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
94
outstanding

1,339 Ratings
THE BROS
100
world-class

(view ratings)
Ratings: 1,339
Reviews: 819
rAvg: 4.23
pDev: 14.18%
Wants: 238
Gots: 194 | FT: 13
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.
View: Beers (21) | Events
Beer: Ratings & Reviews
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Ratings: 1,339 | Reviews: 819
Photo of Dogbrick
4.42/5  rDev +4.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

December 2001 Bottle (Sampled 5/1/03 - 4.15): Pours a dark copper color with a medium and dense beige head. Aroma is very sweet malt and caramel, and the alcohol is well masked. Full-bodied and chewy with flavors of caramel and rum, along with some malt. As with the aroma, you don't really get a sense of the alcohol level in the flavor. Finish is long and sweet (borderline cloying). $4 for a 9.6oz seems a little high but it was worth it.

1999 Bottle (Sampled 9/23/03 - 4.35): This vintage is a ruddy dark amber color with a medium beige head. Thin lacing. Aroma is very sweet, mostly caramel with some malt as well. The richness of body is similar to the 2001 vintage. Very rich and chewy. The flavor is very sweet caramel and malt along with some plum. Alcohol is well hidden. The finish is full and sweet. I am giving this vintage a slightly higher score.

Photo of cpetrone84
4.42/5  rDev +4.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4

1998 Vintage

A-extremely dark ruby red beer with a creamy light kahki colored head leaving some light lacing.

S-the nose is huge and brings a ton of dark fruits. those fruits include plum, raisin, and dark cherries. there is also a whiff of candied fruit and brown sugar.

T/M-extremely full bodied and quite syrupy. very smooth on the palate and a low level of carbonation that I actually very much enjoy. the taste is also huge and very sweet. tons of candied and dark fruits. a light note of caramel malt, tons of plum and raisin. there is some cherry taste in there as well. notes of molasses and brown sugar towards the back. a hint of alcohol comes in at the finish; but not much at all.

D-this is actually going down extremely easy and I have to catch myself to drink slowly. huge alc content is hidden nicely, although after about 11 years you would expect that. tons of sweetness, almost more than i can handle; but so tasty. wouldn't want to drink it all night; but I do wish I had another.

Photo of rfgetz
3.9/5  rDev -7.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

2009 vintage. Pours a lightly hazed copper tinted brown, small cap of tan head, gone quickly. Scent leads with sweet malt, underneath one finds prune and dried fig, a splash of booze and earth. Taste leads with rich sweetness, light molasses and brown sugar, strong notes of dark dried fruit, hints of cherry. Not quite full bodied, carbonation at a minimum, some chalkiness to it. Possibly too early in its life to enjoy its subtle complexities, quite sweet still. Will revisit a true vintage.

Photo of ColForbinBC
4.32/5  rDev +2.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Bottle, poured into a snifter

I had the 1998 and 1999 side by side. They were practically identical, with the 1998 being a little bolder.

The body sits a rather clear, mahogany color, with some darker brown in the depths of the glass. No head or lacing, just a thin collar of white foam around the edges.

Broad and deep nose. Sherry, lemon, honey, cabernet, sweet toffee, cocoa powder, and a huge layer of booze. Crazy levels of complexity.

Sweet, and not as boozy as the nose let on. I kept coming back to describing this as similar to a Luden's Golden Honey cough drop dipped in sherry, and then mixed with cocoa and toffee.

The feel was syrupy, lending even more credence to the cough syrup/drop comparison. Full, rich body and flavors. The finish is sweet and boozy, but no real warming getting in the way.

These were two of the most complex beers I have come across. Equally delicious, with the 1998 edging the 1999 by a thin margin. Smooth, complex, rich, sweet....simply incredible. Seek out the older vintages.

Photo of tavernjef
4.72/5  rDev +11.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

1999 Vintage - Color sits as a hazy ruddy brownish orange, a finger high dark ivory head foamed up as very loosely formed bubbles and popped down quickly to a whispy haze and a micro thin ring clinging to the edge of the liquid, lace appears from off the thin ringed edge and drips right back in super fast.

