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

YOUR RATING = None |
BA SCORE
94
outstanding
839 Reviews
BEER STATS
Reviews:
839
Ratings:
1,449
Avg:
4.25
pDev:
18.35%
 
 
Wants:
257
Gots:
217
For Trade:
15
J.W. Lees Vintage Harvest AleJ.W. Lees Vintage Harvest Ale
BEER INFO

Brewed by:
J.W. Lees & Co (Brewers) Ltd
United Kingdom (England) | website

Style: English Barleywine

Alcohol by volume (ABV): 11.50%

Availability: Year-round

Notes / Commercial Description:
No notes at this time.

Added by Todd on 12-18-2000

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Reviews: 839 | Ratings: 1,449
Photo of altctrlsdelete
4.94/5  rDev +16.2%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

2002 vintage consumed on 9.7.04.

Very high expectations for this beer after hearing lots and lots of hype (and paying a pretty penny for the bottle).

Decanted slowly into a snifter, resulting in a very slight white head that fades to just the sides of the glass in a few moments. Very deep bronze color with ample carbonation.

Very smooth and subtle aromas -- easily the most delicious smell I've encountered emanating from a glass. Buttery toffee is the first thing that comes to my mind. A very light hop aroma underlies the dominant aromas. I almost want to inhale this.

The taste of this beer is out of this world. I've not had anything approaching this in the relatively short time (~1 year) that I've experienced craft beers. The "buttery toffee" that was present in the nose is definitely here, but with a very agreeable burnt flavor. As a fan of hoppier beers, subtlety in the hop department is something that I didn't think I'd really appreciate. Wrong. The balance here is absolute perfection, like drinking a Bach concierto. The earthy malt flavors leave a perfect sweet but subtle flavor on the tongue in the finish.

This is a "wow" beer among "wow" beers. If you haven't tried this, you owe it to yourself to do whatever you can to obtain some. Nearly flawless.

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Photo of Rio
4.5/5  rDev +5.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

1999 vintage, enjoyed September 2004, in a tulip glass. And I do mean enjoyed. Poured a beautiful, deep coppery brown color, darker than the 2001. Still little or no head to it. Smelled very sweat, with an earthy, almost leatherlike smell to it. The smell of the alcohol from the 2001 vintage is very well masked here, little presence at all.

Taste is much the same as the 2001, sweetness of brown sugar, taste of a few fruits, including a bit of tartness that tastes almost like an apple, vanilla flavor, with something a little more buttery in there, too. Extremely smooth, even as thick as it is. Seems even thicker than the 2001, but goes down much smoother.

I could drink this stuff all night long. Wonderful, wonderful brew. Near perfect. I have two more bottles of it (as well as the last two bottles of the 2001 that I know of in the KC area), that I plan to age for another year or so and try again. Can it improve on the perfection? We shall see.

--

2001 vintage, reviewed September 2004 in a tulip glass. Poured a coppery-brown color with almost no head. Smell was heavy of earthy and sugary smells, with the smell of the alcohol a little too prevalent behind there for my taste.

Tastes wonderful, strong taste of like a brown sugar, followed by some fruity tastes, and a bit of a vanilla flavor to it. Thick, viscous feel to it that seems a bit odd at first, but ultimately enjoyable. The first bottle (August 2004) felt like it had something else in it, some kind of thickness that was palable, like there were solid particles in it. This pour, though, is very smooth. First bottle may have been a bad bottle.

Strangely enough, with its thickness and high alcohol content, very drinkable. Not something I recommend drinking bottle after bottle of, though, and one bottle, even at 11.2 oz, can last a long time as you enjoy this beer over a longer period of time than a normal beer would take you.

(Since you can only rate it once, I've put both in here. Scores for the 2001 would be 4.0, 3.5, 4.0, 4.0, 4.0).

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Photo of Naerhu
4.84/5  rDev +13.9%
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.

