008 and 2009.

But, no matter how pretty the bottle, beer is all about drinking and after fussing with the wax-sealed wired cork and being careful not to get the brittle wax in the opened bottle (this was shared in common with the first Crown vintage) this Baltic Stout pours an inky black with a thin crema-coloured head that fades quickly leaving an espresso lacing. Aromas are strongly reminiscent of wet cigar and, while there are vanilla notes there courtesy of the French oak casks in which it was aged for 100 days, it is a tarry, smokey flavour that dominates. Liquorice and cocoa flavours fade in and out, but it is a course smokey, almost earthy, flavour and dry bitterness that lingers long.

The Carlsberg website explains the expiration date for the Vintage No.2 is 2059, (this is also the year that the Carlsberg Elephant beer celebrates its 100th anniversary). While there is every chance that the Vintage no. 2 will indeed have increased it’s sweetness and reduced its bitterness and smokiness, who will know? If there is a bottle around in 50 years, I hope it will at least be drinkable unlike another claimant for title “world’s most expensive bottle of beer” a bottle of Lowenbrau that survived the Hindenberg and is undrinkable.

Jacobsen Vintage #2 is far from an easy-drinking beer, or an easy-enjoying beer for that matter, but perhaps it is the challenge that you are buying for that high price tag and the Vintage 2 certainly challenges your perceptions.

An interesting experience, and an interesting beer, but few beers will live up to that price and there are many that I would rather be challenged by.

Try this if: You have more money than you know how to spend and are into “experiences”.

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