Smell is malty sweet, strong amounts of caramel and lots of dullish dark fruit overlays with a mix of banana and raisin, fig and plum. Strong warming alcohol, noting ethanol-like, seeps into the nose and opening up your sinuses like a minty strong tea. A potently strong boozy nose...whew!

Taste is malty thick and sweet with a great melty-like smooth caramel, great thick feel and flavor of super fresh sweet caramel, stupendously yummy with some notes of dulled dark fruityness of raisin, plum, light orange and banana. Toffee notes mix in with a fresh claro-like tobacco leafyness. Hops show through very easy in a calmly light pineyness and bitterness. The alcohol floats in and out finding areas to sneak in and warm you up. The caramel malts are amazingly candyish and chewy thick.

A wondefully full malty mouthful of creamy thick smoothness, oh my...its nice! The finish creeps along with a nice malty sweetness of very dulled orange and caramel hugging your tongue like a big fleece blanket on a chilly evening. Goes down with an incredible ease and soothing creamy smoothness, only the warming alcohol keeps you from bigger swigs, which really wasn't all that hard to do, just that the warming hits you faster. A great sipper which didn't last long in my glass during this years first snow storm, its so damn good!

Photo of sweemzander
3.52/5  rDev -16.8%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

275mL bottle poured into a snifter. Vintage 2006.

(A)- Pours a murky caramel color. No head formation, just some bubbles.

(S)- Super potent. Caramel, toffee, figs, vanilla, and not yet ripe raisins.

(T)- Rich & buttery-like caramel & toffee. Some raisin-like peach fruit thing.

(M)- A lower carbonation level. Rather sweet & rich. Not as boozy as the smell, but is syrupy.

(D)- Not a bad barleywine, but reminds me more of an old ale. I think it needs more time to smooth out its edges. Wished it had a better carbonation level, but it would at least of helped in how rich & sweet it is.

Photo of drpimento
4.56/5  rDev +7.8%
look: 3 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Whoa, serious beer. Poured this at a good temperature with a small, foamy head that promptly disappeard and no lace. Color is a hazy/cloudy amber brown with a lot of sediment. Aroma is a very volatile blend of caramel, yeast, malt, dark ripe fruit, raisins, bread dough, and seemingly many other things. Flavor's like nose, with sweet out front along with, curiously, a little chili pepper, bitter a little behind that and just a smidgen of carbonic tang. Body is full and lush with some little bitter points that just contribute to the beautiful picture. Carbonation is a little tame, but it works. Finish does get a little boozy, but overall is pleasant and on the long side. Outstanding beer.

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

A: The 2005 bottling pours a smoewhat hazy amber with a thin, fizzy whitish mousse that dissipates quickly. Little chunks of yeast collect in the bottom of the glass. Has a pleasant, rustic appearance. I like it.

S: The nose is dominated by notes of toffee, cider apples, brown sugar, roasted nuts, and a boozy scent that is somewhat reminiscent of calvados. A complex, interesting nose automatically signals this ale as a winner. Very inviting.

T: Opens sweet and a bit fiery with notes of apple, nuts, brown sugar, cream, vanilla bean, toffee, moist earth, and warming alcohol. The finish is warming and mellow with flavors of apple, toffee, and roasted nuts standing out amid a swirl of alcohol.

M: Full-bodied and thick, but also a bit oily and syrupy. Still, it goes down much more smoothly than one would expect.

O: This is one of my favorite English barleywines. No two bottles are alike, even if they are bottled in the same year. When you can find this one, buy at least two or three bottles.

Photo of RoyalT
4.65/5  rDev +9.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

Appearance – Very thick and cloudy orange with a good head that left little pools of foam on top of the body.

Smell – This carries an aroma similar to a strong/old ale. There’s a malt base to it, but also a significant amount of white wine. The fruitiness is light and mellow, but the alcholol undertones indicate otherwise.

Taste – The sweet wine flavor comes out bigtime. This is more like a fine port or apertiff than a Barley Wine. There’s some huge orange and cherry in here. Not the cheap, candy syrup kind that you get with a lot of ales, but refined, high-quality flavors.

