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

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J.W. Lees Vintage Harvest AleJ.W. Lees Vintage Harvest Ale

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BA SCORE
95
world-class

1,284 Ratings
THE BROS
100
world-class

(view ratings)
Ratings: 1,284
Reviews: 798
rAvg: 4.25
pDev: 14.12%
Wants: 221
Gots: 184 | FT: 11
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
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Ratings: 1,284 | Reviews: 798 | Display Reviews Only:
Photo of punkrkr27
4.53/5  rDev +6.6%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

2008 bottle. Bright orangish copper pour with little head. The aroma is loaded with boozy fig, candied dates, rum, raisins, brandy, English toffee, warm spices, pepper, cherries, and subtle noble hops. The flavor is sweet and leathery with lots of over ripe dark fruit and notes of tobacco, rum, brandy, cinnamon, nutmeg, damp wood, alcohol, pepper, and some almond. Creamy, full body with soft carbonation.

Photo of track1646
4.72/5  rDev +11.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

1999 Vintage poured into a Stone Pairing glass

A - this beer pours a beautiful mahogany color..very red when the light shines through it. Not much head created during pouring.

S - Smells amazing! Dark fruit (raisins and figs) oozes out of the glass with hints of vanilla and chocolate.

T - The taste mimics the nose to a T. Huge dark fruit flavors backed up with chocolate and vanilla. No hops to balance this out...it is a malt bomb. Lingering flavors of vanilla and a mild roast in the finish. No alcohol what so ever...this beers weight is completely masked. Age does wonderful things ..i cant wait to taste some with some more time spent in the cellar.

M - Silky smooth,from front to back this beer is smooth and round.

D - The lack of alcohol burn makes this beer want to fly down your throat..but the weight can be felt (not tasted). Overall drinkability is good for a Barleywine, but it lets you know that its a sipper!

Photo of neorunner
4.75/5  rDev +11.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4 | overall: 5

First blind beer from nlmartin in Round #2 of the Blind Beer BIF. 2000 Vintage.

12oz bottle poured into a Samuel Adams' perfect pint glass. Color is opaque dark brown with a tiny oil slick of head. Carbonation is present but hard to pick out. Aroma is amazing. Malt abound and a very strong alcohol aroma. Mellow dark fruit and a bit of cardboard in the aroma (oxidation?). Raisins and nearly no hops that I can pick out. I know Nate mentioned some of these beers were vintage and this smells the part completely. Flavor is mellow chocolate malts and a nice strong alcohol taste. Very similar to a blend of milk and bitter chocolate with a hint of almond or . I'm having to resist inhaling this beer, its great. Mouthfeel is smooth and creamy, it has a flavor feel that I tend to associate with oak aging of some form.

Photo of bobhits
4.4/5  rDev +3.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

Interesting to try this again. Last time I had one it was a good bit older, I'm hoping there's a bit more bite and maybe some hop presence in this younger version. If not odds are I'll be wishing I let it age more. 2008 vintage.

Poured into a sifter.

Thick, cloudy, full of yeast, a dark copper oranage body. You really can't see through this and that's pretty special for something that isn't brown/black in color. Creates a half finger of head that goes away in less than a minute.

The nose is an assault of fruits. Raises, sweet sugary malt, and lots of other fruity sweet aromas that I can't fully place.

First thoughts, a bit too much alcohol in this far too young bottle. Hops aren't kicking in so what to say about this. Raises, plums, sugary rum like flavors, Carmel. There's an off putting bitter/funky flavor at the end. I have a feeling if this were isolated it would be that earthy flavor that many English beers have, but mixed in this sweet assault it's somewhat off putting. This beer was reasonably warm to start but as it reaches room temp the mix is getting better. Sweeter and far more interesting. This is a great beer to show a wine lover a spin on beer that they may get into.

A wonderful sipper. Smooth, thick, sticky, and well just done flawlessly.

