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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)

Displayed for educational use only; do not reuse.
very good

406 Ratings
no score

(send 'em beer!)
Ratings: 406
Reviews: 246
rAvg: 3.92
pDev: 17.6%
Wants: 32
Gots: 69 | 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:
No notes at this time.

(Beer added by: rhoadsrage on 08-01-2005)
Beer: Ratings & Reviews
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Ratings: 406 | Reviews: 246 | Display Reviews Only:
Photo of champ103
3.48/5  rDev -11.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

This is a 2007 bottle.

A: Pours a murky brown color with lots of floaties. At first a very minimal bubbly white head forms. Though it gently rises to about a finger. Decent retention considering the style and age, but eventually recedes back to a ring.
S: The nose is amazing. A dry oaky aroma and smoke is up front and strong. Sweet vanilla, toffee, and chocolate. Some fruity aromas linger on.
T: I love dry wood and smoke in whiskey aged beers. Though that overpowers almost everything else going on. Sweet vanilla lingers with plenty of booze.
M/D: A full body that is sticky and syrupy. A good beer to sip on throughout the night. Though it is taking me a while to finish the 9.3 oz bottle.

This is very interesting. It still does not compare to the original Harvest Ale. If you see it, I would recommend giving it a try just for the experience. It is hard to improve upon a near perfect beer to begin with though.

champ103, Feb 19, 2010
Photo of xerxes2695
1.4/5  rDev -64.3%
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 :(

xerxes2695, Feb 08, 2010
Photo of boatshoes
3.9/5  rDev -0.5%
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.

boatshoes, Feb 06, 2010
Photo of WhiteOak
2.88/5  rDev -26.5%
look: 4 | smell: 2 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 3.5

J.W. Lees Ltd. Ed. Harvest 2007 Ale Matured In Lagavulin Whisky Casks

A- Yellow-amber. Minimal head.

S- Strong, predominant medicine/band-aids, phenolic smell. Burnt rubber. Smoked peat. Strong barrel char, old oak. White raisins. Smoldering hickory and peat.

T- Strong, predominant medicine/band-aids, phenolic taste. Smoked peat. Strong barrel char, old oak flavors. Sweet caramel malt. Oxidized tawny port and sherry flavors, but the burnt rubber flavor conflicts with them.

M, D- The concentrated flavor, sweetness, and viscosity make this one for sipping along with cheeses, as one would a tawny port or sherry. ABV masked and unapparent.

WhiteOak, Jan 28, 2010
Photo of Daniellobo
4.68/5  rDev +19.4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

A tremendous barleywine, that beautifully blends Lagavulin whisky giving it a very distinctive character.

Presentation: 275 ml brown bottle. Simple and classic design with a light cream background green and gold fonts. Notes limited edition,, one line description, and ability to be enjoyed now or being cellared for future enjoyment. Shows Alc. by Vol. (11.5%) and brewing date (2005). Poured into a snifter.

A - Medium amber copper pour with minimal head that fades in a blink, leaving no lacing and a faint surface ring.

S - Sweet malt with a rich whiskey boozy fragrance, noticeable Islay character in the backbone, smokey and peaty.

T - Very rich range of flavors, sweet, almost honey-like, with a rich malty base. The whiskey is deliciously present and blended. Notes of Islay Whisky are integrated beautifully with a rich boozy character, smoked peat, and a salty touch.

M - Medium body, very smooth and creamy, with a nice long finish.

D - A fantastic sipper, and great to share, entice Whisky aficionados and show-off the diverse range of craft brewing.

Notes: A tremendous barrel aged blend. It maintains the richness of the Harvest ale and a clear and disticnt Lagavulin sense without being either.

Daniellobo, Jan 24, 2010
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.

mondegreen, Jan 16, 2010
Photo of alcstradamus
3.25/5  rDev -17.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3 | feel: 4 | overall: 2.5

2005 vintage

Pours caramel in color with only a small sliver of head, which dies quickly and leaves a collar of bubbles.

Smell is sweet sweet oh so sweet....candy, raisins, more candy, oranges, and candy covered candy. A decent amount of booze heat, and noticeable whiskey elements. Really quite spectacular, but perhaps over the top.

The taste is extremely charred and peaty, quite surprising how much the whiskey casks overpower the sweet behemoth that lies underneath. Its like I'm chewing on a campfire. Also has an almost smoked chicken flavor. Not sure how much I enjoy poultry in my beer.

Mouthfeel is medium to full and mostly flat. Drinkability is low...this tastes OK is just doesn't really suit my palate. The cask aging definitely detracts from the base beer here.

alcstradamus, Dec 25, 2009
Photo of daledeee
3.18/5  rDev -18.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

A vintage 2006 bottle drank Dec. 2009.

Poured without a head and was a clear orange brown. Nose was odd with smokiness and sweet smelling.

