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

Your Rating: None
Want it   Got it 
J.W. Lees Harvest Ale (Lagavulin Whisky Cask)J.W. Lees Harvest Ale (Lagavulin Whisky Cask)
Very Good
540 Ratings
J.W. Lees Harvest Ale (Lagavulin Whisky Cask)J.W. Lees Harvest Ale (Lagavulin Whisky Cask)

Brewed by:
J.W. Lees & Co (Brewers) Ltd
England, United Kingdom

Style: British Barleywine

Alcohol by volume (ABV): 11.50%

Availability: Winter

Notes / Commercial Description:
No notes at this time.

Added by Dantes on 05-07-2004

View: Beers
User Ratings & Reviews
Sort by:  Recent | High | Low | Top Raters
first ← prev | 1-25 | 26-50 | 51-75  | nextlast
Ratings: 540 |  Reviews: 288
Reviews by beveragecaptain:
Photo of beveragecaptain
3.32/5  rDev -15.7%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

275 ml bottle. Pours out a hazy brown color with almost no head. The aroma is caramel, raisins, and smoke. Sticky, sweet caramel flavor combined with an earthy smokiness. Oddly, a little salty. Mouthfeel is nearly flat and syrupy. Rough alcohol flavor, especially as the beer warms. There are some interesting flavors in this beer, but it is not an improvement on the original Harvest Ale. Certainly worth trying, but I doubt I would get it again, especially at the high price.

 477 characters

More User Reviews:
Photo of ajz132
4.47/5  rDev +13.5%
look: 2.75 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

2012 Edition. 275 mL bottle poured into a 200 mL Mikkeller tasting wine glass.

A - This beer is not pretty. Medium-brown/copper in color and quite hazy and murky. Beer has minimal carbonation and pours with essentially no head.

N - As expected, smoky peat is one of the first aromas that you pick up on this one, but it is not overpowering. The other scents are a delightful blend of sweet, dried fruits - raisins and figs along with sweet caramel.

T - The taste on this beer is very comparable to the smell. You are immediately hit with the pronounced sweetness of the dried fruits mentioned above, but it is not cloying. The phenolic smoke of the Lagavulin barrel comes through in the middle and you are left with a wonderful lingering smoke flavor; quite comparable to that left when drinking an Islay scotch, although much more subtle. For an 11.5% beer, the alcohol content of the beer is masked quite well.

M - The beer does not have a tremendous amount of carbonation and because of the sweetness starts out with a bit of sticky thickness, but this dissipates as you get the flavors of the barrel. You do pick up a bit of light alcoholic heat from the barrel, but it is by no means uncomfortable and quickly fades away. The malts are not overpowering or heavy which can often be the case in other strong ales.

O - This beer is an excellent one to have as dessert or a nightcap. It certainly has its place and is not going to be for everyone. I personally am a huge fan of Islay scotches so I find the beer quite good. It is well-balanced, easy to sip, and takes on just enough of the barrel characteristic to make it a beer that I will keep in my repertoire of occasional elite treats.

 1,715 characters

Photo of BeanBump
4.75/5  rDev +20.6%
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.

 454 characters

Photo of Bouleboubier
4.59/5  rDev +16.5%
look: 3 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.75

(poured into a balloon)

A: russet-colored liquid, extremely hazy... some head starts to form on the pour, but all but disappears in short time... not so much as a collar left

S: light-moderate smoke from the barrel... dark, chewy caramel... oxidized, somewhat port or sherry aroma - close to it... the combo of the smoke and the caramel create a barbeque wood coal scent... underlying, but truly dominant foundation of ripe and dried fruit, including fresh fig, maybe date... only a fine hint of ester-drenched booze... overall, explosive aromas

T: the smokiness starts off more phenolic-like then quickly opens up a bit, displaying tones of ash against grain alcohol... the bold fruit aromas carrying over onto the palate are complimented and balanced with the introduction of roasted nut (almond? hazelnut?), tobacco, and delicate herbal flavors, adding some color and depth to the overall taste... the alcohol is quite well tempered by the full, rich malt foundation and/or studious brewing practices

M: approaches a syrupy viscosity on the intake, but the body seems enveloped in an aura of mellow spirits... only a (relatively) delicate, concentrated slow flare of boozy warmth... ultimately fantastic attenuation and dryness

O: this was one of the most fantastic ales in memory when I first had it in Oct 2012 - had it on tap then at the bar in which I worked... the product from this bottle, for whatever of a variety of possible reasons, is showing signs of falling apart - the fresh intensity of its original flavors dying off or in transition... still, for fans of the Harvest Ale and Islay whiskey, this is a dream of a brew

 1,640 characters

Photo of HardTarget
4.47/5  rDev +13.5%
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.

