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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Barleywine - English
Ranked #92
Ranked #6,147
4.04 | pDev: 15.84%
J.W. Lees & Co (Brewers) Ltd
England, United Kingdom
J.W. Lees Harvest Ale (Lagavulin Whisky Cask)J.W. Lees Harvest Ale (Lagavulin Whisky Cask)
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Reviews: 304 | Ratings: 575 | Log in to view all ratings and sort
Photo of SierraNevallagash
SierraNevallagash from Maine

3.96/5  rDev -2%
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
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BubbleBobble from New York

4.07/5  rDev +0.7%
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
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stevoj from Idaho

3.92/5  rDev -3%
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
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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
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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
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stortore from Illinois

4.12/5  rDev +2%
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
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LiquidAmber from Washington

4.24/5  rDev +5%
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
Photo of Fordcoyote15
Fordcoyote15 from Kentucky

4.78/5  rDev +18.3%
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
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Eamonn-Cummings3 from New York

4.46/5  rDev +10.4%
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
Photo of Wolvmar
Wolvmar from Michigan

3.92/5  rDev -3%
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
jakdracula from Pennsylvania

4.84/5  rDev +19.8%
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
Photo of MonDak_Joe1953
MonDak_Joe1953 from Minnesota

4.06/5  rDev +0.5%
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
Photo of GuyFawkes
GuyFawkes from Illinois

3.84/5  rDev -5%
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
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REVZEB from Illinois

3.93/5  rDev -2.7%
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
Photo of jmasher85
jmasher85 from Maryland

4.57/5  rDev +13.1%
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
Photo of Dragginballs76
Dragginballs76 from South Carolina

3.99/5  rDev -1.2%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4

Appearance - Pours murky plum brownish color with just a few scattered bubbles in the glass. This is the 2013 version, no lacing.

Aroma - Huge whiskey, dark fruit, sweet candied brown sugar, little bit of smoke and peat with a touch of caramel.

Taste - Lots of dark fruit, smoke, peat, plum, toffee, light brown sugar.

Feel - Seems a touch thin, slightly oily and slick. Smooth slightly warming with a hint of dryness on the finish.

Overall - A little too much peat for my liking but a well done beer. The alcohol is well tamed and the flavors are balanced.

Dec 22, 2018
Photo of Holderness
Holderness from Massachusetts

3.79/5  rDev -6.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.25 | overall: 3.5

Aged 5 years.

L — Moderately hazed nectarine-hued body with a finger of light tan head produced with well-aerated pour. Some retention and good lacing
S — Molasses, sugar-coated dark fruit, raspberry, smokey peat, oak, booze, gentian root, black licorice
T — Very sweet. Lots of honey, molasses, brown sugar alongside some smokey scotch character and resinous hops. Borderline cloying
F — Big mouthfeel, minimal carb. The carb could definitely be turned up a notch and the sweetness down. Long lasting, syrupy finish
O — Very expensive. The smokey scotch presence is really nice but the sweetness was a bit overbearing


Jun 25, 2018
Photo of BenHoppy
BenHoppy from Michigan

5/5  rDev +23.8%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

2013 vintage poured into snifter @ 45-50 degrees:

L: port wine, caramelly reddish brown with light carbonation and super thin lacing

A: pure whisky/scotch with tad bit of Smokey bbq along with dark fruit

T: Smokey buttery bbq with mild whisky notes, a tad sweet but everything covered up by smokiness. Alcohol well hidden

F: thin and creamy

O: I'm guessing 4 years is sweet spot. A bit like a barleywine yet best smoked beer I ever had. Fantastically aged, fantastically brewed.

Dec 18, 2017
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HardTarget from Texas

4.47/5  rDev +10.6%
look: 3 | smell: 4 | taste: 5 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4.75

Appearance: Murky brown glass doesn't hold a head, shows a few lazy bubbles coming up the sides.

Aroma: Barrel soaked whisky, smokey, hint of grain. Not sure if I like it, but it makes an impact.

Taste: Sweet toffee base, hint of butterscotch, that supports a big leather tobacco leaf gravitas. The barrel and alcohol notes are there, but they don't burn or char, just give depth to the toffee malty sweetness.

Mouthfeel: Almost flat, slick texture, slight chew in the medium heavy body. Slowly drys and numbs a bit.

Overall: Ain't much to look at, but man this one is classy. It's like someone put an old English gentleman's library into a blender and mixed it with a big malty monster. I feel more civilized for having enjoyed this beer, I'll be looking for more.

