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

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266 Reviews
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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: 266 | Ratings: 474
Photo of Bung
3.89/5  rDev -1.8%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4

9.3 oz. 2011. Thick orangey pour, no sediment really, just translucent. Just a few bubbles around the top and edge after a very careful pour. What little was there did last a while.

Aroma, Very peaty and woody. It is pungent. Smoke, toffee, malt are lesser present.

Taste, Smoked peat and cask are present up front, not as strong as the aroma. Still pretty strong though. Sweeter malt, toffee and melted brown sugar are stronger here. Finishes with some fig and toasted bitterness, more smoke.

Just over medium bodied, but coats like a heavier brew. A good stickiness to it. No alcohol present as always with the Harvest ales.

I like smoked beers, so this worked for me. It nearly overcomes the excellent base brew beneath.

Not for the faint of heart. Kind of a smoked English Barley-wine. Very unique and worth trying, just be aware and ready for it.

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Photo of jrenihan
3.91/5  rDev -1.3%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

Brewed 2011.

Beer is a dark orange with a small off-white head. Head fades quickly, leaving some bubbles.

The Lagavulin comes through strongly. Peat and some smoke. Accompanying that is caramel and green apple.

Taste is like the nose. Peat, whisky, caramel, green apple. While I am a fan of Lagavulin and Islay malts generally, the peat is too strong for the beer. Quite sweet, with a bit of a honey flavour.

Full bodied, moderate to low carbonation, sticky sweet.

Overall, pretty good, but the Lagavulin is overpowering and the beer is too sweet. Not the best treatment of the Harvest Ale.

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Photo of BullBearHawk
2.29/5  rDev -42.2%
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.

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Photo of TheBeerTraveler
2.96/5  rDev -25.3%
look: 2 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 2.75

2008 brew

A: caramel, bubbly, tons of sediment!

S: Smokey, peaty, RonSwansonish, You can smell more alcohol than you taste.

T: Figs, retains the peaty flavor of the lagavulin

M: Syrupy, sweet, sticks to your lips

O: Was not very impressed - I think the sediment and the thick syrupy texture ruined it for me.

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Photo of JohnnyHopps
4.6/5  rDev +16.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

After my experience with this beer, the low reviews are shocking. It makes me curious as to whether some reviewers appreciate the difference between an English barleywine and an American barleywine. That said, I loved this beer.

Poured into a mini-snifter, the beer was a copper color with a modest slight white head. At the front, the aroma was a mild whiskey aroma. While the aroma was enjoyable, it would not make be want to buy the beer again by itself. In the initial taste, one gets sweet malts, nuttiness, amaretto, and a mild sourness. Even with an 11.5%ABV, this beer's alcohol does not leave an abrasive alcohol burn. The thick mouthfeel becomes more apparent in the aftertaste as the aftertaste lingers. I might define the aftertaste as a syrupy sweet alcohol that is masked well enough to be like a girly drink. This is an outstanding barrel aged barleywine.

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Photo of tbdkev
4.85/5  rDev +22.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.5

Pours a hazy amber color with tons of sediment. The aroma is nice; hints of vanilla, caramel, oak, and toffee are abound. The taste follows well with a sweet blend of all the aforementioned notes, plus a slight whisky burn and an indescribably smooth finish. The lack of burn really masks the alcohol content (11.5%); this one really has the potential to sneak up and dropkick a lot of people. All in all, a very, very good brew.

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Photo of Greywulfken
4.22/5  rDev +6.6%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

2011 bottling

A: into a snifter, orange amber with a touch of haze; only a slight off-white collar even after a center-pour

S: Lagavulin Scotch - peat and smoke; rich beer malt sugars, like toffee and caramel

T: sinuous blend of top-tier single malt Scotch flavors and sweet malts - aforementioned smoke, peat, toffee, and caramel, delicate malt flavors and whisky-soaked wood

M: slick, thin, light - but a caress over the palate; sweet stick to the roof of the mouth, airy wood and whisky vapors in the mouth

O: not as acclaimed as their sherry cask edition, but I'm more of a Scotch man, so this was an absolute delight. A very thin, graceful, and flavorful barleywine - transcends the boundaries between the beer and spirit worlds.

