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J.W. Lees Harvest Ale (Port Cask) - J.W. Lees & Co (Brewers) Ltd

Not Rated.
J.W. Lees Harvest Ale (Port Cask)J.W. Lees Harvest Ale (Port Cask)

Educational use only; do not reuse.

212 Reviews
no score

(Send Samples)
Reviews: 212
Hads: 383
Avg: 4.15
pDev: 18.8%
Wants: 58
Gots: 83 | FT: 7
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: Dantes on 05-07-2004

No notes at this time.
View: Beers (22) | Events
Beer: Reviews & Ratings
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Reviews: 212 | Hads: 383
Photo of maximum12
3.53/5  rDev -14.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 4 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

Thanks to my lovely wife who gave this to me for Christmas over a year ago, along with two others from this series. This is the last, saved because I adore a good port. Short, slender 9.3 oz. bottle, 2007 vintage.

Pop the cap: if there was a whisper, I'd have needed to turn up my hearing aids to detect it. Pours a lovely copper piping into the glass, hypnotizing me so that I react an instant too late, & wind up with fist-sized yeast glaciers hovering in the now much darker liquid. Carbonation between non-existent & barely-imagined. After a puff of aroma after its release, the nose settles right where the head is, hard to detect. Straining, one might find sweet malts & a port bottle left open two doors down. Not much.

Harvest Ale (Port Cask) hides the port - but how? After hiding out from the nose, the port is the overwhelming taste here. Port/sherry/mild oxidation melt together into a tasty after-dinner treat. Brown sugar, white sugar, enveloping sweetness, candied caramel. Flatness is somewhat distracting, but this small bottle won't be any problem at all, thank you.

Taste is definitely the high point, but this scarcely tastes like beer at all, more like a port cut with brown sugar & water. But hey, I like port. I like brown sugar. Ergo, this is a good beer. 'Beer'.

UPDATE: just cracked open a 2008 & whether this was a better year or simply good younger, it's a good .25 points improved upon the older vintage. Everything: port, caramel, sweetness, unrefined sugar, are all brighter & stronger. Up to 'very good' territory.

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Photo of Zraly
4.2/5  rDev +1.2%
look: 2 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Brewed in 2010.

Chunky, tawny ale poured into my CCB snifter. Lots of sediment: no head and ugly as hell. Sounds like the makings of a good aged barleywine.

Smells like a good bottle of booze -- maybe the trub of a bottle of dessert wine. A bit of earth and dead, dried flowers. A touch of must. Something comforting about the combination of these things. I feel like putting on my slippers and lighting a fire. Maybe.

Sweet and earthy in flavor. Alcohol is buried so I fully expect to stumble when I get out of my chair. It's a sipper, but it goes down smooth. But she ain't cheap! $9 to make you holler.

A sweet, full-bodied mistress. She and blue cheese will make you swoon.

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Photo of dmattern
4.06/5  rDev -2.2%
look: 3 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

2008 vintage, $10.80 for 9.3oz bottle

Pours with basically no head, then come the chunks. You can avoid the majority of them, but either way some will find their way into your glass.

Smells like port, and a slight hint of malt.

Taste is quite good. Very sweet, its like someone blended a good barleywine with a little bit of port. After a few drinks, the alcohol becomes prevalent, but only as a warming sensation in your throat.

Mouthfeel is interesting, initially feels carbonated, then lays down to practically a syrup.

Overall an awesome beer, I would buy again, but not something you can drink more than one of. Actually, finishing the undersized bottle is a little much as it is so rich.

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Photo of BrownNut
3.99/5  rDev -3.9%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Brewed in 2005. Served nearly room temp in a tulip.

A - 3.75 - Rosy amber, dense off white head with a very aggressive pour, dissipates quickly. Tons of sediment.

S - 4 - Definitely smells of its port barrel. Hard to smell much else, but certainly malty.

T - 4 - Porty, sweet, malty, fruity. Surprisingly mellow for 11.5%, or perhaps not surprising given its age. The warmth doesn't appear until a while after you swallow - mild pleasant fumes coming up the throat.

M - 4 - Medium heavy, sticky

O - 4 - Overall not as complex as I'd hoped. The sweetness, port flavor, and mouthfeel make it slow sipper, which is always a welcome change. I feel like I'm drinking something more than a beer. It's nice enough and wins some originality points, but it's not interesting enough to buy again.

