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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

413 Ratings
no score

(send 'em beer!)
Ratings: 413
Reviews: 250
rAvg: 3.92
pDev: 17.35%
Wants: 36
Gots: 71 | 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: rhoadsrage on 08-01-2005

No notes at this time.
Beer: Ratings & Reviews
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Ratings: 413 | Reviews: 250 | Display Reviews Only:
Photo of Wasatch
4.3/5  rDev +9.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Thanks goes out to ybnorml for this brew.

2008 Vintage

Poured into my Westy chalice a cloudy reddish brown color, nice carbonation, nice little fizzy off-white head, with some oil slicks left behind. The nose is malty, with some whiskey/oak notes, some figs, raisins, plums. The taste is sweet, malty, with some very nice whiskey/oak/smoke notes, some dark fruit notes as well. Medium body. Very Drinkable, another awesome Harvest Ale from JW Lees. I might have to just trade for some for a nice little stash.

Photo of DefenCorps
4.24/5  rDev +8.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 3.5

"John, you're welcome to attend the tasting only if you don't bring any beer"
"I've got 2003 JW Lees Lagavulin and Black Damnation III"
"Fuck you"

Still ruby red with a thin soapy head, this looks decent. The nose, however, is great. Sweet with plenty of whisky, honey sugar and caramel, this is rich and decadent. Mildly nutty, this smells great. Maybe the smoky Lagavulin character has been covered up by the Black Mes I had before this?
The palate opens big and sweet with caramel, honey, bready and breakfast cereal-like sweetness with some creamy and milky character. Excellent. The sweet finish with honey, apple and fruit is quite delightful. Full in body with low carbonation, this is a great beer. The sweetness does reduce the drinkability, though.

Photo of MbpBugeye
3.84/5  rDev -2%
look: 3 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

A- loud fizzy head hardly even collects itself. No lacing and no retention. I kinda expected this from an aged ale with such a high ABV. It's a pinkish copper beer (clear because I decanted all the heavy, heavy sediment).

S- sweet, fruity like grapes, some caramel malts, peat, alcohol, oak. The scotch is pretty faint in the nose.

T- Again, sweet, especially up front. Caramel, peat. Very complex. The scotch isn't too strong here. It seems to be behind the actual beer.

M- Low, almost nonexistent carbonation. Nearly syrupy, dry and sticky body.

D- big and nearly cloying at times. I do prefer the taste of the Lagavulin cask version over the port cask however.

Photo of emerge077
4.02/5  rDev +2.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

After nearly 3 years, revisiting this beer again, this time a 2011 bottle.
Lots more noticeable Lagavulin aroma and taste, a bit of iodine and medicinal peat smoke. Long aftertaste with heavy elements from the whisky cask. Overall it's pretty intense and worth a try if you enjoy Islay whisky. Don't recommend cellaring.

3.93/5 rDev -0.3%

After trying some exceptional Lagavulin 17 yr., (thanks Aaron) we decided to break out this aged English Barleywine, hoping for some connection.

Pours a tawny ruby, a finger of foam lasted for maybe a minute. Very nice jewel-like clarity, a ring of foam but no lasting head. Some nasty chunks of disturbed yeast that thankfully didn't make it into the glass.

Super oxidized, sweet and malty, dominating dried fruit, but somehow a little off.

Fruity flavors of golden raisin (sultana), plum, currants... sweet confections, stewed fruit and baked apples. Not much Scotch character, some dry bitterness in the aftertaste.

Rich and syrupy, a sipper, or maybe best poured over pancakes. Hardy's -esque... defintely a sweet sipper and one to share.

Didn't get much Lagavulin character, will seek out a more recent vintage to re-review.

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

2007 Vintage

Poured a crystal clear Caramel Amber until the dregs came in and spoiled the show.

Smell of sweet cherry slight charcoal flavor, wood, caramelized sugars.

