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

Not Rated.
J.W. Lees Vintage Harvest AleJ.W. Lees Vintage Harvest Ale

Educational use only; do not reuse.
BA SCORE
95
world-class

820 Reviews
THE BROS
100
world-class

(Read More)
Reviews: 820
Hads: 1,381
rAvg: 4.26
pDev: 13.62%
Wants: 253
Gots: 201 | FT: 15
Brewed by:
J.W. Lees & Co (Brewers) Ltd visit their website
United Kingdom (England)

Style | ABV
English Barleywine |  11.50% ABV

Availability: Year-round

Notes & Commercial Description:
Beer added by: Todd on 12-18-2000

No notes at this time.
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Beer: Reviews & Ratings
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Reviews: 820 | Hads: 1,381
Photo of jondeelee
5/5  rDev +17.4%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

The 1999 vintage of Harvest Ale begins with an aroma that radiates a good foot or so from the open bottle, and even from that distance the scent of cognac and sherry is heady. Upon closer inspection, the nose is redolent with raisins, port, fresh baguette, and fig.

On the tongue, the brew is thick and sugary, and all of the aromas translate almost directly into flavor: raisins, port, sherry, cognac, fig, prune. Add to these a massive, syrupy dose of brown sugar (touched with confectioner's sugar at the edges), hints of pecan, and fresh wheat, with just the faintest stroke of hops to help balance the sugars. The flavors last throughout most of the mouthful, with only the faintest hint of alcohol at the edges to give away the brew's 11.5% ABV. Just at the end the sugars peel back to reveal a bit more grain base. The aftertaste is a continuation of the body flavors, and lasts for a good while. Mouthfeel is a gloopy, definite "full," and carbonation is light, likely due to the age of the bottle.

Overall, this is amazing beer, and it's difficult to imagine more flavor crammed into one tiny bottle. This is a definite must-try for any beer enthusiast. Highly recommended.

***

The 2000 vintage bears many of the same initial aromas as the 1999--port, raisins, fig--but is slightly wilder, the extra year that the 1999 vintage has aged having tempered the brew in comparison. The ports and raisins in the 2000 vintage are noticeably stronger, for example, and it's difficult to discern any underlying bready notes because of it. Still, the aroma is intoxicating.

On the tongue, much the same commentary can be made: the same flavors are there as in the 1999, but stronger and less subtle and aged. In addition, the 2000 version's strong ports, cognacs and raisins are joined by a dark undercurrent of deeply-roasted malts--bordering on chocolate--that provides a nice, deep base that helps temper the sugars. The hops are also slightly more pronounced in the 2000 version, and are especially present as a light citrus buzz towards the end of the mouthful. The 11.5% ABV is also slightly more pronounced in the 2000 version, though is still for the most part deliciously contained by the massive levels of sugars. Mouthfeel is thick and creamy, and carbonation is medium-light.

Overall, given the choice, I'd prefer the 1999, as the extra year of aging has definitely improved the flavors. Don't get me wrong: the 2000 is still an absolutely amazing beer. But if given another bottle of it, I'd cellar it for at least a year or two. (2,550 characters)

Photo of pat61
5/5  rDev +17.4%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

L: Pours bright dark chestnut topped with a thin white film.
S: Malt, raisins and port aromas.
T: Has a sweet port quality loaded with raisins, alcohol and a slight prune and a hint of bread and caramel.
F: Chewy, low carbonation.
O: This is the 2006 vintage also had the 2005 vintage which leaned more to sherry than port. Both are excellent. (347 characters)

Photo of kindacold
5/5  rDev +17.4%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

2001 Limited Edition

WOW. First impression came from the dark reddish color. No head at all. Held it up to the light, just a beautiful red.

Then I smelled it and I knew I was going to be in for a treat. It smelled sweet and a bit spicy.

Then I took a sip. It took me a second to realize that I wasn't drinking a sherry. I really had to do a double take. It was a bit syrupy and very sweet. Absolutely amazing.