Taste was syrupy and smoky. I found this to be a strange and not very appealing combination. I realize using scotch barrels is where this came from. Some may like it but I could not get past the incredible sweetness and the smokiness thrown in just didn't do it for me.

daledeee, Dec 06, 2009
Photo of Otesanek
4.4/5  rDev +12.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

2007 vintage drunk 11-08. The tiny 9oz bottle poured into my DFH 22oz snifter. Apricot colored, lightly hazy with yeast, no head. It's an odd discord, the color vs the smell. When I think about this beer, it should be a murky black brown and purple, instead of the rich orangy-pink that it is. The nose on this thing is alll lagavulin, and that's a great thing. Smokey raisins and a light fusel alcohol burn. Some rich char and sweet honey malts push through the smoke. The flavor follows the aroma, sweet sweet smoke, dried fruits: raisins and figs, candied orange peel, finishes with a nice clean lightly smokey aftertaste. Goes down nice and smooth, lightly coating but not cloying or sticky. I could put these things away until I fell into a drunken coma, but the booze is definitely there. This is the perfect marriage of whisky and barleywine.

Otesanek, Nov 01, 2009
Photo of DrJay
4.1/5  rDev +4.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

2006. A bit of haze clouded this otherwise orange/amber beer. Not much of a cap appeared, but a very thin collar ringed the glass and produced fine spots of transient lace. Caramel and biscuit aromas were present in the aroma, but had a smoky, peaty character, nearly charcoal, sitting just above them. Slight vanilla and bread. Low bitterness, this is all about sweet malts and scotch. Lots of caramel, a hint of toffee, bread and biscuit, with a bit of smoke and peat that appear towards the finish. Lingering alcohol and Islay character. Full bodied, low carbonation, smooth and just short of sticky. Quite drinkable and tasty.

DrJay, Sep 02, 2009
Photo of kegger22
3.85/5  rDev -1.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 3.5

2007 Vintage.

Poured brown with lots of suspended yeast and a tiny head that disappeared immediately. Aroma was alcohol and something sweet. The taste was just too sweet for my tastes. Over ripe fruit was there in abundance too. The feel seems heavy because the suspended yeast gives the allusion of drinking a gel. I don't think that drinkability could be that high due to the sweet taste. Overall, the beer had a lot of nice qualities, but I could not get over the sense that I had a mouthful of sugar.

kegger22, Aug 30, 2009
Photo of ClockworkOrange
4.1/5  rDev +4.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

A 2005 vintage bottle poured into my basic snifter. Sampled side by side with a glass of Lagavulin. The ale appears a clear bright amber color with barely a finger of bone white foam. The head leaves behind no lacing to speak of. Nose and flavor are of smoked peat, beautifully caramelized malts, sweet fruits such as apples and plums, toffee, grapes, smoky, mildly boozy whiskey. Approaching full bodied with adequate carbonation. A wonderful ale worth seeking out. For fans of Lagavulin, it's a no brainer.

ClockworkOrange, Aug 04, 2009
Photo of JayQue
4.25/5  rDev +8.4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

2005 vintage. Swilled 25 July 2009. Poured a hazy orange/light brown into a Chimay goblet. A little sediment, almost no head and no lacing.

Smell is rich and inviting, spices, whiskey, fruit (apples, sweet plums, cherries) and sugar.

Taste is very similar sweetness up front, then some spiciness and alcohol warming at the end.

Mouthfeel is rich and smooth (probably a function of aging). The alcohol is there for a warming effect but there is no burn or strong alcohol presence. The sweetness is well managed and not cloying.

Drinkability is good as a one and out beer. You could enjoy every sip of this one.

JayQue, Jul 26, 2009
Photo of glid02
4.43/5  rDev +13%
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.

glid02, Jun 19, 2009
Photo of sinstaineddemon
3.98/5  rDev +1.5%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

done as a side by side tasting with the Calvados and Sherry, 2008 vintage

A - a light amber, in stark contrast to the calvados and sherry next to it, its crisp and clear, with no head or visible sediment, quite a disparity

S - the nose consists of more alcohol notes than its compatriots, this element is complimented by a slight oakiness, smells drier

T - wow, holy shit, where was all this flavor hiding! strong whisky malt flavors, dry and oaky, some muscat style grape grape tartness, layered and far more complex than i expected it to be after seeing then tasting the others

M&D - relatively smooth, a but drier than the others, with some added tartness and a bit more alcohol bite, but darn tasty

sinstaineddemon, May 27, 2009
Photo of BuckeyeNation
4.58/5  rDev +16.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

2003 vintage. Oriole orange with a slim slice of beige foam that is lightly creamy. The head melts away within minutes and doesn't grace the glass with very much lace. Considering the style, this is still good looking beer, especially when poured into a crystal snifter.