Taste primarily of a very sweet Old Ale with cherry like flavors and charcoal mixed in. Smoke and wood mixed together with an extremely sweet almost brandy like flavor. I am sure that the dregs that came into this glass at the end highly contribute to the smoke and wood flavors - will probably hold back a little bit on pouring these in next time. Overall a good beer, but definitely a sipper.
Very light carbonation, medium to light mouthfeel.

Photo of Pecorasc
4.52/5  rDev +15.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

2008 vintage. A quick and sharp hiss upon opening. 9.3 oz bottle vigorously poured into oversized tulip.

A- Pours a slightly hazy deep orange to light amber. Almost no head other than a few thin swirls and a bubbly, perfectly white collar of foam. The etching releases several very small bubbles that are barely visible once they hit the surface. Swirling throws small beads of lacing that slide slowly back down to the beer, like they know that is where they belong. Overall, this is a lot thinner and lighter looking that I expected, but that doesn't take anything away from the beer.

S- Dominated by an ocean spray saltiness, peat-smoke, pleasant alcohol, and that signature JW Lees cherry-like malty sweetness. Its surprising how this takes on the saltiness much more than the peat-smoke of Lagavulin. Really well-balanced aroma, more so than the other Islay barrel aged beer I had (which I loved).

T- I'm completely convinced that JW Lees could put their beer in any barrels and it would come out great. The Lagavulin barrels are no exception. Surprisingly, the peat-smoke is mostly upfront and doesn't linger for very long. It actually takes a back seat to the barley-wine. The initial smoke is quickly overtaken by a heavy, malt sweetness and a moderate alcohol burn that only shows itself in the middle. The sweet cherry-like aftertaste is balanced by a slight saltiness from the barrels. Outstanding, but I wish there was more peat-smoke from the barrels.

M- Velvety smooth, leaving a clinging sweetness on the palate and lips. Big bodied with moderate alcohol, but there is enough carbonation to give the impression of a smaller beer. It can't get a lot better than this.

D- The alcohol is quick to come and quick to go. Complex, even at 2 years and not overly sweet. I really want to try this at about 10 years, but even now it is outstanding. Well done JW Lees! Now I'm going to have to go wash this down with some Lagavulin.

Photo of bluejacket74
4.42/5  rDev +12.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

9.3 ounce bottle, brewed in 2006. Served in a snifter, the beer pours a cloudy orange/brown color with some floaties and pretty much no head at all. Not much lacing either. I like the aroma of this beer a lot, it smells like smoke, peat, band-aids, raisins, and brown sugar. The taste is similar to the aroma. It tastes like brown sugar, smoke, peat, raisins and figs. Very nice Scotch Whisky scents and tastes in this brew. Mouthfeel/body is medium, it's a bit slick and rich but also seems a little bit thin to me at times too. Drinkability is pretty good, it's smooth and pretty easy to drink. I like this brew a lot, and I'd definitely buy this again. Of course it helps I like smoky Scotch Whisky too.

Photo of champ103
3.54/5  rDev -9.7%
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.

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 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 WhiteOak
2.87/5  rDev -26.8%
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.

Photo of Daniellobo
4.64/5  rDev +18.4%
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.

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 alcstradamus
3.3/5  rDev -15.8%
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.

Photo of daledeee
3.2/5  rDev -18.4%
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.

Photo of Otesanek
4.41/5  rDev +12.5%
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.

Photo of DrJay
4.12/5  rDev +5.1%
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.

Photo of kegger22
3.9/5  rDev -0.5%
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.

Photo of ClockworkOrange
4.07/5  rDev +3.8%
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.

Photo of JayQue
4.22/5  rDev +7.7%
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.

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 sinstaineddemon
3.92/5  rDev 0%
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

Photo of BuckeyeNation
4.57/5  rDev +16.6%
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?

Photo of aubuc1
4.12/5  rDev +5.1%
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.

Photo of JohnQVegas
4.79/5  rDev +22.2%
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.

J.W. Lees Harvest Ale (Lagavulin Whisky Cask) from J.W. Lees & Co (Brewers) Ltd
88 out of 100 based on 413 ratings.