2007 bottling

A: into a snifter, dirty brown beer with lots of chunky sediment - Heady topper's got nothing on this beer - small, brief head - unfortunately, I've gotta say, that much sediment isn't quite what I'm looking for

S: sugary-sweet caramel and candy apple have grown larger than the peat and smoke I enjoyed in the 2011 bottling

T: again, the Scotch flavors have largely subsided, and I'm drinking something that reminds me of caramel apples

M: smooth, slick, no bitterness, candy aftertaste, light/thin

O: had to downgrade some scores, as this did not age as well as I'd hoped - losing the Lagavulin peat and smoke did not improve the taste of the beer, which I found to be far too sugary for my liking, and the appearance of so much sediment was due in part to my pour, but still detracted from the drinking experience I was hoping for.

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Photo of breakingbland
3.75/5  rDev -5.3%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

Poured from a 9.3 fl. oz. bottle (marked "L2413 11:54") into a pint glass.

Appearance: Poured with no head and only a broken ring of foam. The color was a very cloudy gold.

Aroma: Very much bourbon-forward which evident even before bringing the glass to the nose. The bourbon aroma bordered on harsh. No malt or hops were easily evident.

Taste: Mostly smoky with a honey-like sweetness. There was a slight scotch flavor component. The hops bitterness was very slight.

Mouthfeel: This beer has a full body -- almost syrupy. There is a light, fine carbonation.

Overall: I knew nothing about this beer prior to this tasting, and the smoky, scotch flavors were a surprise -- but a good surprise. The smoke is quite dominant. I enjoyed this beer and think it would best stand alone rather than pairing with any food, although it would be interesting to try it with BBQed pork. I will look for it again.

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Photo of Offa
4.06/5  rDev +2.5%
look: 3 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

This is a strong, but excellent barleywine, a bit sweet and potent to be anything other than a slow sipping beer, but with an interesting and complex character.

Hazy pale amber, it has no real head and only a thin ring.

Aroma is smoky peaty and raisiny grain, old dough, sour vinegary fruits.

Taste is very sweet, a bit spicy, smoky, with dry toast and bread finish, then a whiskyish bitter-spicy aftertaste. It's engaging.

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Photo of superspak
3.97/5  rDev +0.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

275 ml bottle into tulip glass, 2005 vintage. Pours very hazy and cloudy reddish copper color with no head and some minimal lacing bubbles sticking to the side. Aromas of big caramel, raisin, prune, fig, toast, toffee, molasses, oak, whiskey, vanilla, peat, light smoke, and dark earthiness. Very nice aromas with good balance and complexity of malt notes with barrel character. Taste of big caramel, molasses, toffee, toast, raisin, fig, prune, vanilla, oak, whiskey, peat, light smoke, and dark earthiness. Lingering notes of caramel, molasses, toffee, toast, dark fruits, vanilla, oak, whiskey, light smoke, and earthiness on the finish for a while. Very nice balance and complexity of malt notes with dark fruits; with a fair amount of barrel character that isn’t overwhelming; and zero cloying sweetness after the finish. Minimal carbonation and full bodied; with a creamy, slick, and fairly syrupy mouthfeel that is nice. Alcohol is very well hidden with only a small warming noticed after the finish. Overall this is a very nice English barleywine. All around nice balance and complexity of malt and barrel flavors; and very smooth to sip on slowly. A very enjoyable offering.

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Photo of MadScientist
3.41/5  rDev -13.9%
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.

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Photo of matttttYCE
3.04/5  rDev -23.2%
look: 3 | smell: 3.25 | taste: 3 | feel: 2.75 | overall: 3

2010 bottle.

