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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

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BA SCORE
95
world-class

1,268 Ratings
THE BROS
100
world-class

(view ratings)
Ratings: 1,268
Reviews: 797
rAvg: 4.25
pDev: 14.12%
Wants: 214
Gots: 183 | FT: 12
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:
No notes at this time.

(Beer added by: Todd on 12-18-2000)
Beer: Ratings & Reviews
Sort by:  Usefulness | Recent | High | Low | Top Raters | Read the Alström Bros Beer Reviews and Beer Ratings of J.W. Lees Vintage Harvest Ale Alström Bros
Ratings: 1,268 | Reviews: 797 | Display Reviews Only:
Photo of grub
4.93/5  rDev +16%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

(reviewing 1997 vintage)

pours a deep brown colour, with almost no head, that quickly fades into a thin film on the surface of the beer.

aroma is a bit of alcohol, some bubblegum, and a rich sweetness.

taste builds on the aroma. rich, like bittersweet chocolate with a bit of espresso. tastes of dried fruit, sort of like raisins. alcohol is almost non-existent in the flavour, which is good consider it's over 11%.

body is fairly big, which i'd expect. it balances out the alcohol well.

overall a very deep and complex beer. very tasty and definitely a must-try brew.

grub, Mar 20, 2006
Photo of jmdrpi
4.93/5  rDev +16%
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

jmdrpi, Jan 24, 2012
Photo of BEERchitect
4.93/5  rDev +16%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

Release '05: Sept. 23, 2007

Still considered very young, yet seductive enough to crack open the bottle. I just can't let these beers age at all. They are magnificent at any age. The 05 is no exception. Expecting a heavy sweet beer with some raw sugars and syrups, perhaps a hop bite and conflict; expecting high amounts of co2 to amplify an already-hot brew. Nope -- got none of that. Instead, the same smooth, brandy-like, port-wine brew with a hint of hop bitterness and flavor, mild heat, and creamy co2. Candied fruits take the form of fruit cake soaked in rum, with the finess of an after dinner congnac. The beer is absolutely amazing. Can't wait to see what the next decade does to the other one that I'll try to stash back.

Releases '87, 97, 92 - side by side comparison / Aug. 21, 2007

The '87 shined with higher port-wine, brandy flavors, but much more mellow, and less robust than earlier verisions. The nose was quite light, flavors were muted, with a complex alcohol feel and void carbonation. It looks a lot like prune juice, and tastes syrupy with deep dark fruits (dates, raisons, prunes, plumbs, figs). No hop presence at all. Highly oxidized and musty throughout. Rate 4.4

The '97 has all of the characteristics as the '87, but with richer context, intensity, and mouthfeel. The carbonation rounds out the mouthfeel and makes the beer feel fuller. The fruits are a bit ripe in comparison, but taking on similar proportions. More molassas, maple, wood character persists. Less oxidized, but still characterful with sherry and a touch of soy-sauce. Rate 4.8

The '02 is much sweeter, and has not rounded out fully yet. Rich maple syrup flavors make the beer taste a bit raw. The alcohols come across very warm, nearly hot. Fruits take on fresh fruitcake / dehydrated fruits, pronounced cherry flavor. No oxidation, but more one-dimensional than the earlier versions. Rate 4.25.

What an experiment! The '97 has the best recipe and has aged very well, probably nearing it's peak. The '87, although very nice, has signs of decline. The '02 still needs time to come into it's own. Thanks Clvand0!

Release 1999:

Always a joy to drink. After 8 years of bottle conditioning, great things are anticipated. The sweetness from this brew was fantastic: full of plumbs, grapes, dates, figs, cherries, prunes, and raisons, all swirled around a rum-like liquor. The hops have basically disappeared, leaving a mild bitterness from hop residue, grains, and confectionate sugars. Very rich and syrupy feel with a sharp, hot alcohol thinning. The beer sticks to the insides of the mouth for some time. Though this was a special session, I prefered the 2000 and the Port Cask Harvest Ales better.

Release 2000. Sampled on 06-21-05.

Boy what a terrific beer; best I've had in a while.
Looks brown with amber and tan highlights. Has a smooth, silky viscocity when poured into the glass. 1/2" off white head settles to a trace. Laces well and has legs. Smells fruity and sweet. Fruits resemble dates, figs, and raisons. Mildly alcoholic and spicy. Mouth watering. Tastes sweet and malty. Terrific full and round body. Sweetness hangs around. Mouthfeel is creamy and silky. Complex barley flavors abound. Flavors remind me of dark sweet wines. Quite chewy. Alcohol is hidden well. Finishes sweet and malty. Bittered only to balance; no flavor, no agressiveness. Not as dry as one would expect. Again, mildly alcoholic.

