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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 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.

Photo of GClarkage
4.23/5  rDev +7.9%
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?

Photo of mikesgroove
4.62/5  rDev +17.9%
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.

Photo of paulthebeerguru
4.02/5  rDev +2.6%
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.

Photo of BierFan
3.92/5  rDev 0%
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.

Photo of waltonc
4.14/5  rDev +5.6%
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.

Photo of Halcyondays
4.04/5  rDev +3.1%
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.

Photo of nickfl
3.93/5  rDev +0.3%
look: 2 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

A - Small, off white head composed of ugly, fish eye bubbles. The boy is a hazy, copper-red with an unfortunate amount of sediment floating in it.

S - A big note of dark fruit, mostly raisins and plums. Background notes of chocolate, wood and tobacco.

T - Sweet malt and lots of brown sugar up front. Red apples and raisins make up a complimentary fruity note in the middle along with moderate bitterness. The whisky cask notes only begin to emerge in the finish with mild smoke and wood. Chocolate and sherry notes briefly emerge and then fade leaving tobacco and brown sugar to linger on the palate.

M - Very thick, syrup like body, low carbonation, and a sweet finish with some alcohol warmth.

D - I have been astonished by every variation of JW Lees Harvest Ale that I have had thus far, and while this version is complex and enjoyable, like its siblings, it does not quite live up to the others. The excellence of the base beer shines through in the complex sweetness, but the whiskey cask doesn't seem to have contributed too much to the mix. Combine that with the fact that this is one of the least visually appealing beers I have come across in some time, and your have a beer that is interesting and quite good, but unable to live up to the expectations that its brand has earned.

Photo of magictrokini
4.32/5  rDev +10.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

2006 vintage. Right off, I love Lagavulin, so I was really looking forward to this one. It did not disappoint. Poured oily copper with a short-lived 1 cm off-white head. No lacing. The peaty, petroleum, salty Lagavulin is up front in the nose. Smokey grain and booze as well. First sip was a little off-putting, just like the cask of the whiskey it was finished in. After that, the beer settles in. Bitter, salty, peaty, smoky goodness. The oak and the sweeter caramel and toffee malts are a nice contrast in the finish. Some cherry and fig flavors come with it, but the star is the grain and malt of the beer balanced against the strength of the Islay malt. Slow but easy drinking without being sticky. Loved this.

Photo of jpiper
3.99/5  rDev +1.8%
look: 3 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

2007 bottle poured into a snifter at cellar temperature.

Pours an orangey color with dark suspended yeast. A direct pour results in a 1cm bubbly head which retreats quickly to leave bubbles only on the edges with a sparse lace over the rest of the beer.

The aroma is complex, definite scotch barrels which impart additionally a sharpness and alcohol smell. Additionally, prunes and raisins - sweet fruits. Some caramelized sugars as well.

Wow, the barrel is very strong in this. There's a ton of charred wood, smokey, peaty scotch which immediately greets the tongue. The rich sweet fruit takes a back seat to the strong barrel flavors, and the come through more in the finish. Smokey and fruity. Pretty delicious, because I love both flavors, but I don't think they're the best marriage. Or maybe it needs a little more time to come together more.

The mouthfeel is incredibly smooth and coats the mouth. There's a moderate amount of carbonation.

The strange combination of flavors would make this a tough session beer (as well as the high ABV), but I'm not having a hard time sipping away at this. It gets better further into the bottle.

Photo of Reagan1984
4.12/5  rDev +5.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

I had this at Deep Ellum recently and it's officially my first Barleywine review. In fact, it's the first one I've had in quite a long time. I was drawn to it because of the whisky barrel aging. This was a 2006 vintage.

The pour produced a thin white foamy head that formed and then receded fairly quickly. The beer itself was a hazy deep amber color with mostly brown tones. Slightly orange??
No lacing to speak of. You could tell by looking at the beer (swirling it) that it was a bit thicker.

Aroma was sweet, of oak and also some alcohol notes. Also a touch smoke like. Very deep.

Of course, you get the sweet hit at first, and it was initially shocking. But as I got used to it, I really enjoyed it. After the initial sweetness, then you get some of the oak/whiskey notes. There is some nice malt tones behind the sweetness and the more I savored, the more I enjoyed.

You do have to drink this almost like a scotch. Syrupy thick and about as boly bodied as you can get. Drinkabilty is slow... but that's not a bad thing. This is one for the winter.

Good timing as it was really cold that night. I'll definitely dip my toe back in the barley wine waters...

