J.W. Lees Harvest Ale (Lagavulin Whisky Cask)
J.W. Lees & Co (Brewers) Ltd

J.W. Lees Harvest Ale (Lagavulin Whisky Cask)J.W. Lees Harvest Ale (Lagavulin Whisky Cask)
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From:
J.W. Lees & Co (Brewers) Ltd
 
England, United Kingdom
Style:
English Barleywine
Ranked #133
ABV:
11.5%
Score:
89
Ranked #12,985
Avg:
3.96 | pDev: 16.16%
Reviews:
305
Ratings:
275
Status:
Active
Rated:
Sep 04, 2022
Added:
May 07, 2004
Wants:
  40
Gots:
  109
SCORE
89
Very Good
J.W. Lees Harvest Ale (Lagavulin Whisky Cask)J.W. Lees Harvest Ale (Lagavulin Whisky Cask)
Notes: None
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Rated: 4 by cryptichead from Illinois

Sep 04, 2022
 
Rated: 3.87 by Ox8840bo from Illinois

Apr 12, 2022
 
Rated: 4.19 by HungarianCount from California

Apr 03, 2022
 
Rated: 3.85 by Howie9182

Feb 09, 2022
Photo of Rug
Reviewed by Rug from Massachusetts

4.13/5  rDev +4.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4
2015 vintage

So this was another find at OEC when I made the trek out there right before Christmas. I already did a small vertical of the 2020 and 2002 Harvest Ales I found there, so I'm excited to crack this one open. The OG is already a pretty big beer, so this is gonna be even more beefed up. Let's crack it open

Pours a murky orange brown with just a thin ring of bubbles that leaves minimal lacing

This smells simultaneously smooth and super boozy, that barrel really came through. I'm picking up on aromas of peat smoke, chewy toffee, sweet caramel, golden raisin, molasses, brown sugar, light toast, and smoky whiskey

The taste follows the nose pretty closely, though it is more chewy and robust than I had expected. On the front end of the sip I'm tasting golden raisin, toffee, smoky whiskey, buttery oak, and brown bread. The swallow brings notes of dates, sweet caramel, molasses, peat smoke, a touch of hot alcohol, and toast

A medium full body pairs with gentle tingling carbonation, resulting in a super rich beer. Finishes neutral but definitely full and sweet

This is quite a bit of a step down from the OG, but it is by no means bad. I still enjoyed it quite a bit and would like to try a fresher bottle if possible
Jan 07, 2022
 
Rated: 4.34 by StoutAtTheDevil from Alabama

May 04, 2021
Photo of SierraNevallagash
Reviewed by SierraNevallagash from Maine

3.96/5  rDev 0%
look: 3 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4 | overall: 4
2017 Vintage - 275ml bottle - poured into a small snifter at 45°F.

Pours a ruddy, burnish amber-brown, with A LOT of suspended particulate chunks, and a thick sticky collar comprised of giant bubbles. It looks great, minus those chunky bits.

Nose: Damn, okay...Talk about Islay! I was apprehensive about this, but the Lagavulin cask is very apparent. Not Laphroaig. Not Bowmore. Not Bruichladdich. Laga. Vulin. The base ale is classic JWL, with sweet fruitcake, toffee, burned sugar, dried orange, peppermint, iodine chemical spill, burning tire factory...wait, nope. That's the Islay. Woven into the barleywine are these prominent notes of medicinal iodine, fresh pitch, seaspray, burning moss, and wet charcoal, along with that oaky cask element. I like Islay. If you don't, this could be problematic.

Palate: Right off the bat, the first thing that catches my attention is that it's quite savoury - like this briney, kelpie kind of salinity, parallel to the sweet barleywine base. The Islay malt is immediately apparent, and very potent. It tastes like Lagavulin. Mossy, earthy, musty, wet peat smoke, with more iodine, kelp, and ocean mist. A touch of sandalwood. Beneath the whisky, the barleywine begins to show more, with its concentrated sweetness, and notes of sultana, dried fig, marmalade, raisin, red apple, toffee, and some caramel. It has a pretty sweet peak, before that Islay character comes back around, this time with more oak, barrel char, smoke, and charred peat. Once the sweetness subsides, the finish itself is essentially that of an Islay whisky, and ultimately dry.

Mouthfeel/Body: Like most of the Harvest Ale variants, it's medium-full in body, and quite slick. Minimal viscosity or chew, but it's a heavy, sweet, soft ale. Not much in terms of effervescence, which is normal. Wet, a touch sticky, and finishing faurly dry and woody.

