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

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J.W. Lees Harvest Ale (Lagavulin Whisky Cask)J.W. Lees Harvest Ale (Lagavulin Whisky 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: 269 | Ratings: 477
Photo of ajm5108
2.52/5  rDev -36.2%
look: 4 | smell: 2 | taste: 2.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 2.5

This beer really didn't sit well with me. It has the classic look & feel of the Harvest Ale series, but it is such a sweet & decadent beer, and to me it just doesn't mix well with the heavy peat smokiness of the Lagavulin. It's too much of a styles clash to overcome. Your milage will very depending on how you feel about Lagavulin, but I'm not a fan & certainly not with how it butts heads with the softer, sweeter tones of the harvest ale

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Photo of TBoneJones
4.05/5  rDev +2.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4

Brewed in '13 per the label.
Pours a burnt orange. Looks decent.
Smells quite smokey and of peat. Lots of nice smoke though.
Sweet-tasting and of smoked malts, with some sugary caramel and nutty notes. On the sweeter side, yet very interesting with this refined campfire smoke. As I approach each sip, for a moment, it's almost as if I'm about to sip amaretto, and then comes the smoke with the brown sugar-like sweetness.
Feels medium and slick with low carbonation. Nice light burn at the end, although this sips dangerously easy with well-hidden alcohol.
Different type of barley wine to try, as I've never had an English version that I can recall.
I may check out their other versions.
Recommended, but you must like the sweet ones.

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Photo of Cthulhusquid
4.69/5  rDev +18.7%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.75

2012 vintage.

Look: Thin white head, orange-brown body. Kind of an ugly color.

Smell: Roasted chestnuts, burnt caramel, lots of peat.

Taste: Same as above, but also dates, leather, wood, and a hint of orange, . The flavor of the chestnuts is really upfront.

Feel: Sweet, low carbonation, medium-full body, warming alcohol. The finish is slightly dry.

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Photo of tlema1
4.07/5  rDev +3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

L: muddy brown, thin tan head
S: scotch whisky, and caramel sweetness
T: booze, peat, smoke, malt...great sipper
F: after taste lingers
O: 2013 vintage, expensive, but highly recommended

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Photo of zonker17
4.63/5  rDev +17.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Brewed in 2014, consumed 2/17/16. Disclaimer: Lagavulin is among my favorite of Scotch, and Scotch is my favorite of whisky. Pours opaque lighter brown with a touch of foam. Smells like heaven, the barrel very present along with the malts of the ale. Taste is a perfect combination of the peaty, smoky, woody characteristics of the barrel along with the sweet but not too sweet ale. Finish slightly bitter. Lightly carbonated with a full mouthfeel. Will seek more.

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Photo of CoreyC
4.41/5  rDev +11.6%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

2014 Vintage
A - Beautiful golden/orange/amber color with a nice head that dissipates fairly quickly
A - Sweet with a unique aroma
T - Sweet, as smooth as it gets, with a sweet unique taste - I'm thinking of shreaded mini wheats
M - Nice, smooth
O - Very unique taste and aroma - very good

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Photo of HappyGuy12345
4.31/5  rDev +9.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Review of 2014 Vintage poured into a pint glass
Appearance: Solid brown with minimal head
Smell: Strong oak and powerful whiskey scent
Taste: Initially sugary and fruity followed by complex array of malty flavors
Mouthfeel:: Very light carbonation
Overall: Very interesting beer overall. Certainly not a beer that you can have more than one per sitting, since the flavors do tend to overwhelm the palate.

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Photo of jzeilinger
3.69/5  rDev -6.6%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.75

In review is a 2010 Vintage.

A - Pours a hazy amber brown color, no carbonation, no lacing.

S - Lots of smokey charcoal, roasted brown sugar, and charred oak.

T - Very charcoal, oak, and smoke forward followed with toasted brown sugar, molasses, and whisky.

M - Thick and full body, bone dry finish, sticky on the lips.

O - Good but the charcoal and smoke is far too overpowering.

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Photo of willic
3.28/5  rDev -17%
look: 2 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 2.75

L: Appears Anchient! Cloudy, amber, with whisks of white throughout
S: Truely smells like Lagavulin with beer malt!
T: Complex malty flavors, mildly skunk. I thought hop structure was weak
F: Chewy, low carbonation, creamy
O: I honestly expected much more. I'm glad I tried it, but I will not buy again.

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Photo of tbryan5
4.06/5  rDev +2.8%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4

A peaty, smokey whiskey treat. Not as sweet as the other barrel aged versions. Carbonation is very light. The peat and smoke are well hidden in the nose but really shine on the palate.

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Photo of WoodBrew
3.75/5  rDev -5.1%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

The J.W. Lees Harvest aged in Lagavulin Casks was interesting......not many at the table liked this one....I thought it ok.....probably would not order it again. The beer poured a nice amber with no head and no lace. The scent was earthy...other described is as plastic. The taste was very similar to the scent....had a lot of earth to it.....seemed more like scotch than whiskey. The mouthfeel was medium in body with subtle carbonation. Overall it was decent....certainly worth a try....but that is about it.

