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

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BA SCORE
95
world-class

817 Reviews
THE BROS
100
world-class

(Read More)
Reviews: 817
Hads: 1,361
rAvg: 4.26
pDev: 13.62%
Wants: 252
Gots: 199 | FT: 14
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: 817 | Hads: 1,361
Photo of brentk56
4.85/5  rDev +13.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

2000 Bottling

Appearance: Pours out a dark amber color with a modest head that dissipates and leaves little lace; not surprising for this type of beer

Smell: Gosh, where to begin...rum-soaked candied fruit, honey, caramel, tobacco

Taste: A very complex liqueur washes over the tongue, almost like drambuie, but not as sweet or alcoholic; flavors of sugary burnt fruits such as apricots, raisins, pears, prunes and then some tobacco bitterness strikes up to balance the sweetness through to the finish

Mouthfeel: Thick and syrupy; moderate carbonation

Drinkability: One small bottle would last an entire evening; a wonderful concoction

Got to try the fabled 1998 bottling on 9/21/12 and was blown away by how tasty a 14 year old beer could be (748 characters)

Photo of beergeek279
4.85/5  rDev +13.8%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

1997 vintage, served in a 275 mL bottle, into a goblet. The color is a dark amber-brown, with a wispy beige head. The smell is a nice porty malt/alcohol. The taste is very flowery malt sweet, with a good mellow hop in the taste and a slightly bitter finish. Mouthfeel is syrupy thick. As for drinkability, if I could find em and afford em, I'd drink these till I fell flat on my face.

Thank you to mydeadguy for the beer for my 500th Karma Point. A simply fantastic barleywine, easily one of the world's best, smooth like a port wine yet with a nice but not harsh alcohol and hop kick to it. Definitely one I'd look for in the future!! (638 characters)

Photo of Bighuge
4.85/5  rDev +13.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

2000 vintage. This beer is a murky looking deep scarlet color. A slight brown head edges the glass. Very sweet caramel candy aroma. Also get cherry and wood on the nose. These Harvest Ales never cease to amaze me. This is the third vintage I've tried over the past month and they were all wonderful. This beer is so damn smooth for 11.5 a/v. These Harvest ales are truly works of art. This beer is vinous and heavy on the fruits and sweet characteristics. Dark cherry and plum. Vanilla extract. Candied apple. Dry cedar. The more I sip this the more I feel the dominant taste here is cherry-vanilla. Wow. It's great. The mouthfeel is a titch syrupy and almost a full bodied brew. But this is a highly drinkable beer given it's a/v. Another winner from JW LEES.

1998. Appearance is dark burgandy. Thin laced off-white head. The nose is piney, malty and perfumey. And oh yeah, alcohol is there too. My oh my is all I can say when this beer hits the palate. Beautiful. Surprisingly, I get no sign of alcohol whatsoever. And this is 11.5 a/v. This is an incredibly smooth and easy drinking barleywine. This is my first experience with JW LEES and it is very positive. I seem to get some spicing on the palate. Sweet spices like cinamon. This beer has a really nice sweet taste to it. Fairly low on bitterness. Very little aftertaste. This beer is almost a Masterpiece of the Brewing Art.

1997. The beer pours a deep garnet with a decent head. Unbelievable sweet fruity tones on the nose. And some alcohol and brown sugar. The taste is very sherry like. Very nice. Residual sugars are evident. Tastes of brown sugar and candied apple. Very nice taste. A little bitterness perceived. Alcohol is present but not overbearing. This is very good, but the '98 vintage I had a couple nights ago was better. (1,815 characters)

Photo of nomad
4.85/5  rDev +13.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

1988 vintage

Blowing the dust off of the little nip bottle, this beer poured flat but a lack of carbonation is expected after 15 years of aging. Most surprising was its very dark brown color, much darker than any other vintage I've encountered, especially in its thick body shading toward translucent.