I split the bottle with my cousin, who was kind enough to bring it for sampling. Let's just say I owe him big. (524 characters)

Photo of Beerandboards
5/5  rDev +17.4%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

2000 vintage, reviewed 12/29/12

Poured into a snifter

Appearance is dark caramel brown, like the color of dried dates (kind of an obscure reference, but it's honestly the best comparison I can think of). Pours a two finger head, even at 12 years old, but dissipates quickly to some whispy foam on top. Beer looks great, the almost opaque brown shows some golden brown on the edge when tilted against the light.

S - vanilla, caramel and earthy notes dominate when the beer is cold, as it warms up it some dark fruit, ripe apples and pears start to come out. It's crazy complex, smells phenomenal.

T - follows right along the nose. Tons of rich and thick caramel dominates at first, vanilla notes come in on the back end. Again, as it warms up the dark fruit come in, ripe red apple. Brown sugar. Like the smell, just amazingly deep and complex. Finish is silly smooth, some honey notes. It's freaky how tasty this beer is.

M - low low carb. Medium thickness. Perfect vehicle for the flavors going on. Can't find any fault.

O - I'm trying to figure out how not to give 5 across the board here. I cant think of a single improvement that needs to be made. This is a special occasion sipper that I can easily spend an hour enjoying. Just absolutely crazy good.

This is my first venture into JW Lees, I got this as part of a sweet BIF box from nlmartin (thanks again buddy). I will definitely be looking out for other vintages, but I don't know how any other year could be any better. 12 years of age set the bar very high. (1,526 characters)

Photo of ktrillionaire
5/5  rDev +17.4%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

Big thanks to Bobby8405 for splitting this delicious brew with me. 1998 vintage.

A - Amazing, perfect looking, near-black with tan head and blots of lacing everywhere

S - Chocolate, toffee, caramel, hazelnut, coffee, but not in the way that they are usually present. More than unusually sublime.

T - Very delicious, super-sweet and candy-like; everything about this brew is phenomenal. The definition of smoothness. I cannot detect any alcohol. Loads of big chocolate flavor that segues into caramel, maple and toffee notes seamlessly, and the complexity and richness can't be overstated.

M - Amazing rich velvety texture, and the still-present carbonation is at a near-perfect level.

D - I guess this is too sweet for certain occasions. Other than that, it is amazing.

Update: Time and time again, I am blown away by this beer. '97 and '99 are particularly good. (869 characters)

Photo of nlmartin
5/5  rDev +17.4%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

This beer was the 2000 vintage. The beer was poured into a wide mouthed wine goblet.

Appearance: The beer poured a very lovely ruby coppery coloration. The head was about a finger thick off honey coloration. The head quickly resolved into a ring of foam. Specks of lacing remained on the glass.

Smell: The beer smelled of fresh doughnuts very fruity and sweet. Honey nutty cloves swam in the smell. There is no trace of the alcohol in the smell.

Taste: This is just a wonderful beer drinking experience. The beer is way malty sweet; however, the beer doesnt even come close to being cloyingly oversweet. The beer taste bready with a malty wheat taste. THe beer taste of nutty honey combinations. There is not trace of the alcohol in the taste.

Mouthfeel: This beer is just simply the master of the palate. The beer is supper full bodied. The beer has a very silky buttery mouthfeel. If I did not know this beer was 11.5% I wouldnt be able to tell in the consumption.

Drinkability: This beer is a very dangerous drinking experience. It is the kind of beer that should be a savor and sip beer. I just couldnt keep my hands off of the beer. I am not a religious man in any since of the word. I think I know at last what a religious experience feels like. I dont believe in God but I believe in the Beer Gods. (1,320 characters)

Photo of Joecaddie
5/5  rDev +17.4%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

1999 vintage bottle served in Weyerbacher tulip.

A - Reddish brown with very little head when poured out of the bottle.

S - Sweetness with caramel and alcohol tones.

T - Very well balanced, malt, caramel with hidden alcohol taste.

M - Perfect carbonation for this style, thick and malty but extremely smooth.