The alcohol is strong but mellow, if that makes any sense. A fine 20% port will go down like Courtney Love at a rock concert, and this one does the same.

Beyond that, the malt backbone comes through qutie nicely, reminding the drinker that this is indeed an ale and not a tawny Australian port. The woody character enhances the other sweets such as rich maple, honey, and pure cane sugar (loads of it). This is a fine ale for sure.

Mouthfeel – This full-bodied ale is extremely rich and chewy. It will actually get your jaws working and have you looking for a spoon.

Drinkability – Before or after dinner would be my suggestion. I had this after a nice Claim Jumper meal with leftover Halloween chocolate, and it was the perfect match.

Comments – This was the 2002 vintage, and I happened on it purely by chance. If you like a fine tawny port you’ll love this ale.

Update – 1997 Vintage: Much darker in color, actually a dark brown, with a deeper malt taste. The sweets are especially different. Here we have dark, overripe fruits with big maple and molasses. Less of a port and more like a strong, malty ale is how I’d describe it.

Probably a half a point higher at the nose since it is so much more blended. Definitely a good keeper at six years old (tasted 11/10/03).

Update – I was fortunate enough to participate in a rack of 2002 – 1998 over at weefishhead’s and here are some abrreviated notes.

2002 – Raisin juice w/hvy port flavors. Needs aging.
2001 – Fruits more complex & mellow but still needs aging.
2000 – Fruits & sugars lighten up & ABV pulls back. Can start to drink at this age (4 y/o).
1999 – Flavors are even & ready to drink (5 y/o), although sugars still dominate.
1998 – Malts now dominate; best drinker of the bunch (6 y/o). Same age as the ’97 I had (see above Update) in 2003.

Photo of ArrogantB
3.9/5  rDev -7.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

9oz bottle 1999 vintage $4.99. Dark, red, chestnut, whatever. Smells like syrupy barleywine, nuts, cardboard, oddly good. Taste is syrupy, malty raisins, reminds me of aged Old Stock. Only problem with this beer is the ABV, too high but its a good English barleywine. I ate some Oregonzola and Blue Stilton and preferred the Oregonzola.

Photo of gford217
4.7/5  rDev +11.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

275mL bottle, 1997 vintage, poured into a snifter.

Pours an opaque dark brown with a small creamy off-white head that recedes slowly to a healthy collar and leaves some legs on the sides after each sip.

The aroma is huge. It's got the sweet caramel malts with tons of toffee and dark fruits as well. I get a bit of chocolate as well, especially as it warms and there is a pronounced sherry character in the nose overall. Boozy and powerful nose.

The taste is much of the same and maybe bigger. The underlying caramel malt backbone is still dominant with lots of sweet booze-soaked fruits, raisins and plums especially. Molasses, caramel, chocolate, just tons of flavors on the palate. Tough to exaggerate how wonderful this taste is.

The mouthfeel is medium to full-bodied and very smooth with a perfectly soft carbonation. The alcohol does start to burn a bit, but it's not overly distracting.

I've been sitting on this bottle for a while and was worried it might be headed downhill. As far as I can tell, this one has never been better. Complex, rich, smooth...exceptional beer.

Photo of barczar
4.25/5  rDev +0.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4.25

Very sweet, but huge caramelization and just a hint of sherry oxidation.

These age so well.

Photo of laituegonflable
4.05/5  rDev -4.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Pours a dark orange, turbid colour. Head is a thin film, with nice clingy lace. Nice haze, looks alright, not great.

Smells quite intense. Liqueury sweet with apricot, almonds, some licorice as well, marmalade and a slight tartness. Slight edge of smoke as well, just subtly underlying. Very syrupy. Intriguing, but not too excited by it.

Taste is a wham-pack whallop of flavour in the gullet. Huge syrupy liqueury flavour with loads of nutty character - almonds, walnuts and pistachio with rich complex jammy sweetness, lots of apricot and pear. Fair hit of cinnamon as well, and some burnt orange flavour coming through towards the late-mid. What an intriguing palate, it's heavy and massively potent, but finish is very pleasant and just trails off gently leaving you with a big hearty warm smile.

