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J.W. Lees Harvest Ale (Calvados Cask) | J.W. Lees & Co (Brewers) Ltd

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J.W. Lees Harvest Ale (Calvados Cask)J.W. Lees Harvest Ale (Calvados Cask)

Brewed by:
J.W. Lees & Co (Brewers) Ltd
United Kingdom (England) | website

Style: English Barleywine

Alcohol by volume (ABV): 11.50%

Availability: Winter

Notes / Commercial Description:
No notes at this time.

Added by Dantes on 05-07-2004

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Reviews: 242 | Ratings: 462
Photo of Doppelbockulus
4.89/5  rDev +20.1%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

I wish I could review the 2008 and 2006 vintages separately since the scores are different.

This particular one is the 2008 Vintage.

Color is a coppery amber with sediment and no head. Slight haze that is a 1 or 2 on a 10 scale.

Smell includes honey, raisins, port, and candied fruit. amazing smell.

Tastes of fruits and vegetables, specifically apples, grapes, pomegranate, carrots, and celery. The after taste is similar to sweet vegetables and fine cheese. 3 years and a few months is great for this beer, this on one of the greatest flavors I have found in a beer.

Creamy feel in the mouth. Very smooth and a little like port.

And here is the 2006 Vintage.

Wonderful ruby amber color. It is clear with light bubbling. (5)

The smell is an amazing combination of roses, caramel, dark fruit jam, and apple pie. This is my favorite in terms of smell. (5)

Taste isn't as good as the 2008 vintage, but it is still great. Flavor i fruity and vegetabley. It isn't sweet like fruit, the fruit is dry, it is sweet like caramelized vegetables or caramelized fruits, a darker sweetness. There seems to be some pear, celery, raisins, and sweet bread crust from the malt that still comes through. (4)

Feels like a very smooth brandy, watery. Only faintly tingly, and there is an illusion of fruit skins. (4)

4.5 overall for the 2006 vintage, which is more appropriately a rating for a 5 to 6 year aged one.

This is very good but 2008 was better, seems like 3 to 4 years is perfect....but that is judging from only two data points so far. I still have more setting and waiting.

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Photo of santoslhalper
4.85/5  rDev +19.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

Appearence: Pours an attractive dark ruby/copper w tih a very thin off-white head the dissapears quickly. Perfectly clear.

Smell: The smell honeslty reminds me of a very complex, sweet and intriguing mix of a dry, red wine and sweet, malty beer. Brilliant!

Taste and Mouthfeel: From the second it hits your mouth you know it's going to be an intense experience. Immediate sweetness melding quickly into an oak/wood feel, mixed with caramel, vinous, chocolate, vanilla, and nutty notes, then ends with a huge finish of malty sweetness, barleywine alcohol, and wonderful cask tastes. Marvelous. The mouthfeel is full and chewy, not cloying.

Drinkability and Overall: I've been through a bit of a rough spell that past couple of weeks. Things haven't quite been turing out the best for me. Tonight I was in particularly low spirits, and I figured it was time to hit something special. This was it. Perfect tasting beer beyond all aspects of what I know beer to be. My favorite beers are the over-the-top beers that can still be delicious, complex and balanced. And this one fits the bill perfectly. Some breweries go too far in "pushing the envelope", but this one is a standard to which American brewers should look up to. Ale in it's perfect form.

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Photo of trh70
4.85/5  rDev +19.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

Wow! Truly one of the best beers I have ever had. Saw this at Total Wine. Pulled out my phone, came here to check it out. Bought 6 bottles of the 2008 based on what others had said.
Am I glad I did. This beer is unlike no other.

A: Golden brown in color with a small white head that quickly faded.

S: Caramel, toffee, apples.

T: Caramel, toffee, apples and a hint of lemon zest. Mildly sweet.

M: Coats the tongue like honey.

O: Amazing beer. Tomorrow I will be going back to buy the other 6 bottles. This is not a everyday drinking beer, or one to have with a meal. This is a beer where you put some rhythmic mood music on, turn down the lights, sip and savor. Enjoy every nounce of the beer.

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Photo of GClarkage
4.85/5  rDev +19.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

03/22/09- Purchased at Sun Devil Liquors in Mesa, AZ.

Presentation- 9.3oz bottle, vinatge 2004 poured into my JW Lees glass.

Appearance- Lighter colored caramel colored pour. 1/4 inch head with a light rim of foam. Light lace patches left behind.