D - This is a very easy beer to drink and must hold back to take small sips of it. Truly one of the best barleywines that I have ever had. (452 characters)

Photo of Viggo
5/5  rDev +17.4%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

Vintage 1997. The most spectacular beer I've ever had the pleasure of trying. Pours a pretty clear mahogany brown, with a small thick tan head, spotty lace and plenty of legs. Smell is mollasses, vanilla, super malty, grape, plum/raisin, little bit of alcohol, very vinous. Taste is bitter chocolate/coffee, raisins, plums, dates, spice, figs. Mouthfeel is very full bodied, low carbonation. Fucking amazing, and bottled the same year i graduated elementary school! Thanks DrJay! (479 characters)

Photo of shippos
5/5  rDev +17.4%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

1997 vinatge, 275ml bottle, sampled 12-04-2003

poured with a dark ruby amber color with a thick dense tannish head that kept producing even to the last drop. chocolaty sugary aroma with wood vanilla molasses and brown sugar showing through. has a rich mocha chocolate taste with an excellent thick but not not syrupy mouthfeel. for 11.5% this is amazingly hidden and just enough hops to give a little balance to the huge amount of malt but restrained enough to let the malt be the dominant flavor in this beer.

this is an amazing beer, the past 6 years have done this beer wonder. you just can't get any perfect than this. 5.0

1998 vintage, sampled on 04-11-2004

has a more pronounced vinous sour wine-like aroma that completely envelops the malt aromas. huge sugary sweet taste, brown sugar chocolate...chewy with an warmth of alcohol in the finish. 4.4 (867 characters)

Photo of DrJay
5/5  rDev +17.4%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

Vintage 1997:
This beer poured a deep ruby red, mostly clear, and was topped by a thin reddish brown head made up of extremely fine bubbles that produced tiny dots of lace throughout. It was intensely malty, with plum and raisin balancing sweet toffee and caramel, all very English in character. Hints of molasses and vanilla crept in as well. The first flavour that hit me was chocolate covered figs, followed by malty sweet toffee and caramel with some nuttiness. Tobacco, plum and raisin character all appeared, creating a very complex flavour. There was even a bit of bitterness left to balance the overall sweet flavour. The very low carbonation was incredibly fine and completely integrated into the body and texture, which was incredibly smooth. Just a bit of stickiness remained. Drinking this beer was an incredible experience. It felt incredibly light on the palate, almost like there was nothing there, and the flavours were amazing. (945 characters)

Photo of russwbeck
5/5  rDev +17.4%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

1987 Vintage, enjoyed on 4/10/12 at Monk's Cafe Beers of the Cellar event. I was born in 1988, so this is pretty cool.

It's a beautiful, very deep dark ruby pour that is completely clear and devout of head. 5

I was just bombarded by the aroma at first. This is a big change from the sours we've been working on. It smells very roasty and velvety smooth. Caramel, molasses, and a blend I only expect from perfectly aged beers. Is this melted toffee or is it alcoholic? 5

Guys this is, wow, a completely new experience with beer. I'm just, blown away. Toffee, caramel, butter, slight roast, melted candy-like taste that stands on its own. A 25 year old beer that is just out of this world. I can't believe it. 5+

It feels like velvety chocolate on the palate. Absolutely sweet, drinkable, and delicious. For the first time tonight I'm getting hints of booze. 5

Paired with a steak culotte, my drinking buddy noted he's getting a balsamic vinegar type taste here, sweet and dark, and I don't disagree. The steak and leaks have a great flavor and pair wonderfully. Apparently steak culotte is a very difficult meat to cook, and I’ve never had it. Still rare in the middle, this meat is really melt in your mouth good. The food has been out of this world do far. Ladies and gentlemen here you have it, my first and probably only perfect 5. Perfect pairing, setting, look, aroma, taste, and feel. It's like I've reached a plateau. I hope I'm wrong. 5 (1,451 characters)

Photo of roadhouse
5/5  rDev +17.4%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

Poured from a 9.3 oz. bottle into a tulip snifter. 2005 vintage.

Appearance is a slightly hazy copper color with a half inch off-white head, even with a pour straight into the glass. Tons of sediment in the bottom of the bottle that I refused to drink for fear of the morning shits. Loss of an ounce and a half or so. Lacing is basically nonexistent.

Aroma is very complex. There's a brown sugary sweetness overall with hints of candied fruit, figs, raisins, and a bit of alcohol.

