The ghost is infamously cryptic and mysterious, so when rumors started spreading through the Serious Knowers (of all and nothing!) community of a new series of Fantôme beers aged in various barrels, I knew I had to find a way to procure a bottle.
This particular iteration of Fantôme Nuit Noire is described in typical Dany-speak as “Fantôme Special stored from Long date in Calvados wood barrels” and it clocks in at a whopping 16% ABV. While this is more information than you can usually glean from a new tôme, I still had no idea what to expect from this. It was the perfect beer to crack open on Halloween night though, and it wound up knocking my socks off:
Brasserie Fantôme Nuit Noire Calvados – Cap pops off the bottle with nary a hiss. Pours a deep, viscous black color with no visible carbonation or head whatsoever. Smells of boozy oak, sweet, almost stoutlike in nature. Taste starts off rich and sweet, with a bitter roast element emerging in the middle, finishing with boozy oak and vanilla tamping down the roast. Mouthfeel is rich, full bodied, dense, and thick, completely still, no carbonation at all, and as such a little sticky, with a bit of not-unpleasant alcohol heat. The lack of carbonation feels oddly appropriate, and I suspect something more effervescent would not work nearly as well. If tasted blind, I think I could peg this as barrel aged, but probably would not guess Calvados and definitely would never, in a million years, have guessed this was made by Fantôme. Definitely a pleasant surprise coming from them (who are pretty famously difficult to peg down in the first place). A-
Beer Nerd Details: 16% ABV bottled (250 ml capped). Drank out of a tulip glass on 10/31/22. Lot 11 c20, “best before end 2028 or many more”
It’s nice to know that the ghost can still surprise me after all these years of strange brews… The bottle does mention that this was brewed “for our good friend Franco Fratoni, best beer connaissor [sic] in the world”, and that guy seems to be pretty well plugged into the beer world – Cantillon made a beer for him as well, so you know, good company (he owns a bar in Italy, so it’s not just some rando who drinks a lot).
There are several other Nuit Noire barrel variants, including Vermouth Barrels (side-eye, but it could be good I guess), Laphroaig (always suspicious of peated Scotch barrels, but the base seems strong enough and it has pretty good ratings), Rhum (would definitely be my top choice of the remaining, even if Rum barrels are wildly varying in quality), and De Garde (they make sours, so this might not work out so well and the ratings seem to bear that out, but then, who the hell knows?)