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Photo of BEERMILER12
4.24/5  rDev +2.2%
look: 1.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

Brewed in 2005, 275 mL bottle. Consumed on 01/24/13

A: Pours a murky brown color with huge yeast particles that both sink to the bottom and remain in suspension... One of the grossest looking beers I've ever seen (although I guess it's expected as this bottle is 7-8 years old)

S: Huge notes of sweet malts, along with definite port notes and some fruitiness. Alcohol come out quite a bit, but it goes nicely with the sweetness and port cask notes. Pretty damn complex

T: Don't even know where to start because this is so complex... Starts off with the usual sweet maltiness and slowly moves into a very pleasant fruitiness along with port cask notes, which adds a great depth. From there, some of the alcohol can be detected, but it doesn't taste anywhere near 11.5%. Finishes with more malty sweetness and a hint of port

M: Medium-full bodied with low carbonation. Very smooth

O: One damn fine English barleywine that only gets better with the port cask. Hugely complex and definitely a sipper. The only drawback is the appearance... GROSS. I can definitely look past that because of the complexity, though. Very pricey at nearly $1 an ounce, but worth it every once in a while

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Photo of Hoppsbabo
3.83/5  rDev -7.7%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 5 | overall: 3.75

I've got a 2004 bottle.

A: Cloudy dark ruby brown with a small off-white head of large bubbles. Some sediment.

S: Strong soy sauce and some port.

T: Flip me, it's sweeter than cherry pie. Poignant port, lots of soy sauce, dates & prunes and mountains upon mountains of sugar. Tastes a heck of a lot like cough syrup. It's a sipper, not because of the ABV but because of the outrageous levels of sugar. I cannot emphasis enough how sweet it is.

M: Very soft and juicy. Five for the mouthfeel.

O: Quality but not my cup of tea. I almost couldn't finish it.

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Photo of fdig23
4.12/5  rDev -0.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Tiny bottle.

Appearance: Cloudy copper with a tiny head.

Nose: Interesting blend of port and barleywine aromas. A bit of apple and smoky peat are present along with an intense almond paste aroma. Really nice combination.

Taste: Sweet sugary raisins, smoky campfire, almond paste, and apples. A bit of the barleywine's natural bready caramel notes are hiding behind the port characteristics.

Overall: Very nice pairing of barrel-aging and base beer. Preferred this version to the Calvados cask version.

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Photo of Brandywine
3.99/5  rDev -3.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4

2010 vintage poured into a tulip.
Appearance: Dark orange, super cloudy with some yeast flocculence. No head. Tons of alcohol legs.
Smell: Port, brandy, peach, pear, rum soaked fruits, caramel, wood, syrupy sweetness, candied apples, toffee.
Taste: Wood, brandy, apple juice. It's very smooth for 11.5%
Mouthfeel: Full and syrupy. Coats the tongue.
Overall: The nose shows up the taste on this one. There is a disappointing lack of complexity. It makes for a sweet, pleasant sipper but nothing exceptional. The tannic wood flavor also seems to dominate along with the sweetness.

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Photo of Alieniloquium
3.89/5  rDev -6.3%
look: 3 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

275 mL bottle poured into a Hunahpu snifter. 2005 bottle.

Appearance - The darkest of the Harvests that I've had. Mahogany with a few bubbles as I pour. They fade quickly as the chunks start to stream in.

Smell - Raisins and sweet dark fruits. Deep brown sugar and a nice red wine aroma keeps it from being too sweet.

Taste - Well, it's still really sweet. Raisins and brown sugar. Like brown sugar dissolved in the water. The port is not very prominent, but it seems to have tempered the sweetness. A little drier and a touch of red wine in the finish. Really, the port just gives a depth to the fruit flavors.

Mouthfeel - Still ungodly sweet, but it doesn't seem as oppressive here. Low carbonation.

Overall - The best barrel treatment I've had so far. The only one worth the money, I'd say.

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Photo of Dope
4.07/5  rDev -1.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

2009 bottle

A: Muddy red-brown pour with a tiny tan head. Almost no lacing. Lots of floaties.

S: Nice smooth fruity port. Melds nicely with the typical huge molasses and toffee that comes a JW Lees Harvest ale.

