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

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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: English Barleywine

Alcohol by volume (ABV): 11.50%

Availability: Winter

Notes / Commercial Description:
No notes at this time.

Added by Dantes on 05-07-2004

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Reviews: 276 | Ratings: 509
Photo of Sammy
3.57/5  rDev -9.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3

A beverage of certain extremes. A so-so barleywine taste boosted by clear scotch whiskey and wood flavoring, an interest cloudy pour. An aroma that is at the same time beer as it is whiskey. A not so satisfying drinking experience yet smooth. Not a perfect show: Forget it, Jake, it's Chinatown.

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Photo of UCLABrewN84
3.87/5  rDev -2.3%
look: 3.25 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4

Brewed in 2011.

Pours a murky dark orange-brown with a foamy tan head that settles to wisps of film on top of the beer. Tiny dots of lace drip into the remaining beer on the drink down. Smell is of peat, adhesive bandage, Scotch whisky, wood, alcohol, and slight caramel aromas. Taste is much the same with sweet caramel, earth, peat, smoke, Scotch whisky, and wood flavors on the finish. There is a mild amount of hop bitterness on the palate with each sip. This beer has a lower level of carbonation with a slightly crisp and sticky mouthfeel. Overall, this is a good beer with a nice Scotch whisky barrel aged presence that is slightly better in the taste to me.

Serving type: bottle.

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Photo of StonedTrippin
4.07/5  rDev +2.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

2005 vintage. this is another one of those special beers that in each category cant be scored anything too high, but taken on the whole, are quite amazing. this is one of those for sure. it pours clear whiskey color, with almost no head. there are some dark brown yeast floaters at the bottom, and gentle carbonation. it smells like a barleywine, caramely, english malty, and very very sweet. there is also a mature woody aroma, and a great deal of alcohol. it taste very organic, very old, and very sweet. there is a ton of residual sugar here, and an already sweeter malt profile. no hops at all to speak of, and a punishing alcohol sting. the whiskey barrel adds a touch of charcoal and vanilla flavor, and a smoothness of feel. this thing is velvet, even with the abv what it is. carbonation is really mild, so the sugars sort of stay in the mouth awhile. it is about what i expected when i got this, huge and sweet. its got a richness and a certain refined character that set it apart. worth a try if youve got the bucks.

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Photo of Knapp85
3.85/5  rDev -2.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

This one poured out much like the others. The color is a dark orange with a very thin head on top and vanishes quickly. The smell of the beer has a sweet inviting aroma with some boozy qualities on the nose. The taste of the beer has a hefty amount of whiskey notes and sweet malts that are very flavorful. The mouthfeel of the beer is again creamy and smooth. Overall this beer much like the others is quite good, I feel that this one is probably my least favorite though.

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Photo of metter98
4/5  rDev +1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A: The beer is relatively clear amber-orange in color and has no visible carbonation. It poured with a quarter finger high light beige head that quickly dissipated, leaving wispy lacing on the surface and a thin ring of bubbles around the edge of the glass.
S: There are moderately strong aromas of peat smoke and scotch in the nose.
T: Like the smell, the taste has lots of flavors of smoked peat and scotch, but these are not overpowering.
M: It feels a bit higher than medium-bodied on the palate and has a low to moderate amount of carbonation. A little bit of warmth from the alcohol is present.
O: Considering its strength, the alcohol is relatively well hidden from the taste. The interesting smell and taste also make it a nice beer to sip.

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Photo of oriolesfan4
3.85/5  rDev -2.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Had on tap at Max's in Baltimore. Not a big whisky drinker at all, so not sure of the "Lagavulin" taste, but this was a damn tasty beer that's for a sipper for sure. Full flavored and full bodied, with a nice woodsy kick to it, would be a great nightcap and is a delicious barleywine. Would be interesting to compare this at the same time with the other whisky casks... although quite dangerous.

