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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.
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Beer: Ratings & Reviews
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Ratings: 420 | Reviews: 251
Photo of vivasbeer
1.13/5  rDev -71.2%
look: 1.5 | smell: 1 | taste: 1 | feel: 2 | overall: 1

2009 9.3oz bottle

All kinds of chunky bits floating around

Smelled like a Meat Smoke house. If I wanted Bacon, or Smoked sausage I would have bought that.

Taste was god awful. Like an old campfire that had been extinguished with brown dirty lake water. I am gagging just remembering it.

Overall it was the worst beer I've ever had.

Easy decision = Drain Pour

Photo of djaeon
1.47/5  rDev -62.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 1.5 | taste: 1.5 | feel: 1 | overall: 1

2007 bottle. $9.99 from Holiday Wine Cellar. Poured into a small snifter.

A: Pours a hazy gold with no head. Leaves no lacing. Lots of particulate.

S: The first impression that hits me in the nose is barnyard. Not a plant barnyard (like hay, alfalfa, etc.), but a meat barnyard (pigs, cows, goats). And then a distinct BBQ sauce aroma hits me.

T: The BBQ sauce aroma is the most prevalent part of the taste. Sweet, mesquite, salt, meaty. Beer should not be meaty. I used to think a bacon flavor in beer sounded interesting. I no longer think that. They mixed up the labels. It's not a beer, but a BBQ sauce.

M: Thick, viscous, smooth. No carbonation left. Leaves an aftertaste of eating too many lays potato chips. Plastic, salt, oily, olestra. /shudder

D: Not drinkable at all. I want to drain pour it, but this has such a weird taste that I keep taking one more sip.

I'll try a more recent brew if I come across it, but will not want to try the 2007 vintage again. Unfortunately I have another one in my (currently) 5 bottle cellar (deep drawer in a cool part of the house).

Photo of xerxes2695
1.48/5  rDev -62.2%
look: 5 | smell: 2 | taste: 1 | feel: 1 | overall: 1

Argh, what can I say? Did I get a bad bottle? It was nearly flat and syrupy sugar sweet. Like a liquid candy bar with a weird off-taste. Rancid maple syrup. I think the yeast pitched for bottle conditioning was somehow killed. Undrinkable. One sip, a few minutes to recover, then another to be sure. Straight down the drain :(

Photo of counselor
1.67/5  rDev -57.4%
look: 4 | smell: 2 | taste: 1 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 1

I like scotch whiskey and I like beer; apparently I do not like scotch in my beer (or beer in my scotch). This beer was horrid. It looke good, a glistening khaki colored beer with a thin white head. It al went down hill from there. The smell was an overpowering whiskey, but not a crisp whiskey, but a muddled, milky bready smell. The flavors were overpoweringly of whiskey - the booze would not let the quality english malts to even approach the tongue. It did have a quality mouthfeel. I enjoy english bw and the full malt profile, unfortunatley, this one could not overcome the booze flavors. I have several other of this line (calvados, port, etc). Ihope they don't all stink.

Photo of His_Royal_Hoppiness
1.75/5  rDev -55.4%
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.

Photo of msabin
1.82/5  rDev -53.6%
look: 4 | smell: 2 | taste: 1 | feel: 3 | overall: 2

Serving type: On cask at Novare Res

I was super excited to try this beer because I'm a fan of Scotch, however, I was in for a big disappointment

The head wasn't very prevalent, which wasn't a problem, given that it was on cask. The color was a deep orange, which looked great in the lighting of the bar.

The nose was cloyingly sweet. I knew I was in for trouble once I smelled this brew.

The taste was just sickly sweet with some peat in the finish, which was the only good part of this beer. The sweetness assaulted my tongue and I couldn't get it out of my mouth. It really dominated this beer and I wasn't able to finish an 8 oz. serving.

Oh well, at least I will never be tempted to pay $9 for a 12 oz. bottle of this.

Photo of Holland
1.87/5  rDev -52.3%
look: 1.5 | smell: 2 | taste: 2 | feel: 2 | overall: 1.5

A: cloudy orange and brown color with no head and no lacing.

S: apple cider, earthy tones, some sweetness and peaty scotch

T: apple cider and bacon. Later on once I let it settle a bit I get some more scotch, but not much.

M: thick and uncarbonated

O: skip this, it's bad on cask at least. It would be fine if I had it with pancakes in the morning alongside an FBS since it tastes like bacon and apples. At $10 for a pour, forget this garbage.

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 bensiff
1.9/5  rDev -51.5%
look: 2.5 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 1.5 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 1.5

So, here's to side stepping the normal beer review of in depth thoughts on the aspects of the beer. The mahogany color is nice, but looses points for lack of head. It smells alright, with a slight hint of the Lagavulin cask. The taste is sweet nastiness with the slightest hint of its Scotch barrel aging. The mouthfeel is heavily bodied. In the end the drinkability is horrid unless you like drinking peaty molasses cough syrup.