Impression: Probably more akin to an English Old Ale--with a punch. Well matured and melded. Dangerously easy to drink.
I highly recomend. May be substituted for an after dinner Port Wine or a Brandy.

BEERchitect, Jun 21, 2005
Photo of gskitt
4.93/5  rDev +16%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

Firstly, I am not a huge fan of barley-wines. That being said, I had always wanted to try this one based on things I've read. Had at Monks in Philly. Bartender had to dig it out and was dusty. Pours a warm almost purple color, but its dark in the back of Monks. Smell is crazy, I got figs, plums, brandy, sugars. Very strong. Does not have any head to speak of. Taste is intense, but mellow at the same time. Strong presence of fruit soaked in brandy here. Bartender served it warm, and it was perfect at room temperature. Mouthfeel is smooth and slick, its a sipper. This may change my opinion on the style. Overall, great beer!

gskitt, Nov 03, 2011
Photo of RobH
4.93/5  rDev +16%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

1998 vintage. This was my first-ever barleywine style beer. I must say, it blew me away. It was served in a snifter glass at the bar at Birreria Paradiso in Georgetown in Washington, D.C.

Excellent after-dinner beer/drink. Like a cordial.

Smooth, inviting to the nose, and quite pleasing to the taste buds, this is a sipper to enjoy over conversation about all the beers that came before it.

If you have never tried a barley wine before and have an opportunity to taste this one, do not pass it up!

RobH, Mar 01, 2008
Photo of ToasterChef
4.93/5  rDev +16%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

Served in my Uprising Chalice at Novare Res' First Anniversary Party. Reviewed from my tasting notes. The keg this was served from did not have any marking to indicate what year vintage this harvest ale is. It's also possible that this was aged at some point in port casks, as port flavors and aromas were all over this beer, but because it was advertised as J.W. Lees Harvest Vintage, I'm reviewing it here.

It has an opaque golden/orange/copper color with a thick white, soapy head. There is a port-like aroma that is very sweet and slightly alcoholic. The taste is mostly of port, but also some malt. It has a thick full-bodied mouthfeel that I rather enjoyed. The alcohol lingers in your mouth after you swallow, letting you know this is complex, finely crafted beer that demands your respect. I know it is strong and expensive, but I could drink this beer all night. After great beer, port is my next favorite beverage of choice, and this harvest ale combined them in a way that I love. This beer has become one of my favorites.

ToasterChef, May 22, 2009
Photo of brooklynsfinest
4.93/5  rDev +16%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

9.6 fl oz. 1998 Vintage Limited Edition bottle poured into a large Dogfish snifter for one and a Duvel tulip for another.

Appearance: Mahogany color that turns dark amber in the light. Small head that fades to lace pretty quickly. Not overly carbonated, understandably due to its age. A somewhat syrupy and viscous look to the brew with some swirls.

Smell: Malt. Alcohol is noticeable yet comfortably inviting like a warm blanket. Molasses. Dark fruit. Raisins. Fruit cake soaked in an aged rum. Allspice. Some butterscotch-toffee. Notes of a fortified wine. Sherry, maybe Port.

Taste/Mouthfeel: Amazingly smooth. Makes me wonder if the claimed 11.5% abv is false advertisement. Some warmth on the finish, but none of the alcohol scents I got are present in the taste. Really malty! even when expecting it from the style. Full syrupy mouthfeel. Very sweet, but not cloying. More dark fruit. Prune flavors, but not those of the cheap Pathmark from-concentrate prune juices your constipated grandmother bought, more like freshly picked plums dried and then soaked in a sweet syrup of complexity.

Drinkability: A beer of this sort, (especially after being aged for a decade) isn't intended to be a session beer, and therefore should not be graded as one. As i mentioned above the beer is very smooth for the style and abv, hence my score for drinkability.

Overall notes: An excellent beer. Enticingly smooth and complex. Will be sure to revisit other years and the various cask fermentations.

Quote from Dad: "Good after dinner, not a breakfast beer."

brooklynsfinest, Jan 05, 2009
Photo of kmpitz2
4.93/5  rDev +16%
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

kmpitz2, Jul 27, 2004
Photo of cbeer88
4.93/5  rDev +16%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

Reviewed blindly courtesy of Blind BIF #6.