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Photo of BEERchitect
4.32/5  rDev +9.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Vintage 2006: reviewed Nov. 26, 2007
Vintage 2008: revised Sept. 2, 2010

Likely my least favorite of the cask-conditioned varieties offered by J.W. Lees. Of course the base-beer is phenominal, and just mature enough. The character that the Lagavulin whisky seemed to work within the framework of the Barleywine but has a few moments where it seems somewhat overbearing. The flavor of peaty Scotch gives the beer a strong ethynol flavor and feel that interferes slightly with the drinakability. The wood character gives the beer a very bold earthy, woodsy, peaty flavor that edges on fresh oak. The smoke flavor and aroma also persists throughout making the beer more campfire-like. When all the flavors come together, the beer turns out good -- not the normal 'great' that you get from J.W. Lee's, but only good this time. It seems that a couple of years is sorely needed to round the beer out and to meld the flavors together. The previous and younger versions seem overbearing with the Scotch flavor and feel but I didn't get the same impression here.

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Photo of brentk56
4.12/5  rDev +4%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Brewed in 2004; tasted in 2010

Appearance: Burnt caramel color with a rather modest, big-bubbled head (the result of a hard pour) that fails to last very long; not much lace effect, but I wasn't expecting it

Smell: Raisins and caramel apples, with a musty, salty boozy edge; plenty of whisky aromatics

Taste: The raisin and caramel apple flavors jump to the fore, followed by a very smokey, peaty and oaky character; the warmth of the booze becomes apparent by mid-palate and after the swallow, the peat and smoke provide an interesting foil to the sweeter flavors

Mouthfeel: Full bodied with low carbonation and plenty of warmth in the gullet

Drinkability: I can't help but think that this one was on a bit of a downward slope, given its age, which may have affected the carbonation more than the flavor; having tasted a number of the series in succession, I think the sherry version is my favorite but I almost feel like they would merit a re-visit if they were all about the same age and in the same condition

Note: Re-visiting the 2009 version with two years of age produces a bit more of a carbonated mouthfeel as well as a much stronger smokey/peaty character - bump the mouthfeel and overall by .5

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Photo of emerge077
4.02/5  rDev +1.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

After nearly 3 years, revisiting this beer again, this time a 2011 bottle.
Lots more noticeable Lagavulin aroma and taste, a bit of iodine and medicinal peat smoke. Long aftertaste with heavy elements from the whisky cask. Overall it's pretty intense and worth a try if you enjoy Islay whisky. Don't recommend cellaring.

3.93/5 rDev -0.3%

After trying some exceptional Lagavulin 17 yr., (thanks Aaron) we decided to break out this aged English Barleywine, hoping for some connection.

Pours a tawny ruby, a finger of foam lasted for maybe a minute. Very nice jewel-like clarity, a ring of foam but no lasting head. Some nasty chunks of disturbed yeast in the bottle that thankfully didn't make it into the glass.

Super oxidized, sweet and malty, dominating dried fruit, but somehow a little off.

Fruity flavors of golden raisin (sultana), plum, currants... sweet confections, stewed fruit and baked apples. Not much Scotch character, some dry bitterness in the aftertaste.

Rich and syrupy, a sipper, or maybe best poured over pancakes. Hardy's -esque... defintely a sweet sipper and one to share.

Didn't get much Lagavulin character, will seek out a more recent vintage to re-review.

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Photo of Phyl21ca
3.97/5  rDev +0.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Bottle: Poured a cloudy amber color ale with a small foamy head with average retention and minimal lacing. Aroma of sweet English style malt with some whiskey notes. Taste is a complex mix between some sweet English style malt with some distinctive arming notes of whiskey and barley. Full body with limited filtration and average carbonation but no apparent alcohol. Very well done but I still prefer the Port version.

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Photo of Thorpe429
2.31/5  rDev -41.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 2 | feel: 2 | overall: 2.5

2010 vintage courtesy of starrdogg at last night's barrel-aged barleywine tasting. Served in a SAVOR snifter.

Pours a bright, clear copper color with a bit of an orange tint to it. Slight head and a few bubbles before falling into a thin collar.