The taste is even more intense than the aroma. Huge sweetness up front again it's quite brown sugary, but also somewhat like toffee. Lots of figgy, raisiny fruitiness that is complimented by a taste that I can't quite put my finger on other than it being a sweet doughiness, that dominates the finish. Maybe a touch of tobacco in the linger.

Mouthfeel is medium-full bodied, thick and chewy, with a fairly light carbonation lending to a soft feel.

This exceeded my expectations greatly. The only thing I regret is not buying it sooner.
---
I had the chance to drink a 1988 Harvest Ale not too long ago and just had to write that it was the most amazing thing I have ever tasted. 22 years on it and it was sublime. It was the same flavor character as previously described but everything was just working perfectly together. Perfection indeed. (1,328 characters)

Photo of JC5886
5/5  rDev +17.4%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

One of my favorite beers of all time. Got the 2006 bottle. Looks syrupy, thick, sugary with specks in it. Amber darker brown color. Smell is on point, like dark fruits. Taste is Incredibly. Sugary, dark fruits, light alcohol, oily, malty with nice hop aftertaste. Mouthfeel is thick and warming. Drinkability is very high for the high Alcohol level. In my top 10 beer list. (373 characters)

Photo of rye726
5/5  rDev +17.4%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

'99, lovely vintage.

Great looking beer, hazy reddish brown color that has a slight glow and a silky tan head. Nice lace along my glass.

Nose has lots of ripe fruits, caramel, toffee, bready malts, pecans, brandy and peppery alcohol.

So complex. A perfect blend of rich nutty malts, dark fruits, rich candies, cognac and sherry.

Thick, silky body with delicate carbonation. Lovely brew. Well aged.

Other Vintages(All sampled around the same time)

1998- (4.9) Just as good or better than the '99 aside from the aroma which is slightly dulled.

2002: (4.8) Good, but stil needs a few years of of maturing. The flavors and aromas have not yet reached full complexity. The body and color don't share the same richness as older vintages.

2007: (4.7) Young, still an amazing ale. Just doesn't have the same complexities and body lacks the same depth. (854 characters)

Photo of ZAP
5/5  rDev +17.4%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

F#@ck Yeah!!! I love drinking a GREAT beer for the first time...OUTSTANDING....High in alcohol...the type you want to sip, but the type you can't keep your hands away from grabbing the minute you put it down..fascinating drinking experience....I get a sweet fruity nose with some hints of brown sugar and molasses....the taste is incredible...huge dark fruits...definitely plum...maybe some prunes...dark cherries...the brown sugar is there...as is the molassis....and dare I say some odd hints of coconut....the nose immediately reminded me of a champagne or wine or something...the flavor though is more like a port...or Brandy with a nice hit of brown sugar...this is one of those beers that transcendes the entire beer drinking experience....there is no Barley Wine finer.. (778 characters)

Photo of porterja
5/5  rDev +17.4%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

I've had the privilege of having the 1999 and 2006 versions of the J.W. Lees Vintage Harvest Ale, a beer recommended highly by a close friend of mine, that seemed to appear out of nowhere. I didn't really know what to expect, but as soon as I cracked the cap off of the bottle, I was overcome by the sweet aroma of fermented apples. Then I partook and was completely blown away. Halfway through the bottle, I turned to my friend and told him with all seriousness that the J.W, Lees Vintage Harvest Ale was the best beer I have ever tasted, and this is coming from someone who has indulged in the pleasures of the Westvleteren 12. If this isn't enough reason to pick this beauty up next time you visit your local bottleshop, I'll do my best to describe its components:

My original thought when drinking the J.W. Lees Vintage Harvest Ale was it tastes like a more realized (and better carbonated) Lost Abbey Angel Share. This is primarily due to its pervasive caramel taste, and its syrupy consistency.

A: reddish, golden brown.

S: sweet, fermented fruit, namely apples. spices.

T: perfect balance of caramel, honey, dark fruits, apples, a hint of cinnamon, very much a barleywine.

M: HUGE presence, due to the viscous, syrupy honey nature of the beer.

D: it's delicious, sweet, well-balanced, and complex, but it'd be difficult to drink more than one of these in one sitting.