It's amazing to say a 2 year old beer is still a baby and this review may be a bit unfair, but it is what it is as they say. A very english barely wine and a true classic. I think there are some more interesting examples

Photo of Jwale73
4.3/5  rDev +1.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

2002 vintage served in my Old Stock snifter. Pours a semi-hazy mahogany with a slick of a head that quickly dissipates into broken spots and a thin, bubbly band around the edges. Some light, spots and strands of lacing revealed during the tasting. Nose is sweet - maple syrup, toffee, prunes, figs and a slightly boozy quality on a malty/bready backbone. Taste consistent with nose - wow this is amazing. Sweet and fruity and the alcohol all but disappears; dangerous for an 11.5% brew. The distinctive aromas in the nose really coalesce nicely in the flavor profile. Mouthfeel is medium-bodied with a light carbonation and a slightly oily quality to the texture. What an amazing barelywine. The price is a little steep at $8.00 a bottle but what an exceptional treat. I will need to pick up some more of these over time and stagger their openings.

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

1999 vintage. Poured from a 275mL bottle into a snifter.

Maroon body, dark and clear, with a sudsy buff collar. Dusky copper/rust highlights glitter when the glass is held to a strong light. Sandy lacing, and thick viscous tears. A swirl brings back a thread-bare blanket of foam.

Armagnac, leather, plums, apricots, barley syrup, and grandma's house all seem to reside in the nose.

Deep caramelization on the palate - layer upon layer of dark rich toasty candied brandied sugar with a hint of molasses and bread crusts. Cinnamon, clove, and maybe nutmeg are suggested with a subtle abundance. The vinuous notes come mainly in the form of a good well aged cognac, with nothing sour at play. Roast malt, carmelized french toast, and a dry barrel note appear in the finish. Delicious.

Slightly oily, medium-light bodied, and gently warming despite the fairly high ABV.

A superb example of the style, suitable for quiet contemplation or as an accompaniment to a cigar (I imagine).

Photo of axeman9182
4.65/5  rDev +9.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

12oz bottle of the 1999 vintage, glad to find this buried on the shelf at New Beer Distributor, poured into my Duvel tulip.

The beer pours a rich murky brown. A minimal toffee crown forms, maybe a finger or so in height, before dissipating quickly without leaving any lacing behind. I can't fault the beer too much for that though, it is eleven years old after all. The nose is great, toffee and alcohol soaked fruits and a hint of wet cardboard from the inevitable oxidation. The flavor is an exact duplicate, with a slight warming sensation from the alcohol. I've never had a fresh Harvest Ale, but it's beautiful with a decade plus of age on it. The body on this is incredibly rich and full, and the lessened carbonation leads to ultimately a very smooth and velvety mouthfeel. A phenomenal flavor and solid mouthfeel make this vintage gem very drinkable. I'm just cringing now at the thought that I only bought two bottles of this magic elixer

Photo of khiasmus
4.08/5  rDev -4%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

Reviewed from a tasting, vintages 1997-2008.

it's odd, really, when you think back on it, at first the very fact that there is a past, and second that you, the same you, existed then, and third, that you now have bits of it stuck in your head, and no one else has those same bits. The random things we remember, you know. Take 1997, for example. It was a nut brown year, much darker than most, but not in a bad way, just more mahogany. Brown and cloudy in the remembering. Those were nights of sherry, molasses, dates and raisins, back in that wet cardboard box. A good year. I think it is my favorite. 2003 was different. it was thinner, more boozy, and a lighthearted golden, a much more serious year and less complex, but certainly little to no cardboard. There were, of course, the old girlfriends that one never thinks about, and then the old friends that one tries never to think about lest they feel guilty for not making contact in so long. 2002 was about when I started brewing, I suppose, there's that dense haze of pure grain sugar mash, definitely the most grainy year, by far. The absolute sweetest was 2004. Orange marmalade and syrup, and a nice amber hue. 1999 was an odd year. So many licorice sticks that year, I dread to think on it. I got into almonds then, or was that 1998? No, 1998 was almonds, Muscat grapes, and anise.
Then there was the millennium. What a strange year! Everyone was concerned about y2k and the end of the world and why we weren't yet living in space and driving flying cars... lots of booze in that one. Lots of it. Lighter and fruity, more white grape than the rest. Then back to the usual of nuts, grains and amaretto in 2001. They all had just a soap-bubble ring of head, except for the 2000, which had ample head that stuck around. The 2006 was the darkest, a nut brown and with a good bit of sediment, murky. 2005 was a cheery gold, but 2007 was the lightest of all of them.
It's sheer madness, as we look back on these years and see the steady march of time in our own lives, and how we have so much yet that we'd always dreamed of accomplishing, yet so little that we originally set out for has been obtained. There is an answer, you know. There is, in fact, a Reason. So different though, looking at all of the differences in yourself and the brew as the years go by, and being able to say "that was a good year." You, and they, had little idea in the moment what each minute would bring to pass years thence, but each action continues to make you into who you will be tomorrow. You have a choice, you know.