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Photo of mschofield
4.24/5  rDev -0.2%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3

1997 vintage
first of all a great robust aroma, I could smell it from a few feet away.
Pours a dark ruby, topped with a two finger dark tan head (in a snifter), left temporary bits of lacing.
Black strap molasses, floral and caramel aroma, vanilla bean, "cookie" type spices cinammon/nutmeg star anise.
Taste of cocoa, sugar and cinammon roasted apple wedges, sweet and syrupy but with a spicy backbone.
Full syrupy body, I couldn't drink more than one, but I'd make sure I got one each year

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Photo of gueuzeonhigh
4.5/5  rDev +5.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

1997 Vintage

Pours a dark red mahogany color.
A small but enduring tan head with tightly knit bubbles
Slight lacing on the glass.

Prominent nose- of licorice, toasted malt and alcohol.

Flavor comes on strong, but under the opening act it’s thin and collapses into a rather abrupt finish.

The flavor start is loaded with the signatures of licorice, butterscotch, toasted malt with hints of hops around the edges. The alcohol is not as prominent as this beer's nose suggests it might be.

The finish is a numb but tart and clean ending. My palate was left with a scrubbed and fresh feeling.

The mouthfeel is creamy, thick and smooth-- a very cordial but "heavy" demeanor. This is not a casual type beer. It's entire character lets this beer stand by itself, and additions like food would only diminish the profile of this fine beer.

Even though this is an 11.5% ABV beer, it's drinkability beckons further enjoyment-- only the price per bottle curtails out and out abuse. I felt as if I could drink several bottles of this stuff per sitting.

Nevertheless, improvements to the flavor could be a stronger underpinning and a longer lingering finish.

Now whether it's worth the price per bottle is another matter altogether. I still think this is wonderfull beer!

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Photo of rajendra82
4.3/5  rDev +1.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

1997 Vintage picked off the shelves of the wonderful Green’s Discount Beverage on Buford Highway today. The body was reddish brown with a little bit of carbonation and no head, as can be anticipated with a seven year old brew. The aroma is a mix of raisins, licorice, and soy sauce. The taste is incredibly bright and fruity for a beer of this age. I can detect grapes, figs, apples, pears, and apricots. There is not even a hint of hop bitterness. The yeast is dusty and zesty, but seems to have thrived for quite a while in the bottle. The beer is definitely a sipper, as the alcohol content is enough to make you keel over unless you are vigilant. The only downfall is the extreme sweetness of the beer, but that comes with the territory I suppose. I will be seeking out more recent vintages of the beer. I may also find and keep another 1997 for 10 or 20 years to see what will happen.

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Photo of kmpitz2
4.92/5  rDev +15.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

2000 vintage

This is one of the beers I have been sitting on for a while, waiting for this week. The beer pours a deep amber to light brown color. There is little to no head on the pour. The beer smells highly of malt with dried fruit, figs, raisins and prunes, coming through heavily as well. The flavors compliment the aroma of the beer. There are sweet dried fruit overtones with sweet malt flavors coming through strong as well. Damn, this is a good beer. It is heavy in my mouth, almost syrupy, but it is appropriate with the flavors brought to the table. I wouldn't want to sit down and drink more than one of these, but it is not hard to put this one away. Highly drinkable. I'll have to seek out other vintages and see how they compare. I recommend this one to anyone and everyone.

1987 vintage
First off, thanks to clvand0 for the opportunity to taste this beer at just shy of 15 years of cellar time. The color is a nice flat brown and the head is under a finger that falls to coat the beer. The nose smells just like raisin bread. I want to spread some butter on it and eat it up. The flavor is nice. Its like a raisin, but with a chocolate feel in the back of my throat. Wow. I love it. Even better than what I remember it. The feel is full on thick. DAMN. Good stuff. Drinkability is great as well. I think this is one of the best beers I have ever had. Love it. Taste goes up to a 5

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Photo of meathookjones
4.13/5  rDev -2.8%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

1999 Vintage bottle

When poured the appearance was a dark reddish/brown color with a slight tan head that didn’t stick around too long. It also was quite cloudy and never really settled. Right after pouring the scent was overpoweringly alcoholic. I let this one settle a bit and the dark fruit and sugary smells crept through, making for a much more pleasing aroma. The taste starts off very sweetly with signs of various fruits and some malt. It has a slight alcohol after taste but a pleasant one. The mouthfeel is quite think and full and very smooth. A very drinkable brew for its high ABV, I will defiantly be picking up more of these to age for a few years.

