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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Ratings: 512 |  Reviews: 277
Photo of meatyard
4.02/5  rDev +1.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

2004 bottling.

Pours out a clear, deep ruby with a short, khaki head that turns into a ring.

The smell is pretty strong on the whiskey and is sweet & malty. I can almost feel the alcohol warming in the aroma.

The taste is very sweet, lots of whiskey flavor (might have assumed it to tone down after 7 years) The peat flavor, which others mention, appears to be missing after aging though I get what appears to be peat long after the swallow.

Mouthfeel is thick and syrupy with a scant notice of carbonation.

Overall: This may not be to my particular taste but I can still tell that it's an interesting and somewhat special beer. I'd definitely recommend it to someone wanting an intense English BW.

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Photo of Arbitrator
2.77/5  rDev -30.1%
look: 2.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 2.5

Chilled bottle into a glass. 2010 vintage.

A: Pours a clear, chestnut brown with a small, short-lived beige head. It has no collar, no lace, no curtains -- very still.

S: Tons of whisky on the nose. The Lagavulin is strong here. I am relieved to find that the whisky contributions are smoke, peat moss, and salt/soy instead of burning tire. I'm not a scotch guy, as you might guess.

T: I couldn't detect the base beer on the nose, but its youth its evident in the flavor. It manifests as toffee, burnt sugar, caramel; I generally find J.W. Lees Harvest Ale to be cloying when fresh, and this one is no exception, even with a year of barrel-aging on it. The oxidation hasn't really taken hold. That being said, the barrel-aging has contributed the lightest touch of sherry, which closes out the finish after a rocky mid-taste of soy-saucy, peaty whisky. It actually reminds me of seaweed.

M: Like the other treatments and the base beer, this is fairly still, with medium-plus body and a lingering, sweet finish. Very smooth, on the whole.

O: I am of a mixed mind when it comes to these barrel-aging treatments. On the one hand, they're generally not appealing to me fresh. The barrel choices could be really interesting complements to aged Harvest Ale, but if you age one of these barrel-aged treatments too long, they drop off faster than the regular beer. It seems there's no way to achieve what I think this beer could be, short of aging it in kegs and then barrel-aging it, but that's ridiculous (or is it?).

Generally speaking, I skip these and go for the base beer.

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Photo of ZenAgnostic
4.26/5  rDev +7.6%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 5

9 point something ounce bottle poured into a whiskey glass. 2009 vintage. $9.50 at Side Door Liquor Store.

Appearance - Very cloudy medium brown body. Plenty of sediment.

Smell - Like a forest fire. Very smokey. It's almost off putting, but it goes so well with the taste when you get to that.

Taste - Complex as all heck. Sweet. Sour. Barely bitter. Almost astringent. Smokey. Woody. Meaty.

Mouthfeel - Medium bodied. In light of the overwhelming flavor, the mouthfeel seems irrelevant.

Overall Drinkability - Possibly the most complex and flavorful beer I've ever had.

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Photo of Trilogy31
4.36/5  rDev +10.1%
look: 3 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Appearance is probably the worst part of this beer, a muddied redwood brown with a thin wisp of head - no lacing and very little carbonation, almost still. The nose is bright with churned oaky butter, rich toffee and caramel bread pudding, plum qlong with a complex melange of salt, sea and iodine kicking off at the very end. The taste is just the opposite - with the whisky front and center - i could honestly guess this was aged in a lagavulin cask (or ardbeg) classic hallmarks of lagavulin, grainy, red fruit, tons of smoke and peat - and for me very medicinal i get iodine more than anything, but to me thats exactly how lagavulin tastes. The beers finishes very smooth and not overly sweet, a nice touch of slightly sour acidity and oaky tannins pull through the heavy amount of malts. I really, really liked this beer and im not a huge scotch guy much less islays, but it works here. 2010 vintage.

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Photo of BeerNemesis
4.65/5  rDev +17.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

J.W. Lees Harvest Ale (Lagavulin Whisky Cask) | 275 ml. | 11.5% ABV | 2008 vintage

Brewer: J.W. Lees & Co (Brewers) Ltd
Style: English Barleywine
Glass: snifter

Really beautiful chestnut brown, with tons of sediment and no head whatsoever.