I recommend this beer highly, and predict that it will soon rapidly climb to at least the top 20 of the Best of BA, so if you're looking for a delicious beer to meet your every expectation, look no further beer enthusiasts, the J.W. Lees Vintage Harvest Ale has arrived! (1,653 characters)

Photo of Budinetz
5/5  rDev +17.4%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

Vintage 2007 poured into a Teku glass.

A- amazing color on this brew. Very uncharacteristic of the style, but definitely a beautiful straw colored hue with a tight cream colored head that stays for quite a while after pouring. It almost looks as if it was nitrogen infused. Minimal lacing present but some does stick to the glass and due to the active yeast in the bottle it has some fizziness after pouring, much like a sparkling wine/cider. Some sediment present, so be careful when pouring vintages 5 years and beyond.

S- smells of grain, malt, cane sugar, and bread. Has a nice bouquet of malty tones, some yeast, and straw. Almost detect a funkiness like brettanomyces, but not quite.

T- flavors of molasses, caramel, barley, and very biscuity. Refreshing carbonation, not too overbearing. Very smooth on the palate. No boozy alcohol aftertaste at all, which is quite impressive for an 11.5% abv beer. Quite possibly one of the best beers I've had the pleasure of consuming.

M- very smooth on the tongue. Very light, refreshing carbonation that drinks through the head and does not leave any slickness on the tongue or unpleasant feeling in the mouth. Very little to no burn from the high abv, which is yet again impressive.

O- overall, a very well rounded brew with an awesome flavor, a warming abv, but none of the unpleasant after effects of many other brews. Definitely worth aging for years to come! I have two...one I will crack open in another 5 years or so. Enjoy! (1,484 characters)

Photo of tewaris
5/5  rDev +17.4%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

11.2 oz bottle (1999 vintage) poured into a 25 oz snifter on November 23, 2010 at room temperature.

Opened with a hiss! Pours clear and deep ruby-garnet, with a big bubbly light tan head with good head retention and some lacing. Even after 11 years in the bottle, it looks just fine. That's something considering many (other) beers from 2005 or later have the been reported to have the most gross looking sediment at this point. I have had this beer and its other versions before and have seen some floating chunks but this particular bottle had none. Regardless, looks wise it's a 5/5.

The aroma of this beer is like none other in terms of strength. The most prominent notes are of figs, dates and raisins, and of dark caramel, toffee and brown sugar, with some alcohol in the background. This is a familiar aroma, or at least the notes are if not their exact combination, but it is the strength of this intense malty and dried, dark fruity aroma that makes this ale exceptional! The dark sweetness practically jumps out of the glass and keeps inviting to take a sip.

The taste has notes identical to smell, just stronger. Although there were no hops whatsoever in the aroma, there's a nice cleansing bitterness that comes from hops but feels similar to the slight bitterness and slight astringency of dates and figs. Starts quite sweet followed by the said bitterness and some vinous character in the middle and finishes exceptionally clean for its sweetness. The finish is long with an excellent dried fruit flavor. Overall very well rounded and complex. The body is medium with low carbonation and excellent drinkability! This ale offers a great flavor experience and its taste meets and exceeds the expectations set by aroma.

One of my favorites and one of the best I ever had, this ale was an eye opener for me that showed me the level of complexity and deliciousness a malt forward beer could achieve without losing its balance. (1,943 characters)

Photo of Firkin-Bunghole
5/5  rDev +17.4%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

This is the "beer" that both inspired my user name and converted me into the world of craft beer. Here's my story if anyone cares to read. Time to spread the Karma around.
Back in May 2009 an ignorant 33 year old man (ME) thought craft beer was buying Guinness, Harp & Heineken. His friend "the Enlightened One" told him of a Craft Beer Fest. Fortunately, the ignorant one was smart enough to purchase a ticket and despite his ignorance was allowed entry through the door.

During the week before, the ignorant one started to read Beer Advocate and learned this event would have a firkin of a 12 year old JW Lees (1999). The ignorance permeated my brain: Beer that is 12 years old would be bad. Only when I started to read the reviews of BA here did I start to understand my ignorance.

On the day of 10 tasting tickets were provided to sample and luckily for me the "Enlightened One" guided me and I went to the firkin first. At this time the epiphany happened. I had 3 samples from the Firkin and my eyes started to open to the amazing world of craft beer.

