Mad River John Barleycorn poured a cloudy mahogany color in the glass with a lacy, thick tan head and no observable carbonation. The nose was strong and highly fragrant with baked figs and some ester lurking in the background.
Mad River John Barleycorn had a crisp front with no detectable hop flavors. As the ale warmed in my mouth, it came across as thick, creamy, and smooth with leading notes of vanilla, caramel, and maple. None of the bitterness or burntness expected in a barelywine were present.
Although I didn't do a side-by-side with a newer vintage, my memories of past experiences with Mad River's John Barleycorn lead me to believe this is one of the better candidates for aging I have tried. Fresh off the dock's, John Barleycorn is a delicious but aggressive drink akin to most barleywine style ales I've tried, but two years of aging transformed it into a smooth, almost dessert-like sipping drink. Buyer beware... the aging also hid the 11% a bit too well.