Very syrupy and viscous on the feel, as one would expect. Nice body that suits the style and the palate. The whole thing is just like a dessert wine.

Very sippable beer, but not much more. There isn't any heat though from the alcohol which is wonderful. Nice beer, well handled. Not over the top which would have been such an easy trap into which to fall.

Photo of francisweizen
4.87/5  rDev +15.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

1997 Vintage, 12 ounce bottle, purchased at Bierkraft in NYC for $6 or so. A good purchase for sure! This classic brew poured out a nice dark reddish colour with plenty of inherent carbonation. The aromas were all across the board, and very Hardy's like at times. The aromas consisted of dark fruits, spicy alcohol, deep, deep roasted malts, and very freshly cut, bitter, herbal, grassy, sappy, piney, hops. Over the years the hops have been cut down to size and the malt really dominates in this brews taste, but that is OK to me, this is a classic brew, that 6 years of aging has totally rounded into a new dimension of complexity and balance. The mouthfeel is creamy and smooth, but i'll knock a point off for the lack of liveliness. The drinkability is only marred by the super strong ABV. A classic!

Photo of GreesyFizeek
4.61/5  rDev +9%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.5

2012 vintage, Autumn Limited Edition. Purchased at Nathaniel Square Corner Store in Rochester, NY.

Pours a golden ruby amber, with a small half inch head, and basically no lacing.

Smells wonderful, slightly oxidized, giving off sherry impressions, with caramel, toffee, and some grassy hops.

I can't believe I'm finally trying this beer, I clearly should have a long time ago. It's excellent, and really quite smooth. Silky toffee and caramel, some port-like flavors, molasses and maple, and a little bit of grassy hops. I also get some prune, oak, smoke and brown sugar, a little bit. Finishes very clean. Clearly brewed to perfection.

This is medium bodied and slightly syupy, with a full mouthfeel, and a lower level of carbonation.

This vintage has clearly aged marvelously. It's one of the best barleywines I've ever had. Everything intensely in moderation.

Photo of Pencible
4.3/5  rDev +1.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

2007 vintage. This poured a nearly opaque light copper with no head. It smelled like dried apricot and honey wheat, with sugary caramel and orange, and a bit of alcohol and cream. It tasted like sugary caramel and honey wheat and orange concentrate at first, then switched to toasted oat and charred oak and alcohol. It was watery (surprisingly thin) with a bit of carbonation, and a very sweet and slightly tart aftertaste. Overall this was a very sweet but delicate beer that was strong but not overpowering (as opposed to 120 Minute or The Beast). It had a great complex flavor that was very enjoyable to sip, but the noticeable alcohol kept this from being more easily drunk. I wish this beer had more body, but otherwise it was great. This could still probably use a few more years before it's hit its peak, and last much longer than that before it declines at all.

I followed this with a bottle of the 2006 vintage, but that had unfortunately been oxidized. It poured a very dark mahogany. The smell wasn't bad, but the taste was dominated by rusty metallic and moldy flavors. Very sad.

Photo of mynie
3.86/5  rDev -8.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3

2001.

Pours dark red and hazy like blood or a Fruit Roll Up.

Smells like very, very intense sweet yeast fruit, molasses, and hops. Good god, this has been aged for five years?

Tastes grainy, very sweet. Candy sweet. Belgian yeast sweet, only sweeter. Brown sugar molasses white can sugar sunshine sweet. Intense, to say the least...a bit too overwhelming to describe.

Too intense to enjoy it as you would a normal beer, but the pure splendor of the whole thing makes this beer more than worthwhile.

Photo of TheLongBeachBum
4.05/5  rDev -4.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

1998 Harvest Ale (tried on 8/3/06)

Presentation: 275ml bottle, 11.5% Alc/Vol. Single obverse cream label with a picture down the left hand side depicting a hop harvest. Black crown cap.

Appearance: Dark ruby body with a polished mahogany firmed up six-pack stomach that is tight. Tan head rises on the pour and seemingly pulls the finely dissolved carbonation out of solution and into the underside of the cap like a vacuum. Finishes with a classy poise, the head breaks eventually but there is some fine lacing.