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Photo of Roguer
4.09/5  rDev +3.5%
look: 3 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Nutty brown brew, translucent if held up to the light, with a bare hint of beige head, quickly reduced to a ring of bubbles around the edge of the glass and an oily sheen atop the body.

Caramel, toffee, oak...and whisky. Lots of raw, real whisky. The aroma to the spirit is far clearer and purer than a bourbon barrel aged brew; it really smells like taking a whiff of a whisky bottle, plus the aromas of a boiling malt soup (before you add the hops).

Like the other J.W. Lees Harvest ales, this brew is sweet, nutty, and malty. However, the brown sugary sweetness is a little more restrained, as the Lagavulin doesn't add additional sweetness in the same way that port does. What it does add is a smokey, peaty, earthy tone, clearly discernible, building by mid-palate and lasting throughout.

The Scotch isn't nearly as potent and dominant as the aroma indicates, but its influence is impossible to ignore. I've had whisky connoisseur friends tell me that you can really, really tell the difference here - that Lagavulin's inimitable taste is immediately recognizable in this brew. I personally can't tell Lagavulin from Green Label, as I don't like whisky or Scotch, but I can definitely tell you that the effect in this beer is unique.

Beyond the Scotch flavors, this - like the others in this series - is a fairly straightforward, sweet, and malty EBW (fairly close to an Old Ale, really). What it lacks in real complexity, it more than makes up for by providing a sweet and decadent playground for the Lagavulin to dance in. The result is unique.

The flavor of the Scotch can be off-putting to a non-fan, so if you're not already a Scotch/whisky fan, I'd recommend going with one of the others in this series. If, however, you consider yourself a Lagavulin fan, then I'd put this on the "must try" list.

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Photo of drpimento
3.94/5  rDev -0.3%
look: 3 | smell: 3.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4

This is the 2012 version and it's good. The aroma was overpoweringly scotch, but way more balanced in the flavor. Carbonation was very light and while that can be expected in many BWs, I think a bit more here would have helped. More years on it? Probably mellow the scotch more, but also lose more gas, so a wash. I'd be curious to try one just to see, though. This hasn't been one of my favs of the series.

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Photo of justme
2.85/5  rDev -27.8%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 2.75 | feel: 3 | overall: 2.75

English barelywine is one of my favorite styles. That being said, I drink beer. I do not like whiskey. This one tastes like they didn't use empty whiskey casks when aging this. Way too whiskey for my taste. I'll stick with Lees regular Harvest from here on.

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Photo of biegaman
4.36/5  rDev +10.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

This 2011 Vintage of J.W. Less Harvest Ale aged in Lagavulin casks is far lighter than I recall others being. Its radiant kumquat colour and tidy complexion suggest a light, fresh, still vibrant ale despite that it's nearly five years old, reaches well into double-digit alcohol and was aged in barrels formerly containing a nearly 90 proof spirit. It's not too early to say it: Ron Swanson would be impressed.

I can imagine why J.W. Less Lagavulin finish isn't necessarily as well received as the Port, Sherry or even Calvados versions - this shares every bit the peaty, briny, iodine-like characteristics of this iconic but notoriously love-or-hate Islay scotch. While the smoke and sea spray are unavoidable, the aroma also provides plenty of dried fruitiness and rich butterscotch- and toffee-like malts.

There's such a presence of candied cherries and apricot that the alcohol (11.5%) goes almost entirely unremarked, especially as the finish treats us to such fresh, ripe flavours of peach and green apple. While vegetal seaweed and mossy peat notes do set-in like a rising tide, leaving briny, smoky qualities to envelop the aftertaste, here that classic Islay expression is not so severe as drinking the scotch itself.

Indeed, no coughing is incited. No burning is sensed. What's the opposite of all that? The mouth-coating peat and oil notes are absorbed into a marmalade-like sweetness, meaning the tastes of grilled bacon and salty seaweed can be appreciated without the sledgehammer punch. This is the furthest thing from medicinal, brooding, growling or grungy. It's candied profile is smooth as a baby's... forehead.

If ever there were a beer (not named Orval) good enough to anoint Christ's feet, surely, J.W. Lees Lagavulin Cask Harvest Ale is it. Granted, I'm a fan of peaty, smoky Islay scotches but I also know from painful experience when a barrel-aged beer experiment works and where/why they too often fail. But this dance with the devil paid off - old J.W. clearly knows what works for his ale.

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Photo of Bitterbill
3.37/5  rDev -14.7%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.25 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.25

It has a bright clear gold/copper colour with a small head of foam that shrinks quickly but not entirely.

Aboot a 50 50 mix of caramel malt and Whiskey in the smell. Dried pitted fruits make up the balance of the nose except for some light smokiness.