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Photo of cbl2
3.85/5  rDev -9.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

1997 Vintage

Appearance:

Crystal clear deep amber brown with quite a bit of carbonation for a 7 year old beer.

Smell:

Scotch malts hit you square in the face, carrying a burst of alcohol along for the ride.

Taste/Mouthfeel:

This has aged superbly. The high ABV is masked by a super sweet slightly smoky malt presence. Finishes with almost a port-like flavor. After a few sips I'm reeling from the alcohol. This is good, but deadly.

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Photo of Afterburner
4.72/5  rDev +11.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

Note: This was a 1998 vintage.

Appearance: Hazy reddish brown, with a moderate beige head that retired slowly.

Smell: The predominant note here was almost teriyaki in its bouquet. When I worked in the restaurant biz, a common "oriental" marinade was created by mixing soy sauce and pineapple. This beer has that aroma. In addition, there's a ton of malt, a hint of molasses, and a faint alcohol tinge.

Taste: Forceful malt character in the early stages, followed by maple syrup, hints of green apple, and more malt. Finish is strongly flavored of toffee. There's also a faint character at the end that reminds me of nothing so much as a gooey cinnamon roll with lots of butter. It's not a strong flavor, but it's there.

Mouthfeel: My personal preference for beers of this nature is for a thick, viscous mouthfeel with light, small-bead carbonation so as not to combat the flavor. This brew has that in spades.

Drinkability: I found this to be an exceptionally flavorful beer, easy to drink, and I certainly would have enjoyed another.

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Photo of GuinnessSmurf
4.53/5  rDev +6.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4

This is a 2000 Vintage harvest ale reviewed April of 2004.

When I cracked open the cap, an animated and scented gas crept out of the bottle like an extinguished candle. It was like when the cartoon aroma turns into a finger and becons you to come closer.

I poured it into my glass. So excited. It was a cloudy brown/orange color. The beer had that look of many beers before they settle in the glass - that kind of cloudiness. But it never cleared up. It stayed full of anticipation for the whole drink.

The smell was very interesting. It had elements of apples, sharp/strong barley, and a very sweet hops smell. There was only hints of alcohol in the aroma.

The taste begins with a sweet, almost floral flavor. There are some fruits in the opening flavor too - as mentioned, apple, pear, and perhaps some white grape. The taste quickly turns to a bready flavor - that yeasty taste that still has some strange sweetness to it. It then evolves into a semi-bitter finish that carries with it a mild alcohol aftertaste.

The body was so thick and full - it was truly heavenly to feel this beer in your mouth. I couldn't possibly describe or critique it - but I need to mention that it was pure passion....seriously.

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Photo of Tballz420
4.62/5  rDev +8.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4

1999 reviewed april 2004

This is a murky brown colored brew, small tan head on top. Scent is woody, alcoholic, and malty. The taste is really sweet up front, and has some raison/plum tones, alcohol is felt but tastewise it is blended well. Syrupy feel, sticks all the way down. Hops are there but the malts keep them from making a big scene. Excellent brew.

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Photo of vladtheimpaler
4.48/5  rDev +5.4%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4

2002 bottle. Pours an awesome crystal clear orange with a nice orangish white head. Aroma is a mix of alcohol and maple-raisin. Flavor is similar, with a dominant maple-alcohol warming flavor, with hints of raisin. Goes great with Irish soda bread. Sweetness of maple syrup lingers on the palate. Delicious!.

