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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

395 Ratings
no score

(send 'em beer!)
Ratings: 395
Reviews: 246
rAvg: 3.93
pDev: 17.56%
Wants: 30
Gots: 63 | 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: 395 | Reviews: 246 | Display Reviews Only:
Photo of kaimcm


4.72/5  rDev +20.1%

presentation: 9.3 oz bottle poured into a snifter

app: beautiful tawny/rudy with a pourous off white head. Creamy but bubbly. Gorgeous pour, great color. Head subsides to a small ring around perimeter.

smell: lagavulin! smells like Islay single malt and a hint of barbeque. Not smoke, but grilled meat.

taste: Incredible! first impression is sweet and syrupy with figs/ raisins, very reminiscent of an Olorosso or Ximenez Sherry. Long (for beer) spicy finish compliments the sugar nicely. Not many hops to be found but I dont really miss them. There is a small hint of Scotch on the finish that lingers in the back of the throat, very subtle and sophisticated.

mouthfeel: Viscous as hell but with the perfect amount of carbonation that lightens it up. You have to expect a somewhat heavy brew with this much going on and an ABV of 11.5!

drink: I dont like this category or really know what it means. Its 11.5% ABV, no one can drink a lot of it. Not to mention the intense sugar and flavors prohibits mass consumption. But it wasnt intended as a session beer, thats obvious. Theres a reason the bottle is only 9.3 oz. I cant forget however that its 9 bucks a bottle!!! Does that hurt its drinkability? Of course, and my wallet. So whats the rating? Would I want to enjoy this spectacular brew after a meal or with some cheese, nuts, or desert? Any time, any day. Is it so rich that I would actually prefer to split the bottle with someone? Yes. Is that a bad thing? Hell no. So what rating do I give?

08-24-2005 00:52:02 | More by kaimcm
Photo of GCBrewingCo

North Carolina

4/5  rDev +1.8%

The beer poured into the sniffer clear medium amber golden with a white head which fell quickly but lasted well to coat the glass.

The aroma was smoky and oaky with a very interesting smoke and alcohol phenolic akin to smoked sausage. In the background was the malt and fruitiness, but they were certainly overpowered by the smoke.

The flavor was malty with a lower smoke complexity. The malt flavor and smoke from the oak casks melded well to make for a very interesting flavor. Immediately following the malt on the palate was the bittering which was well balanced to keep the sweet malty caramel flavor in check.

The finish was dry with a lasting smoke flavor and a lingering malty impression into the afteraste coupled with a bittering that kept everything in line. The body was full and the carbonation low. A nicely crafted beer, almost a smoke beer. Very interesting this came from Whisky casks to create the smoky complexity.

9.3 ounce bottle. Purchased at Wine Warehouse in Charlottesville, VA for $7.75.

08-07-2005 21:45:18 | More by GCBrewingCo
Photo of rhoadsrage


4.45/5  rDev +13.2%

(Served in a snifter)

A- This beer pours a deep dark reddish-tan with a gentle carbonation of tiny bubbles and a thin creamy head of off-white bubbles that quickly fades to a thin ring of white on the parameter. No real legs on this one.

S- The big nose of caramel sweet malt with some toasted malt and a faint hint of white raisins are very pleasant. A note of sour mash from the whisky adds a nice compliment. No real alcohol or hops in the nose.

T-The rich sweet toasted malt has a hint of butteryness to it. A finish of faintly smoky oak and some a gentle hint of whisky in the finish. This taste is lighter and more mellow that the nose lead me to believe. The finish has a slight tartness that could be a combination of hops and whisky notes. It is a very pleasant finish.

M- This has a medium-full mouthfeel that is pretty velvety. A faint hint of alcohol warmth is very nice at the finish.

D-This is a great Barley Wine. It has good complexity but the flavors are not overpowering. Very light for a huge, high ABV drink. Age and Lagavulin casks have done some amazing things to this beer.