Smell- The norm of dark fruits, raisins and figs. Sugary spice, a touch of alcohol and some caramel of course.

Taste- Really similar to the sherry cask one I had last night. Only a bit if barrel flavoring was the difference..and that was minimal. Strong sweet caramel flavor with dark fruits mingling around. Light alcohol taste.

Mouthfeel- Nice and thick, very smooth and dessert-like. Creamy as well. Lowest carbonation of the bunch.

Drinkability- The best of the bunch I have had so far. Overall the smoothest and best flavors.

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Photo of floridadrift
4.83/5  rDev +18.7%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.75

2006 POOF!

Almost tart, perfectly mellow with a back-end of alcohol. When I'm not skiing the Alps, I always try to let it warm. This reminded me of a candied apple; this beer was incredibly good, especially with time. One day, this will come in a bomber for $50 and we will all be pissed.

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Photo of DavidSeanNJ
4.82/5  rDev +18.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Ok so...I found my new favorite beer. Here it is. J.W. Lees Harvest Ale Matured in Calvados Casks. I must admit, after purchasing the bottle I had to look up what "Calvados" was. I had my reservations about this one but was blown away and needless to say, plesantly surprised.

12 oz. bottle poured into a wine glass.

A- Beautiful glowing amber tan color. Creamy succulent rich head. When swirled around in my glass a beautiful blanket coats my beer perfectly.

S- Sweet apple cider. Oak and vanilla. Maybe some maple syrup. Sugary sweet and tart nose.

T- Lucious. Pruney. Fresh vanilla. Tart applie. Caramel. Sugar. Dark fruits. All wrapped into one, not missing a beat.

M- Velvety smooth, savory, and so beautiful. Nice body. Very appropriate.

D- D is for dangerous in this instance. I want more, NOW. And I want some cheese to go with it. This is heaven in a bottle. Absolutely in love with this beer. Big time winner.

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Photo of putnam
4.82/5  rDev +18.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

I remember first tasting Legends' Alba Scots Pine Ale and wondering where the spruce flavor was. Now it is not to be missed.

This beer's Calvados barrel-schooling also results in enigmatic flavor from the bottle. There is no doubt apple brandy left its mark, only it is a transparent, bitter apple flavor - sort of like what cherries are to Luxardo. I find these Lees products hold up very well for several days after opening. Treat it like a good, dry Sack - served after meals, with a blunt. It dries out and smoothes out.

A gutsy, sticky froth occurs when freshly uncapped and poured. The heady aromas are of apple seeds and skins combined with Spanish solera brandy and raw dough notes. On the palate it expands with a molten glacial texture to reveal flavors of charred pineapple, caramel, intensely bitter tannins and gum.

I suspect this, together with the Sherry Barrel selection, will age the longest of the series due to a healthier balance of acidity.

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Photo of Halcyondays
4.81/5  rDev +18.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

9.3 oz. bottle, 2008 Edition

A: Pours brown with a soft white head, nice looking, nothing special.

S: Sweet English malt, caramel and apple cider. Like the best apple pie you ever smelled.

T: Delicious, simply delicious. Caramel malt, good amount of residual sugar in there. Maple syrup type notes, hints of wood and the true green apple/Calvados just brings it all together. The flavours are just beautifully integrated, this is why I love English Barleywine.

M: Gorgeous full-bodied mouthfeel, silky easy smoothness, soft carbonation.

D: If one can not tell already, I loved this beer. Everything came together on this one. Wish I had more to age, but I don't think I'd be able to keep my hands off them. Grab a wedge of Stilton and go to heaven.

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Photo of Czequershuus
4.77/5  rDev +17.2%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.75

2012 vintage. This beer pours maple colored with a very small head. The aroma is full of dates, prunes, vanilla, baked apples, cardamom, maple syrup, and candied ginger. The The flavor leads with maple syrup and baked apple, with notes of vanilla, oak, and spices present as well. The mouthfeel is rich and lasting. Overall this is an outstanding contemplative beer.

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Photo of blakesell
4.77/5  rDev +17.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

Enjoyed straight from the firkin at Gravity Head in New Albany, IN. 2006 vintage on this cask, poured into a 10oz. glass.

Appearance- Hazy and tan-orange with no head at all. No lacing to be found. Looks to be entirely flat showing no indication of its power.

Smell- Rich and creamy buttery brown sugar with no hops. Cinnamon, sugar, toasted bread, cocoa, hints of licorice. This thing smells luscious. It doesn't even smell like beer. No real Calvados scent either. It actually smells more like a sweet buttery breakfast pastry.