Dec 09, 2017
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SomethingClever from Ohio

4.45/5  rDev +10.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

JW lee
10 oz pour on tap into a snifter 2016 version

A: Big creamy and fluffy head that settles slowly. Tan amberish body that is a little murky.

S: very sweet smelling lots of figs, dates, a little bit of brandy smell.

T: Really sweet and smooth lots of dates raisins figs burnt sugars.

M: Medium to fuller, but it has a little bit of cling on the end.

O: This is a pretty good beer but I’ll be damned if I could tell it was In Lagaluvin casks.

Nov 30, 2017
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stratusjeans from Washington

3.01/5  rDev -25.5%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 3

Opened Sept 28, 2017 - 2006 vintage.

Given as a gift 2 months ago so I can't say how it was cared for before then.

Dark brown color slight reddish hue. No head.

Smells and tastes very strong of Lagavulin, as you'd expect, but too smokey and peaty for me. There's a little sweetness in there but not enough for balance.

This beer is 11 years old and carbonation is completely gone. Drinks more like a cocktail than a beer, but not one I like.

Nov 06, 2017
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BeanBump from California

4.75/5  rDev +17.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.75

Not sure how or why this beer isnt rated higher than it is because this is bottled beauty right here. Thick, heavy and boozy with the edition of the peat from the Lagavulin barrel, you can feel this one warm you all the way from your mouth to your stomach in the best way possible. Equally sweet and smokey, this might very well be the perfect winter sipper. Not the easiest beer to find but I always pick up a couple bottles when I have the opportunity.

Oct 30, 2017
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Premo88 from Texas

3.9/5  rDev -3.5%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.75

9.3 oz. bottle poured into Jester King Snorkel snifter
(2014 vintage)

L: syrupy and relatively flat, murky bronze with some amber in it; pushes up the smallest of heads that might not even make for a full skin; keeps the thinnest of beige collars

S: boozy ... and you can tell it's Lagavulin off the pour, that peaty Scottish seawater note coming up along with the thickest wall of syrupy sweet malt; the whiskey note disappears quickly and it becomes mostly caramel, dried peach, dried apricot, fruit cake

T: similar to the nose but after the first sip, the boozy Scotch whiskey note subsides and you taste mostly caramel sweet malt, loads of it, super sweet; as it warms some of the peaty/seawater Lagavulin flavor slips in but it's faint ... the chunk of big malt sweetness is hard to budge; every now and then a smoked malt note shows up, very slight but still distinct, like a drop of rauchbier got thrown into the bottle

F: heavy, thick, slick ... it's got a slight tinge of prickly carbonation near the end of each sip that's a nice touch, but otherwise it's full on barleywine

O: possibly the sweetest beer I've tasted so far through 650-plus reviews, so sweet it's like throwing some beer into a bag of sugar then sipping it through a straw; the whiskey adds a nice warmth in the aftertaste, but the amount of malt in this thing is so formidable that it's hard to pick up much whiskey flavor

Oct 29, 2017
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GreesyFizeek from New York

4.45/5  rDev +10.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

On tap at Tap and Mallet in Rochester, NY.

This one pours a clear light reddish color, with no head or lacing.

This smells like Maraschino cherry juice, light smoky whisky, barrel juice, toffee, and caramel.

The body on this is a bit thin, but it's just absolutely loaded with flavor. It's very sweet, and the Lagavulin is definitely present. The barrel doesn't do much to temper the sweetness, however. Despite the sweetness, it's absolutely delicious, with cherry juice, toffee, caramel, praline, sweet oak, and milk chocolate. It's like dessert in a glass.

This is kind of thin, and a little syrupy, but still feels strangely decadent.

This is an exceptional and classic barleywine. It's probably the best BA version I've had of this series.

Oct 07, 2017
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Czequershuus from Minnesota

4.52/5  rDev +11.9%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

This beer pours a rich amber color with a medium to small head. The aroma is heady and boozy, with plum, raisin, melon, candied pomegranate, maraschino cherries, iodine, peat smoke and peaches. The flavor is sweet and boozy, with maraschino cherry, plum, raisin, fig, date, stewed peach, and peaty scotch coming through at the finish. The mouthfeel is medium bodied, with a small amount of sudsy carbonation. Overall this is an excellent beer - I love how the smoke minglew seamlessly with the sweet, dried, and stewed fruit flavors.

Aug 12, 2017
J.W. Lees Harvest Ale (Lagavulin Whisky Cask) from J.W. Lees & Co (Brewers) Ltd
Beer rating: 90 out of 100 with 575 ratings