08-01-2005 02:42:43 | More by rhoadsrage
Photo of Gusler


4.53/5  rDev +15.3%

After its repudiation of the 275ml brown bottle, it takes up a short-lived residence in my glass a slightly hazy deep brownish-amber color with an appreciable creamy head that slowly erodes leaving a tight skirt of lace to conceal the glass. Oh my what a nose, where does one start with the honey sweetness or with the unmistakable Lagavulin Whiskey aromas, how about the smoked peat, meaty and fruity what a treat for the senses, start is thickly sweet, nicely malted, the top light to moderate in feel. Finish is gentle in its acidity, the hops pushed aside by the oak and whiskey flavors, dry aftertaste that coats the palate and the noticeable tummy warming adds much to the enjoyment of this “ne plus ultra” creation of the brewers’ art.

07-03-2005 19:50:41 | More by Gusler
Photo of NeroFiddled


4.83/5  rDev +22.9%

The unmistakable, powerful, peat-smoked and salty Islay aroma of the Lagavulin comes through clearly in the nose, and it only gets better from there! It pours a clear (it's been filtered), medium-amber body with a full head of frothy white that drops slowly but leaves little lace. It's creamy and smooth in the mouth with a restrained, fine-bubbled carbonation and full body. The flavor includes a good shot of the Lagavulin as well, and its smokiness and alcohol help to balance and dry the rich, buttered, creamed-honey maltiness... even better, I think, than even the original. It seems lighter, although it's not, because it's more balanced. Yet the intensity of the honeyish Maris Otter malt is still there. And unlike the other versions, the alcohol in this one seems more hidden... hmmm? It's a really interesting take on the already great Harvest Ale! And doubly so for fans of Islay whiskey.

05-19-2005 23:10:42 | More by NeroFiddled
Photo of gentlebubbles


3.7/5  rDev -5.9%

on cask at Redbone's

Dark caramel served in a 5oz wine glass that looks like a very dangerous port.

Wonderful aromas of cherries and plums with trails of smoke.

Lots of sweet cherry fruitiness and smoky peat, though these two elements have not yet figured out how to get along with each other. Rich, silky texture that slowly melts in the mouth, like eating chocolate-covered whiskied cherries that have been smoked over peat.

Alcohol hidden so well it should be carrying a conceal weapon permit. I found even a couple sips overwhelming. I think I'd rather have just a splash in a snifter as the cap of a large meal.

04-24-2005 21:44:14 | More by gentlebubbles
Photo of Truh

New Hampshire

3.55/5  rDev -9.7%

Walled him up in the basement with this one on 5/26/2004. 9.3 oz. (275 ml.) bottle poured in a Simon Pearce tankard.

Just a tight circle of carbonation around the edge. Copper, light ruby hue, crystal clear. Little drizzles of bubbles making their way up. Whisky sweetness present in bouquet, and a good deal of floral notes as well. On the mouth, there is no questioning the whisky presence, as well as some peatiness, smoked character. Very smooth, with the whisky scents remaining in the mouth and nostrils afterwards. Wouldn’t have minded if this had been packaged as 12 ozs., but even the small size had the back of my skull tingling. Reminded me of the quote the father said in “28 Days Later” – “Takes out the fire, but leaves in the warmth.”

04-15-2005 20:44:44 | More by Truh
Photo of Naerhu


3.83/5  rDev -2.5%

Thanks for Robbeer for bringing this all the way to Japan.

Appearance: The most beautiful cognac colored ale, with a beautiful pure white head.
Aroma: Vinous, almost lambic aroma, peet and other whisky notes over a sweet malt aroma.
Taste: Malt and peet flavors. This comes out strong on the peet, and less hoppy barley wine flavors. Lots of honey and acidity.
Mouthfeel: Heavy body, mild carbonation.
Drinkability: This was a great beer, I would love to have regular access to.