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Photo of shippos
5/5  rDev +17.6%
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

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Photo of yankeeheel
4.82/5  rDev +13.4%
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.

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Photo of IrishRedRock
4.26/5  rDev +0.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 3

1988 vintage.

It keeps going through my mind...I'm drinking sixteen year old beer. My oldest beer sampled to date, wow. Loads of very tiny sediment floating in the brew, ruby/amber/mahogany colored with absolutely no head or anything resembling carbonation. Aroma is exquisite...notes of vanilla, port wine, sherry, brown sugar, cherries, and alcohol. Wow, complexity in the nose for sure. Flavor is very sweet the whole way through. Hops are not much of a factor at this point, but it retains a nice, rich maltiness. Candy-like sweetness and warming alcohol take over the aftertaste. Chunks of sediment remaining in the bottle are HUGE. This bottle may be past its prime, but its quite delicious right now. Very impressive. I feel as though I am not worthy?

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Photo of ElGuapo
4.34/5  rDev +2.1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

1988 vintage.

A very chunky pour of deep brown amber with a tiny little bit of head on top. The floaties are large in quantity and size, but that doesn't bother me. The aroma is big, sweet, and malty. Rich aromas of dark fruits hit the air as well as touches of alcohol.

It is very smooth, and the carbonation is almost not there at all. I usually like atleast a little bit of bubbles, but this one didn't need them at all. The thick beer must have had plenty of time to mature. It still had loads of flavor. Sweet malts, dark fruit, hints of caramel. There were also mild spicy flavors, and little bits of alcohol. It was complex and heavy, yet very drinkable. This is a treat, and I sure can not wait to try the other vintages I have sitting around.
Thanks to IrishRedRock for this oldie but goodie!

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Photo of sbattert
4.11/5  rDev -3.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Poured a 275 ml. 2002 limited edition bottle into a wine glass. The label is dated "1st December 2002". A small tan head disappears revealing a golden dark amber elixor. Smells of honey and barley invite a mouthwatering palate. Tastes of sweet honey, molasses, and malt with a buttery mouthfeel. Early on, there is quite a bit of carbonation that blossoms around the tongue nicely. This carbonation seems to fall off about halfway through.

This is a fine english barleywine that one should savor. It is perfect if you are in the mood for sweet honey. It is a close second to tom hardy's which seems to balance the sweetness with a little more alcohol flavor.

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Photo of Rastacouere
4.24/5  rDev -0.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 3.5

99 vintage in march 2004 Clear deep copper with a generous diminishing off-white head. Aroma is deeply malty, complex and sweet. Honey interplays with smoked maple, plain barley and light golding hops. Definitely have a balance bending to the sweet side: big molasses and caramel flirts brown chocolate and vanilla flavours, like a french pancake with a light smoked note and a slight flower character. Syrupy medium-full palate with a nice carbonation. Tons of maple syrup, rather cloying creamy clover honey, herbal, buttery, grassy. Basically a werthers original palate with tons of little complexities. Very interesting and rich classic english barley wine.

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Photo of PopeJonPaul
2.81/5  rDev -33.9%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 3

Normally I love barleywines, but this stuff rubbed me the wrong way. Cloudy red-brown and syrupy with no head to speak of, even on tap. Looked good in the glass but smelled incredibly sweet (Danger Will Robinson!) Powerfully sweet taste, with a strong heavy malt, brown sugar and tootsie-roll flavor. It's one thing to make a good sweet barleywine, but this stuff tasted like pancake syrup gone over to the dark side. And you'll keep tasting it ten minutes later. The finish was almost cloying, and beware if you're on a date: CheeseWheel (who used to work in a hospital) says it makes your breath "smell like decomposing flesh."

This was on tap though, I will have to give the bottle a shot just because all the positive reviews here are (surely aged) bottles, and I'll bet it gets better with age. We shall see...