Overall: What a wacky beer. I've had Islay malt cask-aged ales before, but none have been as potent or heavy handed with the peat as this one. I love the peat, I love the sweet base, but i do think that they clash to some extent. It lends this sweet and salty kind of vibe, which, with the medicinal peat notes, can be a little jarring. An odd duck, but definitely enjoyable, to some extent.
Feb 19, 2021
Photo of BubbleBobble
Reviewed by BubbleBobble from New York

4.07/5  rDev +2.8%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4
Pours a cloud peach brown, active .5” head that recedes to a thin ring. Nose is pronounced toasted malts, dark fruit, butterscotch, and toffee; on top lies the scotch - peat, salt, brackish water, musk, wet smoke, doused fire. Flavor is super interesting - leads off very sweet, almost candy like, before deeper raisin and toffee begins to comes through. The barrel takes over, however, and provides a strong brackish and spiced backbone to the beer that follow through the finish. The peat in particular wakes up as it warms, which does a lot to enhance things. Without the barrel I'd find it hard to get through more than a sip or two given how sweet the underlying base is. Carbonation is light but present, and the alcohol is extremely well hidden. Definitely happy I snatched a can, but would like to try a bottle with some age on it to see how it develops.
Feb 15, 2021
Photo of stevoj
Reviewed by stevoj from Idaho

3.92/5  rDev -1%
look: 3.25 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4
25cl can from Brewers Haven. Cloudy amber, mostly flat. Aroma hits the nose at first crack of the can, raisins, prunes, hint of whiskey. Taste is sweet, more prunes, scotch elements. Sweet, but not strong, despite the 11.5% ABV.
Feb 14, 2021
 
Rated: 4 by shelby415 from Oregon

Jan 09, 2021
 
Rated: 4.4 by Gemini6 from Michigan

Dec 02, 2020
Photo of Sellen
Rated by Sellen from Connecticut

3.91/5  rDev -1.3%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75
4-6-2019
Jun 29, 2020
 
Rated: 4.5 by TylerJ from Iowa

Apr 18, 2020
Photo of TerryMills
Reviewed by TerryMills from Tennessee

4/5  rDev +1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4
I'm sure this is a great beer ,and it's the most drinkable peaty beer I've ever tried ,but in the end I just don't like peat
Apr 12, 2020
Photo of Harrison8
Reviewed by Harrison8 from Missouri

4/5  rDev +1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4
Pours a turbid, lightly murky reddish-brown with no head (vintage bottle). Aroma is raisins, fig, molasses, caramel and toffee and vanilla with a little halo of boozy heat lingering over the top. Malts are toasty, nutty and caramely. Together it molds into a sugary dessert with a little bit of zest and spice. Flavor profile is raisins, fig, molasses, caramel and vanilla and then turns a hard 90 degrees into peat moss. Moss lingers to the end, adding a touch of dryness. Heat is mellow, molded into the flavor profile thoughtfully. Caramely, toasty and nutty malts add some substance beyond the sugary notes. Mouth feel is medium in thickness with a still effervescence and silty texture. Overall, molding peaty scotch together well with a rich barleywine. It's held up well over the years, although it has taken a turn for the worst recently. Will update review if I am able to find a newer bottle.

Served in a 15.5oz Speigalau tulip from a 9.3oz bottle. Bottled in 2008.
Apr 08, 2020
 
Rated: 3.93 by MDDMD from Pennsylvania

Apr 01, 2020
Photo of stortore
Reviewed by stortore from Illinois

4.12/5  rDev +4%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4
9.3 ounce bottle (I think) into a tulip snifter. 2015 edition, had 2/13/19.

Pours a lighter orange/amber, hazy to start, with only a quick flash of head and a few specks of cling. Aromas of caramel, malt, figs, butterscotch, dates, toffee, light whiskey, tobacco as it warms, light smoke, a little peat. The flavor is similar- malt, butterscotch, caramel, some whiskey, some figs and dates, light tobacco, a little vanilla, light peat when fully warmed. Surprisingly sweet. Smooth, a good medium body, appropriately carbonated.