T: Hmm not bad. There is loads of syrupy sweet molasses and toffee still. Wonderfully smooth and fruity port melds perfectly with it though. Balances out the sweetness and smooths the flavors. Oaky on the finish.

M: Heavy and syrupy.

O: By far the best Harvest ale barrel treatment. Great balance of flavors. Still stupidly sweet but so much smoother and drinkable.

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Photo of ngeunit1
4.42/5  rDev +6.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

A - Pours a cloudy brown-orange with practically no head. The head fades down right away leaving behind no lacing.

S - Aroma is a mix of rich sweet caramel malts and toffee, with some dark grape port, oak, brown sugar, caramelized sugars, and booze.

T - Starts off with a mix of sweet dark grape and other dark fruit with sweet caramel malts and some caramelized sugars, brown sugar, and a bit of vanilla. Through the middle, some oak comes through with more port flavor alongside some more caramelized sugars. The finish is a mix of rich sweet caramel malts with oak and port, other dark fruit, brown sugar, a touch of sourness, and booze.

M - Medium-full bodied with mild carbonation. Feels smooth and a bit thick with a sweet and warming finish.

D - Very drinkable. The port adds some nice complexity to the base beer. Good overall balance.

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Photo of Jamesthebrit
4.62/5  rDev +11.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

2008 Version

A: Nice red orange color. Hazy, hints of brown. A little bit too many bubbles on this on.

S: A great balance on this one. Some good sweetness that compliments the oaky finish.

T: Wow. Much better than the other Harvest ales I've had. This one has some good earth notes. Pine. Wood really hits precisely. Alcohol is not very present. A great sweetness that maybe dominates a bit. Sharp finish.

M: Sits a little sour but otherwise thick and and perfect carbonation.

Overall a very solid beer. There are a lot of nice flavors but the sweetness overpowers a little.

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Photo of kylehay2004
4.09/5  rDev -1.4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A: no head on a deep brown murky body with lots of debris/precipitate floating in it.

S: port and red wine, sour cherry, tart fruit, and yes, A1 sauce.

T: very very sweet. I was expected sour or tart and though this one has a subtle tartness, it is mostly cherry and strawberry fruit sweetness. This one really took on the character of the port. It is the lead flavor as oppose to a "note". caramel and brown sugar notes.

M: light to medium body and very light carbonation.

Overall: all of these are hard to drink for me. Either too sweet or strong. This is a "sipping" beer and definitley worth a try.

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Photo of axeman9182
4.24/5  rDev +2.2%
look: 3 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

275 mL bottle of the 2009 vintage. It was allowed to warm before being poured into my Cigar City snifter.

Port Cask aged JW Lees pours an opaque mahogany. There's about half a finger of khaki colored foam topping the beer, and flashing just a little bit of head retention and lacing. There's a ton of sediment settling towards the bottom of the glass, more than I'd expect to come from such a small bottle. The port cask aging is very evident in the nose, lots of potent dark fruits like one would expect from port. There's just a hint of oxidation present, and some caramel aroma as well. The base barleywine shines through a little more in the flavor profile, balancing well against the port influence. Oxidation remains very much secondary/in the background. The body, while firmly malty, is miles away from syrupy, thanks in part to a spot on, mild carbonation. This iteration of JW Lees marries one of my favorite styles to one of my favorite barrel treatments, with predictably great results. I can't wait to try my hand at brewing something in this vein over the summer.

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Photo of Satchboogie
4.27/5  rDev +2.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

'05 vintage carefully decanted into a snifter

A: Pours dark caramel, very few floaties after decanting into a second glass, very little head that quickly dissipates. Looks very thick and sweet.

S: Very sweet, caramel apples and plums soaked in port wine. Not nearly as sweet nor oxidized as the regular '01 Vintage Ale I've had.

T: Overload of caramel, brown sugar, dark fruits, candied apple, and port wine. Big, bold flavor with a very long, sweet finish. There's still a little bit of a boozy bite up front with just a little burn in the back of the throat. Very malty with sweet breads, though you can definitely tell oxidation is starting to hollow out the malt backbone.

M: Very thick and smooth, silky sweet texture that coates the mouth extremely well to leave a very long finish. Little carbonation, just a touch more might make it more drinkable.