Smelled of a sherry or port profile, impossibly lean but impenetrably complex. Had big notes of butterscotch, dark honey, rum, and each truly so. These are the most recognizable out of the stealthy and heady mix; tough to paint the picture of its scent in more than large strokes. Enough to say that it is quite nice, maybe muddled, and lacking the dizzying pungency of younger vintages.

The taste is just as complex and lean, immediately giving off flavors of buttery rum and hops that have turned into alchol infused floral fruits with aged bitterness. Has a smooth and caramelized sweetness with a buttery touch with opening, and distinct from the rum notes. Like younger bottles, this beer is still malty first then hop cleansing in the finish, though most impressive is the dark alcoholic roastiness that becomes almost mocha-like. Again, so complex, thick, but sleek that its hard to be exacting - instead you get a supreme drinking experience.

A slick, thick, and smooth mouthfeel like none other, after aging for 15 years this is a heavenly syrup. The heights of aged beer, standing up to any liqueur, this is the beer I use to wow my friends that are uninitiated to beer. I would not enjoy vintages older than this, and I never venture younger than 4-year old bottles - maybe 7 to 11 years is the peak.

A comforting beer every time out, so my scores reflect other vintages as well as the particular one reviewed. Thanks to JimD for the assist on the bottle of 1988. (1,794 characters)

Photo of DagFishHead
4.84/5  rDev +13.6%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

1997 release
Appearance: Clear but deep ruby-mahogany body. Decent, fizzy tan colored head that fades to a very thin but unbroken cap.
Smell: Sherry, oaky, port-wine, fusel alcohol, carmelized malt sugars, dark/ripe fruits. Stunningly complex.
Taste: Stunningly delicious... Molasses, sweet toffee malt, dark cherries, raisins to start, Sherry/port vinous character at the top. Dries with hop bitterness that allows a figgy/prune fruit aftertaste to linger. So big, but so balanced and level controlled.
Mouthfeel: Viscous, knife-and-fork chewy yet does not over-saturate the taste buds, gentle carbonation and warm/numbing alcohol glow. Incredibly smooth and velvety
Drinkability: For me, this will be a barleywine style standard. Too pricey for extended drinking, but worth every penny. Will seek this out every Xmas... and thus begins my true appreciation for aged ales. (878 characters)

Photo of phisig137
4.84/5  rDev +13.6%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

1998 Vintage poured vigarously into a tulip, produces a thin 1/2 finger head on top of a murky reddish brown body. Head falls quickly, and doesn't leave any lacing.

Aroma is massive. Burnt sugar, caramel, dark fruit, chocolate, figs, alcohol, and tobacco are present in abundance.

The flavor is simply incredible here. One of the most complex beers that I have ever tasted, hands down. Huge notes of vanilla, cherries, caramel, toasted grain, wood, raw sugar, honey, and others fill your mouth, and change as you drink it. Everything in there is incredibly concentrated, to the point that this tastes like a "beer reduction". I can't even begin to pick out everything in there... the complexity and concentration are making my head spin. Alcohol is present, but not overwhelmingly. Mouthfeel is very thick, heavy, and syrupy. Drinkability is pretty good, but I wish that it were not... this is meant to be savored for a couple of hours.

I paid $7.99 for this bottle, and now that I've tasted it, I would gladly pay double that. I really find it interesting how this changes the more you drink, and are able to pick up on more and more subtle nuances. Despite the fact that this is already 8 years old, I could easily see this going for at least another five years.

Without a doubt, one of the 5 best beers that I have ever had. (1,333 characters)

Photo of xgrigorix
4.84/5  rDev +13.6%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

Brown 275 ml bottle, 1997 vintage (10 years old).

Rich, dense burnished amber topped by a thin white halo.

Wonderful aroma of nuts, alcohol and dried fruit.