A bit lighter for the style, but very good. The barrels are tame, but very effective- although I thought the scotch/peat aspect was lighter than others. Great aroma, very good flavor, really grows on you. Well worth a purchase.
Mar 11, 2020
 
Rated: 4.41 by BeardedWalrus from North Carolina

Mar 08, 2020
Photo of LiquidAmber
Reviewed by LiquidAmber from Washington

4.24/5  rDev +7.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25
Poured into a pair of a Fremont and a Reuben's small snifter. A side-by-side comparison of a recently purchased 2017 version and a properly cellared 2009. Both pour a very similar medium to dark reddish orange with the older one looking slightly lighter in color. Both pour with only a slight head that dissipates to tiny patches in the 2017 and to nothing, not even small edge bubbles, in the 2009. Aroma is dominated by peat, with light caramel and dark fruit. The newer one smells a lot like Lagavulin peat, the older one has an odd vegetal edge to the smokiness. 2009 has classic English barleywine mellow sweetness, with concentrated plum and light stone fruit, becoming increasingly smokier into a smoky, sweet finish with a slight musty note. 2017 is dry caramel, plums, dates, raisins with light peat smokiness that shows up mostly in the finish. The start is a bit hot, and full of flavor, somewhat masking the peatiness. The newer version is medium bodied with light creaminess, the older is somewhat flat with sufficient carbonation, but somewhat lacking in sharpness. Like with the Port comparison I tried last year, I definitely liked the fresher one better; the flavors are more intense and interesting. However, the Lagavulin peat, which is a flavor I like very much, is much more clear in the older one. They are quite different in character, although in the direction one would expect from aging barleywines. The aroma is a bit off in the 2009, but I do like the milder, sweeter fruit flavors carrying the peat so nicely. I probably would not age the Port version again, but I will probably lay up a bottle of this one, while at the same time drinking a fresh one for its intense character. These Harvest Ales are very nicely made and flavorfull; Lagavulin is fine barrel character. They deserve their classic status. Rating is for the fresher one, because the minor aging flaws are not typical for those brewed recently.
Mar 05, 2020
 
Rated: 4.5 by BEER88 from Washington

Mar 03, 2020
 
Rated: 3.81 by Beerbom from California

Feb 17, 2020
Photo of Fordcoyote15
Reviewed by Fordcoyote15 from Pennsylvania

4.78/5  rDev +20.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.75
L - look is abnormally light for a jwlees.

S - smell is exquisite. I adore a good scotch and the peaty-er the better. I can see how this beer is likely unpopular based on the smell but for me its beyond 'right up my alley'.

T - taste - first sip has me shell shocked. It's too perfect. Almost every scotch barrel aged beer I've had has completely missed the mark. This beer is so deep and complex I don't even know how to rate it. It's the only 5/5 ive given in the last 4 or 5 years on taste. I understand how others might not appreciate this but if you enjoy a fine English barleywine and a fine pour of scotch meat you NEED to try this.

F - feel is pretty flat. Its 7 years old so I'm not unsurprised. I also dont like fizzy/highly carbonated beers (especially not when it comes to high gravity barleywines) so this beer is still right on the mark for my livings. It's just unusually uncarbonated and worth noting.

Overall - I want to give it a 5. But I need to believe there is still something better to someday drink. 4.75/5 for now.
Feb 15, 2020
Photo of Eamonn-Cummings3
Reviewed by Eamonn-Cummings3 from New York

4.46/5  rDev +12.6%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5
Poured from a 12oz bottle into a tulip glass.

Look is a hazy amber with little to no head.

Aroma is smokey malt.

Taste is very smokey malt.

Deliciously balanced.

lots of complexity. So good.
Feb 10, 2020
 
Rated: 3.75 by BerryKumquat from California

Dec 25, 2019
 
Rated: 4.25 by rare_bird from Michigan

Dec 03, 2019
Photo of Wolvmar
Reviewed by Wolvmar from Michigan

3.92/5  rDev -1%
look: 3 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4
2013 vintage purchased Sep 2019 at Barrels & Vines. Poured into a tulip glass.

Pour: ruddy brown with little head leaving a thin tan ring. No clouds or lacing.

Nose: Smokey peat, dark fruit, biscuit.

Taste: bready, sweet malt, peaty scotch, dark fruits, caramel. The Laguvalin is pretty strong; you probably need to like it in order to appreciate this beer, but I found it pretty well balanced.

Mouthfeel: very little carbonation. Slight oiliness, pretty clean finish.

Overall: I really like this but I really like peaty scotch. I found the sweet malt, smoke, and other flavors to be well balanced considering the mission. Would definitely buy again.
Sep 09, 2019
Photo of jakdracula
Reviewed by jakdracula from Pennsylvania

4.84/5  rDev +22.2%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 5 | overall: 5
Vintage 2014 poured 2019.