I think the 97 was my favorite, despite the oxidization, or perhaps 2002 because of the lovely grain-husk aromas. The 2004 really stood out as one of the best vintages by far. The 2000 was the oddball, and didn't seem really to belong. There are huge variations in flavour and colour year to year, not simply the minor nuances I was expecting. I certainly recommend a tasting of this magnitude if you can possibly set it up. Cheers!

Photo of BeerAndBourbon
4.75/5  rDev +11.8%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Popped a 1999 to end a tasting with a few friends the other night. Similar flavors to the 1998 that I popped to celebrate the end on my second year of medical school.

A. Pours a dark amber with a thin tan head that dissipates to a creamy ring.

S. There's so much going on in the nose: caramel, honey, raisins, oxidized sweet malt.

T. The nose comes through in the mouth with the same flavors of raisins, caramel, and honey. All of these flavors sit on top a bed of sweet oxidized malt. As the beer warms slightly, some of the dark fruit flavors start to emerge.

M. Medium to heavy sticky syrupy body with light carbonation so as not to destroy the flavors coating your tongue.

1986 vintage.

A. Pours amber with slightly orange edges with absolutely no head. 4.0

S. Raisin, caramel, and some oxidation. 4.0

T. Similiar to the smell with oxidized cardboard. Maybe slightly past its prime. 4.0

M. Thin - much much thinner than 1998 or 1999. 3.5

D. Good, but not as good as a bit younger vintages. 4.0

D. The only possible complaint is that there is too little carbonation which leads to overwhelming sweetness, but if you expect this going in it's pure bliss. The best I can imagine in a barleywine. A wonderful night cap. I'm glad I have a few more of these stocked away to enjoy over the coming years.

Photo of Metalmonk
4.8/5  rDev +12.9%
look: 3 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

2005 vintage, poured to a snifter.

Having a good bit of age on it, I gave this a harder pour than normal, and still only got a wispy head. The bubbles are bigger than usual, and most disappear while the rest form a thin crown. The liquid looks like mud-spiked caramel-colored water complete with floaters. I don't mind floaters, but overall this isn't very appetizing looking (although I'm not going to be totally unfair to it, given its age).

But my, that aroma...strong suggestions of vanilla, freshly-cut wood, real aged apple cider, and strong spirits, with hints of sprearmint, cherry blossom and toffee. Robust, bold and complex. Enticing. Perfect.

Flavor is a faithful mirror of the prominent aromas: vanilla, wood, apple cider all there...alcohol is merely a warming element. At 11.5% + 5 years, the alcohol avoids any sort of hotness, thankfully. Caramel brings up the back end, and big-time, providing a candy-like bed of controlled sweetness for everything else to mingle upon. Further back are cellar-stored liqueur-soaked fruits (fig, currant, plum, cherry). A little musty, not the longest finish, but pretty much as comforting a barleywine flavor as I've ever experienced. Depth, balance, deliciousness and, quite apparently, top quality ingredients...this rules.

The feel is pretty much perfect; excellent balance of round, buttery silkiness, a little bit gooey, and just a kiss of carbonation to keep things lively. As soon as it hits the lips, I didn't want it to leave. Hangs in the mouth just perfectly, never too thick or thin, never too carbonated or too dead.

I wondered if 5 years was even too young, but I think this has been poured at just the right time. Lovers of exquisite big beers, especially old ales and barleywines, seek it out (if you haven't already).

Photo of dasenebler
4.85/5  rDev +14.1%
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.

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

1999 vintage from Super Market Liquors in Ft. Collins. $9.50. 275ml bottle into my Odell flute glass.