Light tan creamy head, not very high, light lacing and retention. Muddy dark amber color with noticeable sediment floaties. The aroma is very thick with charred wood, peat, sctoch, smoke, leather, a mixture of brown sugar, dark fruits, and malts - all burnt. Behind that are extremely rich/sweet notes, deep caramel and molasses, toffee, vinous/grape notes, and tobacco. The taste is much like the nose. Big peat, scotch, smoke, leather, toffee, heavily burnt brown sugar caramel and malts, vinous and dark fruit notes. Strong. Mouthfeel is super heavy. Consistency is viscous, carbonation is light, body is heavy, and the finish is lingering, almost sticky.

Overall, I'm not really digging this. It's strong but not necessarily offensive on the nose, and nearing harsh in the taste, and not just because of the alcohol content. Quite a different take on english barleywines for sure but just not for me.

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Photo of hustlesworth
4.15/5  rDev +4.8%
look: 3.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

2011 vintage.

A- pours into a snifter a hazed reddish amber with a liquory shimmer. There's almost no head except for a thin ring of foam and some swirls on the surface. Sparse bubbles rise and since I can smell it already, I'm prepared to treat this one like scotch.

S- the nose isn't overwhelingly peaty, not yet at least but I'm sure it will open up as it warms. At this temperature, mineral water and definite salty seaweed aromas blend with the touch of smoke and bold sweet wood. There's also a heavy amount of malt sweetness, very fruity in character with notes of apple, pear, and cherry. After letting it sit for a while, the smoke begins to rise. Thought not as smoky as the mighty Lagavulin 16 which I'm assuming previously occupied the barrel.

T- enourmously sweet and warm. There's plenty of smoke flavor but it doesn't come through in the same manner as it does in the scotch itself. Here it's more astringent, woodsy, and quite frankly tastes like leftover smoke. I don't wanna use the word "stale" but it is, and that's ok, because that's what's gonna happen when the barrel absorbs the smoke flavor from the whisky and spits it back out into the beer. The sweetness is akin to some sort of smoked-over brandied caramel vanilla dessert with seemingly no hop presence to balance it out. Oak and earth flavors erupt as the smoke and sweetness slowly fade and the finish is a beautiful mingling of grain, charred oak, and loads of tannins. Alcohol flavor is rather prominent and there's a touch of bitterness to the smoke.

MF- very tannic and absurdly dry, this one has the mouth numbing smoky feel of Lagavulin with the voluptuous body of Laphroaig. Carbonation is seriously toned down and only felt as some zip on the center of the tongue and in the throat. Although the sweetness in the taste stops just short of cloying, the malt sugars wreck shop on the palate and along with the high level of tannins and smoky astringency, my mouth doesn't even know what's going on. It's a very complex feel but not exactly awesome.

D- if I could make three wishes for this beer, they would be more peat, more seaweed, more "fresh" smoke. The oceanic pungency that I love about Islay scotch is all but lost in the malt sweetness. The scotches themselves are plenty sweet, but still retain a balance. This one sadly does not. This is a great beer and very monsterous and a must try for anyone that loves this type of scotch, but be aware that the taste is of smoked wood, not smoked barley. Like you over-smoked your BBQ by adding too much oak. I'm glad I found this bottle but I don't think I'll ever buy another one.

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4.06/5  rDev +2.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.25

$12.00 for 275mL bottle, served in a mini snifter
Brewed in 2009, Sampled 10JAN13

[A] Pours with almost no head at all - just a few stranded bubbles that are reluctant to form a collar and quick to disappear. Light tan in color with a very thick, still, chestnut brown body underneath. Wonderful clarity, impressive depth, minimal sediment, no lacing.

[S] Peat and sharp wood overtones with outgoing alcohol. Complexity is minimal as a result.

[T] Peaty whiskey flavor turns into a sweet, dry smoke with a touch of meatiness. Sweet dried fruit (apple/pear) and buttery caramel subtleties are discernible in the back end of the palate.

[M] Huge mouthfeel. Thick and tongue coating. Very full body, lightly cloying with lots of residual sweetness bringing it all together.

[O] Normally I find that I rate the aroma and flavor in most beers about the same. For some reason, the nose on this one didn't do it for me - but the flavor sure did. Very nice beer...better than the BA average in my opinion.

