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

very good
519 Ratings
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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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Ratings: 519 |  Reviews: 279
Photo of maximum12
4/5  rDev +0.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Thanks to my favorite wife for this bottle, part of a lovely Christmas box. 9.3 oz. bottle popped to end a nice Saturday evening, 2007 vintage.

Pours with massive floaties, Sediment Gone Wild! Yeasties slowly settle to the bottom of the glass in a caramel-colored brew. Smell is strong whiskey, very distinctive, not at all like the standard barrel-aged American beers. Smoky & sweet.

J.W. Lees Harvest Ale (Lagaluvin Whiskey Cask) is uniquely English. Having a problem locating the word until looking at the other reviews: peat. Yup. Burning peat bog. Sweet, sweet, almost honeyed malts. Underneath, all sorts of more subtle feelings. Caramel, slightly herbal, additional honey. Very nice. Pretty flat & heavy, but no problem taking this small bottle down.

This beer really grew on me as it warmed & I moved through it. The unusual whiskey is really nice, the complexities lovely. Really good beer that's licking the boot of excellent; looking forward to the other varietals.

 982 characters

Photo of jfcaa193
3.5/5  rDev -11.8%

Photo of Beerzebub
4.47/5  rDev +12.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

2005 bottle, poured into a Bruery glass, not too cold.

Deep, glowing amber color, quite attractive. Some chunkies due to not pouring carefully. The great color is not obscured by any head.

Rich aroma of caramel and nuts, with a bright fresh fruitiness like a mixture of agave, Bing cherry, and lemon peel. A welcome hint of nutty, sherrylike oxidization. Hints of soot and sea air, but less indication of peaty Scotch barrel than I was expecting. Nonetheless, really good and complex.

Tastes like big sweet malt up front, sticky toffee pudding and fresh cherries, and then the whisky barrel comes in and builds gradually. The barrel treatment certainly comes through more on the palate than on the nose, mature Scotch with industrial smoke and salty ocean air, nicely restrained and a great complement to the sweet fruity malt. Long, long finish, with the smoke building, becoming almost completely dry with only peat smoke and roasted nuts lingering at the very end, amazing after such a sweet attack. Very tasty stuff, with great balance and complexity.

 1,058 characters

Photo of ygtbsm94
4/5  rDev +0.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

This bottle was a Vintage 2013

30 characters

Photo of marct
2/5  rDev -49.6%

Photo of nmann08
3/5  rDev -24.4%

Photo of MBrausen
4.65/5  rDev +17.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

2010 vintage bottle poured into a CBS Sniffer.

A. Beautiful red hue, thin layer of head even with an aggressive pour. Head faded quickly to a clean as glass surface.

S. Smells of sweet fruit, cherries, sour. Very much like sherry, and nearing the smell of a sour.

T. Very sweet, light cherry, a little honey and and a tiny bit tart. Noticeable charred oak after taste along with some chocolate. Mild whiskey taste, but very well balanced. This is one of the better additions of whiskey I have ever had. After 2 years, it has clearly mellowed to an ideal balance.

M. Medium body, watery with a coarse slightly dry finish. A little chewy. Thick without being hard.

O. This is a very good barelywine to me. I think 2 years was perfect for this one. Minimal alcohol with a fair amount of barrel really make this a pleasure to drink. You do not taste the 11.5% at all. If this wasn't so spendy, I would have a fridge full of it.

 930 characters

Photo of DIM
2.52/5  rDev -36.5%
look: 2.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 2

Pumped from the actual lagavulin whisky cask, pretty cool.

a: This was a ruddy dark copper color. It was served to me with a small but firm cap.

s: Strong sherry aromas with hints of caramel and ash. Where is the whiskey?

t: This tasted strongly of sherry, not whiskey. There was plenty of ash as well that wasn't all that pleasant. There was a puckering quality about this that wasn't quite sour. I found a vague sort of fruit that reminded me of port. The regular version was extremely sweet, that was all lost here.

m: Still and syrupy.

o: I had to try it, the concept is very cool. I just didn't enjoy the beer though.

 627 characters

Photo of PacNWDad
4/5  rDev +0.8%

Photo of fx20736
3.43/5  rDev -13.6%
look: 2 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 2.5

Poured from a 9.3 oz bottle into a pint glass,served near room temp.

Bronze Orange, no head, I decanted bottle slowly, leaving maybe 11 oz in the bottle along with alot of sediment which may have reduced head somewhat.

Aroma: A much more appealing bouquet than the others. I can't identify but there is a woddy aroma, a fruitiness and something else...

mouthfeel: soft and syrupy

taste: Oaky and smoky with the Scotch coming on the tail.

Notes: The best of the JWL Cask Aged Barleywines but not very 'beer-like'. This definitely taste like Scotch but if I want Scotch, I'll drink it, not beer.

So my vertical tasting of all four of these is complete. Like the Rochefort tasting this was a bust. I am glad I did it but won't buy these again.

 748 characters

Photo of KyleDS
3.33/5  rDev -16.1%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

This exceptionally rare brew from JW was poured straight from the cask at the Belgian Cafe in Philly - one of my favorite pubs in town.