The nose is probably only going please those who love sea salt-sprayed, peat-soaked Islay Scotch. Lagavulin is one of my two favorites, so it was pretty much a foregone conclusion that I would love it. Nothing beats the read deal, but then this is beer, not whiskey.

After purchasing all four bottles, I decided to drink the J.W. Lees Harvest Ale Cask beers in reverse order of how I expected to enjoy them, based on how much I like the liquors or wines that previously occupied the barrels: Sherry, Port, Calvados and Lagavulin Scotch. They're all solid 4.5 flavor score barleywines, but this one is probably my slight favorite.

The beer's best feature is an absolute perfect amount of Islay whiskey character. Again, heed this warning: if you aren't a fan of this type of Scotch (loads of peat, seaweed and iodine), then you'll wonder why the hell you spent $6.99 for 275 ml of such vile liquid masquerading as an English barleywine.

The gotta-sip-it sweetness that every member of this series possesses is present here as well. Some might call it cloying, but I think it stops short of that. Specifics include toasted grains dipped in melted caramel-toffee, candied cherries, a pleasant underlying woodiness and a wee dram (or three) of some of the finest Scotch the world has ever known. This is glorious beer... that should come in much bigger bottles.

Given the amount of malt sugar (and possibly added sugar), combined with six years of cellaring and one of the world's best breweries, the fact that the mouthfeel is all kinds of outstanding is no surprise at all. I've never had a beer this old that was this full and this crushed velvet smooth.

I won't shed a tear now that this bottle is gone because I know that there are many more in my future. Bottom line: no beer that I've ever tasted has a more perfect combination of Islay Scotch whiskey and classic English barleywine. If you're a fan of both, then what the hell are you waiting for?

BuckeyeNation, May 20, 2009
Photo of aubuc1
4.1/5  rDev +4.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

275 bottle dated 2007 poured in to a goblet.

Pours a hazy, chunky orange with a thin off white head.

Smell is first whiskey, then maybe some sweet malt, but maybe whiskey.

Taste is first warm mellow malt, but then the scotch kicks in. After that is a citrusy sweet taste.

Good mouthfeel, and drinkablility is good for what it is- a sipping beer.

I am very glad to have tried this beer.

aubuc1, May 08, 2009
Photo of JohnQVegas
4.8/5  rDev +22.4%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Pin cask, 2007 vintage, at Beer Table in Brooklyn. Compliments of one owner, to celebrate his wife's (the other owner's) birthday.

Pours a very hazy golden brown, with absolutely no head.

Nose is peat smoke and honey, woody and decadently sweet.

Taste is peat smoke, honey and caramel, brown sugar and hints of walnut and molasses. Burn of whiskey in the back of your throat as well, though the alcohol is unbelievably well hidden and smooth. Amazingly balanced, a singular experience from the pin cask. The kind of beer that makes you understand what beer can really aspire to be. Fantastic.

One of the beers that I will always remember. Spectacular beer - the smokiness hadn't picked up the sausagey quality I've found in the bottle version. In this is was woody and dry and magnificently balancing.

JohnQVegas, Apr 27, 2009
Photo of drgonzo3705
4/5  rDev +2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

2007 Vintage

A: Very pale amber color with little head, just a slight ring around the glass.

S: Fills the nose with oak and scotch.
T: More of the oak and a nice presence of whisky.

M: Despite the appearance this is pretty full bodied with a light hoppiness.

D: Not great, but not bad. I wouldn't mind sitting down with a bottle or two and sip it as I watch a nice classic movie e.g. The Godfather.

drgonzo3705, Mar 30, 2009
Photo of GClarkage
4.22/5  rDev +7.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

03/19/09- Purchased at Holiday Wine and Spirit's in Escondido, CA.

Presentation- 11.2oz bottle, vintage 2004. Poured into my JW Lees glass.

Appearance- Light sedimented murky deep roasted caramel color. Larger than expected 1/2 inch head upon pour. Light rim remains for a few minutes. Leaves some light spotty lace behind.

Smell- Heavy caramel nose with a super roasted, mildly burnt rauch-like scent. A bit of vanilla, a bit of oak as well.

Taste- Exact smokey flavor comes through in the taste. I'm not a fan of rauchbiers, and this is quite close to the smokey flavor. It is not, however, meaty or salty like the rauch. Has a big backing of caramel, toffee and vanilla and a nice amount of oak. Lots of flavor for sure.

Mouthfeel- Quite smooth, mildy viscous with a low carbonation level. Creamy and luscious mouthfeel. The smokey flavor does not really linger in the aftertaste.

Drinkability- Boosted up by the mouthfeel. This beer would be top notch if not for the odd smokey flavor. Maybe that's a traditional lagaluvin flavor in the oak?

GClarkage, Mar 20, 2009
Photo of mikesgroove
4.63/5  rDev +18.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

This is what I am talking about! Vintage 2004 bottle, my first time with this beer, served at cellar temp and poured into a snifter, this wonderful beer was consumed on 03/10/2009.