Layers of tropical fruit, raisins, lush malt, oranges, rum, and plums. Finishes sweet but not cloying. Moderate bitterness. Rich and syrupy, with incredibly easy carbonation. (334 characters)

Photo of rinhaak
4.84/5  rDev +13.6%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

1999 Vintage.

Nose is musty with loads of sherry, oak, wood notes, alcohol. Amazing mouth with prunes, raisins, brown sugar, brandy, and a maple finish. Smooth as velvet in the mouth, and despite drinking like a dessert beer, there isn't a cloying sweetness.

This would be perfect with a creme boule or fine dessert. Amazing beer through and through. (352 characters)

Photo of Naerhu
4.84/5  rDev +13.6%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

2002 vintage consumed in August of 2004.

Amber clear beer with no head and no visible carbonation.
Massive sweet caramel aromas. Toffee and huge herbacous bouquet of hops.

Massive caramel and toffee flavors. This is a masterpiece. Maple syrup and molasses.

The 11.5% alcohol is aparent but integrated. Richness, silkyness and bitterness, this is a fantasy beer.

It took me 2 hours to finish one, but it was a lovely two hours. (441 characters)

Photo of NittanyBeerFan
4.83/5  rDev +13.4%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

All tastings poured into tulip glasses...

Bottle from 1998 - Reviewed 4/25/2011 (5, 4.5, 5, 4.5, 5)

Pours a rich brown with garnet hues, almost no head at all, though there are hints of bubbles that do form after the pour. Leggy appearance on the glass after a quick swirl. The aroma is toffee, caramel, sweet syrupy malt, raisins, and dates, along with molasses and some absolutely awesome port/fortified wine character. On to the palate, where this is one of the most delicious and complex barleywines that I have ever tasted. Toffee, caramel, raisins, dates, and that brown sugar syrupy flavor all translate from the aroma. Followed by sherry-flavored oxidation and port-like notes, the fruity and sweet flavor is top-notch. Not even a touch of booze after 12 long winters in the bottle. Thick and syrupy and smooth on the palate that leaves a sticky residue, this beer deserves all the accolades it gets.

Bottle from 1999 - Reviewed 4/28/2011 (4.5, 4.5, 4.5, 4.5, 4.5)

Appearance as far as color is much the same as the 98, though there is far more carbonation in this that there was in the 1998 vintage. The aroma, as a result is far more open. There are the same aromas of toffee and caramel, more evident here, with lighter fruit, mainly dates and plums. Again, the port-like aromas are evident. On the palate, this is much more concentrated as far as the toffee and caramel go, with the fruits fading a touch to the background. The palate does open up more bringing in some plums and dates, molasses, a touch of leather, and a hint of vanilla. The finish is syrupy and sweet, but not cloying; I find the sweetness in this vintage more balanced with the malt character than it was in the 98. Overall, I prefer the 98 vintage slightly, though this is no slouch.

Bottle from 2000 - Reviewed 6/28/2011 (4.5, 4, 4.5, 5, 4.5)

Bottle opens with a tiny pffft indicating an undercarbed barleywine, but the pour shows otherwise. Light carbonation, but a nice fizzy head does form before vanishing. The aroma is somewhat less integrated than the two previous vintages, even at 11 years in the bottle. Caramel apple, dates, brown sugar, and some molasses. On the palate, the caramel sweetness is especially notable, bordering on candy-like. Deep fruity notes complement brown sugar and molasses in the finish, with just a touch of vanilla and some sherry-nuanced oxidation. Slick and oily, but smooth and lush on the palate. The candy-like sweetness is somewhat tempered by the vanilla and fruit notes, balancing this nicely. This is my second favorite vintage overall behind the '98. (2,586 characters)

Photo of yankeeheel
4.82/5  rDev +13.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

2001 vintage

Pours a dark garnet with a small, yet very active, dark eggshell colored head. Head settles out in to a H shaped foam line in the middle of the tulip glass. Lots of little volcanic carbonation bubbles ebb to the surface. Bits of uncaught yeast slither around.