9.3oz bottle poured into Duvel tulip.

Appearance: Cap cracks with a nice hiss, and I slowly pour into the glass careful to watch out for sediment once I see the dark liquid and smell the liquor. Head is a fluffy finger and a half of very light tan. Lacing is pretty and covers most of the glass.

Smell: I immediately smelled some sort of liquor when I popped the cap. I get notes of vanilla, caramel, and sweet dark fruits - dates, prunes, raisins - a lot going in here. There is a hint of wood and some definite must. This guy is both barrel aged and cellared for a while. The aroma is simply intoxicating.

Taste: How does one quantify "awesome"? Lots of that delicious dark fruit in the flavor, plus wood, slight oxidization, caramel and toffee, vanilla, maple, and a very smoothly blended liquor that is rather difficult to pin at this point. I'm going with port, but this could be sherry. Alcohol taste is smooth but strong - definitely a potent beer.

Mouthfeel: Good carb and full bodied. Nice and smooth, but syrupy.

Drinkability: High. This is a sipper all the way, but wow is this drinkable. Each sip makes me yearn for the next. It's just the right mix of sweet and alcohol.

Overall: This beer is sublime. I could happily drink this for the rest of my life.

cbeer88, Jan 16, 2012
Photo of Murph
4.9/5  rDev +15.3%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

1999. Pours a clear bright amber with a thick creamy tan head that refuses to go away. Intense sweet chocolate and caramel malts dominate with some raisins tossed in and some very slight alcohol. Intense maltiness right away. Chocolate and caramel. Some fruitiness; raisins, faint cherries, and some other dark fruits. Extremely chewy mouthfeel and nicely drinkable. Not quite up to par with its older brothers yet, but still an awesome brew. A couple of years of cellaring would do this brew very nicely.

1998. Pours a clear dark amber/brown with a thick, rocky, tan head that retains very well. Smells are of cherries, raisins, toffee, chocolate, and some barely noticeable warming alcohol. Tastes start off with some sweet, chewy malt then fade to chocolate before going fruity. Cherries, raisins, and apples are the big ones. Woody and slightly smokey. The chocolatey malty flaovrs stay pretty much throughout. Great creamy smoothness in the mouth and very drinkable for the style. Damn do they ever know how to make a barley wine at this brewery. The best I have had of the style. Some might like it aged some more but I like the somewhat raw characters of the fruits.

1997. Beautiful light brownish/amber with a nice tannish head. Smells of malty sweetness, apples, smokey/wood, light alcohol, and a touch of honey. Taste is unbelievably complex. Tart fruits, smokey character, big maltiness, some earthy hops, honey, chocolate, and more maltiness. Those are just a few of the flavors that I am pulling off of this one. I can't even identify some of them. Incredibly smooth and creamy and pretty damn drinkable for a BW. This was an absolutely awesome brew, if you love barley wines like I do then you have to get some of these. A great special occasion beer.

Murph, May 20, 2002
Photo of luvND
4.9/5  rDev +15.3%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

1999

I have had this case for nearly a year now and only break one out on special occasions, have also given a few as gifts to those I deem worthy.

Bottle: Nice fallish label, 1999 gold embossed

Appearance: In a brandy snifter, it can only be described as perfect. Thick, small bubbled head. Swirls beautifully. Deep amber color.

Smell: Sweet, molasses, bready, licorice, candied raisons.

Taste: Beautiful. Sweet, black licorice, very reminiscent of a brandy or port.

Mouthfeel: So creamy and slick, flavors linger pleasantly and your tongue actually feels coated with the stuff for a few minutes after the swallow.

Drinkability: About one an hour I'd say to properly enjoy this through a range of temperatures, it really does change as it warms a bit.

Notes: It is not an exaduration to say that this is the BEST beer that I have ever tasted. I would love to try some of the other vintages as this is the only year that was available at the time.

luvND, Jan 06, 2006
Photo of lifeboyq
4.9/5  rDev +15.3%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

2001 vintage poured into a rochefort glass.

Very little head that fades almost instantly.

Nose, holy nose. it is a monster as I can smell it from a foot away. When i put my nose into it, it makes my nose hairs dance and wakes me up as if it were the smelling salt of beers. My eyes open wider with the strong fig, dates, raisins, sorghum, brown sugar, alcohol. Very deep dark fruits intertwined.