A: Pours a mellow brown color with a sand colored head about a quarter of an inch thick or so that has receded to a ring of bubbles around the edges and a thin cap in the middle. Surprisingly clear. Lots of amber colored accents towards the edges of the glass. Looks stellar.

S: Caramel malt profile and a very pronounced sweetness, smells almost syrupy, maybe molasses, there are also some over ripe fruit smells, I get cherries, and just a hint of alcohol as well. Overall very complex, and not as ragingly boozey as I have heard this beer can be. Smell is complex and welcoming. Excellent.

T: Wow, this is incredible. The malt profile of this beer is insanely deep. So many layers, the initial caramel and brown sugar, some notes of molasses, I get some notes of oatmeal raisin cookies as well. Has a slightly rum like quality to it as well. The flavors of golden raisins really lingers on the tongue. Absolutely spectacular. The last 11 years have treated this exceptionally, and there is almost no alcohol presence in the flavor. Fantastic beer.

M: Thick with a velvety smooth carbonation, slightly warm alcohol on the way down, and a nice bit of dryness from the alcohol in the mouth.

D: Well, the alcohol note definitely is not there for such a high abv beer, and the flavors are phenomenal. I would have a hard time saying no to a second, or third serving of this. An absolutely phenomenal beer. Highly recommended. I'm glad I have a few more different vintages of this, and I am excited to let them mature past the 11 year mark. Fantastic.

Photo of StephenRich
4.03/5  rDev -5.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Last week we looked at the J.W. Lees Harvest 2005 Lagavulin Cask; a richly deep Vintage ale aged in Lagavulin barrels. This past weekend I opened the other bottle of J.W. Lees that I had, and it is even older. A 2001 bottle of their Vintage Harvest Ale. I was definitely excited to see what nine years would do to this beer, especially after trying one that was aged for five.

J.W. Lees brews this vintage each year in December in limited quantities. Some, like the Lagavulin cask, are aged in various oak casks, but the standard Vintages are left to shine own their own. This should be an interesting contrast at the very least.

The small 275ml bottle proclaims 11.5% abv, but as it is bottle conditioned and nine years old, I expect by now it is closer to 13%, or potentially even more. No doubt this beer should have something very unique to offer, and there was only one way to find out.

I brought the 2001 Harvest out of the fridge and let it warm to cellar temperature around 12C (54F); I did not want to mute any flavors or aromas that would manifest in this beer, so slightly warmer is much better in this case. The pour was thick and syrup like showing no signs of carbonation. I had to pour it from a very high distance to coerce any head out of it. Eventually it did lift a short but dense quarter inch head that quickly faded to a slight film on the surface of the deep maroon beer. It was transparent, with a couple bubbles scattered though it, and glowed with dark bronze and gold. This picture shows it much darker than it really was; it definitely had rich amber hues and traces of deep reds and royal purple.

The nose was, well, as we exclaimed when drinking it, "hectic". It was immensely rich and powerful. Deep dark sweet fruity malts poured from the beer emanating raisins, figs, sticky dates, burnt brown sugar, warm alcohol and notes of spice and pepper. It really was hugely aromatic and showed thick complexity and dense flavors.

The taste would prove to be no different. It melts into your palate thickly with all the same flavors sinking deeply into your tongue and cheeks. Rich and chewy caramel and toffee malt caress your tongue as the deep and dark flavors of the fruits heavily swim by your cheeks. Again, raisins, figs, dates and brown sugar are all very prominent. The alcoholic touch of brandy warms in also, as does rich stewed apples and pears.

Touches of spice and pepper add a hint of balance, but this beer is extremely one sided favoring sweet malt over anything else. The mouthfeel was thick and oily, really bringing a syrup like note to the whole experience. It showed no traces of maple, but a syrup like sweetness, almost like dark rich honey coats this entire beer. It shows loads of caramel and toffee on every dimension, and really sinks into your taste buds.

It is definitely now stronger than 11.5%, and it shows it everywhere. I did split this bottle with a friend, so after I had has maybe 100mls of it my palate was pretty tired already. Its just a massive trump of dense flavor with zero hops and zero carbonation to help cool it down. It really put me to work. Both me and my bud agreed that an entire bottle of this would be too much for one man to really enjoy; unless you have an hour or so.