04-12-2005 16:41:58 | More by Naerhu
Photo of Rastacouere

Quebec (Canada)

3.83/5  rDev -2.5%

Clear orange, a shade darker than the others apparently, not much head, but at least it tries. Deeply peaty aroma. Finally one of those BA JW Lees lets some uniqueness of character shines through. The vegetal tones I’ve met in the others is there as well, but more subdued amongst the smooth earthy scotch-like profile. Sweet leather and almost cheesy hints adds to the richness. More leather and caramel on the tongue. Very earthy and peaty, smoky even with plenty of iodine medicinal character. Like the others, it remains very syrupy, oily and alcoholic, though perhaps not as stale. Flavourful beer without a doubt.

01-22-2005 18:15:05 | More by Rastacouere
Photo of meathookjones


3.85/5  rDev -2%

Pours out amber with about an inch and a half of off white head. It shrinks down but manages to keep a small head through the consumption of this brew. Scatterings of lace were left as well on the glass. Strong smells of smoke rise from the glass accompanied by a malty sweetness and a bit of a woody scent. The alcohol and smoke really start to stand out as this warms. Taste is similar to the aroma as the smokiness and sweetness make up the majority of the flavor. There are notes of alcohol as well, this is quite the warming brew good for a cold rainy day. The sweetness is not cloying here like some of the other cask JW’s. Aftertaste is sweet with a slight bite of alcohol. Mouthfeel is syrupy and full. Drinkability was pretty good at first but once it warmed the smokiness and the alcohol were a bit too much. Overall a good brew though.

10-20-2004 19:18:26 | More by meathookjones
Photo of StuFox

New York

3.95/5  rDev +0.5%

I was very happy with the texture and thickness of the beer, but was disappointed by the lack of complexity in the flavor. The smoke was there, but unlike the scotch it wasn't peaty in the sense that the planty and woody flavors weren't mixed in with the smoke. Ultimately the beer manages to get across a Lagavulin feel if not actually the flavor. The achohol taste takes a backseat to the ale flavor, which keeps the beer very drinkable even at 11.5%.

08-26-2004 17:50:43 | More by StuFox
Photo of aracauna


3.88/5  rDev -1.3%

I was expecting more whiskey in the nose and the flavor here, but this lightly carbonated, sweet honey-colored brew uses the whiskey as more of a note than a blare. The alcohol aroma could easily be coming from the beers own substantial ABV. Honey, sweet caramel malt and alcohol dominate the aroma and flavor with a bit of a clean bitterness finishing up the flavor.

08-24-2004 01:54:32 | More by aracauna
Photo of ppoitras


3.55/5  rDev -9.7%

9.3oz bottle from Vienna Whole Foods, Vienna, VA.

Poured into a Rapscallion snifter, formed a 1/8" sparse and SHORT-LIVED head over the clear copper brew, with no lacing to speak of. Will try to forgive some of this as a style trait. Slightly smoky aroma of sweet alcohol, with whiskey leanings, as expected. Taste also shares the smoky flavor of the nose, and the alcohol is obviously present, but not overpowering (see: The Beast/Avery). A nice, slow-sipping brew for in front of the fire, or in my case tonight, while catching up on poker I have taped on tv. For the style, mouthfeel and drinkability good to excellent.

Edit: As it warmed even further toward RT, smoke and alcohol became much more intense, severely affecting the mouthfeel and drinkability at that point.

08-12-2004 01:54:30 | More by ppoitras
Photo of putnam


4.83/5  rDev +22.9%

I think my friends who dismiss this beer need to save their poison for really misguided oak+classic fusions such as de Dolle special reserva. I find nothing at all wrong with dressing a monstrously sweet, honey flavored strong ale with the earthy discipline of peat smoke. Western Isles scotch distillers do it to their elixirs for a similar reason. Also, I suggest letting a bottle of this beer sit open for a day or ten. Oxygen has a way of integrating the honey and dirty flavors in a way that positively reveals this beer's noble heritage.