The nose carries quite a bit of whiskey character that is quite divergent from the typical American bourbon. I don't know too much about spirits, but the difference is noticeable, especially when contrasted with all the bourbon-barrel beers we had.

Nothing too complex, and the barrel brings quite a bit of peat character without the caramel malt that is standard for the style and for the base beer. Very woody. Flavor is similarly quite peaty and harsh with much of anything from the underlying beer coming through. Bitter and slightly astringent in the finish.

Overall, not very impressed with this; I enjoy the regular version much, much more.

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Photo of superspak
3.97/5  rDev +0.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

275 ml bottle into tulip glass, 2005 vintage. Pours very hazy and cloudy reddish copper color with no head and some minimal lacing bubbles sticking to the side. Aromas of big caramel, raisin, prune, fig, toast, toffee, molasses, oak, whiskey, vanilla, peat, light smoke, and dark earthiness. Very nice aromas with good balance and complexity of malt notes with barrel character. Taste of big caramel, molasses, toffee, toast, raisin, fig, prune, vanilla, oak, whiskey, peat, light smoke, and dark earthiness. Lingering notes of caramel, molasses, toffee, toast, dark fruits, vanilla, oak, whiskey, light smoke, and earthiness on the finish for a while. Very nice balance and complexity of malt notes with dark fruits; with a fair amount of barrel character that isn’t overwhelming; and zero cloying sweetness after the finish. Minimal carbonation and full bodied; with a creamy, slick, and fairly syrupy mouthfeel that is nice. Alcohol is very well hidden with only a small warming noticed after the finish. Overall this is a very nice English barleywine. All around nice balance and complexity of malt and barrel flavors; and very smooth to sip on slowly. A very enjoyable offering.

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Photo of nickfl
3.93/5  rDev -0.8%
look: 2 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

A - Small, off white head composed of ugly, fish eye bubbles. The boy is a hazy, copper-red with an unfortunate amount of sediment floating in it.

S - A big note of dark fruit, mostly raisins and plums. Background notes of chocolate, wood and tobacco.

T - Sweet malt and lots of brown sugar up front. Red apples and raisins make up a complimentary fruity note in the middle along with moderate bitterness. The whisky cask notes only begin to emerge in the finish with mild smoke and wood. Chocolate and sherry notes briefly emerge and then fade leaving tobacco and brown sugar to linger on the palate.

M - Very thick, syrup like body, low carbonation, and a sweet finish with some alcohol warmth.

D - I have been astonished by every variation of JW Lees Harvest Ale that I have had thus far, and while this version is complex and enjoyable, like its siblings, it does not quite live up to the others. The excellence of the base beer shines through in the complex sweetness, but the whiskey cask doesn't seem to have contributed too much to the mix. Combine that with the fact that this is one of the least visually appealing beers I have come across in some time, and your have a beer that is interesting and quite good, but unable to live up to the expectations that its brand has earned.

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Photo of jlindros
4.04/5  rDev +2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Thanks to Tim for this one.

Light orange yeast chunked beer with very little head.

Nose has lots of sweet malts, sweet citrus fruits, toasty malts, some smoke, mesquite, and a bit of whisky and oak.

Taste has more chewy malts, sweet chewy mesquite, meringue, light citrus, marmalade, oak, light smoke, BBQ smoked flavors, dry taste, tastes somewhat like mesquite smoking chips, and just a hint of whisky.

Medium bodied, with lighter carbonation.

Drink is decent, a bit of warming booze, quite a bit of smoke and mesquite, but drinkable.

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Photo of NeroFiddled
4.82/5  rDev +21.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

The unmistakable, powerful, peat-smoked and salty Islay aroma of the Lagavulin comes through clearly in the nose, and it only gets better from there! It pours a clear (it's been filtered), medium-amber body with a full head of frothy white that drops slowly but leaves little lace. It's creamy and smooth in the mouth with a restrained, fine-bubbled carbonation and full body. The flavor includes a good shot of the Lagavulin as well, and its smokiness and alcohol help to balance and dry the rich, buttered, creamed-honey maltiness... even better, I think, than even the original. It seems lighter, although it's not, because it's more balanced. Yet the intensity of the honeyish Maris Otter malt is still there. And unlike the other versions, the alcohol in this one seems more hidden... hmmm? It's a really interesting take on the already great Harvest Ale! And doubly so for fans of Islay whiskey.