 770 characters

Photo of BuckeyeNation
4.57/5  rDev +16%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

2003 vintage. Oriole orange with a slim slice of beige foam that is lightly creamy. The head melts away within minutes and doesn't grace the glass with very much lace. Considering the style, this is still good looking beer, especially when poured into a crystal snifter.

The nose is probably only going please those who love sea salt-sprayed, peat-soaked Islay Scotch. Lagavulin is one of my two favorites, so it was pretty much a foregone conclusion that I would love it. Nothing beats the read deal, but then this is beer, not whiskey.

After purchasing all four bottles, I decided to drink the J.W. Lees Harvest Ale Cask beers in reverse order of how I expected to enjoy them, based on how much I like the liquors or wines that previously occupied the barrels: Sherry, Port, Calvados and Lagavulin Scotch. They're all solid 4.5 flavor score barleywines, but this one is probably my slight favorite.

The beer's best feature is an absolute perfect amount of Islay whiskey character. Again, heed this warning: if you aren't a fan of this type of Scotch (loads of peat, seaweed and iodine), then you'll wonder why the hell you spent $6.99 for 275 ml of such vile liquid masquerading as an English barleywine.

The gotta-sip-it sweetness that every member of this series possesses is present here as well. Some might call it cloying, but I think it stops short of that. Specifics include toasted grains dipped in melted caramel-toffee, candied cherries, a pleasant underlying woodiness and a wee dram (or three) of some of the finest Scotch the world has ever known. This is glorious beer... that should come in much bigger bottles.

Given the amount of malt sugar (and possibly added sugar), combined with six years of cellaring and one of the world's best breweries, the fact that the mouthfeel is all kinds of outstanding is no surprise at all. I've never had a beer this old that was this full and this crushed velvet smooth.

I won't shed a tear now that this bottle is gone because I know that there are many more in my future. Bottom line: no beer that I've ever tasted has a more perfect combination of Islay Scotch whiskey and classic English barleywine. If you're a fan of both, then what the hell are you waiting for?

 2,228 characters

Photo of Shawnadams330
4.35/5  rDev +10.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

Photo of DanGeo
3.59/5  rDev -8.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.5

Photo of t2grogan
4/5  rDev +1.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Photo of MadScientist
3.41/5  rDev -13.5%
look: 3.25 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.25 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.5

A 2008 that's been in my cellar for most of those year.

A: A light copper colored beer with a light haze. The thin head is off-white; it never goes away but dissipates to a thin ring of bubbles around the glass.

S: The aroma is peat smoke, whiskey and cherries over a rich malt background. There is a bit of a chew-able vitamin smell to malt sweetness and moderately-light fruitiness but not in a bad way. And a soft alcohol sweetness that is slightly floral.

T: There honey sweetness, lots of cloying honey sweetness of a pile of sugar. The alcohol and moderate whiskey is all that's left to check the malt sweetness but both fall well short. A light hops bitterness and no hops flavor. The moderately-light oak flavor is there but you kind of overlook it with the smokey whiskey note. The balance is very sweet and the finish is sweet.

M: Moderately full bodied with a pretty low level of carbonation.

O: The Harvest Ale always tends to be fairly sweet but this is a bit much. One of sweetest beers I've had and kind of hard to finish without someone to help. A cigar would be fine compliment to this beer though.

 1,120 characters

Photo of kaimcm
4.68/5  rDev +18.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

presentation: 9.3 oz bottle poured into a snifter

app: beautiful tawny/rudy with a pourous off white head. Creamy but bubbly. Gorgeous pour, great color. Head subsides to a small ring around perimeter.

smell: lagavulin! smells like Islay single malt and a hint of barbeque. Not smoke, but grilled meat.

taste: Incredible! first impression is sweet and syrupy with figs/ raisins, very reminiscent of an Olorosso or Ximenez Sherry. Long (for beer) spicy finish compliments the sugar nicely. Not many hops to be found but I dont really miss them. There is a small hint of Scotch on the finish that lingers in the back of the throat, very subtle and sophisticated.

mouthfeel: Viscous as hell but with the perfect amount of carbonation that lightens it up. You have to expect a somewhat heavy brew with this much going on and an ABV of 11.5!

drink: I dont like this category or really know what it means. Its 11.5% ABV, no one can drink a lot of it. Not to mention the intense sugar and flavors prohibits mass consumption. But it wasnt intended as a session beer, thats obvious. Theres a reason the bottle is only 9.3 oz. I cant forget however that its 9 bucks a bottle!!! Does that hurt its drinkability? Of course, and my wallet. So whats the rating? Would I want to enjoy this spectacular brew after a meal or with some cheese, nuts, or desert? Any time, any day. Is it so rich that I would actually prefer to split the bottle with someone? Yes. Is that a bad thing? Hell no. So what rating do I give?

