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J.W. Lees Harvest Ale (Lagavulin Whisky Cask) - J.W. Lees & Co (Brewers) Ltd

Not Rated.
J.W. Lees Harvest Ale (Lagavulin Whisky Cask)J.W. Lees Harvest Ale (Lagavulin Whisky Cask)

Educational use only; do not reuse.
very good

420 Ratings
no score

(send 'em beer!)
Ratings: 420
Reviews: 251
rAvg: 3.92
pDev: 17.35%
Wants: 36
Gots: 73 | FT: 5
Brewed by:
J.W. Lees & Co (Brewers) Ltd visit their website
United Kingdom (England)

Style | ABV
English Barleywine |  11.50% ABV

Availability: Winter

Notes & Commercial Description:
Beer added by: Dantes on 05-07-2004

No notes at this time.
View: Beers (19) | Events
Beer: Ratings & Reviews
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Ratings: 420 | Reviews: 251
Reviews by coldmeat23:
Photo of coldmeat23
4.55/5  rDev +16.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

GLASS: Leffe 0.25 Litre Goblet
TEMP: Cellared @ approx. 50 degrees


Man oh man...happy birthday to me!
Golden coppery color with almost no head at all (as was expected). Not so unlike apricot nectar.

The aroma is quite smokey/peaty, like scotch (duh!) but in a sweet vaporous cloud.

The taste is amazing! Very sweet malt taste combined with just the right amount of smoke and peatiness to make it completely enjoyable. There is also plenty of honey-dipped fruit flavor to be found here. Peaches, apricots, pineapple, perhaps a date or even a fig. Tastes almost like smoked butterscotch.

(Where is the 11.5% a.b.v.? Certainly not in the taste! Wow! Super smooth!)

This is like liquid velvet in your mouth. It feels so good that I think I'd drink it even if it didn't taste this wonderful.

I could easily enjoy several of these in a row, but when something tastes this good you want to savor it and make it last. I can't wait 'til I get the chance to buy more of these. (Fortunately, that will be in about 4 weeks!)

This is so amazing, I can't recommend it highly enough! Pick one up as soon as you are able.

More User Reviews:
Photo of ajz132
4.47/5  rDev +14%
look: 2.75 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

2012 Edition. 275 mL bottle poured into a 200 mL Mikkeller tasting wine glass.

A - This beer is not pretty. Medium-brown/copper in color and quite hazy and murky. Beer has minimal carbonation and pours with essentially no head.

N - As expected, smoky peat is one of the first aromas that you pick up on this one, but it is not overpowering. The other scents are a delightful blend of sweet, dried fruits - raisins and figs along with sweet caramel.

T - The taste on this beer is very comparable to the smell. You are immediately hit with the pronounced sweetness of the dried fruits mentioned above, but it is not cloying. The phenolic smoke of the Lagavulin barrel comes through in the middle and you are left with a wonderful lingering smoke flavor; quite comparable to that left when drinking an Islay scotch, although much more subtle. For an 11.5% beer, the alcohol content of the beer is masked quite well.

M - The beer does not have a tremendous amount of carbonation and because of the sweetness starts out with a bit of sticky thickness, but this dissipates as you get the flavors of the barrel. You do pick up a bit of light alcoholic heat from the barrel, but it is by no means uncomfortable and quickly fades away. The malts are not overpowering or heavy which can often be the case in other strong ales.

O - This beer is an excellent one to have as dessert or a nightcap. It certainly has its place and is not going to be for everyone. I personally am a huge fan of Islay scotches so I find the beer quite good. It is well-balanced, easy to sip, and takes on just enough of the barrel characteristic to make it a beer that I will keep in my repertoire of occasional elite treats.