Mmm... the Lagavulin whiskey comes through so nicely: a sea-salt flecked, peat-drenched delight.

The expected toasted grains, honey and caramel Maris Otter malts, and deep woodiness are present. But the Lagavulin whiskey steals the show. The peaty, salty, smokiness pervades each sip, but really expresses itself in the aftertaste. This is probably the most distinct of the four J.W. Lees Harvest Ale variants. As with the other great concoctions, this is such an expertly crafted and complex brew, it can be enjoyed closer to room temperature without any particular flavor skewing the balance.

Slick and supple, with just the smallest amount of carbonation.

Beautifully balanced and expertly crafted. The Lagavulin whiskey is so right.

Would I get it again?:

Bottled: 2008
Served: September 20, 2011

Price = $11.99 at Whole Foods

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Photo of nhindian
4.21/5  rDev +6.3%
look: 3 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

275ml bottle poured into a Stone Old Guardian glass. Bottle generously provided by thagr81us as an extra, thanks a lot Calton!

2005 vintage.

A - Pours a dark copper color, almost like a rusted pipe. It is completely still and the only notions of carbonation are the smallest of bubbles that surround the edge of the glass as it lies precariously silent. The bottle had a lot of sediment at the bottom, but a careful pour led to only a hazy appearance with no noticeable floaties. No lacing at all besides the slight cap from the bubbles, but a ton of alcohol legs. It resembles the scotch in which barrels it sat it quite well.

S - I'm really surprised as to the extent that the Lagavulin overpowers the otherwise sweet malts that J.W. Lees Harvest normally has. It is actually the first thing I notice about the nose, bringing a lot of peat smoke and then the malts come next, bringing toffee, caramel, raisins, and sugar. A bit of alcohol in the finish. As it warms, the sweetness definitely comes through stronger.

T - This is my second Islay barrel-aged beer I've had this week, the other being the Mikkeller Islay Scotch Black, and although the Black was a 17.50% behemoth of an imperial stout, I can really draw the comparisons of the barrel treatment between the styles. The peat begins the taste, lending some smokiness that helps cut down that sugary sweetness of the malts, while at the same time aiding in complexity. Additonally, there's some sea-spray salt and seaweed that gives it a unique flavor. Once these flavors dim, the malts do come through, delivering the signature raisin-bread taste of the base beer. Caramel and alcohol-soaked fruits round out the flavors.

M - Mouthfeel is medium-bodied with almost no carbonation. Feels a bit lifeless, despite the sweetness which I thought would be heavy and syrupy, so I'm torn here. It takes on the mouthfeel of whisky but in a beer.

D/O - Drinkability is moderately high. I would probably rate this as slightly better than the 2000 vintage of the Harvest ale I had recently. The Lagavulin cask really helps to cut the sweetness while adding much more diverse flavors. This is definitely a sipper, but I enjoyed every drop of this beer. I will be seeking out the other cask versions of this beer for sure!

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

9.3 oz bottle...2007 vintage. Purchased many moons ago at Blue Max in Minnesota. Started around the fire and finished around the FSU - OSU football game. Remember when Florida State was both hated and relevant? Where have you gone Peter Warrick? Ah, good times.

Pours a marmalade orange, quite still with only a thin white collar and loads and loads of suspended particulates.

Massive vanilla, green raisin, and caramel with a brown sugar icing: very dessert like.

Peat, smoke, and woody vanilla. Whiskey has really mellowed. Sardines and toffee.

Time seems to have been kind to this, though I haven't had a recent vintage for comparison. Sticky, medium bodied, and sugary.

A fine dessert beer that has mellowed into a pleasant sipper.

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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 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 jlpayne
5/5  rDev +26.3%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

2009 vintage.

This is the most spectacular English barleywine I've ever come across.

A: She's pretty. Great clarity.

S: Freshly cut, wet wood.

T: Like gnawing on a block of damp wood. Amazing.

M: Perfect. Great carbonation. Solid body.

O: This is hands down one of the best beers I've ever had. Must try.

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Photo of zrab11
4.77/5  rDev +20.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

2004 Vintage, Brought up from my Pub's(The Heorot) cellar as my 100th differnt beer at that pub!

A- Pours a brownish black carmel color with some light sediment. Leaves sme spotty lace.