Smells quite strong. Quite sugary with a lethal dose of alcohol vapor hiding behind it. Very intriguing.

Leathery flavors are the first sensation that comes to mind. However, this is quickly replaced by a sweet rush of brown sugar malt. Sweet gives way to fruit. Apple, plum, fig, and butterscotch show up, then a strong vanilla presence. The flavors just drift away(or is it me drifting)only to have the void filled with a gentle glowing warmth. Fucking brilliant.

Mouthfeel is quite syrupy, which I normally don't go for, but here it works. This brew fits like old blue jeans. Comfortable.

I could drink a lot of this. I could at least try. I can't imagine letting this age too much longer. I'd be afraid of missing some of the goodness that the malt decompensation would bring. I have an 02 that I'll let ride until 06. (1,111 characters)

Photo of skivtjerry
4.82/5  rDev +13.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

2001 vintage drank in late 2010:

Looks rather viscous while being poured. Forms a sticky 1" head that persists until the glass is empty (actually, who knows how long it would last - I drank the foam too). Smells wonderful, a humungous malt bomb with luscious sherry notes, toast and alcohol too. Taste is mind-blowing good. Waves of malt attack the tongue and surrender feels great. Figs, rich desserts, chocolate, melons, and a nice grainy note. No hint of hops left, the alcohol provides as much bitter dryness as the IBU's. Mouthfeel is thick and creamy, low carbonation and enough alcohol to balance the immense weight. I could drink this stuff until I collapsed, which probably wouldn't be that long. The ultimate beer for a cold evening. (744 characters)

Photo of Zorro
4.82/5  rDev +13.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Year 2000 Version here.

Pours a deep ruby brown with more carbonation than expected.

Truly powerfully smelling beer! BIG dark fruits and Tutty-fruity smell, and big malt smell. Almost like being punched in the nose by it and it stealing your lunch money! You could really spend an entire day just sniffing this beer.

TASTES LIKE A TOP NOTCH PORT WINE. This is like a $40 bottle of old port wine with a bit of carbonation. Also means this is top notch for any recipe calling for Port or Marsalla wine. Strong nutty and floral tastes, yet not too sweet.

Mouthfeel is big, but you NEVER chug this, to good for that!

Very drinkable, but sip it, you will want to taste every drop. (690 characters)

Photo of barleywinebrewer
4.82/5  rDev +13.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

1998 vintage

I found 2 of these bottles tucked away in a specialty beer store corner. I was actually looking for a totally different beer when I found this. Amazing sometimes what you find when you aren't looking!

A - Beautiful deep burgundy. Nice tan head, light lacing.

S - Wow, rich malty smell. Hints of port, definitely vinous in character.

T - This is a classic example of what I love about english barleywines. Rich malt taste, not cloying sweet. Raisin / plum / toffee swirling around. Hops are enough to keep this balanced but definitely take a way back seat to the experience.

M - Rich, full bodied. This one is a perfect example in my book of a rich strong beer that drinks clean.

D - I had to have one as soon as I got home. Drinks wonderfully smooth. For an 11.5% ABV, this gives no hint that it is that potent. I'm keeping the other one for a special occasion as well as keeping an eye out for any more 98's floating around. (958 characters)

Photo of Suds
4.82/5  rDev +13.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

1997 vintage. A very dense, thin, tan head sits atop this dark-ruby beer. The smell is fantastic...a woody, complex, malt and grain aroma. Big on the malt sweetness, but also considerable butterscotch and toffee tastes. Smooth, creamy mouthfeel. Exceptionally complex. Simply outstanding: a beer to be enjoyed slowly and deliberately. (339 characters)

Photo of superspak
4.82/5  rDev +13.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