Wow, the taste is a monster. More flavor concentration than you almost ever "see" when tasting a beer. What a huge body on this beer. It almost reminds me of fabio or arnold, but not quite. I could pour this on my pancakes. Holy bajeeburs at the thickness of this beer. Reminds me of maple and raisin toast and fig newtons and just nuances of unrefined sugars dancing on my tongue. I served this intentionally slightly warmer than 55 and the hotness of this beer is slightly present, which doesnt bother me at all.

The mouthfeel is sily smooth, closer to a syrupy texture on the tongue. This beer isnt cloying but it is hugely intense.

Beer experiences dont get much finer. With age, this becomes a glorious thing.

Note, I've had different vintages back to 99 up to 08 and it changes quite drastically. The 08 this year was a bit much for me and wasnt ready. The 99 was even cleaner than this 2001 from my recollection but the tasting wasnt side by side.

lifeboyq, Mar 30, 2011
Photo of Lakes
4.9/5  rDev +15.3%
look: 3 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

Appearance: There is (for obvious reasons) painfully little head on the 2002. I expect none so perhaps I'm being too critical but I've had other beers (not this style) that were aged longer and retained a nice head. Otherwise; the color is deep dark brown to the point of black with lovely ruby hues as it pours

Aroma: Fantastic. Huge rich malt and fruit. Raisin, Date, Figs. Carmel and heady alcohol. Simply wonderful. The depth is amazing.

Taste: As the nose, the taste is huge and complex. Fig and light leather. Dates and caramel. Warm alcohol adds balance more than hops. The tawny hints are spellbinding.

Feel: Spot on. Full, rich and satisfying.

Drink: I wish I has a science fiction refrigerator so I could grab an 8 year old J.W. Lee's at will. I can't find any 2003, 2004 or 2005. I guess I'll have to stock up on the 2006 which seems to be readily available and hope my stock of the 2002 lasts till 2014.

Lakes, Jan 06, 2011
Photo of rvdoorn
4.9/5  rDev +15.3%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

2001 vintage.
Look: the beer pours a dark brown-copper color with no head, but just some nice lacing around the inside of the glass.
Smell: Absolutely fantastic! One of the most complex smells I ever experienced; maple, barley, butter, alcohol, honey, sweet molasses, raisins, brown sugar and some light hops.
Taste: The taste follows the nose; again maple, barley, butter, alcohol, honey, sweet molasses, raisins, brown sugar, bit vanilla. This beer has a warming boozy aftertaste, with spicy alcohol.
Mouthfeel: Thick sticky body, low carbonation. Very smooth.
Overall: This is one of the best beers I ever had, so full, fruity and complex. This beer proves that English Barley wines still rule the world.

rvdoorn, Jul 16, 2011
Photo of maketheheartglad
4.9/5  rDev +15.3%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

My wife surprised me with this incredible beer when I came home from work one day. But, the special thing is the greatness of my wife.

This beer looks like dark honey. I would like to say it smells like a scotch, but I'm not really familiar with scotch (unfortunately). It smells malty and manifold. I can taste pear and other fruits, but I wish I could pick them out. The alcohol is definitely perceived, but gracefully so.

This beer is is so different than any other beers I've had. I've only had an american barleywine, and it didn't really impress me. I prefer malty ales, so I figured that I would prefer English Barleywines. This was my first, and it will be hard to beat.

maketheheartglad, Nov 05, 2013
Photo of amphion1065
4.9/5  rDev +15.3%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

275 mL bottle poured into a tulip glass. From the 1988 vintage, purchased at Lord Hobo on Zwanze Day 2011. Reviewed from notes.

It's a rather pedestrian-looking barleywine, though it isn't quite fair to compare it to any beer from the 21st century in this category. The pour is a dark, purplish auburn, almost brown. A non-existent head, though this did leave nice legs on my glass. My glass was nearly free of dregs, but there was a cake of yeast roughly 1/8" thick left at the bottom of the bottle - crazy stuff.

The smell is absolutely flawless. I'm still searching for the best way to encapsulate the incredibly rich melange of aromas that this beer gave off, and I suppose the best comparison would be figgy pudding. The richest, deepest scent of toffee combines with sweet, sweet caramel in the most enticing-smelling beer I've ever consumed. There is also a fruity, port-like note, without any accompanying alcohol phenols.

Looking back at my notes, I deemed the taste of this beer "Perfect." Over 24 hours after drinking this bottle, I stand by my judgment. All of the toffee and caramel from the aroma somehow shine even brighter in the taste. And yet, somehow this beer doesn't seem cloying. The aftertaste is somewhat like brown sugar, the sort of rich, dark sweetness that's a hallmark of wonderful desserts. A slight, sherry-like oxidation provides a little bit of balance to this treat.