S- Has the most heavenly caramel nose with some roasted malt aromas. As well as vanilla and some oak.

T- WOW this beer is soo SMooth. It has a nice carmel scotch flavor up front then followed by a nice plum flavor and ends with a smooth vanilla flavor. Caught a hint of smokeyness on my last drink from the glass.

M-Medium to full bodied

D-Overall this is the best beer ive had to date. I set down and thought about this b/c i didn't want to hype up my 100th beer more than it was but this seriously tasted AMAZING. I saw other reviwes of the earlier vintages tasting like BBQ sause and not being pleasing. The 2004 is the Real deal. Get this beer if u can. It's complexity and smoothness was AMAZING. I want to have this again forsure.

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Photo of brystmar
4.1/5  rDev +3.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

2008 vintage.

A: orange & red hues shine through; minimal head, as expected. Mild, beady lace in the style of high-gravity brews.

S: smokey. Maybe some aged malts in there too, but mostly smoke.

T/M: smooth, syrupy body. Opens as while the smokey Lagavulin flavors materialize; that sweetly aged boozy taste I love from the regular Harvest is still here and balances well with the cask flavors. Mild carbonation doesn't interfere.

D: like its brethren, this one is unreasonably easy to drink for an 11.5% brew. No perceptible hints of booze, period.

O: considerably better than the Sherry cask version. I still prefer the regular Harvest, but this was a welcome departure for an evening.

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Photo of auroracrisis
4.08/5  rDev +3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

2008 bottle into a 22oz brandy snifter.

A golden caramel hue with a one finger head that dissipates after a minute or so. A small film-like collar of foam around the edges of the beverage with several islands of tiny bubbles on the top of the drink. Lots of floaties in the beer, had I know this I would have poured it a little more carefully but felt the aggression was needed to get a head out of the beer. No lacing, a little bit of legging as you tilt and swirl your glass. Great looking stuff, sans the floating sediment.

Candied booze hits your nose first, kind of like a spiked maple syrup or rich pecan pie made with whiskey. The sweetness is followed by peat and smoke. Lots of heat in this one, probably due to how young it is relative to the brand. Other earthy notes behind the sweetness such as leather, fresh dirt and a some what plastic like smell to it. Weird.

Your mouth is greeted with a maple syrup like sweetness and a kiss of booze. Flavors move onto the more earthy peat and smoke, then transition into fresh dirt and leather. Tons of flavor but nothing that is any different than the smell to be honest. That plastic smell never did show up in the taste though, thank god.

On the palate it's silky smooth. No carbonation once the beer is in your glass and being drank. Medium-thick body with surprisingly no alcohol burn.

Overall, a very unique beer. One that I am glad is readily available. Tons of earthy notes and dessert like sweetness. Nothing you could drink all night, but a great night cap or sipper.

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

A - Ranges from pale orange to rusty yellow in color with very little head, leaving only a small ring of suds.

S - Wonderful blend of aromas made up of rum, dessert wine and torched oak. The slight smokiness of the Lagavulin whisky is subtle and works nicely with the overall aroma.

T - Smoky scotch upfront. Next comes maple syrup and caramelized sugar maltiness, ending again with some campfire smoke and leathery cigar. Just a bit tannic.

M - Viscous mouth and a long, sticky, sweet finish.

O - The Lagavulin version is an interesting yet challenging beer. Just short of world class.

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Photo of FosterJM
2.73/5  rDev -31.1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 2.5

509th review
bottle to snifter
2009 Vintage

App- This poured a peachy orange with a half finger quick receding head. Lots of sediment in the bottom of the glass. No lacing at all.

Smell- My god, whisky, oak, vanilla, BBQ and some rubbing alcohol. Weird but not that bad.

Taste- Taste follows the nose. Now thats bad. Same tastes except I am tasting something way off. Damn! Had high hopes for this one. Very vinegar like with the BBQ and whisky.

Mouth- Medium bodied & medium carbonated. Very vinegar sweet band aid.

Taste- Again, all I can saw is damnit. Was so looking forward to this one.