I was really excited to try this beer but was a bit dissapointed with the overall characteristics. Although i appreciate the time, craftmanship, and hardwork that when into producing this beer, it's not something that i would likely try again.

A: copper coloring, very little head

A: woody, earthy, chared wood, smokey, caramel

T: alcohol warming, woody, cramel, warm all the way down with sryup, dark fruit on the back

M: consistent of a scotch feel, with apparent warming in the mouth and throat.

O: i enjoyed tasting this beer and differentiating the characteristics, however, its not something that really caught my attention.

 775 characters

Photo of Phelps
4.11/5  rDev +3.5%
look: 2.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

2006 vintage. Enjoyed at the 2011 RAREaffair. Poured into a tasting glass.

The color of iced tea, a dark orange with perfect clarity but no head. 2.5

The nose is packed with heavy smoky peat, caramel, brown sugar and molasses. Hard to get past the peat, but I'm not complaining — it's quality stuff.

The flavor is peat plus apple brandy plus sugar. The standard heavy JW Lees sweetness that usually overpowers the palate actually works well with the smoke, being tempered by it. Burnt sugar notes and some semblance of earthy hop bitterness come through, though there’s not much. Complex.

Sugary, thick medium body; prickly medium-light carbonation. Alcohol fumes come through the nose, but they’re fairly light and are hidden by the hefty sweetness.

If there's one liquor that works with the uber-sweet Harvest Ale, an islay scotch is it. Great mix of sweet and smoky.

 883 characters

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


A - Darker copper. No head.

S - Peat. Wood. Soil. Earthy sweetness.

T - Peat. Whiskey. Butterscotch. Cake. Molasses.

M - Medium body. Sweet finish.

O - A fine beer. The peat smells and flavors are nothing I've ever seen in a beer before. Very interesting indeed. I enjoyed the earthy sweetness and peat smokiness together. Might drink again.

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Photo of ritzkiss
4/5  rDev +0.8%

Photo of starrdogg
2/5  rDev -49.6%

Photo of HopStoopid120
4/5  rDev +0.8%

Photo of shanghai55
3/5  rDev -24.4%

Photo of jophish17
4.5/5  rDev +13.4%

Photo of pzymali
4/5  rDev +0.8%

Photo of bkoch81
5/5  rDev +25.9%

Photo of bobv
4.5/5  rDev +13.4%

Photo of Rochefort10nh
4/5  rDev +0.8%

Photo of Greencoat
4.39/5  rDev +10.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

2005 vintage, strait from the cask.

A: murky medium brown with absolutely no head
S: huge whiskey nose with a gorgeous caramel backbone
T: brilliant oak and whiskey flavors, no hop presence. Wonderful smoke character on the finish.
M: still, sweet and warming
O: one of the most enjoyable beer experiences I've ever had. I feel privalaged.

 340 characters

Photo of BedetheVenerable
2.75/5  rDev -30.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 2 | feel: 4 | overall: 2.5

Presentation: 9.3oz brown pop top with really classy, minimalist label; 2008 vintage...was saving this, but decided to pop it after a very bad day.

Appearance: Slightly murky beer, the color of hardened amber, with a slight off-white cap...was surpised at the levels of carbonation still here, actually. Did my best to keep the floaties (of which there were a BUNCH) in the bottom of the bottle, but a few flakes made it into the beer.

Smell: Sweet candied red fruits and sweet, sugary alcohol lead the way. Then comes the barrel character, with a hit of earthy, damp smokiness. This smells like it may be a brusier. Not tons of depth, but fairly pleasant.

Taste: The initial taste is sweet, toffee/cherry, and then WHAM. Just as you think, 'hey, this is good' it hits you. Smoke. Let me repeat. Smoke...and not just 'we threw some rauch or peated malt in here'. It's intense and overpowering, and this is coming from a guy who appreciates a good single malt. Oddly, it doesn't really strike me as a peaty smoke, though I know it is...it's woody, meaty, and almost camp fire-like. I think what makes it so overpowering is that there's the smokiness is combined with the huge sweetness of this beer. It does mellow with sipping (or maybe that's just my tongue throwing in the towel) but it's just too much. Oddly enough, this reminds me forcefully of the aromas (so thick you could almost taste it) of my late grandad's wood-burning stove in the shed where he kept his antique gasoline engines. I think, honestly, the happy memories of hanging out down in the shed in the winters, shooting the shit w/my dad and gramps is the only thing that really appeals to me about this beer. Otherwise, it's just kinda over the top. Which is too bad, because I have a feeling there's a REALLY good barleywine under here...

Mouthfeel: Rich, viscous, almost sticky sweet

Overall: This one ran me about $10.00...would I do it again? Nope. Would I get a regular JW Lees after trying this? You bet!

Oh, and I bet this would make a KILLER barbecue sauce...

 2,046 characters

Photo of JAHMUR
4.5/5  rDev +13.4%

J.W. Lees Harvest Ale (Lagavulin Whisky Cask) from J.W. Lees & Co (Brewers) Ltd
3.97 out of 5 based on 519 ratings.
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