Photo of Phyl21ca
3.97/5  rDev +1.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Bottle: Poured a cloudy amber color ale with a small foamy head with average retention and minimal lacing. Aroma of sweet English style malt with some whiskey notes. Taste is a complex mix between some sweet English style malt with some distinctive arming notes of whiskey and barley. Full body with limited filtration and average carbonation but no apparent alcohol. Very well done but I still prefer the Port version.

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.

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

A - Poured a cloudy copper color that produced a white head that disappeared rather quickly

S - A sweet smelling, strong alcoholic scent

T - Thick, syrupy taste with loads of whiskey(very pleasing) what mixed with the malts and bitter taste

M - Its a thick, sturdy beer with slight carbonation

D - Very good beer, wonderful taste

Photo of Greggy
4.32/5  rDev +10.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

2004 Vintage- (Represents above numbers)

A- pours a beautiful bright orange cooper color that is clear but has some yeast chunks. Speckled lacing is present.

S- Smoky meat, campfire, touch of booziness.

T- Taste of smoky baked potato, smoky meats and dry smoked malt. Underneath a semi-sweet malt emerges.

M- Low carb, thick smoky feel.

D- Quite unique. Much different from a Rauchbier, and a bit more complex. Seek this out.

2007 Vintage-

A- Pours a significantly darker than 2004, hazy amber color. There isn't much head, but the speckled lacing is a light tan color. (4)

S- Very much malt driven, fresh flour, boozy dark fruit and apple, toffee, caramel, hints of smoke and suggestions of meat. (4.5)

T- Very sweet malt, syrupy sweetness, big raisin and apple, hints of subtle smoke in the mid palette and finish. (4.5)

M- Thick and sweet nice very sublte smokiness. (4)

D- Quite sweet. I'd definitely reccomnend splitting a bottle with someone. It was very unique to see the immense difference from the 04 to the 07. The color alone makes me believe that there was a recipe alternation between these vintages. (3.5)

Photo of BigMcLargeHuge
4.47/5  rDev +14%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

I'm a huge Lagavulin fan so when I saw this beer at Knightly it was a no brainer. Brewed in 2004 consumed in April 2006. Murky-cloudy amber color. Coaxed out off white head. Nice lacing. Huge sweet fruity (cherries and dates) Barleywine like nose. I can also smell the peat and smokiness from the Lagavulin casks. There is also some hoppiness. My sight and smell senses are telling me this is going to be one full flavored aggressive tasting beer. Just what I like. OK. The taste. Instantly I get hit by the fruit sweetness and in lesser amounts I taste the peat, vanilla, smokiness and then some slight hop notes. Then midway this beer evens out into silky smoothness and finishes very light as compared to how it started. Sure that was only the first sip. As the experience progressed the fruit flavors become more apparent. I taste cherries, plum and dates. This beer is very much like Avery's Samael except for the added peatiness. Excellent tasting beer that leaves a lingering smoky peaty flavor behind. A bit too sweet for my taste. Might need another year or two to peak.

Photo of absolutbc2001
4.57/5  rDev +16.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

I'm drinking this from a bottle but i've had it from the tap in atlanta when i was too drunk later on to review.

The appearance is very murky and brown with a small amount of head. I would think there would be more head for a 2006.

The smell is not that strong and almost a little like pineapple. Not my favorite smell for a beer. But definitely sweet.

The Taste is amazing. A little sharper then other Lees i've had but it was also younger. I've had an 89, 94, 98, and 2003 of the regular stuff. However, i love lagaluvin scotch. It's the best in the world and i love the peaty taste. The regular Lees a little overly sweet and the slight smokiness really rounds out the flavour with some bitterness to compliment the little bit of sour and lots of sweet.

The mouthfeel of this beer is always world class. It's so think and sticky but somehow not too much so. I guess it's because the after taste is so nice. I also don't like my beers over carbonated because it blocks the flavor.

Drinkability = I'm almost done!

Photo of stumac
3.79/5  rDev -3.3%
look: 3 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Keep in mind that I'm not a sweet beer fan and this beer was pretty damn sweet. So I tried my best to review it around the sugar taste.

Vintage 2005

pours a very murky apple juice look with a quickly fading white head. the nose is chewy smelling malts, subtle fruit, apricot, burned caramel. Woah! the taste is crazy sweet! cherries, charred oak, caramel, very oaky, I like the oak. medium bodied, subtle whiskey flavor in the finish, very sweet finish, masks the alcohol like crazy, gets better as it breathes.