I think the Lagavulin 2005 benefited greatly from its time in the oak. Some woody or smoky dryness would help round out this '01 Vintage Ale, because on its own it is an intense ride with no seatbelts. It is worth the experience if you can find a bottle, but definitely share it with a friend, or three.

Photo of emmasdad
4.55/5  rDev +7.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

1999 Vintage. Thanks Ken for sharing this one at the first BA gathering I attended. Poured from the smallish 9.3 ounce bottle a slightly hazy orange-amber color, with a little bone colored head. Great aromas of caramel, dark fruit and golden raisins. On the palate, more caramel, light brown sugar and a liqueur-like alcohol presence. An excellent beer.

Photo of perrymarcus
4.43/5  rDev +4.2%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

2001 vintage bottle served in an oversized wineglass.

pours a hazy amber/copper tone reminiscent of a belgian quad. some sediment; a finger and a half of head with moderate retention and some lacing.

nose is both bold and complex (frighteningly so). a sweet bouquet of dark fruits, molasses, malts, caramel, honey, alcohol, and maybe a touch of... hmm... cognac?

taste follows the aroma. tons going on. booze is more subdued than i'd have thought going off the nose. lot of dark fruits and malt sweetness. very tasty; nice, smooth finish.

mouthfeel is chewy, syrupy - brings to mind the dfh 120. drinkability is solid. i would welcome another. this is definitely not one of my preferred styles but the best i've had to date.

Photo of Joecaddie
5/5  rDev +17.6%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

1999 vintage bottle served in Weyerbacher tulip.

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

S - Sweetness with caramel and alcohol tones.

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

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

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

Photo of kiddynamite920
3.93/5  rDev -7.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

2006 Vintage into a big ol' snifter.

A: Poured aggressively, head never really developed. Big soapy bubbles that lead to a thin white ring around the edge of the glass. Color is spot on, dark brown with some wonderful red highlights. Swirling the glass makes it a bit more presentable.

S: Sweet, biscuity aroma with an unexpected alcohol hit. Most overwhelming aromas are of raisin, fig and plum. Some stale bread, yeast character is actually quite nice. Good malt presence. Hints of vanilla and caramel are very nice. Nice malt backbone here, great English BW aroma.

T: A bit oxidized, strange metallic taste. Has an onion/celery like flavor. Behind all of that lies quite a beer though. Syrupy, rich malts. Good sweetness, but too cloying. A hit of alcohol. Just too sweet. Giving the beer a better score because previous times I've had it, it was absolutely divine. Possibly was stored improperly. Not the brewers fault.

M: Slick, syrup, molasses. Lacks carbonation for sure. No crisp quality to balance the cloying and syrupy sweetness.

D: Maybe it was handled improperly, not going to fault it for that. The beer is drinking much better as it warms. Absolutely fantastic English Barleywine for sure, and I will pick more of this up for sure.

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

A 1998 vintage bottle thanks to onix1agr and his amazing will power not to drink his cellar.

A- deep brown with an orange red glow. No head from this 12 year old bottle.

S- amazing depth of toffee, caramel, raisins, dates, and dried figs. Toasted dark bread and brown sugar.

T- rich creamy toffee and caramel with brandy soaked dates and figs. Brown sugar bruleed honey wheat bread.

M- on the side of full bodied with a slightly chewy mouth feel. The light carb does just the right amount of lifting to keep things lively. Very smooth.

D- if I had an unlimited supply I'd be a happy man. This is one of the best beers I've ever had.

Photo of Chico1985
4/5  rDev -5.9%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

1999 vintage split between me and cbutova. By far the oldest beer I have had so far. Thanks Cam!

Pours reddish brown with a pretty nice off-white head. Surprising considering the age. Retains decently.

Smells highly of alcohol fumes, permanent marker. Tons of malt and old dust. Basementy.

Very syrupy, malty and sweet. Plum, dark fruit, caramel. A little solventy but alcohol is well hidden. Flavors have seem to stayed strong over time. Barely any carbonation as expected.

Good but I would like to try a more recent vintage or fresh.