O: A fantastic desert beer that I enjoyed more than the '01 Harvest Ale I had last year. Seems to have just the right amount of time on it.

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Photo of kspongeworthy
4.09/5  rDev -1.4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

2010 bottle

Appearance: Half inch of foamy head dissapears in seconds. Murky dirty copper liquid that looks very thick. Lots of floaties. I would compare it with a tamarind based drink.

Aroma: Prunes and grapes soaked in red wine. Caramel and vanilla notes also. Very lovely.

Taste: Wine soaked wood chips with caramel, bitterness that stays for a while. More wood with faint vanilla and some kind of dark pitted fruit. Lots of things going on here.

Mouthfeel: Not much carbonation. Medium to high thickness. Not as viscous as it looks.

Overall: The aroma is fantastic, the taste complex and robust. It can be a little woodsy, but still drinkable. I have other bottles so I'll let them sit for a while and see how they change.

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Photo of dbrauneis
4.02/5  rDev -3.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Brewed in 2010

A: Pours a cloudy golden orange in color with significant amounts of visible sediment (yeast) in suspension. The beer has a half finger tall beige head that quickly reduces to a thin ring at the edges of the glass. Very light lacing is observed.

S: Some brown sugar malt sweetness, dark fruits - raisins and figs, and finally some port aroma as well. The beer has quite a sweet aroma and a slight hint of the oak.

T: The flavor of this beer is quite interesting... The beer starts out very sweet, almost cloying so with lots of malt sweetness including tastes of caramel and brown sugar. That is followed by the flavors from the port, sweet dark fruit. The finish of this beer is quite bitter and oaky with a much too dominant wood flavor (in my opinion).

M: Medium bodied with low to moderate amounts of carbonation.

O: Like the port whose casks this beer was aged in, this beer would be best served in a very small glass after dinner for sipping. I like the taste of this beer but it is a little too sweet and too high in ABV to be a beer that you could have multiple in a session.

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Photo of Cyberkedi
4.15/5  rDev 0%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Pours a dark, slightly hazy cola brown with a decent light tan head. Aroma has a strong overtone of miso plus a firm note of port and hints of malt and caramel. Malty, fruity flavor has an overtone of miso and an underpinning of wood - plus quite a bite from the alcohol and some woody bitterness. Texture is thick and smooth, not quite syrupy, a little lacking in fizz.

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Photo of harrymel
3.88/5  rDev -6.5%
look: 3 | smell: 5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Vintage 2010

Pours a near still appearing copper ale with some floaties that I saw come out of the bottle. I can smell the port from two feet away, really pleasant nose with figs, caramels, rich warm malts and the smell of something aged on lees with just an accent of alcohol. One of the better noses I've smelled. Only opens and gets better with temp. Flavor is a bit smoky with a little vegetal tone and some of the classic JW maltiness. The cask really didn't do the beer too much benefit flavor wise, there is a cheap, ruby porto quality to the finish. The body is syrupy with low carb and a long finish - spot on for the beer with just slightly too much viscosity.

Really a pleasant beer, but the flavor is not up to par with what I expect from this brewery.

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Photo of beerman240
4.54/5  rDev +9.4%
look: 3 | smell: 4 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

2005 batch..

A. Roughly same color as.bottle..molasses,a strong sweet tea.

Smell. Smells great..vanilla,grapey,maybe some earthy mushrooms.

Taste.. I really enjoy the sweetness with the alcohol. Reminds me of strong Bourbon or whiskey with big splash of Pepsi. Grilled plums.maybe over baked sweet potato with brown sugar.Would go great with cigar.

Mouthfeel.. not alot of fizz. Thick,juicey..enjoy!

Overall.. bought one in Birmingham Alabama..my home town..tomorrow I'm going back to buy all they have and ask them to buy more.. will take this punkin next hunting trip with cigar.. Cheers!

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Photo of claspada
3.67/5  rDev -11.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Bottle courtesy of brystmar, 2008 bottle

Pours a hazy amber color with a small off-white head that coats the glass with lace. Nice yeast "floaties" despite an extremely careful pour.

Aromas begin with a ton of caramel maltiness backed with copious amount of dried golden raisins and dried cherry tones with a touch of wood. A great deal of cardboard oxidation and sherry notes continue to emerge as it warms.