Photo of Bouleboubier
4.59/5  rDev +17.1%
look: 3 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.75

(poured into a balloon)

A: russet-colored liquid, extremely hazy... some head starts to form on the pour, but all but disappears in short time... not so much as a collar left

S: light-moderate smoke from the barrel... dark, chewy caramel... oxidized, somewhat port or sherry aroma - close to it... the combo of the smoke and the caramel create a barbeque wood coal scent... underlying, but truly dominant foundation of ripe and dried fruit, including fresh fig, maybe date... only a fine hint of ester-drenched booze... overall, explosive aromas

T: the smokiness starts off more phenolic-like then quickly opens up a bit, displaying tones of ash against grain alcohol... the bold fruit aromas carrying over onto the palate are complimented and balanced with the introduction of roasted nut (almond? hazelnut?), tobacco, and delicate herbal flavors, adding some color and depth to the overall taste... the alcohol is quite well tempered by the full, rich malt foundation and/or studious brewing practices

M: approaches a syrupy viscosity on the intake, but the body seems enveloped in an aura of mellow spirits... only a (relatively) delicate, concentrated slow flare of boozy warmth... ultimately fantastic attenuation and dryness

O: this was one of the most fantastic ales in memory when I first had it in Oct 2012 - had it on tap then at the bar in which I worked... the product from this bottle, for whatever of a variety of possible reasons, is showing signs of falling apart - the fresh intensity of its original flavors dying off or in transition... still, for fans of the Harvest Ale and Islay whiskey, this is a dream of a brew

Photo of MadScientist
3.41/5  rDev -13%
look: 3.25 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.25 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.5

A 2008 that's been in my cellar for most of those year.

A: A light copper colored beer with a light haze. The thin head is off-white; it never goes away but dissipates to a thin ring of bubbles around the glass.

S: The aroma is peat smoke, whiskey and cherries over a rich malt background. There is a bit of a chew-able vitamin smell to malt sweetness and moderately-light fruitiness but not in a bad way. And a soft alcohol sweetness that is slightly floral.

T: There honey sweetness, lots of cloying honey sweetness of a pile of sugar. The alcohol and moderate whiskey is all that's left to check the malt sweetness but both fall well short. A light hops bitterness and no hops flavor. The moderately-light oak flavor is there but you kind of overlook it with the smokey whiskey note. The balance is very sweet and the finish is sweet.

M: Moderately full bodied with a pretty low level of carbonation.

O: The Harvest Ale always tends to be fairly sweet but this is a bit much. One of sweetest beers I've had and kind of hard to finish without someone to help. A cigar would be fine compliment to this beer though.

Photo of kaimcm
4.68/5  rDev +19.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

presentation: 9.3 oz bottle poured into a snifter

app: beautiful tawny/rudy with a pourous off white head. Creamy but bubbly. Gorgeous pour, great color. Head subsides to a small ring around perimeter.

smell: lagavulin! smells like Islay single malt and a hint of barbeque. Not smoke, but grilled meat.

taste: Incredible! first impression is sweet and syrupy with figs/ raisins, very reminiscent of an Olorosso or Ximenez Sherry. Long (for beer) spicy finish compliments the sugar nicely. Not many hops to be found but I dont really miss them. There is a small hint of Scotch on the finish that lingers in the back of the throat, very subtle and sophisticated.

mouthfeel: Viscous as hell but with the perfect amount of carbonation that lightens it up. You have to expect a somewhat heavy brew with this much going on and an ABV of 11.5!

drink: I dont like this category or really know what it means. Its 11.5% ABV, no one can drink a lot of it. Not to mention the intense sugar and flavors prohibits mass consumption. But it wasnt intended as a session beer, thats obvious. Theres a reason the bottle is only 9.3 oz. I cant forget however that its 9 bucks a bottle!!! Does that hurt its drinkability? Of course, and my wallet. So whats the rating? Would I want to enjoy this spectacular brew after a meal or with some cheese, nuts, or desert? Any time, any day. Is it so rich that I would actually prefer to split the bottle with someone? Yes. Is that a bad thing? Hell no. So what rating do I give?

Photo of Billolick
4.37/5  rDev +11.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A real treat to enjoy about 1/2 of a pint of this fine sipper from a "wodden pin" (mini keg) with a gravity pour at the Blind Tiger in lower NYC. Pours dark dark brown, very cloudy, no carbonation nor lacing to be found. Nose is of whisky. Notes of ripe plums and more whiskey on the palate.Also smoky notes picked up, hints of salami and soggy raisins and figs. Fine, fine brew, strong, rich flavors and quite complex and interesting. Depth of flavors is outstanding. Each sip is intriguing. Long wiskey infused finish. Outstanding.