This may be a somewhat controversial beer style, but I believe it is a marked improvement upon the basic JW Lees Vintage ale. Something happened in the barrel to dry out this otherwise overly sweet beer. The aromas are stunning. Complex, calm and natural with little curls of smoke, moss, honey and biscuits, there is a virtual scenario of salty sea breezes and nubile flesh that enraptures one's senses. Kind, shepherded, organic lusciousness cradles the palate until a wry twist of birch beer candy announces itself on the finish. A surprisingly delicious strong beer.

After 24 hours open at room temperature:
Still shocking in its cthonic depth of bog smoke flavors. Only this has faded in perfect proportion to the relaxation of syrup flavor. The conversion seems to have resulted in greater, more voluminous texture. Something about "smoke" flavor triggers - I'm certain of it - one's carniverous instincts. It seems more appropriate to chew, rather than drink this beer. And after all, it is utterly packed with dense, clarified butter flavors in a way that evoked images of campfires, garlic and seaweed.

Bound to turn many off, just as Lagavulin scotch turns many off. I only caution, don't dismiss the aging potential of either.

07-28-2004 22:03:08 | More by putnam
Photo of Afterburner


4.75/5  rDev +20.9%

Appearance: Small, thin head. Minimal head retention. Somewhere between light tan and gold in appearance. If it were darker, it would be amber colored. If it were lighter, it would be pale ale in color.

Smell: Woo! Strong alcohol texture, with definite overtones of whisky. Some woody textures come through, along with a restrained malt presence and a vinous complexity.

Taste: Creamy malt character at the forefront, along with wine-like notes. Mid palate picks up a lot of rounded fruitiness and complexity, accompanied by a pungent alcohol burn. The alcohol continues throughout the finish. The bittering hops also show up at the end.

Mouthfeel: Silky, thick, and viscous.

Drinkability: Mmmm. I am quickly coming to the conclusion that J.W. Lees is the Dogfish analogue for the UK. They're creative, adventurous, and put out consistently high quality beer.

07-26-2004 03:07:29 | More by Afterburner
Photo of cokes


1.8/5  rDev -54.2%

Prism-like toasted golden with a momentary visit of a fizzy white head.
Nose full- and I mean chalk full- of Bac-Os. Underlying bits of honey-sweet malts and an earthy smoke, with obvious Scotch booze traits.
Begins with buckets of gooey, honeyed malts. The ante is upped further with equally sticky brown sugar and browned butter and candied figs. Then it turns into a smoked pork mess. Hickory-y and bacony. Uggghhh.

The Lagy cask strips the malt down to its basest (and in my mind, least attractive) component: raw honey. Then layers a heavy, rauchbier-esque smokiness all over it. Any hopping is obliterated in the process. The barrel provides no subtleties, like, say, many of the bourbon-barrel brews I've tried. It really doesn't have much Scotch-iness. It's most akin to a rauchmead. Or just drinking a pot of hickory-smoked honey.
I love rauch...and enjoy Scotch, but this was forced and artificial, and completely impossible to drink.

Alcohol is noted in the mouth, but not really tasted. But I'd rather taste straight, flammable ethanol than this.
Cloying cubed. It drinks like burnt hair gel.

This ain't getting finished. No way. No how. And not even close.

A waste of a beer.
A waste of a barrel.
A waste of money.
And a waste of time.

Utterly repulsive.

07-04-2004 06:56:30 | More by cokes
Photo of Gueuzedude


4.65/5  rDev +18.3%

Pours a bright deep copper color. It pours with not head, but when roused it forms a tan head. This is quite thick, as I hold it up to the light you can see that the carbonation bubbles are visibly slowed by this viscous substance in my glass. The smell is of salt, scotch, thick malts, alcohol, and butter. I was expecting some smoked peat malt aromas, but I don't detect any. The taste is thick and sweet, with a heartiness and something like a saltiness, which gives this beer a full figured mouthfeel. This is definitely quite tasty, and is a beer that demands to be sipped.

