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)
Very Good
534 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: 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

Bros Score:
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User Ratings & Reviews
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Ratings: 534 |  Reviews: 285
Photo of KyleDS
3.33/5  rDev -15.5%
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.

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Photo of Phelps
4.11/5  rDev +4.3%
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.

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Photo of ficknish
4.17/5  rDev +5.8%
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 +1.5%

Photo of starrdogg
2/5  rDev -49.2%

Photo of HopStoopid120
4/5  rDev +1.5%

Photo of shanghai55
3/5  rDev -23.9%

Photo of jophish17
4.5/5  rDev +14.2%

Photo of pzymali
4/5  rDev +1.5%

Photo of bkoch81
5/5  rDev +26.9%

Photo of bobv
4.5/5  rDev +14.2%

Photo of Rochefort10nh
4/5  rDev +1.5%

Photo of Greencoat
4.39/5  rDev +11.4%
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.

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Photo of BedetheVenerable
2.75/5  rDev -30.2%
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...

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Photo of JAHMUR
4.5/5  rDev +14.2%

Photo of millelacsmark
3/5  rDev -23.9%

Photo of richbrew
3/5  rDev -23.9%

Photo of Exiled
4/5  rDev +1.5%

Photo of Thickfreakness
4.53/5  rDev +15%
look: 3 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

2009 bottle as an extra from match1112! Thank you!

A- Looks like fall in a glass. Murky orange/brown just like the leaves on the ground. No head to speak off, just a bit of caramel colored foam floating atop this brew. Little bits and chunks of floaties. It sits like still water. No lacing or oil on the glass.

S- Vanilla, sweet caramel, smokey peat moss, brown sugar, oak, and alcohol. This is friggin' fantastic! Touches of cinnamon and mulling spices. This is Fall in a glass!!!

T- Sweet, smokey wood wrapped in a vanilla marshmallow! Tons of caramel, molasses, brown sugar and toasted oak! The whiskey adds a wonderful smokey alcohol burn. Picking up some dried dark fruits... Figs, raisins, and prunes. Suchh an amazing balance of smoke, caramel and spice!

M- Creamy and oily. Really coats the tongue! The smokiness stays and never lets go, but it does leave enough room for the sweetness and spice to roam! No carbonation... like a cask ale in a bottle.

O- This is phenominal!!! It's everything I was hoping it would be! It's crazy how many things are going on in this glass! No wonder J.W. Lees is one of the top makers of Barleywine in the world... they really know how to do it! Really looking forward to trying all the variations of this brew.

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Photo of match1112
2.42/5  rDev -38.6%
look: 2.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 2 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 2.5

a: pours out the color of liquid caramel. no head, no lacing, just plenty of floaters.

s: alochol, smoke, caramel and bad cider.

t: smokey peat and alochol. some sweetness.

m: thick and flat.

o: truly disgusted by this beer. this must be one of those that you either love or hate with no inbetween. the longer i look at this it looks like diarrhea in a glass. smells like a pile of wet half burnt leaves. tastes horrible. not even sure at this point if i want to continue cellaring the bottle i have left. i'm gonna drain pour something i paid a dollar an ounce for after one sip. truly disgusting.

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Photo of rudzud
4.42/5  rDev +12.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Enjoyed at a weekly beer tasting at Julios.

A - Poured a nice copper hue with a creamy thin head that faded at the average pace for such a higher ABV barleywine.

S - Very much what it promises. There is some light malt sweetness and toffee, but there is a fair amount of scotch on this. I'm a big fan of Lagavulin whiskey and this is it. Nice and smokey with good barrel notes.

T - Nice and light malt sweetness with some more carmel and toffee notes. The big draw is the delicious Lagavulin notes. its earthy, smokey, peaty. This stuff is delicious.

M - Smooth, slightly creamy. Enough carbonation to keep it from feeling syruppy.

O - Really, really liked this beer. Love the scotch and it works really well with this style and beer. Would pay the price of this beer.

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Photo of zaphodchak
4.5/5  rDev +14.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

2008(?), opened 2011. Label has fallen off.

Caramel brown body with plenty of suspended sediment in it. A bit of surface memory but my pour wasn't big enough to elicit a head. A couple bubbles.

The sweet nose of the vintage, but some undertones of peat from the aging.

The same caramel, honey, spice from the vintage, but a trace of smokey peat.

Slightly foamy mouthfeel.

Impressive beer still, but the barrel-aging imparts only subtle characteristics. Maybe a bit more spice. And a trace of peat.

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Photo of meatyard
4.02/5  rDev +2%
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 -29.7%
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 +8.1%
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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J.W. Lees Harvest Ale (Lagavulin Whisky Cask) from J.W. Lees & Co (Brewers) Ltd
Beer rating: 3.94 out of 5 with 534 ratings
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