700th review! 275 ml bottle into tulip glass, 2002 vintage(12/1/2002). Pours a murky dark brown color with a small dark khaki head with decent retention that reduces to a ring of lace as expected. Some slight bits of lacing on the glass. Aromas of huge caramel, molasses, biscuit, wood, toffee, raisin, earth, whiskey, chocolate, and light herbal. Damn nice aromas with good strength and complexity. Taste of HUGE caramel, toffee, molasses, brown sugar, wood, raisin, butterscotch, chocolate, biscuit, honey, and slight herbal hops. Lingering notes of molasses, caramel, toffee, raisin, honey, and butterscotch on the finish for a good while. Insane complexity, balance, and smoothness; with no cloying sweetness at all; despite this being a 100% malty beer. Light carbonation and full bodied; with an absolutely beautiful creamy, slick, and thick mouthfeel. Alcohol is insanely well hidden with no warming noticed at all. Definitely a sipper, but I can’t even consider drinking this fast at all. Overall this is an absolutely mind blowing barely wine that was pushing 10 years old. I will not turn down purchasing older vintages of this in the future. Absolutely fantastic. (1,176 characters)

Photo of lpayette
4.82/5  rDev +13.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

1988 Vintage - Enjoyed at Trias Bar, Philadelphia, June 2006. Yeah baby, 17.5 years old. The oldest beer I've ever had and perhaps the best too. $10 per bottle, and well, well worth it. I wasn't able to write down a complete review at the time, but I was able to jot down some notes and scores.

Sweet and malty flavors... nutty, buttery, fruity, smell of brandy-like alcohol. Grapes, muscot??? Strong malty flavors, musty notes, hidden honey, and strong alcohol.

Simply amazing in the complexity. I'd like to have a a case of this stuff from each year it's been made. (574 characters)

Photo of evilkalla
4.82/5  rDev +13.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

I've had various vintages of this at the bar but never saw it for sale around here until this week. Purchased a 4-pack of the 1999 vintage.

Serving: 275 ml bottle into a snifter.

A: Slightly cloudy, dark brown/amber color. Had the slightest bit of carbonation that never really produced any head. After a minute or so of sitting in the glass, most of the head is gone.

S: The JW Lees Harvest Ale has a scent unlike any other beer I've ever smelled. A thick, sweet, barley-syrupy smell that you can smell across the table. One evening at the bar, I told the girlfriend that she should just dab a few drops on her neck, perfume was no longer required.

T: A syrupy, caramel-like flavor. It's very, very good. A slightly elevated level of bitterness that I haven't tasted in younger vintages such as the 2005 and 2002. The label claims an 11.5% ABV which I cannot detect at all.

M: After 5 minutes in the glass, the carbonation has mostly gone. It has a thick, viscous feel in the mouth. Very good.

D: The 1999 is slightly MORE bitter than the more recent vintages that I've tried recently, which suggests it may be past its prime. The carbonation has also receded as well. However, it's still very, very, very good. (1,220 characters)

Photo of budgood1
4.82/5  rDev +13.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

vintage 2001

pours out a a dark and slightly hazy amber colour. no carbonation and no head or lace. sweet malty aroma...candied figs, rum cake, molasses, ripe dark fruit and the like...brandy like booziness...and all the other wonderful aromas associated with fine barley wines. the taste here outshines the aroma...a very sticky sweet malty base of flavour...toffee and caramel, hints of chocolate and anise. sweet fruity plums, grapes and raisins....black cherries, currants, and an alcohol spice. the hops haven't totally faded; they provide a well placed floralness in the taste and just a ghostly hint of bitterness in the back end that melds beautifully with that alcohol spice. the mouthfeel is outrageous...sublimely smooth, and velvety. the body of this barley wine is full and curvaceous. my god does this taste outstanding. the perfect sipping brew on a cold and wintry night in the northern great plains. a stashfull of these are required in any advocates cellar. sad to say this is my only bottle...saved for the right night to end the year that has been 2004. (1,076 characters)

Photo of BeerNemesis
4.82/5  rDev +13.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

J.W. Lees Vintage Harvest Ale | 275 ml. | 11.5% ABV | 2002 vintage

Brewer: J.W. Lees & Co (Brewers) Ltd
Style: English Barleywine
Glass: fluted snifter

Appearance:
Hazed mahogany with a vanishingly thin head and no lacing. The sediment swirling around the glass is either exciting or a major turnoff depending on how you look at it. I'm going with exciting.