 1,515 characters

Photo of tbryan5
4.06/5  rDev +3%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4

A peaty, smokey whiskey treat. Not as sweet as the other barrel aged versions. Carbonation is very light. The peat and smoke are well hidden in the nose but really shine on the palate.

 184 characters

Photo of Billolick
4.37/5  rDev +10.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A real treat to enjoy about 1/2 of a pint of this fine sipper from a "wodden pin" (mini keg) with a gravity pour at the Blind Tiger in lower NYC. Pours dark dark brown, very cloudy, no carbonation nor lacing to be found. Nose is of whisky. Notes of ripe plums and more whiskey on the palate.Also smoky notes picked up, hints of salami and soggy raisins and figs. Fine, fine brew, strong, rich flavors and quite complex and interesting. Depth of flavors is outstanding. Each sip is intriguing. Long wiskey infused finish. Outstanding.

 533 characters

Photo of mctizzz
3.75/5  rDev -4.8%

Photo of tigg924
4/5  rDev +1.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Pours murky, amber-orange in color with no head. Taste is big, high quality whiskey, light wood, and caramel. I like whiskey so this one is right up there with my favorites in the JW Lees barleywines that I have tried lately. Well worth a try.

 246 characters

Photo of magictrokini
4.32/5  rDev +9.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

2006 vintage. Right off, I love Lagavulin, so I was really looking forward to this one. It did not disappoint. Poured oily copper with a short-lived 1 cm off-white head. No lacing. The peaty, petroleum, salty Lagavulin is up front in the nose. Smokey grain and booze as well. First sip was a little off-putting, just like the cask of the whiskey it was finished in. After that, the beer settles in. Bitter, salty, peaty, smoky goodness. The oak and the sweeter caramel and toffee malts are a nice contrast in the finish. Some cherry and fig flavors come with it, but the star is the grain and malt of the beer balanced against the strength of the Islay malt. Slow but easy drinking without being sticky. Loved this.

 715 characters

Photo of pat61
4.75/5  rDev +20.6%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.75

L: Pours hazy amber with a thin white film on top.
S: Smells like Lagavulin with some fruit in the background with traces of vanilla.
T: Lagavulin is also all over the palate joined by complex malts, caramel and vanilla, peat and salt spray. A light hop accent in the background.
F: Chewy, low carbonation, warming.
O: One of the nicer things done to a used Lagavulin barrel.

 380 characters

Photo of boatshoes
3.88/5  rDev -1.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 2.5

Picked this up at the Anderson's Market on a trip awhile back. Was excited to find it on the shelf and finally decided to crack it open.

Appearance- Pours a sparkling translucent amber-brown out of the 12oz bottle. A surprising amount of effervescence for a barleywine and about a half a finger of creamy beige head that dies back to a ring rather quickly. A fair amount of sticky lacing and lots of beading carbonation throughout.

Smell- Lots going on here. Smells heavily of sweet brown sugar and caramel, along with a heaping dose of booze and some mild smokiness. Some sweet candied fruits mixed in there as well.

Taste- Very very sweet but a lot going on for sure. Tastes again heavily of caramel and brown sugar, but with a lot of residual fruitiness. Fruit is similar to figs and candied dates, along with other assorted dark candied fruits. Along with all of this is a subtle and enjoyable smokiness and some peat flavor mixed in. Some mild booziness but very well covered by the sweetness.

Mouthfeel/Drinkability- Mouthfeel is a bit on the cloying and syrupy side despite the carbonation. Although I very much enjoyed the flavor profile of this beer and thought is was outstanding, it is just too sweet. I couldn't drink much more than the six or seven ounces I had after splitting the bottle with a friend.

Overall, a fantastic and interesting English style barleywine. If it weren't so cloyingly sweet, I'd have definitely had more. However, it makes a great nightcap in small quantities. Definitely a sipper.