This beer was perfect in every way. From the hammering of the wooden firkin to the cask pour to the smell of dark fruits/caramelized sugars to the syrupy full mouthfeel without any unnecessary head or carbonation. My words can't even begin to describe the depth of my experience. Heck I'm not a writer and only starting to learn how to be a BeerAdvocate.

Lastly, I can't even begin to thank JW Lees enough. Maybe 1 person will read this or the other reviews here and pick up a bottle of this. This beer is special! At $9.99 bottle its bargain priced. If ever in my life a firkin comes near Albany, NY again I'll be there. Cheers to all. (1,701 characters)

Photo of Darkale
4.97/5  rDev +16.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

This is an amazing beer. Cloudy, rich orange-brown in appearance with an aroma of deep and smoky sweetness. Perhaps the best, cool-and-pearly-caramel-smooth mouthfeel of any beer I've ever had. Literally, a stunning beer -- you sip it, and stop, and regard it and your response to it, marveling that something this good can be had so relatively cheaply (over $8 a bottle in my city, but my God, who cares). If you have an affection for barleywines, this cannot be allowed to pass you by. To me, the alcohol was wonderfully hidden, and I could have sipped it for hours.

NOTE: 1998 Vintage. (589 characters)

Photo of GbVDave
4.97/5  rDev +16.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

Poured from a 9.6oz bottle into a Caracole tulip. Extra special thanks to Killer for giving this to me after laying it down for 10 years!

1997 Vintage

A: Pours a dark and opaque, burnt-orange highlighted brown with a tiny hint of a khaki-colored head which quickly disappears to a faint, swirly skim and unbreakable ring.

S: Huge aromas of tobacco, caramel, rum soaked raisins, plums, molassas, oak, chocolate, bourbon, and cherry. As it warms, a slightly boozy alcohol aroma emerges. It only adds another layer of complexity to this wonderful beer.

T: Sweet oaky caramel and tobacco hit my tongue right off the bat. After this I'm greeted by a rush of dark fruit, sherry, chocolate covered cherry, pear, tart apple, coconut, dark chocolate, and finally, spicy hops.

M: Smooth, slick, and oily, but not syrupy. Very sweet and coating with a spicy hop bite towards the finish.

D: Absolutely incredible! This a perfect example of a beer that's completely inoffensive to the palate yet hugely interesting and compelling. I loved the tobacco aroma and flavor. Once again, hats off to Killer. Thanks brother! (1,110 characters)

Photo of DaveHS
4.97/5  rDev +16.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

Vintage 2008

A-Pours an attractive hazy chestnut amber with a thin, bubbly creamy white head that reduces in a matter of moments, leaving a few soapy streaks of lacing.

S-Strong aromas of mulled cider dominate the nose. On closer inspection there's an unrefined brown sugar sweetness, along with the evocative aromas of freshly tilled dirt, fruitcake and blackstrap molasses. I've rarely ever smelled a barley wine as cohesive and beautifully composed as this.

T/M-The first sip washes over the tongue with stony, mineral rich flavors of dirt and molasses. A few swirls across the palate reveal more of this beer's remarkable complexity. Dried fruit and maple candy flavors intermingle with a delicate smokiness reminiscent of peated malt. Dense molasses sweetness runs from beginning to end, culminating in a thin, lingering finish that leaves you wanting more.

O-A unique and special barley wine worthy of revisiting on special occasions. (945 characters)

Photo of PatrickJR
4.97/5  rDev +16.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

Re-review. Original posted below.

Poured from a 9.3 oz bottle into oversized snifter. 1999 Vingate.

A - Dark, molasses-like brown, almost completely opaque with the tiniest bit of light coming through. Large 2 finger, light tan head rises. Retention is moderate, moderate lacing as well. Good looking for a 10 year old brew.

S - Literally this stuff smells like a cross between a gingerbread and chocolate chip cookie. Lots of dark bread with massively sweet overtones. Bananas, vanilla, and almonds are all prevelant with moderate doses of brown sugar and spice. Slight sourish aroma of prunes/plums hiding in the background, but much lower levels of dark fruit aromas than expected.