Aroma:
Molasses, honey, toffee—everything dark and sugary. There is a nice raisin fruitiness, and an almost brandy-like alcohol aroma.

Taste:
As I expected, this would be a journey. Harvest ale is a deep beer. Toffee, honey, and molasses are back in full force. But then there is also a raisin and chocolate mid-layer that's just delicious. Ripe fruit—pineapple especially pushes through, only to be followed by a somber, brandy-like alcoholic finish.

Mouthfeel:
Creamy and resplendent in a tactile-sensory sort of way. The sediment adds a few bumps to the ride.

Harmony:
This, in my humble opinion, is the consumate English Barleywine. It is incredibly flavorful and deep, without being rude or showy. The barrel-aged offshoots it's spawned don't fall far from the tree.

Would I get it again?:
Oh yeah.

Bottled: 2002
Served: August 11, 2011

Price = $20 at The Modern (NYC) (1,254 characters)

Photo of rudolphjacksonm
4.82/5  rDev +13.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Brewed in 2011, bought from Ellwood Thompson's Local Market on May 11, 2012. Couldn't resist trying it, I'll probably buy another bottle to cellar at some point! Drank it out of an oversized wine glass.

A - Beautiful clear, amber pour with white pillowy head. Reduces down to a cloudy residual layer on the top. Good amount of lacing too. Steady carbonation rising from the bottom but not too much. This is a beautiful beer! 4.5

S - So many scents it's almost impossible to decipher them all. Buttery diacetyl, fresh-cut grass, an abundance of fruits like apricot, apples, and pears; maybe a hint of esters in there as well. Strong floral, hoppy notes in there as well. Caramel, toffee, molasses, and malt are also present. 5.0

T - Wowza. Just like the aroma, this beer is hard to decipher. Sugary, buttery notes up front with malt, toffee, caramel, and fruit. I'd compare it to toffee dipped in butterscotch. Middle of the tongue gets a strong malt flavor and a sort of spiciness imparted by the strong alcohol content. Wraps up nicely with a little bitter, floral hop on the back of the tongue. Aftertaste is clearly sweet on the front of your tongue, bitter on the back. Absolutely delicious but there is SO much flavor you have to sip this beer slowly to fully appreciate it. 5.0

M - Somewhat thick, almost "chewy" as I've seen others describe it. High alcohol content makes it feel almost sappy on the tongue, leaving a slight residue of flavor. 4.5

O - This beer is quite possibly one of the most complex--and dare I say it--and best beers I've ever had. The myriad of flavors is truly unbelievable, and I can't even imagine what this would be like if it were cellared for two or three years even. I will definitely be buying a bottle of this and keeping it for as long as I can. 4.5 (1,794 characters)

Photo of dasenebler
4.82/5  rDev +13.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

1999 Vintage.

Pours a clear, rich ruby hue with a tight tan head. A thin layer retains.

The aroma is incredibly malty, with notes of dark fruit and leather. Bit of alcohol, but not very much.

The flavor is astounding. This is such a rich, succulent malt bomb that is also incredibly drinkable and smooth. Almost syrupy, but in the best possible way, that is, with no cloying character. There are fat notes of molasses, caramel, fig and tobacco. Very layered and deep. Not bitter whatsoever, with a lingering woodiness on the palate. The alcohol is beautifully integrated and incredibly mellow. The mouthfeel is weighty and velvety, with low carbonation that cascades over the palate. Absolutely pleasurable, with no overpowering alcohol flavor.