Photo of mctizzz
3.75/5  rDev -4.3%

Photo of magictrokini
4.32/5  rDev +10.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

2006 vintage. Right off, I love Lagavulin, so I was really looking forward to this one. It did not disappoint. Poured oily copper with a short-lived 1 cm off-white head. No lacing. The peaty, petroleum, salty Lagavulin is up front in the nose. Smokey grain and booze as well. First sip was a little off-putting, just like the cask of the whiskey it was finished in. After that, the beer settles in. Bitter, salty, peaty, smoky goodness. The oak and the sweeter caramel and toffee malts are a nice contrast in the finish. Some cherry and fig flavors come with it, but the star is the grain and malt of the beer balanced against the strength of the Islay malt. Slow but easy drinking without being sticky. Loved this.

Photo of boatshoes
3.88/5  rDev -1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 2.5

Picked this up at the Anderson's Market on a trip awhile back. Was excited to find it on the shelf and finally decided to crack it open.

Appearance- Pours a sparkling translucent amber-brown out of the 12oz bottle. A surprising amount of effervescence for a barleywine and about a half a finger of creamy beige head that dies back to a ring rather quickly. A fair amount of sticky lacing and lots of beading carbonation throughout.

Smell- Lots going on here. Smells heavily of sweet brown sugar and caramel, along with a heaping dose of booze and some mild smokiness. Some sweet candied fruits mixed in there as well.

Taste- Very very sweet but a lot going on for sure. Tastes again heavily of caramel and brown sugar, but with a lot of residual fruitiness. Fruit is similar to figs and candied dates, along with other assorted dark candied fruits. Along with all of this is a subtle and enjoyable smokiness and some peat flavor mixed in. Some mild booziness but very well covered by the sweetness.

Mouthfeel/Drinkability- Mouthfeel is a bit on the cloying and syrupy side despite the carbonation. Although I very much enjoyed the flavor profile of this beer and thought is was outstanding, it is just too sweet. I couldn't drink much more than the six or seven ounces I had after splitting the bottle with a friend.

Overall, a fantastic and interesting English style barleywine. If it weren't so cloyingly sweet, I'd have definitely had more. However, it makes a great nightcap in small quantities. Definitely a sipper.

Photo of Morphoenix
4.32/5  rDev +10.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Wow. 12 ounce bottle poured into my Delirium Tremens snifter. Pours with very little head, even with an aggressive pour. Head quickly settles to a small ring. Loads of sediment floating around. Has a very alluring deep orange tint. Lots of whiskey in the nose. Amazing flavor profile, extremely complex. Very, very sweet. Smoky, woody flavors abound. This is most definitely a sipper, but it keeps you sipping deeply throughout. Anyone who is a fan of cask or barrel conditioning ought to check this out. Very impressive.

Photo of mondegreen
4.72/5  rDev +20.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

2005 Vintage. 275ml bottle into a tulip.

Part of my 30th Birthday Celebration thanks to longtime friend and newbie BA graphx3d.

A: Dark gold with minimal head and lacing. Looks very syrupy.

S: Wow. I feel like I am toking on a campfire log. Amazing smell. It honestly takes me back to the boy scout campfires of my youth.

T: The most unique tasting beer I have ever had. I can see how some would say the cask aging is distracting, but for me it is perfect. I taste sweet malts coupled with a very smoky flavor. Perfection.

M: Good mouthfeel, medium bodied, thick consistency.

D: The weak spot of this beer, for sure. Too much of it would be overbearing, but a bottle to split with a friend is pure joy.

Photo of glid02
4.4/5  rDev +12.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

Wooden-pin cask at the Brick Store for the kick-off of the 12th anniversary. 2006 vintage.

Pours a hazy brown color with a thin soda-bubble off-white head that recedes quickly into nothing. No lacing, but it does coat the side of the glass.