Taste- Oh, my, Gawd. This thing is magic. Malt gives way to cream, hot chocolate, hazelnuts, rhubarb? No. Cherries, more like dark cherries. Sweet maple syrup. Christmas cookies, complete with frosting. Like God is rubbing my tummy.

Mouthfeel- Sticky, thick, and not carbonated. This elixir was intended for the gods but somehow got to me instead. Warming, but the beer hides that warmth and makes you want more.

Drinkability- If I could give this drinkability a 9 out of 5, I would still be giving this beer a lower score than it deserves credit for. No traces of the power of this monster. I could drink this until I die and be happy about it.

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Photo of Roman5150
4.75/5  rDev +16.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.75

bottle into tulip

appearance: murky brown/amber with some sediment on the bottom, very slight white head

smell: calvados casks, dark fruits, figs, nuts, apple/pear, oak, roasted notes, sweet

taste: very sweet, lots of cask flavor, also getting some subtle roasted notes, hazelnut, apple, oak, and vanilla on the backend. Alcohol is pleasantly disguised by the sweetness and smoothness for this beer. Wow the aging really makes this super mellow for the ABV.

mouthfeel: low to medium carbonation, medium-full bodied

overall: This is a special occasion beer given the price, but wow does this impress. So smooth, it's not often you can find beer aged for several years at my local stores. The calvados casks really come through on this one and create a truly flavorful, balanced, amazingly smooth beer. Will buy again, if you like any sort of oak, bourbon, or other barrel aged beer, you will absolutely love this.

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Photo of NeroFiddled
4.7/5  rDev +15.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Calvados is one of the best kept secrets in the world of fine spirits, and therefore an introduction may be needed. It's an apple brandy, distilled at least twice from a dry cider that's made from special varieties of apples. It's always aged in French Oak barrels, and then blended and bottled for sale. This special version of the Lee's Harvest Ale has been aged in those casks!

It pours a clear (it's been filtered), medium-amber body with a full head of frothy white that drops slowly but leaves little lace. The nose is malty with some wood and a mild vinous character (but that might just be the alcohol). It's creamy and smooth in the mouth with a restrained, fine-bubbled carbonation and full body. The flavor is intense, and it's almost too much to take in all at once. This is surely a sipper! Some apple from the Calvados does carry through (cold, it appears almost grape-like), but mainly it's the sweeter brandy (sugar/alcohol) that comes through. It finiishes surprisingly drying given the huge amount of sugar there, but its underlying bitterness and alcohol help with that. Very nicely done!

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Photo of PatrickJR
4.69/5  rDev +15.2%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

Poured from a 9.3 oz bottle into oversized snifter. 2006 vintage.

A - Murky, orangish brown. No head or lace, and there shouldn't be.

S - Beer doesn't smell any better than this. Cider is the main aroma; the pleasant smell of nearly rotten apples. Other fruits are hiding as well, pear, peach, fig, and prune come to mind. A distinct herbal quality floats gently on top, and there's a smoky/earthy aroma lurking in the background.

T - The mushy, overripe presence of apples and pears dominates the flavor. A huge sugary sweetness accompanies with hints of brown sugar and honey. Vanilla, almond, and mild dark fruits begin the transition into smoky, aged character. The brew dries out somewhat to reveal a complimentary but not overwhelming note of smoke and wood. Both carry through the finish with just a touch of the monstrous ABV.

M - Silky, full bodied, and just a smidge of carbonation.

D - As with the other JW Lee's Harvest Ales I've had, this is a top notch beer. While I easily picked up on the barrel-aged character, the Calvados specifically wasn't apparent to me; the huge cider-like qualities of this beer are a result of the malt. It is still fantastic stuff; I'll need to snatch up another bottle and hunt down another Lagavulin cask and compare.

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Photo of RoyalT
4.68/5  rDev +15%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

Appearance – This one was orange and both glowed in the dark and was heavily murky at the same time. There was actually even a light head to this one.

Smell – The big, raunchy wine aroma is soaked in huge prunes. The booze is big as well. The grapes though are not to be outdone. They are white and grape-juicy.

Taste – Oh, God, is this thing got some big flavors. Man, you can barely sip it. The prune juice is just monstrous and the booze, although super smooth, is large as well. The white grapes are really big, too.