The basics said, I saw this beer and was excited as Lagavulin is my favorite Scotch along with Laphroig's offerings. The price tag of nearly $9 a bottle is steap. So I was kind enough to purchase the bottle and put it in my stocking and told my wife she had bought me a stocking stuffer. Well, it was a bad stocking stuffer and I have myself to blame. So, be fore warned, this is not worth the high price. Maybe if it was aged for 10 years, but don't buy it thinking you are going to get the glorious balance of Lagavulin...think drinking unhopped wort from an export Scottish ale.

Photo of marct
2/5  rDev -49%

Photo of starrdogg
2/5  rDev -49%

Photo of coreyfmcdonald
2/5  rDev -49%

Photo of RebornStussy
2/5  rDev -49%

Photo of gueuzegossage
2.25/5  rDev -42.6%

Photo of BullBearHawk
2.29/5  rDev -41.6%
look: 3 | smell: 2 | taste: 2.25 | feel: 2.25 | overall: 2.5

2008 Bottle cracked on 11/09/13 served into a snifter.

Maybe I'm not that into English Barleywines but King Henry is one of my favorite beers, probably not a true English BW. Anyways this beer had a real boozie sweet smell to it and tasted the same. Heavy smokiness, cinnamon, funky spices, caramel, kind of an unpleasant tart taste to it. Overall It tasted like a funky, sweet, syrupy mess. Maybe fresh it tastes a lot better.

Photo of seeswo
2.3/5  rDev -41.3%
look: 2.5 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 1.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 2.5

This is going to be my favorite review to write, I think. So, Harvest Ale is an English Barleywine, which often means a very viscous mouthfeel, with sweetness through caramel and malt flavors. Lagavulin is an Islay Scotch, which is known for its strong flavor of peat. So, where am I going with this? Well, I took my first sniff and I was a bit concerned. Big smoky/peaty flavor that made me question my decision to purchase the scotch cask instead of the port cask version. The taste? Well, the scotch cask and english barleywine form an unholy ham-based union. This beer tastes strongly of honey or otherwise sugared ham, particularly in the finish. So, the front of this beer is largely undeterred by the barrel aging, and quite frankly, tastes great. Everything described above is done spot on. Then comes the honey ham. I cannot understate how strongly I got ham in the back - as though this were intended to taste like a sugared ham - maybe a spiral ham with brown sugar or whatever. When drinking this beer, I can't help but think that it is either foul or fantastic, depending upon the context or intent. Its almost funny, until I realized I paid $9 for 9.3 oz that I do not want to drink.

I passed this beer around amongst a lot of people (non-crazy craft beer enthusiasts) and nearly everyone either identified the ham on their own, or agreed strongly when I dropped the word ham.

Because this beer doesn't say Harvest Ale "Ham Cask", I can only give this beer a low grade. It's something better than gross, but ultimately, after the humor dies down, it is really just a disappointment given the cost and potential. Don't buy this unless you love ham.

Photo of Thorpe429
2.31/5  rDev -41.1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 2 | feel: 2 | overall: 2.5

2010 vintage courtesy of starrdogg at last night's barrel-aged barleywine tasting. Served in a SAVOR snifter.

Pours a bright, clear copper color with a bit of an orange tint to it. Slight head and a few bubbles before falling into a thin collar.

The nose carries quite a bit of whiskey character that is quite divergent from the typical American bourbon. I don't know too much about spirits, but the difference is noticeable, especially when contrasted with all the bourbon-barrel beers we had.

Nothing too complex, and the barrel brings quite a bit of peat character without the caramel malt that is standard for the style and for the base beer. Very woody. Flavor is similarly quite peaty and harsh with much of anything from the underlying beer coming through. Bitter and slightly astringent in the finish.

Overall, not very impressed with this; I enjoy the regular version much, much more.

Photo of Etan
2.35/5  rDev -40.1%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 2 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 2

9.3oz bottle into a snifter. 2007 bottle.

A: Pours an orange-tinged red with a small head of coarse white bubbles. Lots of sediment.

S: Grapey, oxidation, very sweet. Figs and grapes.

T: Sweet maltiness at first - lots of raisins and whatnot. Oxidized. Then stale peat. A bit of a skunky finish to it.

M: Syrupy and flat.

O: Even if I was a fan of Scotch, this would still be a crappy barleywine. Crap appearance, crap body, oxidized, just not good.