Photo of Morphoenix
4.32/5  rDev +10.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Wow. 12 ounce bottle poured into my Delirium Tremens snifter. Pours with very little head, even with an aggressive pour. Head quickly settles to a small ring. Loads of sediment floating around. Has a very alluring deep orange tint. Lots of whiskey in the nose. Amazing flavor profile, extremely complex. Very, very sweet. Smoky, woody flavors abound. This is most definitely a sipper, but it keeps you sipping deeply throughout. Anyone who is a fan of cask or barrel conditioning ought to check this out. Very impressive.

Photo of thekevlarkid
4.23/5  rDev +7.9%
look: 3 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Sampled 09/22/08. Out of the 275 ml bottle this 1.5% ALC (!) brew was downright murky apple cider brown with lots of sediment floating in it. Thin white head faded quickly to a tiny ring. Moderate lacing in a tight ring. Big and sweet fruit aroma, apples, pears, raisins along with yeast, alcohol esters and an underlying nuttiness. The flavors were a slap across the face. So smoky I could barely believe it. Upon second sample the nearly-cloying sweetness came through first, typical barely wine dark fruit, raisins and dates, followed by the clearly whiskey imparted smoke. Sugar and smoke; reminded of a deep south BBQ sauce. Caramel, toffee and a surprisingly small alcohol nip masked by the complex flavors and aromas. Very soft carbonation makes this like drinking an after dinner snifter. Impressive but punchy. Great example of the style and an amazing marriage of beer and Scotch, if you dig both it's a must-try.

Photo of DrMalt
3.58/5  rDev -8.7%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

"2006" Vintage. I enjoy Lagavulin single malt Scotch so I picked up a bottle to try.

Low carbonation but typical of style.

Malt & aroma of a scotch, almost peat.

Flavours of smoke, peat, caramel & somewhat syrupy.

Again lacking a bit of carbonation for my preference. Lots of body.

Too much malt, sweetness from scotch & quite alocoholic.

Glad I tried it to see if I would enjoy a scotch conditioned Barleywine but I will stick to traditional English or American BW's in the future.

Photo of soulgrowl
3.67/5  rDev -6.4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Appearance: Fairly decent, beige-white head on this strong, cinnamon-orange beer with lots of chunks.

Smell: Very whiskey-ish with big wood and peat-smoked malt notes, reminiscent of leather and cigarettes. Golden raisins, dry sherry, orange peel, toffee, and plenty of honey are present as well, a melange of aromas suggesting Drambuie. The 11% ABV is perfectly detectable, but it blends into the whiskey and sherry notes very well. Not too deep or complex, but the whisky is so nice.

Taste: Spicy and sweet and musty, very much like a Scotch whiskey. Lots of smoke and caramel and a bit of sweet apple that calls to mind cider when combined with the flaming leaf pile notes of the Lagavulin casks. Finish is very off, tough - a bit like stale bread, or an altbier with no hops.

Mouthfeel: Mild and softly carbonated; medium-bodied and pleasantly dry.

Drinkability: Very drinkable for this level of sweetness and alcohol; in my opnion, these Harvest Ales are better young than old, so drink 'em if you got 'em!

Photo of Andbrew
3.85/5  rDev -1.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 2.5

2004 vintage

Poured no head. Same nutty brown as the other JW Lees. No carbonation as usual.

Nose is all fruit with a mild alcohol back. Heavy syrup taste and almost sickly sweet like a mead.

Overwhelming alcohol and the syrup is too much. But still holds the nut and rasin/fig flavors as always.

Photo of barleywinefiend
4.55/5  rDev +16.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

I LOVE JW LEE"S and LAGAVULIN!! What a match this was. Poured 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. Smoky w/ some vanilla undertones. Lots of peat and a beer to be respected.

Photo of PatrickJR
4.79/5  rDev +22.2%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Poured from 9.3 oz bottle into oversized brandy snifter. 2005 Vintage.

A - Murky, the color of a thin brown gravy. No head or lace.

S - Subdued caramel aroma with smoky and woody overtones. Something like barbeque sauce. Dark fruits (plums, prunes, raisins) lurk in the background but the influence of the Scotch barrel dominates.

T - Huge sweetness hits first, drying out slightly into a very restrained version of the barbeque sauce from the nose. Raisins and dates enter on the transition between the two flavors. Late palate yeilds a semi-sweet, slight bitterness with evidence of wood and a suggestion of Scotch. Finish is bittersweet and lingers. Alcohol heat is very minimal.

M - Full bodied, but surprisingly a touch of carbonation is present.

D - One of the most drinkable beers considering the ABV, far surpassing quadrupels as far as I'm concerned. Big and robust, but overall a mild brew. I would drink this forever.

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