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Photo of trappistlover
3.8/5  rDev -4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

(275ml bottle-2006 edition). Pours cloudy caramel color with some floaties and no head. Aroma of whisky, caramel malts and some peat. Taste is sweet with a smokiness to it. Dried fruit dipped in sweet alcohol. Medium bodied with slick texture. Smooth finish. While its a sweet beer, its not cloying. The alcohol is well hidden.

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Photo of mwagner1018
4.17/5  rDev +5.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

2009 Vintage

A- Pours quite carbonated, but settles down quickly. A distinct sherry colored concoction, dark amber brown, red highlights.

S- Smells of honey, tobacco, cinnamon, with powerful peat-smoke ladened undertones.

T- Toffee, peat-smoked whiskey, cinnamon, tobacco, oaky, vanilla wood notes, with some candied apple and a soft bitter finish that comes up several minutes after finishing a sip. Some of the bourbon backbone comes through, from the casks they utilize at Lagavulin. Char, and earthy quality.

M- Decent amount of carbonation (for the type of beer) delivers the strong whiskey flavors, and medium heat of the alcohol. Velvety and silky full bodied mouthfeel.

Overall- My overall impression of this beer is good. Good depth of flavor, interesting combination of sweet toffee maltiness, with smokey peated strong whiskey. The dominating character is of the whiskey, would like to see how that changes with time. I have another bottle that I am sitting down for at least 5 years to see how things play out over some time.

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Photo of sweemzander
3.46/5  rDev -12.6%
look: 3 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 2.5

9.3oz. bottle poured into a stemmed glass. 2005 Vintage.

(A)- Pours a pale caramel colored orange; the color of toffee. Produced some white and transparent bubbles. Some sediment floaties made it into the glass despite a careful pour.

(S)- A rich caramel and fig profile. Bits of honey and a lightly smoky charred oak character.

(T)- Similar to the smell pretty much. The smoky, almost peaty salty charred oak character is a bit more prevalent than the smell, but actually balances well with how rich and sweet the rest of the beer is.

(M)- A very mellow carbonation level almost to the point of being flat. Very rich and sweet, yet still very smooth despite the hefty 11.5% ABV. Gets very bitter as it warms due to the sediment.

(D)- This definitely drinks more like a liquor. While its not flat, it is very very and sweet that taking drink after drink would just be too much for me. Little sips of this go a long way.

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Photo of OWSLEY069
3.88/5  rDev -2%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Vintage 2009

Pours a hazy brown-ish to orange-ish color, with a tan head. In the aroma, oaky, with a hint of whiskey. In the taste, oaky, whiskey all the way through it and a nice dry malt. A small alcohol like bite and medium bodied mouthfeel, with a dry oaky whiskey flavor in the aftertaste. Like drinking whiskey with out the burn, nice big flavor, but nose is lacking a bit.

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Photo of Pahn
3.97/5  rDev +0.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 3

275ml bottle into a wine glass. 2008 vintage.

Appearance: Free pour leaves a tiny white head that quickly dissipates into a ring of bubbles around the surface of the glass. Pours a hazy, dark mahogany. No lacing.

Smell: At first, faint raisin-like malt aromas recognizable from normal Harvest ale, but there's also a brightness that's almost citrus-like. Smoke comes out eventually, along with some booziness that sort of expands all the other notes. It's a complex smell even though naming any more of the particular notes would (for me) just yield repetition. Balances together beautifully.

Taste: At first, aggressively smoky, like some kind of smoked meat, with just a hint of raisiny, caramely sweetness. My first impression is "Young J.W. Lees Harvest Ale blended with a Slim Jim." Very savory, extremely unbalanced.

Almost right away, the aftertaste is great, however. More than halfway through the bottle, the rest of the taste kind of merges with it, with the smoke being restrained by honey, raisin, caramel like malt notes and alcohol heat.

The first half of the glass was around a 3 or lower, while the second half was a 5.

Mouthfeel: Full side of medium bodied, low carbonation, with an almost sticky feel that is nonetheless very satisfying.

Overall: In the end, I like the flashes of brilliance shown to me by this beer, but it's not what I'm looking for. For one, if I'm drinking < 10oz of beer, I want > 5oz of that beer to be enjoyable. For taste evaluation, I'll average the (maybe below) 3 and 5, but overall I want 5 from start to finish, *which regular J.W. Lees Harvest Ale gives me anyway*.