 1,525 characters

Photo of Morphoenix
4.32/5  rDev +9.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Wow. 12 ounce bottle poured into my Delirium Tremens snifter. Pours with very little head, even with an aggressive pour. Head quickly settles to a small ring. Loads of sediment floating around. Has a very alluring deep orange tint. Lots of whiskey in the nose. Amazing flavor profile, extremely complex. Very, very sweet. Smoky, woody flavors abound. This is most definitely a sipper, but it keeps you sipping deeply throughout. Anyone who is a fan of cask or barrel conditioning ought to check this out. Very impressive.

 521 characters

Photo of mondegreen
4.72/5  rDev +19.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

2005 Vintage. 275ml bottle into a tulip.

Part of my 30th Birthday Celebration thanks to longtime friend and newbie BA graphx3d.

A: Dark gold with minimal head and lacing. Looks very syrupy.

S: Wow. I feel like I am toking on a campfire log. Amazing smell. It honestly takes me back to the boy scout campfires of my youth.

T: The most unique tasting beer I have ever had. I can see how some would say the cask aging is distracting, but for me it is perfect. I taste sweet malts coupled with a very smoky flavor. Perfection.

M: Good mouthfeel, medium bodied, thick consistency.

D: The weak spot of this beer, for sure. Too much of it would be overbearing, but a bottle to split with a friend is pure joy.

 709 characters

Photo of kwkdmk
3.72/5  rDev -5.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Photo of glid02
4.4/5  rDev +11.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

Wooden-pin cask at the Brick Store for the kick-off of the 12th anniversary. 2006 vintage.

Pours a hazy brown color with a thin soda-bubble off-white head that recedes quickly into nothing. No lacing, but it does coat the side of the glass.

Smells of butterscotch with earthy booze aromas, including peat and smoke.

Tastes similar to how it smells. Right off the bat peat flavors come out and are joined shortly by butterscotch and a solid malt backbone. Ending is sweet.

Mouthfeel is great. The carbonation is just barely there and the thickness is phenomenal.

Drinkability is good. I could definitely sip on this for a while.

Overall this is perhaps the most I've ever tasted peat in a beer. Well worth a shot.

 718 characters

Photo of rwathree
4.02/5  rDev +2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Poured into a snifter.

A: Pours a nice brown with some orange hues. Not much of a head, but I expected that. At that, it's still a little nondescript, and a bit too much sediment.

S: It smells like Lagavulin, plain and simple. Super peaty, pleasant alcohol makes its way up in a hurry. Wish I could detect something beyond that, but my sense of smell is bad.

T: Really nice mixing of slight sweetness (apricot, maybe) and potent Islay scotch. Again, very peaty.

M: Excellent. Like a good scotch should, the peat sticks to the palate and the alcohol moves all around. Not full-bodied, but that's good by me on this one.

D: For everything that's going on, it goes down nicely. Drinking more than one would be a complete waste, but it's pleasant from beginning to end.

Overall I really enjoyed this, but more for the fact that I love scotch than anything else. That said, the sweetness and smoothness of the ale balanced out the Islay intensity, and made this very drinkable. Recommended.

 995 characters

Photo of tappangordo
4/5  rDev +1.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Photo of rhoadsrage
4.45/5  rDev +12.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

(Served in a snifter)

A- This beer pours a deep dark reddish-tan with a gentle carbonation of tiny bubbles and a thin creamy head of off-white bubbles that quickly fades to a thin ring of white on the parameter. No real legs on this one.

S- The big nose of caramel sweet malt with some toasted malt and a faint hint of white raisins are very pleasant. A note of sour mash from the whisky adds a nice compliment. No real alcohol or hops in the nose.

T-The rich sweet toasted malt has a hint of butteryness to it. A finish of faintly smoky oak and some a gentle hint of whisky in the finish. This taste is lighter and more mellow that the nose lead me to believe. The finish has a slight tartness that could be a combination of hops and whisky notes. It is a very pleasant finish.

M- This has a medium-full mouthfeel that is pretty velvety. A faint hint of alcohol warmth is very nice at the finish.

D-This is a great Barley Wine. It has good complexity but the flavors are not overpowering. Very light for a huge, high ABV drink. Age and Lagavulin casks have done some amazing things to this beer.

 1,114 characters

first ← prev | 1-25 | 26-50 | 51-75  | nextlast
J.W. Lees Harvest Ale (Lagavulin Whisky Cask) from J.W. Lees & Co (Brewers) Ltd
Beer rating: 3.94 out of 5 with 540 ratings