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Photo of PhantomVodoo
3.13/5  rDev -26.4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 4 | overall: 3

2001 Vintage.

Tan head sits atop a cloudy, coppery amber beer. Plenty of suspended particulate matter.
Aroma is vinous and shows too much alcohol. Tad earthy. Rich, sweet malt.

Taste shows a rich, very sweet malt backbone. Vinous and sour. Syrupy sweetness lingers on the palate for some time after the finish.

Full body. Somewhat creamy and sticky mouthfeel.

This is one of those beers I really liked certain characteristics, but really disliked others. Not sure what to make of the beer as a whole, but I won't be in a hurry to give it another try. Big thanks to Blatzman for the bottle!

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Photo of Sixpack595
2.5/5  rDev -41.2%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 2 | overall: 2

2001 Edition

Slightly hazy brown with suspended chunks of sediment. Nearly no head. Slightly vinous, slightly sour aroma. Diacetyl and sweet malts dominate both aroma and taste. Big, complex beer...but it still tastes like crap. Honey, licorice, molasses and raw sugar make this a sickly sweet brew that ends with a slightly sour, bitter finish that in no way cuts the cloying, syrupy aspect. I have a couple other vintages from the mid 90s that I will try after I let them mellow for a while longer. I sure hope they get better with age.

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Photo of Crosling
4.54/5  rDev +6.8%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4

Pours a murky dark discolored brown rotting apple. The color did not appeal to me. The head was bubbly and quickly diminishing, eventually dying and disappearing.

Rich and powerful aroma of grapes, brandy, caramel and sweet raisins. Wonderful bouquet.

Nice first sip. Figs, raisins and plums first, then, the alcohols, oak and caramel come about, followed by a momentary lapse, then a huge burst of brandy-like sweetness. Very flavorful. A palate soaker.

Great stuff.

It is growing on me a little.

The mouthfeel is full and warming, in fact, this beer is a huge belly warmer. I was planning on having the DFH Olde School Barley Wine after this but the 275 mL seems about perfect.

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Photo of WVbeergeek
4.65/5  rDev +9.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4

The 1999 vintage ale, appearance: Ruby tone with a semi hazy coat on, cream head forms rather thin head leaves behind even layers of lacing nice. Aroma: Rich sugary sweetness with nutty toasted caramel malt character, extremely complex layer of hops East Kent Goldings according to the label very piney in nature. Taste: Sugary complex layers of malt and bitter hop finish seems very smooth for 11.5 abv but wow what a barleywine could be the most interesting one to cross my palate yet. Mouthfeel: Full bodied brew syrupy like texture nice and sticky wow even reserved carbonation butterscotch like. Drinkability: A special occasion once in awhile experience not a beer I would buy a case of but it's so damn tasty the one thing is the sugar sweetness can be a bit overbearing. All in all it's incredible I am wowed.

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Photo of Jon
4.79/5  rDev +12.7%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Cask-condtioned from a former Port wine cask. 2002 vintage.

Pours a brownish-copper color that yields no head and shows no hopes of carbonation. Not to worry, however.

Incredibly complex nose -- the port has shown its influence. Rum, vanilla, caramel, toffee, port wine, alcohol and nutty aromas all come through, creating a brilliant effect. The oak aging certainly did a number for this batch. Simply phenomenal.

Rich, complex, and profound flavors. More caramel, vanilla, nuts, rum, port, and definite hints of oak and alcohol are all there. This is one deep barleywine on its own, and the introduction of port and oak influence... wow.

Viscous, minorly syrupy mouthfeel. Super smooth and thick. Mouth-coating.

Drinks exceptionally well for what it is. Very warming. The aromatic and flavorful nuances kept me coming back for more, scratching my head along the way. Is this stuff for real? It simply must be experienced in this rare form.

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J.W. Lees Vintage Harvest Ale from J.W. Lees & Co (Brewers) Ltd
94 out of 100 based on 839 ratings.