Nose: Melodious nose that has a sweet edge but it is gentle. Warm and cuddly, the aromas have an inviting dark fruit consistency with a rich range of odors.

Taste: Dark toffee, boiled raisin juice and brown sugars dominate the middle. Entrance has a little liquorice, but not much, finish rises with an ember like warmth and has a lot of plums and figs with a lingering squashed date after taste.

Mouthfeel: Treacle like texture allows this one to ooze into every nook and cranny. Soothing alcohol warmth portrays the strength but this is more than balanced by the dissolved malt sugars.

Drinkability: The sweetness takes the edge off the long term partnership, but it is a solid night cap brew that certainly makes up for this aspect with a plethora of dark fruits and complexity to have this one remain a favorite.

Overall 1998: Much sweeter than the previous years (1997) sample that I tried a few days ago. At almost 8 years old, time has certainly softened the syrup texture but it still has a residual sweetness that takes a little getting used to. I think that the Harvest Ale is best sampled at 5 years plus, but I think the 1998 will keep for several years yet whilst still improving.

Photo of cbutova
3.88/5  rDev -8.3%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

1999 vintage, reviewed from notes.

A- Dark ruby red with a pretty big head for an 11 year old beer. A cloud sticks around for a bit but lace doesn't wanna happen.

S- Fumes of alcohol and an almost permanent marker smell come off at first. Some dark fruit and even a bit sour, dusty and old like cardboard almost.

T- Improves with every sip. Hard to get around the insane sweetness at first. Tons of dark fruit and caramel. Like a good old ale but dustier and older, pretty close to what I had imagined this tasting like.

MF- Very oily and syrup textured. Low but good carbonation level for an aged barleywine. Coat of old malt and fruit coat a fairly warm palate.

DB- Expensive but definitely ages pretty well, good qualities remain and I can even see it going a bit longer but personally would probably prefer a 3-5 year one. Would love to do a 5 or 6 bottle vertical some day.

Photo of warnerry
4.43/5  rDev +4.7%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

1999 vintage into a tulip

A - Pours clear amber with a thin cap of tan head.

S - Brown sugar, rum, raisins. Definite sweetness in the aroma, but very nice. Also get quite a bit of vanilla and a faint touch of chocolate.

T - Similar to the aroma. Flavors blend together very well. Definitely a touch sweet with lots of honey, caramelized brown sugar and dark fruits, but it works. A faint amount of bitterness keeps the sweetness from being too much.

M - Mouthfeel is pretty full and somewhat sticky. Very smooth.

O - It would be interesting to try a fresher bottle to see how the hops integrate with the other flavors, but this was a very tasty brew.

Photo of Immortale25
4.55/5  rDev +7.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

Poured into a Funky Buddha Brewery snifter. 2011 vintage.

A- Pours a light brown color with a full two finger light tan head that retains well before popping away to a thick ring around the edge of the glass and a mostly full sheet of surface foam. Not-so-resilient lacing leaves small streaks behind.

S- Sweet, biscuity malt with notes of brown sugar, dark bread and toffee.

T- Powerful flavors of burnt sugar, caramel and more toffee. Toasty malt and minimal hop bitterness. The alcohol is hidden quite well but lends a fortified wine characteristic to the overall profile.

M- Somewhat sharp and tangy with medium carbonation and a body leaning toward the fuller side.

O- A fantastic representation of an English Barleywine. The sweetness in particular lends itself to drinkability even with the pronounced alcohol bite. You would expect those two things to clash with one another but this brew shows how the two can co-exist in harmony.

Photo of dar482
3.78/5  rDev -10.6%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.75

(Review of a 1999 vintage).

The beer comes in a dark copper color.

The aroma has tons of caramel, brown sugar, toffee sweetness. There's a bit of sweet dark raisin there as well.

The flavor follows with just a rush of caramel and brown sugar. I have never had a beer that is so sweet and caramel forward. It literally tastes like drinking watered down caramel.