The pour was very, very nice. A rich dark brown in color with a light smattering of reddish tints on the sides and the bottom of the glass. Some light tan head coming up over the top of the brew and settling down after a few minutes into a bare top. The aroma was unmistakeable, like a fine old ale almost. Lots of oak and whiskey, hints of vanilla and toffee coming through very nicely throughout. This was about as tight of beer as I am going to come across tonight thats for damn sure. Rich, super sweet with loads of toffee and caramel flavors. Hints of apples and lots of vanilla are all over this one. The alcohol has all but faded away and left a supremly well defined ale in its place. Super rich and wonderful as the glass warms up to room temperature, it only seems to get better. Lots of toffee and vanilla and soo sweet and syrup like. The word mellow hardly does it justice. Overall I was very, very happy with this one for sure. One of the better beers I have had in the last few months.

mikesgroove, Mar 11, 2009
Photo of paulthebeerguru
4/5  rDev +2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Brewed in 2004. Consumed 2009.

A: pours a dark, rich mahogany with some wonderful ruby notes. very faint khaki colored head, really faint. practically no head retention. subtle ringlike lacing.

S: huge aromas of whiskey..shocker. wonderful english barleywine aromas, tons of apples, solid spices, yet indescribable. good hop characteristic, subtle, but providing some nice orange aromas.

T: big time whiskey flavors off the bat. i am getting a lot of artificial grape flavors, like grape soda. really sweet malts. moderate hop essence. nice chocolate notes. tons of caramel.

M: its confusing. Full bodied, yet thin bodied. very nice beer and ages well. a little flat, but 5 years would do that. very smooth, slightly creamy.

paulthebeerguru, Mar 09, 2009
Photo of BierFan
3.93/5  rDev +0.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Brewed in 2007. Poured from a 9.3 ounce bottle into a flute.

Appearance: Dark cloudy orange with a small off-white head.

Smell: Malty with whiskey and wood being pretty noticeable, unsurprisingly.

Taste: Really sweet. Mellow alcohol doesn't get in the way of the enjoyment, but the alcohol is definitely upfront. Whiskey flavor doesn't dominate as I expected it too. Almost has a bit of smokiness to it because of the barrel aging.

BierFan, Mar 09, 2009
Photo of waltonc
4.18/5  rDev +6.6%
look: 3 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

2005 Bottle acquired thanks to the generosity of JoeySchlitz, who gave this to me for Christmas.

A: Hazy orange/caramel in color, not much head at all, and lots of sediment. Thankfully I noticed this before dumping the entire bottle into my glass. However, this resulted in my having to pour at least an ounce of the beer down the drain because it was chock full 'o chunks.

S: Sweet dark fruit, caramel, and whiskey.

T: Absolutely delicious malt bomb. Crazy malts, caramel, brown sugar, and whiskey. Love the taste. Really sweet, so some people may be turned off. But this is sold in the correct bottle size for the style - 9 fl. oz. Actually reminds me a little bit of Dogfish Immort Ale.

M: Thick body, sticky, with little carbonation. Points docked for being a tad on the syrupy side.

D: I won't really know how drinkable this is, since I've only got a 9 ounce bottle, but I could easily drink more than one bottle, so I'll give it a decent drinkability score. Pretty nice barleywine overall. Much different than the American versions I'm used to.

2006 Note: After enjoying the 2005 so much, I had 2006, which is not nearly as good. WAY too smokey for my taste.

waltonc, Jan 23, 2009
Photo of Halcyondays
4.03/5  rDev +2.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 3.5

9.3 oz. bottle, 2007 Vintage,

A: Pours a translucent burnt orange/umber with a smattering of bubbles.

S: Strong nose, I did not expect so much barrel character, but once I got over the initial shock it was quite nice and interesting. Heavy iodine and sea air, peat is relatively light, ethanol is present, definitely has an Islay whisky nose.

T: Taste is interesting; it does not carry as huge amount of barrel character as the nose did and allows the base beer to come through more. I got a fair amount of orange and light fruit from the malt, balanced with a more pronounced peat smoke than in the nose. Definite sea water and seaweed, rather sugary finish.

M: Feels salty, but that's a barrel note for sure. Rather viscous, very smooth, smokey aftertaste. Almost spirit-like in its mouthfeel, well done.

D: Certainly an interesting beer, I've never had an Islay whisky barrel aged beer before, I'm certainly a fan of the whisky. Not entirely what I expected, but it was fun to try. I now want to try the other J.W. Lee's barrel aged line.

Halcyondays, Jan 22, 2009
J.W. Lees Harvest Ale (Lagavulin Whisky Cask) from J.W. Lees & Co (Brewers) Ltd
88 out of 100 based on 406 ratings.