Wonderful wonderful beer. If only all beers could be this great.

Oddly, I found myself wanting to chew this beer, as if it’s a fine steak. Weird, right?
Sep 07, 2019
 
Rated: 5 by Kwright from North Carolina

Aug 10, 2019
 
Rated: 3.63 by craigdb from Pennsylvania

Jul 26, 2019
 
Rated: 4.25 by NickThePyro from Washington

Jul 18, 2019
Photo of MonDak_Joe1953
Reviewed by MonDak_Joe1953 from Minnesota

4.06/5  rDev +2.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4
275ml bottle. Brewed in 2017.
Medium amber colored body, with lots of sediment. Slight off white head. Only a few small spots of lacing are left behind.
Aroma is first of peaty Islay Scotch. Allowed in are a slight orange, woody, caramel and vanilla smells.
Taste has the peaty Scotch flavor, but the flavors are more expressive of orange, caramel and vanilla. A little sweetness pervades but this is barleywine territory. The peat makes the finish rather short, but there is a marmalade type fruitiness in the finish.
Medium plus mouth feel with a syrupy texture. Okay carbonation.
The peat lays on all but the taste is much more liberated than the smell. Underneath the peat there is a expressive barleywine sweetness and complexity. Drinks with a syrup consistency and a barleywine flavor profile.
Jul 13, 2019
 
Rated: 4.75 by Sir_Goatman from Oregon

Jul 05, 2019
 
Rated: 4.75 by archero from Texas

Jul 03, 2019
 
Rated: 4.68 by Jodio from Texas

Jun 30, 2019
Photo of GuyFawkes
Reviewed by GuyFawkes from Illinois

3.84/5  rDev -3%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.75
2012 vintage; drank 2/18/15 @ the Yarchives.

Murky dark orange appearance.

Small off-white head; almost no lace.

Smoky peat in the nose.

Medium thick mouthfeel.

Strong peat flavor; some brown sugar notes emerged as this warmed.

The Islay notes overpower the beer; drinkable, but only truly enjoyable for peat-heads.
Apr 29, 2019
Photo of REVZEB
Reviewed by REVZEB from Illinois

3.93/5  rDev -0.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4
Realized I had missed a variant and rectified quickly. This one had a lot to chew on in the feel and taste. But let's start with the appearance, classic caramel brown, no bells and whistles, but lets in light nicely. Smell is woody, lots of caramel, vanilla, char, and whiskey too, then more subtle orange, flowers, herbs, and peat come forward as it warms. Taste is very meaty and peaty up front, has some bbq sauce tang, then very woody and scotch boozy, finally giving way to the more delicate plants and fruits before finishing boozy again. It is quite an experience. This is one you have around the fire while listening to grandpa tell stories, because you will be sipping it for a long time. In fact the feel, my favorite aspect of the beer, is gnarly, robust, boozy, and woody.
Apr 23, 2019
 
Rated: 4.3 by stephenlee from England

Apr 04, 2019
 
Rated: 3.43 by Chrispy_Creams from Minnesota

Feb 15, 2019
Photo of jmasher85
Reviewed by jmasher85 from Maryland

4.57/5  rDev +15.4%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5
2012 bottle opened in 2019.
Lagavulin is a peat and smoke lover's scotch, and this it's a Lagavulin lover's beer. The look and feel of the beer are a bit surprising. A slightly murky reddish amber color and virtually no carbonation at all. The mouthfeel is medium-bodied, a bit early, but shockingly smooth for such a high ABV. Way too easy to drink, and with a small 9 oz bottle, the glass was empty before I was ready to part with the beer.

In both the aroma and flavor, like I said, you're getting a lot of peat moss, and smoke as well. Not in a meaty way, since some smokey beers have more of a bacon like quality to them. This one is very much a earthy, woody smoke. Deep underneath the smoke is a malty sweetness with lots of dark stewed fruit flavors and a tiny pinch of sourness. It all comes together extraordinarily well, and while it's not a beer I would recommend to many drinkers, the scotch barrels it's aged in is not a scotch I would recommend to the average whiskey drinker, so it fits.
Would absolutely seek this out again!
Feb 09, 2019
 
Rated: 3.99 by spark3148857 from Ohio

Feb 03, 2019
J.W. Lees Harvest Ale (Lagavulin Whisky Cask) from J.W. Lees & Co (Brewers) Ltd
Beer rating: 89 out of 100 with 580 ratings