T - Starts off like a scoop of ridiculously vanilla vanilla ice-cream. Brown sugar and bread hit next. Sweet dark bread covered with caramel; residual vanilla and hints of chocolate pull through. Slight nuttiness. Sweet bread leads into slight fruitiness, though indistinct. The beer dries out by about half late palate with low to moderate levels of oxidation and a slight bitterness. Finish is slightly peppery (from the masked alcohol I presume) with hints of cinnamon and wood.

M - Full-bodied and syrupy with just a touch of carbonation. Smooth as can be and the perfect vehicle for this liquid desert.

D - All around amazing stuff. What I found most interesting between this brew and the 2 year old beer I previously reviewed is the relative lack of dark fruit flavors. The dessert qualities of vanilla and brown sugar override the ciderish, apple, and overripe dark fruits found in the younger brew. Alcohol is also much more masked and mellowed in the senior beer, hence a total lack of rum/brandy flavors mentioned in the original review. All things said, I'm convinced the more age on this beer the better; at least up to 10 years because this is fantastic stuff.

---

Original Review from 06.23.08

Poured from a 9.3 oz bottle into oversized snifter; 2006 Vintage.

My first thought: wow, this is beer??!!

A - 4.0 - Murky brown with big chunks floating around. No head or lacing, expected with the ABV and the age.

S - 5.0 - Rich dark rum, somewhat brandy-like. Apple cider comes to mind as well with other over-ripe stone fruit. Cola and darker fruits make their way in as well. Wonderful.

T - 5.0 - Rum like flavors abound, with a very molasses/brown sugar sweetness. Vanilla and rotten apples work their way in mid palate and begin mingling with oak and charred wood. A subtle but obvious charred flavor wraps up the taste with huge residual sweetness. Very slight bitterness and a smokey BBQ flavor make for the long, sweet aftertaste. It's really hard to believe this came from barley.

M - 4.5 - Smooth, and rich, with only the tiniest suggestion of carbonation.

D - 4.5 - For such a huge beer, it drinks very well. I wouldn't pound these down in an evening with friends, but I could probably make it through quite a few just sipping it away. The alcohol is very well hidden, even moreso than a lot of average session beers. A delicious beer and something that should be experienced by all. To hell with the price tag though!

Overall: 4.7, A+ (3,157 characters)

Photo of faernt
4.97/5  rDev +16.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

I tried some of the 1980's vintages and was disappointed. This is 2000 and it's wonderful. It smells good from two feet away. It's huge! Al K Hall (we all know him) aroma is attractive. I get raisins and caramel ( again from two feet away) The mouthfeel is velvet. This is the nightcap beer! Stock up. (301 characters)

Photo of Estarrio
4.97/5  rDev +16.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

2001 Vintage

Poured dark mahogany into a Chimay glass. There is quite a bit of visible yeast and sediment, along with some visible carbonation. There is nearly no head at all, except for some very fine lacings.

This is simply one of the most aromatic brews that I've had the pleasure of enjoying. In fact, I can make out the delightful fragrance of this beer while the glass is still on the table before me. The heavenly scents include ridiculous amounts of sweet malt, honey, caramel, doughy yeast esters, raisin, grape, plum, clove and a spicy, alcohol bite.

If I have come close to tasting the nectar of the gods, it was while drinking this beer. All of the complexities of the aroma are noted in the smooth, divinely balanced flavor. You could easily lose yourself in the multitude of delicious tastes. Sweet malt, brown sugar, molasses, honey, caramel, vanilla, dark fruit esters, sweet raisin, tart cherry, clove, spices and some wood notes. The alcohol flavor is extremely well masked.

The viscous, light syrup consistency is balanced on the palate by just enough carbonation for a gratifying mouthfeel.

This is simply the most drinkable beer over ten percent alcohol that I've yet to imbibe.

This is by far my favorite barley wine and one of my favorite brews period. I've begun filling my cellar with as many bottles of this wondrous liquid that I can get my greedy hands on. (1,404 characters)

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J.W. Lees Vintage Harvest Ale from J.W. Lees & Co (Brewers) Ltd
95 out of 100 based on 820 ratings.