Photo of cbutova
3.9/5  rDev -8.2%
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 Flashsp2
4.38/5  rDev +3.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

JW Lees 2007 (served May '10) into snifter

Pours a very lightly hazed orange with a short lived bone white head
that thins down to a solid ring. Slight touches of lace. Looks like a
fine fine cognac with seltzer.

Toffee, raisin, intense caramels, dark fruits, spicy alcohol, earth,
vinous port notes, cognac.

Deep dark dried fruity stewed in sweet rum, prickly alcohol,
earthy/vegetal hops, medium caramels, light citrus. So boozy, but so
delicious. A very faint oxidation note reveals toward the end as it
warms, that brings the port qualities to the forefront. Leans toward
the sweeter side, but only teeters toward cloying sweetness without
ever stepping over.

Heavy slick mouthfeel that has a low level carbonation that is
comprised of exceptionally small bubbles.

An exquisite beverage that begs contemplation. A sipper for certain,
even in such a small quantity it takes a good hour to conquer this
beer.

Photo of Freethyhops
4.63/5  rDev +8.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

first ever JW's harvest? why not start with 11yrs old? I hear it only gets better with age, so makes sense to me. 1999 vintage split between 2. my portion in a snifter.

a- the color range when held to light is great on this one. ranges from deep ruby to nearing light amber with nice bright orange tones. produced a nice off-white head that shows an expected low persistence. really spot on.

s- though the aroma is filled with rich caramel sweetness, dried-fruit, molasses, and a bit of toffee, the booze really is a bit overwhelming. it fits well with the profile, but dare I say, this could use some more time to cool down, if it ever will. it still excels with great complexity and a big alcohol driven bouquet.

t- well, I shouldn't have be so quick to judge. the alcohol settles so well into the flavor profile once it hits the palate. the caramel sweetness is so rich and decadent it really masks that huge alcohol presence exceptionally well. the nose mirrors the taste very well. the dried-fruits, toffee and molasses are still very much evident. a bit of leathery oxidation has developed but isn't displeasing. sweet and rich throughout makes for a nice english barleywine.

m- Full-bodied and chewy, with a velvety texture. A smooth warmth from aged alcohol is strong but not harsh. Carbonation is low and certainly fits this beer nicely.

t- this one drinks slowly but after having this first one, I can see why there are so many life long fans of this ale with many of those drinkers keeping it in large numbers for years to come to enjoy the journey that this beer takes. I return to this one for years to come and not bat an eye at the slightly intimidating price tag again. buy it and enjoy. then buy some more and enjoy even more at a later date.

Photo of beergod1
4.47/5  rDev +5.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

A treat my friend D. Kurtz brought over. Wow, the smell is a treat in itself. Smells like England. Aroma is sweet and an alcohol bouquet. Color is a dark reddish brown, no head, small foam ring around the edge. Flavor is sweet with heavy Dark fruit / malty notes. Strong alcohol presence, but in a nice warming finish. I even noticed a touch of saltiness in the flavor. This is a very big beer, the only down fall is it is thick, I'm not a "Big " barley Wine fan, but this was an amazing beer.1988 vintage.

Photo of association330
4/5  rDev -5.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

275 ml bottle, 2006 vintage. $1.99 gamble off my favorite store's bargain shelf (I guess they couldn't move it and just wanted to get rid of it).

A - Murky, iced tea-like brown, with yeast in suspension and absolutely no head or lace. With this much age, I can't say I'm surprised.

S - Rich and fudgy. Bread, butter toffee, caramel, toasted nuts, dark fruit. Faint alcohol.

T - Follows the nose. Complex malt flavor is the focus, with great bread, caramel, and dark fruit flavors.

M - Very little carbonation with the age. Still manages to be only medium-bodied, which I understand is another factor of the aging process. Just vaguely boozy, and very much under control after four years of sitting around.

D - With its richness and alcohol content, this is not really a summer beer. I would be quite willing to sip on some of this after a big wintertime supper though.

Photo of evilkalla
4.83/5  rDev +13.6%
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.

J.W. Lees Vintage Harvest Ale from J.W. Lees & Co (Brewers) Ltd
95 out of 100 based on 1,284 ratings.