Whenever I partake of an EBW, I always pay particular attention to the sweetish flavors that are present. Here they aren’t sugary per se but thick, syrupy, and pruney. Lastly, the French Calvados casks imposed a light presence of wood, just enough to add a new dimension to the experience. It all worked together more like a fine tawny port than anything else.

Mouthfeel – This is close to full-bodied and super full in its flavor. It is one of the most flavorful ales that I’ve ever had. I can’t begin to explain how the sweetish grape and prune flavors just explode on the palate.

Drinkability – This was a real treat to drink. It is exciting, explosive, and sure to spur an hour-long discussion among beer advocates.

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Photo of Corkpuller
4.68/5  rDev +15%
look: 4 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.75

Dusty Musty Earth Shroomy Goodness. Like a forest floor with Calvados warmth. Sweet, bready and luxurious. The most interesting of the JW Lees variants.

Just great Tastiness.

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Photo of MrSeth
4.67/5  rDev +14.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

From the 2003 bottling.

This ale poured with little carbonation at first. Then as the glass filled, the misty swirls became a thin white head which settled to a thick ring which seems to hold its position on the glass as it is being drunk.

Apple Jolly Ranchers are what the nose reminds me of..
no seriously.. the aroma is like a candied grannysmith, it is quite pleasant.

The taste is a more complex apple, deep and rich, mingling with the malt. A tartness is present, but almost minimal in the profile.

The body is a big, syrupy, sticky one.. with the alcohol starting to show it opens up with huge, rich apple and malt.

This is a perfect winter warmer. But it is on the sweet side so it will make a good digestif.

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Photo of sm0key
4.65/5  rDev +14.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Shared a bottle with a friend.

A: looks like a Barleywine, just like you would expect!

S: Apples! some kind of fruity, sweet smell.

T: Like nothing I ever had before! I was amazed at how you can blend the apple brandy and barleywine flavor into one. It was very obvious where this beer was aged, but it's not a fruit beer. This is a barleywine at it's core.

M: Low carbonation, thick, but dry (if that makes sense!)

O: If this wasn't so hard to find, and so expensive, I'd drink it all the time!

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Photo of HardTarget
4.65/5  rDev +14.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

Bottle Inspection: 2004 vintage, 9.3 oz. (275 ml), Calvados Cask

Aroma: Malt! Some alcohol, almost a Bourbon aspect, musty grape, and even more alcohol as it warms.

Appearance: Deep brown glass with a tan collar that falls off. Great clarity for how dark the beer is.

Flavor: Oh! Sugar plums, raisins soaked in rum! Deep fruity esters in a sea of smooth malty goodness.

Mouthfeel: Long lingering finish, medium heavy body, low carbonation.

Overall Impression: Simply delicious. Hard core malt bomb with little heat and no burn. More… MORE!

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Photo of rye726
4.65/5  rDev +14.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

This pours a rich brown with a thin tan head. The nose has dark fruits, sweet malts, delicate hops, whiskey, oak and alcohol. More of the same in the nose. A well balanced, super complex beer. One of the finest ales in the world. A bit young and not as good as the standard version. Should age well for many many years.

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Photo of nuggetsofnectar
4.64/5  rDev +14%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

2009 vintage

finally reviewing these splendid barleywines from j WUBBBB

App: Deep dark caramel brown hue with a small 1/4" head that quickly dissipates to a rim and pondlike fizzle

Smell: Lovely....the brandy is up front with deep caramel laced figs....sweet tones reminiscent to honey suckley....earthy hops....

Taste: oh lord...thick chewy caramel....figs all over it...molasses...and the brandy notes are so smooth and quite dominant (in a good way)...raisins....the heat is their but its so well used that it isn't a deterent...so good

Mouthfeel: near perfect...so thick but smooth....

Overall: I have always enjoyed these barrel agings in this one is tied with the Sherry IMO....cheers

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Photo of geexploitation
4.64/5  rDev +14%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Pours the color of bright, homemade apple cider, with minimal head. Complex aroma of dark fruit (figs, raisins), molasses, candi sugar, bourbony vanilla, and a trace of candied apples. Huge on the palate. Spiced molasses to start with, then apple tartness combined with rich, figgy sweetness, followed by a vanilla crescendo. Giant malt sweetness is maintained throughout. The finish is long, hot with alcohol, and sweet. A very interesting English barleywine. It seems that the calvados treatment has diminished the coffee/bitter chocolate aromas/flavors of JW Lees Harvest, in favorite of a still-sweet, slightly tart fruitiness in line with a Calvados character. Very interesting brew.