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Photo of dbrauneis
3.95/5  rDev -0.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

A: Pours a golden orange to amber in color with light amounts of visible carbonation. The beer has a quarter finger off-white to beige head that quickly dissipates to a very thin ring at the edges of the glass. Light amounts of lacing are observed.

S: Moderate to strong aromas of smokey peat and scotch whiskey (likely from the barrel aging). There is a very light underlying sweetness.

T: Starts off with some light amount of sweetness that is followed by heavy amounts of peat smoke and whiskey. There is also a very light hint of vanilla in the flavor as well.

M: On the heavier side of medium bodied with light to moderate amounts of carbonation. Very light amounts of alcohol heat.

O: Very little alcohol in the smell/taste/mouthfeel which is surprising considering the high ABV.

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Photo of ChainGangGuy
4.4/5  rDev +11.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

I'm oh-so terribly fond of the J.W. Lee's Harvest Ale, so let's be a good sport, and give this Lagavulin Whisky Cask-aged version a try.

Appearance: A color reminiscent of sweet, gooey, delicious honey. From very talented, very wonderful bees. A tight, compacted khaki-colored head, with minimal head retention - but that's to be expected. Slight carbonation, with fat, lazy bubbles working their way to the surface.

Aroma: Holy moly! What a HONEY pot aroma with some sweet malt and butter smells around the edges. There's a very slight smokey peat smell to it, but only very slight (far less than I would have imagined).

Taste: Wonderful. A good bit of fruit in the flavor, mainly apricots and honey-soaked raisins. Plenty of chewy malt. The Lagavulin adds in a layer of smokiness to the brew's benefit and makes for a delightful twist on the classic Harvest Ale. A long finish, a graceful finish, and one to simply sit down and cherish.

Mouthfeel: Think, warm and always creamy on the tongue, like so much honey. The alcohol is warming, but not overly noticeable for 11.5%.

Drinkability: A beer you can really drink yourself into a stupor with and smile all the while. True, this one's a sipper, but I am guilty of taking whole mouthfuls just to really sink my teeth into it. A great barleywine experience!

Thankfully, I purchased more than just a single bottle of this offering, and look forward to enjoying these down the road with a little age on it. I'll be sure to try Port, Sherry, and Calvados versio-- OWW!! I just got bit by a BEE!!!

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Photo of BuckeyeNation
4.57/5  rDev +15.4%
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?

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Photo of russpowell
4.06/5  rDev +2.5%
look: 3 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

2004 vintage pours an effervescent & dingy brown (clears quickly) with minimal sand colored head. Viscous tendencies with minimal head retention & lacing

S: Some boozey notes, peat smokeyness as this warms along with vanilla & toffee notes, plus leafy hops

T: Too much treacle sweetness up front along with some bacon-like smokeyness, raisins & dryness up front along a with boozey warmth. Vanilla & oaky dryness as well as some peaty smokeyness come through as this warms. Finishes bone dry with maple syrup & treacle notes

MF: Slick, sticky with zero carbonation

Drinks alright despite the dryness. My advice; let this age at least 2 more years

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Photo of mikesgroove
4.62/5  rDev +16.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

This is what I am talking about! Vintage 2004 bottle, my first time with this beer, served at cellar temp and poured into a snifter, this wonderful beer was consumed on 03/10/2009.

The pour was very, very nice. A rich dark brown in color with a light smattering of reddish tints on the sides and the bottom of the glass. Some light tan head coming up over the top of the brew and settling down after a few minutes into a bare top. The aroma was unmistakeable, like a fine old ale almost. Lots of oak and whiskey, hints of vanilla and toffee coming through very nicely throughout. This was about as tight of beer as I am going to come across tonight thats for damn sure. Rich, super sweet with loads of toffee and caramel flavors. Hints of apples and lots of vanilla are all over this one. The alcohol has all but faded away and left a supremly well defined ale in its place. Super rich and wonderful as the glass warms up to room temperature, it only seems to get better. Lots of toffee and vanilla and soo sweet and syrup like. The word mellow hardly does it justice. Overall I was very, very happy with this one for sure. One of the better beers I have had in the last few months.