Smells of butterscotch with earthy booze aromas, including peat and smoke.

Tastes similar to how it smells. Right off the bat peat flavors come out and are joined shortly by butterscotch and a solid malt backbone. Ending is sweet.

Mouthfeel is great. The carbonation is just barely there and the thickness is phenomenal.

Drinkability is good. I could definitely sip on this for a while.

Overall this is perhaps the most I've ever tasted peat in a beer. Well worth a shot.

Photo of rwathree
4.02/5  rDev +2.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Poured into a snifter.

A: Pours a nice brown with some orange hues. Not much of a head, but I expected that. At that, it's still a little nondescript, and a bit too much sediment.

S: It smells like Lagavulin, plain and simple. Super peaty, pleasant alcohol makes its way up in a hurry. Wish I could detect something beyond that, but my sense of smell is bad.

T: Really nice mixing of slight sweetness (apricot, maybe) and potent Islay scotch. Again, very peaty.

M: Excellent. Like a good scotch should, the peat sticks to the palate and the alcohol moves all around. Not full-bodied, but that's good by me on this one.

D: For everything that's going on, it goes down nicely. Drinking more than one would be a complete waste, but it's pleasant from beginning to end.

Overall I really enjoyed this, but more for the fact that I love scotch than anything else. That said, the sweetness and smoothness of the ale balanced out the Islay intensity, and made this very drinkable. Recommended.

Photo of rhoadsrage
4.45/5  rDev +13.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

(Served in a snifter)

A- This beer pours a deep dark reddish-tan with a gentle carbonation of tiny bubbles and a thin creamy head of off-white bubbles that quickly fades to a thin ring of white on the parameter. No real legs on this one.

S- The big nose of caramel sweet malt with some toasted malt and a faint hint of white raisins are very pleasant. A note of sour mash from the whisky adds a nice compliment. No real alcohol or hops in the nose.

T-The rich sweet toasted malt has a hint of butteryness to it. A finish of faintly smoky oak and some a gentle hint of whisky in the finish. This taste is lighter and more mellow that the nose lead me to believe. The finish has a slight tartness that could be a combination of hops and whisky notes. It is a very pleasant finish.

M- This has a medium-full mouthfeel that is pretty velvety. A faint hint of alcohol warmth is very nice at the finish.

D-This is a great Barley Wine. It has good complexity but the flavors are not overpowering. Very light for a huge, high ABV drink. Age and Lagavulin casks have done some amazing things to this beer.

Photo of DruC4
3.75/5  rDev -4.3%

Photo of AKBelgianBeast
4.35/5  rDev +11%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3

This beer is a marvel. A classic barleywine, by far one of the most syrupy beers i have ever drank. It feels like you could pour it on pancakes. Be careful in pouring unless you like a lot of lees in your beer. nose is of food, it smells like a resteraunt. no head whatsoever, pours with the texture of watered down olive oil. The taste is very, very, very warm and is almost like a meal in a glass. I dont think i could drink two of these if i tried they are so filling. much more flavor than the port cask version of this beer. despite the soupiness, this is a great beer.

Photo of cokes
1.88/5  rDev -52%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 1.5 | feel: 1.5 | overall: 1

Prism-like toasted golden with a momentary visit of a fizzy white head.
Nose full- and I mean chalk full- of Bac-Os. Underlying bits of honey-sweet malts and an earthy smoke, with obvious Scotch booze traits.
Begins with buckets of gooey, honeyed malts. The ante is upped further with equally sticky brown sugar and browned butter and candied figs. Then it turns into a smoked pork mess. Hickory-y and bacony. Uggghhh.

The Lagy cask strips the malt down to its basest (and in my mind, least attractive) component: raw honey. Then layers a heavy, rauchbier-esque smokiness all over it. Any hopping is obliterated in the process. The barrel provides no subtleties, like, say, many of the bourbon-barrel brews I've tried. It really doesn't have much Scotch-iness. It's most akin to a rauchmead. Or just drinking a pot of hickory-smoked honey.
I love rauch...and enjoy Scotch, but this was forced and artificial, and completely impossible to drink.