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Photo of JordanChabot
4.64/5  rDev +14%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

Brewed in 2007 bottle. Poured into large wine glass @ around 50 Deg.

A - Rich golden honey color with little head. Speckled lacing with some dense remnants of foam amongst a soapy looking layer.

S - the smell is of rich concentrated fruit, slight maple and an oaky vanilla background. Definitely a lot of carmalized and some tart apple ripping through the overall soft presence.

t- Sweet but lightly coated with hints of green pepper, caramel, earth, toasted marshmallow and dark resinous wood.

M - Soft and viscous. very little carbonation. The most welcoming barleywine mouthfeel I've had to date. Warming, mellow, and a surprisingly clean finish.

D - Dangerously drinkable for a brew of its potency. Drink with care and appreciation.

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Photo of mikesgroove
4.62/5  rDev +13.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

I grabbed this bottle when I was in florida. A 2007 vintage it was still a bit fresh but this one was drinking wonderfully. Served at cellar temp and poured into a snifter this one was consumed on 04/23/09.

The pour was very nice and pretty spot on for the style I have to admit. Rich caramel in color with great clarity and a smooth soft and creamy head of white. Rich toffee and caramel just dominated the aroma. Huge sweetness here with a touch of light fruit notes that came up as it warmed. Rich flavor as well. Very sweet with loads of caramel, toffee, and sweet candied sugar notes. Alcohol was very mellow even at this young age.

Overall a very solid beer and one of the best representations od the style I have had. I will be picking this up whenever I run into it for sure.

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Photo of champ103
4.62/5  rDev +13.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.75

Original review is almost embarrassing. Though, at one point in time that was my thoughts. So, I think I should keep it as is. Here are my current thoughts as of 2015. This is a 2011 bottle...

A: Pours a beautiful, vibrant copper color. Minimal beige head and no lace. Though the color is stunning if you don't let the floaties invade.
S: Wonderfully warming toasted malts, oak tannins and dark fruits. Caramel covered apples, sweet, and really inviting. I can plant my nose in the glass all day.
T: Like the nose, that beautiful toasted and caramel malt flavor. Certainly sweet, with caramel covered apples. Light white chocolate even. Oak tannins, with a light nutty flavor. Even more so than the nose, just so incredibly inviting. I wish this would never end.
M/O: A full body, that is viscous with low to moderate carbonation. Really not flat at all. Velvety smooth. Incredible to drink, again something that is a great warmer, and one I can sip on all night. Wishing I could have more.

Over the years, I have grown to love this. Even more so than the Sherry and Port versions. Really unique, and it was time to update my old review.

Original review 12/30/2009

A 2007 bottle

A: Pours a very cloudy copper/orange color. A bubbly white head rises to a little over one finger, and recedes in minute. Light lace is left behind,
S: Malty and sweet. Caramel, and light chocolate. Lots of fruity aromas. Melons, pears, and apples. Dry wood lingers.
T: Moldy dry wood is up front and center, and detracts a lot. Some sweet caramel malt flavors. Some fruity flavors that follow the nose.
M/D: A full body that is sticky and syrupy. Low on the carbonation. A little to dry. The alcohol is really strong. Much harder to drink than I would like.

This might be a little young, and did not do it for me. The bottle seems a little off to me for some reason? Worth a try, but not nearly as good as the Harvest Ale.

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Photo of TinusTime
4.62/5  rDev +13.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Holy Calvados Batman...

I bought this exlicer in Richmond a month ago. I picked the Calvados aged one because well I like Calvados and not a big fan of the rest of the spirits that it was aged in.
The colour was the colour of honey. No head to speak of unless you swirled it around for a bit. Aroma as that of Honey, apples, spice cake and a touch of alcohol. The taste is simply yummy. Warm and satisfying honeyed apples and malt. A bit of sweetness as it warms but that wasnt a bad thing. One can taste the Calvados in every sip. This was one of the most complex nightcaps I have ever had. Every sip I took I wished another was added to the glass. Drikability was good even with the high octane nature. It did sweeten as it got warmner, but hell. I might not be able to drink many of them but when my bottle was done I sure wish I had another for tomorrow night. Seriously one of the best barley wine I have ever had. Kinda reminded me of a more refined 120 min DFH. Or rather what DFH 120 will be if you let it sit for 5 years. Highly recommmended. WOW

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J.W. Lees Harvest Ale (Calvados Cask) from J.W. Lees & Co (Brewers) Ltd
91 out of 100 based on 242 ratings.