Predictably, this 23-year-old barleywine pours almost perfectly still. In this case, the lack of carbonation actually complements the overall character of the beer. Like the taste, the mouthfeel is quite evocative of sweet syrup, full and lush like few other beers I've tried.

On a day when I was fortunate enough to sample some really terrific beers, this one stole the show for me. A testament to the benefits that optimal (in this case, I would imagine flawless) cellaring can impart to a beer. My only regret is that I didn't buy a second bottle. Thank you for this Daniel, it was spectacular.

amphion1065, Sep 19, 2011
Photo of AKBelgianBeast
4.88/5  rDev +14.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

Wow! This is an intense brew.

Vintage 2001.

Pours a deep brown with ruby red haziness through the light. appears very thick and has little head. The nose is a glorious mix of dark fruits with raisins and dates. Caramely and sugary with some slight smoke taste. liquid candy. mouthfeel is very, very thick and creamy as hell. goes down smooth and is very drinkable for its 11.5 abv. The finish lingers forever and leaves a sugary residue on the lips that takes a while to lick off. An excellent offer from JW Lees. Much better than any of the recent cask aged lees brews. I would say this is my favorite english barleywine behind arctic devil. Great brew.

AKBelgianBeast, Dec 22, 2007
Photo of basica
4.88/5  rDev +14.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

J.W Lee's Harvest Ale (AGED: Vintage 2002) (Rating 10/10) - 11.5 ABV - 11 October 2007

I had my 2005 Lee's a few days ago and now trying to cross compare with this one which is 3 years older. Generally the looks between the 2 differed significantly but the taste difference was not really detectable except that I can sense that the 2002 is somewhat a slightly more mellowed down version. I again served this top notch Barley wine in my dainty little snifter glass. The 2002 poured out with an unexpected dark ruby color compared to the 2005's orange color; it had a small head which quickly reduced to mild lacing and finally nothing whereas the 2005 had no head at all. It smells fruity strong of the same fruit composition - Plums, Prunes and maybe raisins; but the difference here is the smell is not as overpowering like the 2005 one; I believe it is more
mellowed down. The taste again hits me first with strong maple sweetness followed by a nice malt backing and the fruits flooding into my palates; plums, prunes, raisins and the malt backing was clear and blended very well with the fruitines. I believe the malts were more pronounced here than in the 2005. The alcohol is definitely less pronounced here as the finish did not leave an alcholic taste and the only aromas driven up my nose was sweet fruity aromas of honey, sugar and fruits including plums, prunes and raisins. The malts were nicely evident in the finish and after taste and clearly the taste is well mellowed down and not as stinging nor alcoholic as the 2005. The after taste was malty, fruity, syrupy and the first thing that hits me is the syrupy candied taste followed by the clear malt backing and of course the multitude of fruits which started off really plumy and ended with a raisiny note with the malt backing and honey candied taste pretty evident. Generally, I think the level of sweetness is just as high as the 2005 version though I think I would have expected it to go down a little over the 3 years. The mouthfeel was clearly rich and thick like the 2005 and was definitely almost syrupy thick but the mellowing also brought down the clear alcohol strength as evident in the 2005. The alcohol is definitely not
jumping out anymore; definitely a prefered property. the 2002 was also surprisingly very smooth, even smoother than the 2005. I guess that the aging mellowed it pretty well; it could use a tad bit more of mellowing and slight downing of the sweetness and syrupy though it is not cloying.
Now, I have sky high expectations for my final 1998 bottle of J.W. Lees Harvest Ale!

basica, Oct 11, 2007
Photo of santoslhalper
4.88/5  rDev +14.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

Pours a hazy reddish amber with a nice offwhite head. Smells very fruity and malty. Hints at prunes and rasiens. Quite a sniffer. Tastes exceptional. A true delight to the palate. An explosion of taste. Tastes very fruity and datey. Such a complex brew my taste buds are baffled by what they are tasting. This is an interesting, unique brew. A barrage of flavor. This is one of the best out there. Unbeatable complexity, very smooth and creamy in the mouth, and it hides the 11.5% almost too well. This is a world class knock you on your ass beer that can't be matched. Many, many thanks to GClarkage for sending me this one. A+++

santoslhalper, Nov 23, 2004
Photo of largadeer
4.88/5  rDev +14.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

'98 vintage.