Photo of match1112
2.42/5  rDev -38.3%
look: 2.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 2 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 2.5

a: pours out the color of liquid caramel. no head, no lacing, just plenty of floaters.

s: alochol, smoke, caramel and bad cider.

t: smokey peat and alochol. some sweetness.

m: thick and flat.

o: truly disgusted by this beer. this must be one of those that you either love or hate with no inbetween. the longer i look at this it looks like diarrhea in a glass. smells like a pile of wet half burnt leaves. tastes horrible. not even sure at this point if i want to continue cellaring the bottle i have left. i'm gonna drain pour something i paid a dollar an ounce for after one sip. truly disgusting.

Photo of Dope
2.45/5  rDev -37.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 2 | feel: 4 | overall: 1

2010 bottle

A: Murky reddish-brown pour with a tiny 1/2" tan head. Fades to nothing quickly. Minimal lacing.

S: Big peaty, smoky scotch on top of a mountain of molasses and toffee. Lots of band-aid and a little ashtray.

T: Tastes like pure band-aids and peaty scotch. Hard to get down. Strong molasses element in the finish tries to sweeten it up but whew. This is a tough one to swallow (literally).

M: Super heavy and syrupy as you would expect.

O: Wow, like drinking an ashtray filled with burnt bandaids. I poured it out after drinking two sips. This beer was so bad that it actually gave me a headache somehow. You MUST love scotch to even attempt this beer.

Photo of ucsbmullet
2.5/5  rDev -36.2%

Photo of DIM
2.52/5  rDev -35.7%
look: 2.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 2

Pumped from the actual lagavulin whisky cask, pretty cool.

a: This was a ruddy dark copper color. It was served to me with a small but firm cap.

s: Strong sherry aromas with hints of caramel and ash. Where is the whiskey?

t: This tasted strongly of sherry, not whiskey. There was plenty of ash as well that wasn't all that pleasant. There was a puckering quality about this that wasn't quite sour. I found a vague sort of fruit that reminded me of port. The regular version was extremely sweet, that was all lost here.

m: Still and syrupy.

o: I had to try it, the concept is very cool. I just didn't enjoy the beer though.

Photo of sulldaddy
2.55/5  rDev -34.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 1.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 2.5

2007 vintage aged in my cellar.

Poured into a snifter at cellar temperature. THe brew pours a rich warm chestnut hue with very minimal fizzy head foaming up and fading to nothing in short time. Some small chunks are suspended in the beer but I decant carefully leaving about a 1/2 oz of dredges in the bottle.
Aroma is rich malty with molasses, deep boozy whisky notes and dark fruit. Seems like it will be hot and burny on the swallow just from the nose. I also get small amounts of burnt wood in the background but this is definitely not a dominant scent.
First sip reveals a sticky syrupy texture with very faint gentle almost non-existent carbonation.

Flavor is sweet malt briefly with brown sugar and dark fruit but moves to a lot of fusol heat and earthy peat burnt wood hits. Fairly big flavor profile and finishes hot and makes this a sipping beer for certain. Almost more like a tumbler of scotch than snfiter of beer, and this has cellared for 5 years, cant imagine how hot it is fresh. The finish is actually a little medicinal and bitter, not from hops in my opinion but more the black pepper, alcohol bitter flavor.
While I expected some boozy notes on this beer the whisky is just a little too much for me and reduces the enjoyability of the beer for me. Others may really enjoy it, but you would have to like scotch to really like this beer.
I wont pick up this beer again and leave the bottle fairly disappointed in how unbalanced the beer and whisky qualities are displayed in the brew.

Photo of Gaisgeil
2.58/5  rDev -34.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 1.5

I had very high hopes for this particular brew. I love barleywines and I love Laguvulin, it'd make sense wouldn't it? But, no, sadly it was not to be. The cruel fates of love frowned, bit down and ripped my head off. Okay, just a tad overdramatic.

Pours a deep chestnut in color with a tight, creamy tan head. The nose is very sweet, notes of raisins, brandy, sugar and alcohol. Taste is at first intensely sweet, very much overly so, to the point it's almost tart. Slightly smoky with a slight vanilla smoothness. Very malty, one of the most malty beers I've ever partaken of, incredibly imbalanced. Where is the bittering? This one drinks like some sort of spirit, not a beer. I really gleaned very little actual enjoyment from this. I'd be interested in trying this alongside some of the brewery's other barleywines for comparison's sake.

Not recommended.


Photo of SaCkErZ9
2.58/5  rDev -34.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 2

2004 vintage.

Pours a mirky, orangeish red color with no head to speak of.

Aroma is very sweet with a touch of smokiness. Highly alcoholic in the nose as well. Not a whole lot going on with the overpowering alcohol and sweetness.

Way too sweet for me. Cloyingly, puckeringly sweet. Some smoke and a touch of bourbon flavoring. Not a touch of hops.

I didnt like this one at all. Sweet, alcoholic, and not for me. I drank about 4 ounces of mine and gave the rest to my dad, who then finished only about half of the rest. I have the other three but I am not excited about trying them.

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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.