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Photo of Alieniloquium
3.79/5  rDev -4.3%
look: 2.75 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.75

275 mL bottle poured into a Courage snifter. 2009 bottle.

Appearance - Deep red brown body. Doesn't seem to have the chunkiness of other versions. Maybe the nastycake at the bottom is well compacted. I don't get much sediment until the very end. Slight semblance of a head for a moment.

Smell - Peaty smokey scotch aroma. Sweet caramel. Subdued raisin character, but it still has that distinctive dark fruit aroma.

Taste - Barrel is less intense here. Scotch blends throughout the flavor with a smokey whiskey flavor. Cuts the sweetness nicely, allowing the caramel to produce a better flavor. Also cuts some of the complexity, though. Raisin flavor comes back in the very end and sweetness lingers.

Mouthfeel - Still thick and syrupy. Low carbonation. Slick with a slight smokey bitterness.

Overall - Enjoyable variation. Better than some of the others. I don't always love a scotch barrel on a beer, but the intensity of the whiskey flavor tends to subdue the sweetness of the base beer.

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Photo of jmdrpi
4.48/5  rDev +13.1%
look: 3 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

2008 vintage, 275mL bottle, poured into a snifter

appears a muddy opaque medium brown color, not really any head. yeast floaties. huge wonderful aroma of raisins, fig, burnt sugar, wood. similar notes in the taste. very complex, yet smooth. no alcohol heat. medium body, but it's viscous and coats the mouth. low carbonation, fits the beer.

overall - great, but I think I prefer the regular version.

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Photo of StonedTrippin
4.07/5  rDev +2.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

2005 vintage. this is another one of those special beers that in each category cant be scored anything too high, but taken on the whole, are quite amazing. this is one of those for sure. it pours clear whiskey color, with almost no head. there are some dark brown yeast floaters at the bottom, and gentle carbonation. it smells like a barleywine, caramely, english malty, and very very sweet. there is also a mature woody aroma, and a great deal of alcohol. it taste very organic, very old, and very sweet. there is a ton of residual sugar here, and an already sweeter malt profile. no hops at all to speak of, and a punishing alcohol sting. the whiskey barrel adds a touch of charcoal and vanilla flavor, and a smoothness of feel. this thing is velvet, even with the abv what it is. carbonation is really mild, so the sugars sort of stay in the mouth awhile. it is about what i expected when i got this, huge and sweet. its got a richness and a certain refined character that set it apart. worth a try if youve got the bucks.

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Photo of Etan
2.35/5  rDev -40.7%
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.

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Photo of Thehuntmaster
4.81/5  rDev +21.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

275ml bottle 11,5% Abv.
Served lightly chilled in an over sized wine glass.
2004 Vintage

A massive thanks to JAXSON for hooking me up with this long time want.

Appearance: JW Lees appears dark brown in the glass, with a back light revealing a thick slice of golden orange along the edges. An aggressive pour yields a thin ring of white bubbles and a light swirl coats the glass in heavy alcohol legs.

Smell: Ah man, this smells absolutely fantastic! There is a perfect balance between the notes from the base beer and those from the Lagavulin casks. Notes include: Brown sugar, dark caramel, dark fruits (raisins, plums, prunes and dates), peated whiskey (campfire, sea spray, damp seaweed and iodine) and a touch of nose tingling alcohol as the beer hits room temperature.

Taste: As suggested by the nose, this is an absolutely delicious beer!
The initial flavour is dominated by characteristics from the base beer, with notes of brown sugar, dark caramel, molasses, marmite, raisins, plums, rich fruit cake and dark treacle. The Lagavulin casks become apparent in the finish, with a wonderful peated whiskey character (campfire, sea spray, iodine and seaweed) and a light alcohol warmth.
As the beer approaches room temperature, there is a hint of oxidization noted and this is probably the only thing keeping the score down to a 4.5.

Mouthfeel: After 8 years in the bottle I was expecting the mouthfeel to have suffered somewhat, however I am happy to report that this is certainly not the case! Full bodied and quite sticky, with a very low level of wonderfully smooth carbonation.