Appearance - Oily and thick, mahogany in color, hazy but still transparent. Pours with a small, short-lived head.

Smell - Earthy and sweet. Caramel and raisins with woody undertones. Very bold, similar to a nice port or sherry.

Taste and mouthfeel - Layers of flavor unfold with each sip. Strawberries, followed by caramel, wood, iron and raisins. Bitter earthy hops provide a necessary touch of dryness in the finish that prevent this from being cloying. Very full-bodied, almost syrupy, with just enough carbonation to keep the mouthfeel lively. Very drinkable despite the syrupy texture and sweetness.

largadeer, Mar 15, 2008
Photo of Lupe
4.88/5  rDev +14.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

Vintage 2000

Copper brown colored, with a tight and creamy ivory head that leaves behind some lace. Size of the head was a surprise considering the abv and age. Beautiful amber-red hues shine through as it's held up to the light.

Sweet aroma of dark fruit, toffee, and caramel. Doses of honey, raisin, fig, brown sugar, and alcohol are all mixed in. Very inviting.

Lots of sweet malt flavors, like the aroma - dark and tropical fruit, toffee, caramel, and mild coffee. Some honey and brown sugar along with a touch of vanilla and faint woodiness. Herbal hop bitterness as well as spicy alcohol and yeast round thing out. Absolutely delicious.

Full-bodied - velvety smooth, creamy, thick and syrupy. Start with juicy burst and finishes dry with a lingering spicy tickle.

Incredible drinkability for such a big and complex sipping beer. Alcohol never gets in the way. Truly special.

Lupe, Dec 03, 2007
Photo of Greggy
4.88/5  rDev +14.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

Re-review on 11/20/08. Sampled at cellar temp. 1998 vintage

A- Very nice thick 1 finger head with some nice clinging lace. Dark maroon/brown color with some suspended sediment. After a bit, the foam recedes to a thin cap.

S- Initially I get a huge fresh flour component and sweet brown sugary goodness. I also get some nice cherry and chocolate, with some plum or fig. I also get some nice peppermint aromas.

T- Sweet plum, cherries, maple syrup, brown sugary smoothness. with a very smooth dryness in the fining. Very sweet malt as well. This is outstanding.

M- this thing is the definition of smooth. It has basically no carbonation but is very well balanced and sweet. It's amazing what 10 years on a beer can do for smoothness.

D- 11.5% is pretty high, but it's hidden VERY well. I am Very glad I have 3 more of these.

Greggy, May 14, 2008
Photo of scottum
4.88/5  rDev +14.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

Bottle of the 1997 vintage.

Pours out a hazy brown with a very small quick fading head. Wow! wow! wow! This is not an overrated brew. So damn good on so many levels. Huge malts are so complex. If only all six year old beers were to be this good! I wish I could drink this liquid gold every day. Certainly one of the best barleywines I've ever sampled. Gots to try me some other years.

scottum, Aug 22, 2003
Photo of Pecorasc
4.88/5  rDev +14.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

Vintage 1999. Split two ways and poured into a Leffe glass.

A- Medium to deep amber in color with swirls of thin film and some streamers of lacing thrown up the sides of the glass. Swirling or tipping the glass to the side move the lacing around and show that this beer has quite a bit of viscosity. The beer is clean, but not polished and shows no noticeable signs of carbonation. A very nice looking English Barleywine that looks more red than other examples of the style.

S- Dominated by a pleasant dust and cardboard-like oxidation. Those aromas are complemented by a cherry and pear sweetness. Some woodiness is present in the background and there is only a slight amount of alcohol. Very unique, somewhat confusing, but certainly a 5.0.

T + M- Right away, this beer distinguishes itself with a thick and creamy mouthfeel that makes it drink like a stout. Wonderful flavors of cherry liqueur, wood, and cardboard. Think grenadine soaked cardboard; sounds gross, but tastes amazing. Transitions to heavier wood and alcohol on top of the malt and cherry flavors and finishes sweet and smooth with very little alcohol burn.

D- Fantastic drinkability on an 11.5% barleywine. No alcohol burn, but the big body makes this a fuller beer that falls between a sipper and a beer with average drinkability. This could make a classic pairing with so many cheeses and cigars. This beer was surely made with an eye to aging.

Pecorasc, Jan 25, 2010
Photo of brentk56
4.88/5  rDev +14.8%
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

brentk56, Jul 20, 2005
J.W. Lees Vintage Harvest Ale from J.W. Lees & Co (Brewers) Ltd
95 out of 100 based on 1,268 ratings.