Alcohol is noted in the mouth, but not really tasted. But I'd rather taste straight, flammable ethanol than this.
Cloying cubed. It drinks like burnt hair gel.

This ain't getting finished. No way. No how. And not even close.

A waste of a beer.
A waste of a barrel.
A waste of money.
And a waste of time.

Utterly repulsive.

Photo of Sammy
3.57/5  rDev -8.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3

A beverage of certain extremes. A so-so barleywine taste boosted by clear scotch whiskey and wood flavoring, an interest cloudy pour. An aroma that is at the same time beer as it is whiskey. A not so satisfying drinking experience yet smooth. Not a perfect show: Forget it, Jake, it's Chinatown.

Photo of augustgarage
4.36/5  rDev +11.2%
look: 3 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 3 | overall: 4

2005 vintage. Poured from a 275mL bottle into my snifter.

Cloudy copper body; No head whatsoever, vague spitty collar, almost no lacing, thin legs.

Intense leather, plum, fig, toasted malt, overripe apricot, toffee, and more...whisky and fruit aromas as well, though not particularly smokey.

Monstrously sweet, malty, and ester-heavy base along with moderate clean bitterness, light citrus, a light medicinal element, and an extended peaty/woody finish. All the individual notes in the nose continue on in the flavor profile. Extremely rich flavors: caramel, nuts, dense fruit - amazing.

Full bodied, creamy, and slick. Very low carbonation, though not quite still.

A little on the sweet side, but the alcohol is well integrated, and the taste is decadent.

Photo of tdm168
3.87/5  rDev -1.3%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.75

Photo of Oboogie
4/5  rDev +2%

Photo of tylermains
4.5/5  rDev +14.8%

Photo of NeroFiddled
4.82/5  rDev +23%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

The unmistakable, powerful, peat-smoked and salty Islay aroma of the Lagavulin comes through clearly in the nose, and it only gets better from there! 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. It's creamy and smooth in the mouth with a restrained, fine-bubbled carbonation and full body. The flavor includes a good shot of the Lagavulin as well, and its smokiness and alcohol help to balance and dry the rich, buttered, creamed-honey maltiness... even better, I think, than even the original. It seems lighter, although it's not, because it's more balanced. Yet the intensity of the honeyish Maris Otter malt is still there. And unlike the other versions, the alcohol in this one seems more hidden... hmmm? It's a really interesting take on the already great Harvest Ale! And doubly so for fans of Islay whiskey.

Photo of zaphodchak
4.5/5  rDev +14.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

2008(?), opened 2011. Label has fallen off.

Caramel brown body with plenty of suspended sediment in it. A bit of surface memory but my pour wasn't big enough to elicit a head. A couple bubbles.

The sweet nose of the vintage, but some undertones of peat from the aging.

The same caramel, honey, spice from the vintage, but a trace of smokey peat.

Slightly foamy mouthfeel.

Impressive beer still, but the barrel-aging imparts only subtle characteristics. Maybe a bit more spice. And a trace of peat.

Photo of dirtylou
4.05/5  rDev +3.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

9.3oz bottle, received in a bif either from BeerBeing or timtheenchanta

My 2nd installment in a series of 4 aged Harvest Ale's, 2004 edition.

appearance: poured into a snifter...murky garnet body, light beige head with little in the way of retention....decent lacing

smell: much like the port-ed version, a high level of sweetness is present immediately in the nose, thick and chewy malts...to be honest, i dont detect a very high whisky presence in the nose, which was a slight letdown. aroma dominated by sweet, ripe red fruits and a thick caramel malt structure

taste: lots of ripe red fruity flavours, raisin/date/brown sugar similar to the port version i have had...whisky aging becomes a little more evident in the flavour but its still quite discreet. huge syrupy malts, light vanilla. Not too terribly different from the port version and i would like to see the whisky more pronounced

mouthfeel: thick and syrupy, high sweetness, light boozyness

drinkability: fine

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J.W. Lees Harvest Ale (Lagavulin Whisky Cask) from J.W. Lees & Co (Brewers) Ltd
88 out of 100 based on 420 ratings.