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Photo of TMoney2591
3.82/5  rDev -3.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Served in a Dogfish Head snifter.

Brewed in 2008. Another beast from the VDubb directorate. This one pours a cloudy tawny amber with a light wisp of bubbles on top that dies away quickly enough to make me think it may have descended from teflon-drenched ninjas. The nose blasts the 'strils with peat-smoked whiskey goodness. Behind that (I think) are notes of toffee, mild citrus, and graham crackers. Man, that's a lot o' smoke! The taste is significantly different, with sweet toffee, maple syrup, candi sugar and caramel trouncing the taste buds just as the smoke dominated the smell receptors. A light bit of Sunny D-style citrus joins in, along with some o' that Lagavulin in the background, all surreptitious and whatnot. The harsh sweetness and seeming dearth of Lagavulin on my tongue hurt the overall score a bit. The body is a heavy medium, with a very light carbonation and a gooey feel. Overall, I was surprised to find that this version is not as good as the normal Lees b-wine. It also made me long to have a few bottles o' Lagavulin to enjoy...

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Photo of Huhzubendah
4.17/5  rDev +5.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Shared at my tasting on May 29, 2010. Thanks Pete! review from notes.
2005 vintage
Lagavulin is possibly my favorite single malt scotch, so I'm looking forward to trying a nice vintage bottle of this brew. There is virtually no head or lace on this hazy brown beer. Aromas consist of sweet malt, cherries, apple brandy, and alcohol. The scotch barrel really comes through nicely. Some time in the cellar served this beer very well. I had a very young bottle of this once, and didn't care for it much, as the alcohol presence was overbearing. This beer drinks very smoothly, as I'm sure the aging process mellowed this beast out a bit. This was a tasty beer, and good for sharing several ways. An ounce or two was plenty. I recommend trying this beer, but only after it has spent some years in the cellar.

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Photo of Alieniloquium
3.79/5  rDev -4.3%
look: 2.75 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.75

275 mL bottle poured into a Courage snifter. 2009 bottle.

Appearance - Deep red brown body. Doesn't seem to have the chunkiness of other versions. Maybe the nastycake at the bottom is well compacted. I don't get much sediment until the very end. Slight semblance of a head for a moment.

Smell - Peaty smokey scotch aroma. Sweet caramel. Subdued raisin character, but it still has that distinctive dark fruit aroma.

Taste - Barrel is less intense here. Scotch blends throughout the flavor with a smokey whiskey flavor. Cuts the sweetness nicely, allowing the caramel to produce a better flavor. Also cuts some of the complexity, though. Raisin flavor comes back in the very end and sweetness lingers.

Mouthfeel - Still thick and syrupy. Low carbonation. Slick with a slight smokey bitterness.

Overall - Enjoyable variation. Better than some of the others. I don't always love a scotch barrel on a beer, but the intensity of the whiskey flavor tends to subdue the sweetness of the base beer.

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Photo of WoodBrew
3.75/5  rDev -5.3%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

The J.W. Lees Harvest aged in Lagavulin Casks was interesting......not many at the table liked this one....I thought it ok.....probably would not order it again. The beer poured a nice amber with no head and no lace. The scent was earthy...other described is as plastic. The taste was very similar to the scent....had a lot of earth to it.....seemed more like scotch than whiskey. The mouthfeel was medium in body with subtle carbonation. Overall it was decent....certainly worth a try....but that is about it.

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Photo of Billolick
4.37/5  rDev +10.4%
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.

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J.W. Lees Harvest Ale (Lagavulin Whisky Cask) from J.W. Lees & Co (Brewers) Ltd
3.96 out of 5 based on 509 ratings.
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