In the end, the beer lacked a bit of complexity for me. I really enjoyed the sweetness and it would be a great dessert beer. I just wish there was maybe more carbonation, or drying, or something to separate from simply sweetness. It still surely hits its alcohol though.

Photo of DmanGTR
4.72/5  rDev +11.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Had this one last night after my undergrad graduation ceremony :)

Vintage 2001 - Dec 1

A - poured cloudy, burgundy brown with a small bubble ring in my tulip chalice. No lacing.

S - very, very malty sweet, at first I was caught off guard and thought of sweet soy sauce, but I let it sink into me and realized I was detecting the beautiful aromas of dark fruits: figs and dates, mixed with a slight rum-like alcohol, a light yeastiness, and holiday spiciness. Complex, rich, and satisfying.

T - good golly... molasses sweetness, very malty, bready, a slight hint of cocoa, and deep, deep fruits. Dates, figs, and spice, nearly no hops. Alcohol is very well hidden until you feel it warming your throat.

M - medium/heavy bodied, very light/nearly non existent carbonation. Sticky and syrupy. Coats your palate nicely.

D - this is most definitely a sipper. Not only is it somewhat costly, but the alcohol is quite high (11.5%). It will sneak up on you. This is a beer you want to enjoy for a while.

Overall - I was a little scared to buy this but I'm glad I did. Extremely sweet, almost like a port or a dessert beer but still quite excellent. For the price, I would probably only drink this on special occasions. I opened this one on May 18, 2008. It is quite amazing how well it aged in 7 years. This is excellent as a dessert beer, served by itself, or shared in small quantities as an appetizer beer. Cheers to this great brew. I am eager to try the other years as well.

I will update as I try the other years. This review is of the 2001 edition.

Photo of jmdrpi
4.91/5  rDev +16.1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

2002 vintage - 275mL bottle, poured into snifter

appears a muddy chocolate brown, with an off-white head that fades immediately. extremely pungent aroma - huge malt, raisins, brown sugar, toffee. intoxicating smell.

taste is more of the same. buttery sweet, with notes of caramel, molasses, burnt sugar, raisins, milk chocolate. crazily complex and bold flavors. no alcohol taste. thick luscious full body. subtle smooth carbonation.

overall - wow. I am truly amazed by this beer. need to get more! 10 years has done wonders

Photo of woosterbill
3.85/5  rDev -9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

275ml bottle of the 1999 vintage into a Duvel tulip.

A: A slow, steady pour produces a lovely finger of tight off-white head atop a dark, slightly murky reddish-brown body. The head is particularly impressive for such an old, strong beer, displaying great retention and even leaving a decent amount of fine lace. Anyone who claims that decade-old beers are supposed to be flat and ugly obviously hasn't had a 1999 Lees. Excellent.

S: Hugely sweet, with sherry, raisins, brown sugar, treacle, and toffee. Wave after wave of sugary malts wafts out of the tulip, followed by some faint hints of leather, spice, and alcohol. There's a touch of oxidation for sure, but not to the point of being dirty and cardboardy. Excellent, if a bit over the top with sweetness.

T: Not nearly as complex as nose: this is just a straight sugar explosion. Brown sugar and toffee are the only flavors at first, and a sizable dose of oxidation and ethanol finishes things off. It's enjoyable in a decadent, desert-like way, but lacks the depth of the aroma.

M: Syrupy and smooth at first, with some soft carbonation showing up upon agitation. Pretty solid for the style, if almost unbearably sticky.

D: While I fully expected this beer to deliver an unadulterated barrage of malty sweetness, I guess I wasn't quite prepared for just how cloying that could become. The small bottle is more than appropriate.

Notes: This was delicious, and I fully intend to sample a more recent vintage to compare, I really found it to be too one-dimensional in its flavor profile. I've had the 06 Port and Lagavulin versions of this brew, and they were both far superior to this. This was totally worth the steep per-ounce price tag, but it's not something I'll be stockpiling in large amounts.

Cheers!

J.W. Lees Vintage Harvest Ale from J.W. Lees & Co (Brewers) Ltd
94 out of 100 based on 1,339 ratings.