Overall: As a lover of big, sweet English barleywines and of Islay Scotch, things don't get much better than this. I would happily drink one of these everyday for the rest of my life! I will most certainly be attempting to trade for a case in the near future!

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Photo of vkv822
2.98/5  rDev -24.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 2.5

on-tap @ Belmont Station.
taster glass : from notes.

Clear golden orange with a thin white head.

Wow, robust, smokey peat, scotch is essentially the only element here. After the palate adjusts to these intense flavors, a faint backing of caramel and biscuit malt is detectable.

Medium-full body, low carbonation.

I had a very hard time grading this one, the flavors where not necessarily unpleasant, but definitely unexpected and a bit over the top with the scotch. Definitely would not want more than the few ounces I had, and I could see how even that would be a bit much for some people.

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Photo of ColForbinBC
3.97/5  rDev +0.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Poured into a snifter; 2008 vintage

Enjoyed this side by side with the Sherry 2008

A murky, iced tea brown, with little to no cap or lacing. Just the thinnest of collars around the edge. Big peat, smokey aroma on top of old leather, butterscotch, cocoa powder, toffee, raisins, and oak. Just loads of complexity. The flavor profile follows the nose. Peat and smoke throughout, with tobacco, raisins, toffee, cocoa powder, leather, and raisins. A good shot of fusel alcohol leads to some good warming. The feel is a bit syrupy, full-bodied, with low carbonation. This beer is amazingly complex, albeit dominated by the peat, smokey aroma and flavors. If you're not a fan of peat whiskey, move along.

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Photo of Dope
2.45/5  rDev -38.1%
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.

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Photo of cradke
4.87/5  rDev +23%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

Appearance: Murky light brown. Clear Sediment visible with a fine head.

Smell: The whisky is wonderfully incorporated. Great sweetness. Wish it might be a little stronger but it's wonderfully balanced

Taste: Wonderfully sweet. No where near cloying. Has really nice hazelnut whiskey goodness taste. Fantastic No alcohol presence at all.

Mouthfeel: Pretty thin but for a 7 year beer that's to be expected. Still, has great feel.

Overall: Probably one of my favorite BA beers. The whisky is wonderfully incorporated and sweetness is spot hot. I haven't had one with this much age and its transcendent. Love. Love. Love

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Photo of ngeunit1
4.62/5  rDev +16.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

A - Pours a cloudy brown-orange with a bit of bubbly white head. The head fades down quickly leaving behind only a touch of lace.

S - Aroma is a mix of oak and whisky with lots of caramelized malts, other dark caramel malts, dark fruits, brown sugar, some peat and smoke, a bit of citrus fruit, and some booze.

T - Starts off with a mix of peat and oak with some sweet caramelized malts, raisins, other dark fruits, and some light citrus hops. Through the middle, some smoke and more oak comes through with some more caramel malts and some molasses. The finish is a mix of rich caramelized and caramel malts with some dark fruit, peat, oak, smoke, brown sugar, and booze.

M - Medium-full bodied with mild carbonation. Feels smooth with a warming, sweet, and lightly smoky finish.

D - Very drinkable. The whisky blends really nicely with the rich bold barleywine base. Nicely complex.

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Photo of metter98
4/5  rDev +1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A: The beer is relatively clear amber-orange in color and has no visible carbonation. It poured with a quarter finger high light beige head that quickly dissipated, leaving wispy lacing on the surface and a thin ring of bubbles around the edge of the glass.
S: There are moderately strong aromas of peat smoke and scotch in the nose.
T: Like the smell, the taste has lots of flavors of smoked peat and scotch, but these are not overpowering.
M: It feels a bit higher than medium-bodied on the palate and has a low to moderate amount of carbonation. A little bit of warmth from the alcohol is present.
O: Considering its strength, the alcohol is relatively well hidden from the taste. The interesting smell and taste also make it a nice beer to sip.

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J.W. Lees Harvest Ale (Lagavulin Whisky Cask) from J.W. Lees & Co (Brewers) Ltd
89 out of 100 based on 266 ratings.