So, interesting experiment, happy to try it, unlikely to return to it.

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Photo of NickMunford
1.47/5  rDev -62.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 1.5 | taste: 1.5 | feel: 1 | overall: 1

2007 bottle. $9.99 from Holiday Wine Cellar. Poured into a small snifter.

A: Pours a hazy gold with no head. Leaves no lacing. Lots of particulate.

S: The first impression that hits me in the nose is barnyard. Not a plant barnyard (like hay, alfalfa, etc.), but a meat barnyard (pigs, cows, goats). And then a distinct BBQ sauce aroma hits me.

T: The BBQ sauce aroma is the most prevalent part of the taste. Sweet, mesquite, salt, meaty. Beer should not be meaty. I used to think a bacon flavor in beer sounded interesting. I no longer think that. They mixed up the labels. It's not a beer, but a BBQ sauce.

M: Thick, viscous, smooth. No carbonation left. Leaves an aftertaste of eating too many lays potato chips. Plastic, salt, oily, olestra. /shudder

D: Not drinkable at all. I want to drain pour it, but this has such a weird taste that I keep taking one more sip.

I'll try a more recent brew if I come across it, but will not want to try the 2007 vintage again. Unfortunately I have another one in my (currently) 5 bottle cellar (deep drawer in a cool part of the house).

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Photo of nbree00
4.6/5  rDev +16.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Brewed in 2009

A: Fantastic amber hue with a nice bit of cloudiness without full on sediment.

S: Smell is positively intoxicating. Aromas of baked caramel apples, peat smoke, pine, dates and just a hint of milk chocolate.

T: As an avid Islay Scotch whisky fan the character pulled out of the Lagavulin cask here is just perfect, not to intense but pervasively present. Notes of spiced, smoky caramel, toasted pine nuts, stoney minerals, bacon, and smoky raisin bread pudding with whipped cream. In a word, wow.

M: Mouth feel is silky and smooth, a fine ring of carbonation settles around the top of the glass creating a creamy mousse like foam.

D: Drinkability is probably where this beer suffers most, as it's pretty sweet and smoky which may turn some people off, not me however. Sometimes rauchbiers can be a little to smokey for me but I found this to be the perfect balance between smokiness and maltiness.

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Photo of Durge
4.53/5  rDev +14.4%
look: 3 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 3.5

Thanks to my pal Ron for access to this 2007 vintage bottle. A somewhat murky toffee color with a scant white ring on top and very little lacing. The aroma says nice smoky oak with toffee and ham, even chocolate with a very deep scotch whiskey base. Uniquely beautiful. The flavor comes on with a surprisingly smooth and mellow blend of sweet smoky toffee with pineapple scotch and molasses malt. The sweet smoke that results from this scotch themed ale is so unusual and delicious. So easy to drink despite the obvious alcohol presence. It's near full bodied with fair but light carbonation. One of the better brews of the year, especially for the scotch whiskey lovers out there. Awesome.

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Photo of Urbancaver
4.2/5  rDev +6.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Pours orange with some reddish tint. Minimal head. Very sweet on the nose. Lots of malts with some slight hoppiness. Sweet malt backbone with definite barrel characteristics.
The barrel adds a lot to this one! I love the peaty whiskey. You can taste a TON of smokiness on this one and a lot of earthiness. It adds a lot to the beer I feel

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

On the menu it said "BOURBON BARREL AGED VERSION" I assume that they are morons and they meant whiskey barrel.

Beer is brown and completely hazy, served at room temperature, thin whispy broken head of tiny bubbles that forms a ring around the glass.

WHOA! This is one of the strongest smelling beers I've ever been around. Are all the JW Lees variants like this? This is my first one, it's knock me on my ass liquor / bourbon / whiskey aroma in here with some caramel and sweetness. It's quite overwhelming.

Fortunately...the beer does not live up to its in my face aroma. The beer is also at room temperature, it's creamy silky smooth with almost no carbonation at all. Lead offs are caramel and candied sugar with some mild roast. The middle is this warming sensation, there's the liquor flavors. The finish is absent, it just fades away to nothing. There is absolutely no bitterness to this beer at all.

Overall it was a fun experience and it makes me want to try the other variants. I'd have this one again too.

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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 512 ratings.
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