The beer is quite fruity, with notes of concentrated apple, and perhaps a hint of apricot as well. You can taste the alcohol in the finish as well as a bit of tannin, which is probably from the cask conditioning. If I had to guess, I would say that the Scotch adds a heartiness to this beer that compliments it quite well. I really wish I had been able to get more of these so I could age a few and see how they change over time. This is a very well integrated strong ale, just incredibly malty with a nice kiss of hops.

06-12-2004 22:09:56 | More by Gueuzedude
Photo of Eyedrinkale

New York

4.75/5  rDev +20.9%

Poured an almost gold color with a very small head. Aroma of light smokiness and believe it or not, Lavavulin. The taste was like other JW Lees Harvests with the same smokiness of the aroma, in the taste. Warm and smooth. I had to try it alongside the scotch, as I have a bottle on hand. Although young, worth drinking now and once matured. A true gem.

05-25-2004 14:40:11 | More by Eyedrinkale
Photo of Wildman


4.4/5  rDev +12%

Okay, being a single malt scotch fan, I just had to break down and try this one despite the sticker shock. I am a particular fan of the Islay Island style of scotch like Lagavulin. This small bottle poured an amber gold color, forming a nice small foamy off white heat that coated the glass with lace as it slowly sudsided. A heavy, slow moving stream of bubbles was the carbonated lure of this one. An aroma of malt, some caramel and the elements that could only be the Lagavulin, but I do not know if it would be detectable by non scotch drinkers. It would definately still be seen as a wiskey aroma. The flavor was of malt, caramel and scotch wiskey. A cramy sweet finish with a warming feel of the alcohol that is definately present in this one. This one would no doubt be better with age.

05-23-2004 23:52:31 | More by Wildman
Photo of Dantes

New Jersey

4.8/5  rDev +22.1%

Package:275 ml brown, crowned bottle, much like a 7/8ths scale longneck. Parchment-like, cream-colored label with beige lettering. Boldly labelled “Harvest Ale 2003" and Lagavulin.”

Cost: NA

Presentation: Riedel Port glass at ~50°

Appearance: The appearance of this barley wine is not substantially different from the standard offering, at most a touch darker. It exhibited the expected tightly-packed beige head, with finely-gauged bubbles and an auburn, russet body.

Smell: Lagavulin is a powerful whisky with which I’m very familiar and its iodiney, sea-salt, and smoke are easily recognizable in this barley wine’s bouquet. I maybe oversensitized to this, but I found it to be absolutely lovely within the already existent fruity, biscuity malts and muted hoppy tang.

Taste: A marriage made in heaven. The smokiness of the whisky amplifies the already present toast and tobacco in the ale, while adding a tanginess. In addition, the somewhat cloying aspects of this young brew are ameliorated by the tempering influence of the whisky. I can only imagine what some age will do to this! The finish is long, warming, smoky, and hauntingly lingering.

Mouthfeel: The Lagavulin version of this does not seem much different than the previous expressions: not appreciably “hotter” on the palate, it exhibits the same velvety, warm, finely-carbonated mouthfeel.

Drinkability: This one I could drink all night (until I’m comatose at least). As much as I like single malts, this might even improve upon the experience. My next one will certainly be accompanied by an aged Havana.

Backwash: This expression is certainly “primus inter pares” amongst the special offerings. In fact, it’s such a good combination, that I might take a page from Drewbage1847's book and start adding a little whisky to most of my future Harvest Ales. Like the marriage of Port and stout, this one is a real winner. I think I’d buy the mixed case of these if I could substitute 3 more Lagavulins for the Calvados. Aged versions of this are likely to provide some serious fireworks.

05-07-2004 17:51:34 | More by Dantes
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J.W. Lees Harvest Ale (Lagavulin Whisky Cask) from J.W. Lees & Co (Brewers) Ltd
88 out of 100 based on 395 ratings.