The tastes begin with a toffee flavor that builds into rich, rich butterscotch, coupled with lighter vinous grape and cherry tones; after the swallow the wood and port flavors kick in to mellow out the sweet flavors. There are wet cardboard and iodine flavors that I get with these J.W. Lees aged beers that is always slightly off-putting but is manageable here.

The mouthfeel is super bodied with low carbonation and some warmth down the gullet. Cloying in the finish to be honest and becomes less drinkable as it warms.

Overall I love quality Old Ales and English Barleywines but I am fed up with these J.W. Lees expensive syrupy disasters. They are all too sweet and just too much in the malt department. More like a cordial than a beer. I have tried several examples, but never again.

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Photo of Thorpe429
3.08/5  rDev -25.8%
look: 1.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

On cask at Pizza Paradiso in Dupont Circle. Served in a snifter.

Pours an insanely cloudy light turdish color. This seriously looked like dirty dishwater. It was really disgusting looking. After I got past that, it was decent, but not all that good. The nose had some nice port notes along with plenty of oak and a bit of oxidation. The flavor was more port and some sweetness with a bit too much oxidation, leading to a bit of cardboard. Medium body and close to flat. Sweetness and a bit of cardboard dryness. Really disgusting to look at, and an okay beer after that.

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Photo of mdvatab
4.5/5  rDev +8.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Brewed in '05.
Took 11.2oz bottle from cellar, and placed in the fridge for ~10 min., then poured into large red wine glass.

A: Sweet caramel, freshly-squeezed apple juice (not cidery, though), and a flash of booze. Lip-smackingly sweet.

A: Pours a clear light brown, between weak iced tea and apple juice. A slightly-over zealous pour sends chunks of yeast into the glass. I simply waited for the yeast to settle to the bottom of the glass. Next time, I'll be more careful when decanting, though. No head, but thick, clear legs drip down the inside of the glass.

F: Fruity, sugary sweetness with a touch of booze. Delicious caramel and vanilla through the middle, and an interesting candied yam note on the finish, with a touch of smoke. (I believe this is the port.) More than one bottle would become cloying quickly, but that initial glass is heavenly.

M: Medium-full, syrupy body. Low carbonation, but does not fall flat.

Overall: Again-- delicious! I will definitely be keeping a bottle of this on-hand for when I have the taste for a sure-fire winner. Highly-recommended for someone who likes their barleywines on the sweeter side! Cheers!

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Photo of beesy
4.17/5  rDev +0.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

2009 edition. Poured from a 11.2oz bottle into a pint glass.

a - pours a medium copper with a half finger off white head that dissipates quickly.
Learned my lesson on the amount of yeast trub in these and poured it easy and left enough in the bottle to avoid the yeast mishap with the 08 standard I reviewed a few weeks ago.

s - lots sweetness but not as sweet as the 08 standard. Malt. A noticeable sweet grape/wine aroma. Some oxidation type aromas typical of aged beers - not as stale smelling as the 2008 standard recently reviewed.

t - caramel sweetness mixed with lots of toffee and ULTRA malty with a very strong wheat flavor on the end. The port taste is fairly subtle, leaving some red wine flavors on your lips and showing up in the late palate. No hops or bitteness to speak of. A slight yeast profile in the latter palate. Alcohol detected but very subdued.

m - full bodied, but not as thick as I was expecting.

d - low for me, a tad too sweet but doesn't seem as sweet as the 2008 recently reviewed.

Overall, an interesting beer that has held up well - its seems 3 years might be the peak before it starts to fall off as compared to the 08, this was significantly less oxidized. A malt and wheat bomb with small amounts of the aging barrels present.

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Photo of cindyjeffsmith
4.02/5  rDev -3.1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Appearance: hazy amber.
Smell: oaky and sweet. Picking up something else, maybe imparted by the port. I'm a big port fan but this reminds without being obvious.
Taste: complex, full and much like the nose. Something a little odd in the finish I can't out my finger on.
Mouthfell: full and creamy.
Overall: have a few things I'm aging. Just had a 2002 harvest that was just awesome. I imagine some age will do the same for this.

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J.W. Lees Harvest Ale (Port Cask) from J.W. Lees & Co (Brewers) Ltd
92 out of 100 based on 212 ratings.