The oldest beer I've ever sampled, and also one of the best. Fantastic. (820 characters)

Photo of merlin48
4.8/5  rDev +12.7%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Limited Edition, first bottling of December 1, 1999. Served at cellar temperature into a snifter on October 20, 2004. Bottle cap opens with a mild pop, indicating some carbonation. Indeed, a two finger tightlyknit, beige head forms atop a clear, ruby chestnut body that is effervescant with atomic sized, bubbles rushing to the surface. The attractive head is longlasting, eventually falling into film and collar lace that is tightknit and easily aroused into sheet lace on the sides of the snifter with a gentle twirl. The appearance is absolutely stunning.
The aroma is appropriately complex, and sinfully inviting. Molasses, toffee, burnt brown sugar, and some fresh fruitcake aromas are initially noted. Coffee, tobacco, rum, prunes, and a vinous note of port wine are also picked up. Some smoky, peat rounds out the exceptional nose. Wow! This is a serious undertaking.
Mouthfeel is effervescent, with a mild carbonation that is ideal. A presence of strong alcohol quickly appears and kickstarts a vinous character that reminds you that this has an abv of 11.5 %.
The taste yields an extraordinary, sweet malt character that is exceptionally complex, and complicated by a mild, alcohol burning sensation. Molasses, maple syrup, dark honey, tobacco, and freshly tanned leather comprise the dominant flavors. Pithy, dark fruits are also evident with essences of figs and raisins. This Harvest Ale becomes heavy and syrupy toward the finish, but is never cloying. The taste, overall, has a definite sherry character that compliments the malt complexities.
This is an exceptional example of British craftmanship at its best. At its current age of five years, I can't imagine how this can be better, but I'm definitely curious how this will age. I suggest buying as many bottles as you can afford, and laying down a few for aging. My only complaint is the size of the tiny, 9.6 oz bottle, but this is being greedy. (1,919 characters)

Photo of IntriqKen
4.8/5  rDev +12.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

2002 Vintage reviewed Valentine's Day, 2007
Pours a softly cloudy amber with a full finger white head that melts slowly to very sticky mapping and head covering lace.
Aromas are brown sugar, figs, and a little alcohol.
Taste is sweet dark fruits...lots of sweet dark fruits...raisins, plums, prunes, figs...lots of sugar in here. No noticable hops but finish is not cloying...there is no real sticky residue. Just the memory and hint of the sweet dark fruits that makes me want another sip.
Like a really great dark cake or rich ice creme, the flavors linger in the mouth, yet you want more and more. (604 characters)

Photo of akorsak
4.8/5  rDev +12.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

This is a 1998 vintage, purchased today from Wells Discount Liquors (n.b. they have an impressive selection of vintage JW Lees, 1998 through 2001 at least, as well as the 2004 vintage). I am drinking it from my Devil's Milk snifter, served cold.

Appearance: Dark ruby red in color, lighter colors emerge when held up to light. The ale poured with a decent head (1 finger's worth) that dissapated quickly and left no lace.

Smell: A veritable malt bomb here. The malt aroma make themselves abundantly known. I also see an undercurrent of licorice (albeit slight).

Taste: The ale is seven years old. In that time, the heady malt in the aroma has mellowed dramatically in the taste. Malt is still the predominant flavor, but it does not numb the mouth. Instead, it leaves a light refreshing taste in the mouth that is very well balanced.

Mouthfeel: Exquisite! The ale has aged so well that the alcohol does not overpower, nor do the malts used.

Drinkability: I need to make a return trip to Wells to purchase this vintage as well as those before (and after) that they stock. I'm gonna age a few of these up to 10+ years, they are that drinkable.

In my opinion, this is the standardbearer for vintage/cellared ales. (1,228 characters)

J.W. Lees Vintage Harvest Ale from J.W. Lees & Co (Brewers) Ltd
95 out of 100 based on 817 ratings.