Very very sweet up front. Whiskey moves in and somewhat tames the sugary sweetness but not quite. Hints of pitted fruits abound but never get that obvious to my palate. I feel the light peat flavour that I also get is a plus.

Close to full bodied with light carbonation and a heap of warming after the swallow.

2012 and a goodish brew but I would be lying if I said I would buy it again.

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Photo of pat61
4.75/5  rDev +20.3%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.75

L: Pours hazy amber with a thin white film on top.
S: Smells like Lagavulin with some fruit in the background with traces of vanilla.
T: Lagavulin is also all over the palate joined by complex malts, caramel and vanilla, peat and salt spray. A light hop accent in the background.
F: Chewy, low carbonation, warming.
O: One of the nicer things done to a used Lagavulin barrel.

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Photo of Jeffsta1
3.57/5  rDev -9.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Deep dark amber/tan color. Promises a lot. Beautifully unfiltered.

Smell: unfamiliar. Wild. Kind of good? Malt, sweet oranges. Whah?

Taste: Kind of cloyingly sweet, honeyed. Definite hints of wheat, grain. This is novel but I paid $9 for this beer, I really want it to taste better than this. I'm not sure what it'd be for a beer to be evocative of whisky - I love the idea, I enjoy Islay whisky - but this beer doesn't do it for me.

Mouthfeel: pretty good, actually. Rich. Carbonation is beautiful.

Overall: Not gonna finish this one. Too much sugar and booze for a beer I don't enjoy a lot.

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Photo of UCLABrewN84
3.87/5  rDev -2%
look: 3.25 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4

Brewed in 2011.

Pours a murky dark orange-brown with a foamy tan head that settles to wisps of film on top of the beer. Tiny dots of lace drip into the remaining beer on the drink down. Smell is of peat, adhesive bandage, Scotch whisky, wood, alcohol, and slight caramel aromas. Taste is much the same with sweet caramel, earth, peat, smoke, Scotch whisky, and wood flavors on the finish. There is a mild amount of hop bitterness on the palate with each sip. This beer has a lower level of carbonation with a slightly crisp and sticky mouthfeel. Overall, this is a good beer with a nice Scotch whisky barrel aged presence that is slightly better in the taste to me.

Serving type: bottle.

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Photo of Pencible
4.55/5  rDev +15.2%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

A: This poured an opaque dark copper with almost no head.
S: It smelled like rich honey wheat bread, with some smoke and iodine and salty butterscotch.
T: It tasted like charred oak and iodine, with some sweet honey wheat bread and pungent salty peat. It had a strong, lasting, smoky aftertaste.
M: It was somewhat thick with a bit of carbonation. Nice oily body.
D: This was quite the barrel aged beer, with obvious Lagavulin character in the scent and taste, nicely balanced by the sweetness of the barleywine. The finish was a little rough, so it must be sipped. Age would probably only help. This was a great brew.

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Photo of ajz132
4.47/5  rDev +13.2%
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.

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Photo of His_Royal_Hoppiness
1.75/5  rDev -55.7%
look: 1.75 | smell: 1.75 | taste: 1.75 | feel: 1.75 | overall: 1.75

Very dry and unpleasant - second bad experience after trying the sherry cask version. Bottles were both a few years old - possibly past their best - both ended their lives down the sink.

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Photo of ordybill
3.5/5  rDev -11.4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Poured from a 9.3 OZ bottle into a snifter. Aroma- Strong aroma of whiskey and some smokey malt Appearance- A strong brown colored brew with a lot of sediment Taste- pretty good whiskey flavor mixed with the smoke, pretty unique experience for me up to now. Palate- full bodied with a sticky texture Overall- First whiskey brew, not bad but I think this style will have to grown on me as I experience more of it.

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Photo of Bouleboubier
4.59/5  rDev +16.2%
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

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Photo of jerefreakinmiah
3.02/5  rDev -23.5%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3 | taste: 2.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3

Beer 400! Let's do this.

Found this in Raleigh last year at Tasty Beverage Co (still some on the shelf!) And have been sitting on it for almost a year. Wanted to wait until the 10 year mark, but gave in.

The bottle opened with a barely audible hiss. Even though I poured wih caution, I still got tons of sediment. There was no head whatsoever. Looks like dark whiskey in the low lighting of the house.

The smell is (obviously) super sweet for a big barleywine like this. Underneath the sweet you get some smoke, earthy, and woody notes.

Taste and texture? Syrupy in mouthfeel, with a heavy consistency. The taste is similar to light maple syrup, medicinal peat tones in the aftertaste. I've had several whiskies, but not Lagavulin, so I can't say if I get any of the Lagavulin characteristics.

Have to say that I was cautiously optimistic about this one, but ultimately was let down.

Final verdict: novel idea that doesn't work well in this older vintage. The company website says that some bottles have gone for $60, but I'm not seeing it at this point. May have to try some of the other vintages and varieties to get a better representation of Harvest Ale.

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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 269 ratings.