The beer is full bodied as it first hits my tongue, but has a prickly effervescent carbonation that struggles free of the viscous heft. The beer tastes lightly sweet, but is still significantly savory. The beer has a sort of has a dark honey flavor to it, but without that cloying sweetness that honey has. Notes of molasses, tart-concentrated fruit (prune and fig as well as a touch of raisin that seems to get a bit bigger as the beer warms) and some dark cocoa notes in the finish start to come out after a couple sips. This is quite rich and satiating, but not overly sweet; in fact the tart and sweet notes are in such a good balance that neither is overtly noticeable. The malt character is concentrated and brooding with lots of Maillard browning flavors, a molasses character, some notes of dark caramel, savory complex sugars, plus some toasted / caramelized dark bread crust flavors. There is a nice spiciness here that, again, is not a note that is overtly noticeable; it provides a touch of clove flavor, earthy coriander notes, an oaky spiciness (this is the most noticeable spice note, but still is fairly subtle), a touch of ginger, a peppery piquancy in the finish, a richly integrated anise note (though more like one that has been cooked for a long time), a definite note of mahleb (if you consider this a spice), mellow vanilla, hints of mace and a wisp of cardamom.
This is possibly the most balanced strong beer I have ever had; this shows a finesse that is rarely achieved, it has a melding of sweet & tart, malt / fruit & spice, oak & base beer as well as earthy & bright notes. Definitely a tour de force, it takes what can be a phenomenal base beer and adds a couple more layers, as well as a melding process that integrates everything together as a whole. I like that this has lost the sweetness of the base beer (though even the 2006 Pannepot I had last night was not aggressively sweet).