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

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J.W. Lees Harvest Ale (Sherry Cask)J.W. Lees Harvest Ale (Sherry 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: 198 | Ratings: 349
Photo of dogger6253
4.9/5  rDev +20.7%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

Brewed in 2005, this beer poured into my snifter glass a dark peach color with a half-inch of off-white head. The head faded into a ring of large bubbles after a little while. There was a decent amount of lacing left behind. Particles of yeast float calmly near the bottom of the glass. This beer seems to glow, calling out to me. Very appealing.

Up front, I noticed dark grapes in the smell. Plums, raisins, peaches, bananas, cloves, green apples and pears all dance around the nose. On top of this, we get a spicy touch of alcohol and a bread-like, yeast quality.

Intense. Sort of grainy at first, but develops into several fruity flavors; grapes and plums, with pears taking the stage through most of the sip. There's also some other dark fruits mixed in, raisins and cherries... Diving even deeper into the flavors, I find apricots, dates, bananas, corriander, apples, and a sort of woody taste, cedar perhaps? As the beer warms a little more, I can taste a slight hops bite in the finish, mixed in with a peppery, alcohol taste. Even a little bit of cane sugar too... I also can taste brown sugar, molasses, ginger, and honey. The balance is exquisite. No one flavor kills another, each one making its presence known on your palate. Great taste.

Pretty heavy bodied, didn't really notice any carbonation. Very syrupy as well, lingers in your mouth for a while. While this was very tasty and refreshing, the high alcohol makes this a very 'specific occassion' ale. Almost felt like a waste not being able to share it with others, but I thoroughly enjoyed each sip. Very impressive.

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Photo of FtownThrowDown
4.89/5  rDev +20.4%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

2004 Bottling.
Been wanting to try this one for awhile now, but with over a $8 price tag I've been hesitant. But after drinking this gem, I'm not only going to buy more, but I'm backing up the truck!
Pours a murky reddish brown in color. Smell is heavenly, absolutely wonderful. It took me awhile to take my first drink, because every time I lifted the glass to sip I was hit with wonderful sherry, oak, and that never mistaken JW Lees malt bill. Taste is unforgettable. I don't know why this beer is not talked about more for it's incredible flavor and readily availableness. Taste has the same underlying JW Lees barleywine, but with wonderful Sherry undertones and a woody oak flavor as well. This is one beer I wished would never end.
A true treat that is a definite sipper. I WILL seek more of these out and buy them on a regular basis.

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Photo of BeerNemesis
4.82/5  rDev +18.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

J.W. Lees Vintage Harvest Ale (Sherry Cask) | 275 ml. | 11.5% ABV | 2009 vintage

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

Golden like the barley it was brewed with. And though there is no head to speak of, a ring of sediment hangs suspended midway through the glass.

Wow. Barley, honey, raisins, molasses, gobs of toffee, fruity esters, and a heavy, floral hoppy tinge.

Harvest Ale has an incredible richness to it that should challenge any reviewer's palate. Fermented barley and raw honey hit first, followed by waves of sherry (remember it's been aged in sherry casks for two years), sticky caramel, and plump raisins. Ripe tropical fruits, like pineapple, and floral hops balance out the otherwise excessive orgy of sweet flavors. The finish tastes to me just like halva (made with tahini).

So gracefully smooth and creamy with some gentle carbonation. It is as if a magical shawl of ale had been draped over the sinews of my tongue. Does that give you an idea of how good it feels?

Perfection. Or close too it. To be honest, I have been wary of Barleywines for a while. I don't particularly like excessive honey-sweetness paired with hard liquor. It seems ungraceful for lack of a better word. However, J.W. Lees Harvest ale is a masterpiece of a beverage. It makes me want to take bad all the bad things I've ever said about Barlywines as a style.

Would I get it again?:
Yes. In fact, I'm about to go out and get a few more right now.

Bottled: 2009
Served: July 16, 2011

Price = $11.99 at Whole Foods NYC

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Photo of deejaydan
4.77/5  rDev +17.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4

Wow.. got this one on BIF 10. Smells of fruit and alcohol and something else.. probably sherry, but I'm not sure what sherry is supposed to taste like.

This is one great treat on the tounge. Slightly spicy and sweet, with a crisp alcohol finish. With the gravity of this beer, no wonder there is some alcohol, but it is well managed.

Mouthfeel is exceptional. It is thick, but carbonated enough so that it doesn't totally coat your mouth.

I think it gets hurt on drinkablilty though... this is a rare treat, but I couldn't see it as an everyday drinker.

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Photo of putnam
4.75/5  rDev +17%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

Consumed after 24 hours open at room temperature, this "beer" really starts to show what it's got. It can be left open for weeks at room temperature. This is a densely sweet beer with a deeply toasted, burned sugar bitterness. It is peach-tinted brass in color. There is - of course - no "head." It is an unattenuated, high gravity, pure malt, resinated, viscous, aromatic, intensely flavored, orange-colored liquid.
Scorched pecans, hazelnuts and walnuts on the nose fold into concentrated butter, maple and pound cake aromas. On the palate it is sweet and fabulously rich in a viscous, oily-textured way that is not quite accounted for by its evident residual sugar, nor any flavor of alcohol. On the finish it is supported by seed oil-flavored bitterness reminiscent of arsenic-laden apricot and peach pits.

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Photo of jgasparine
4.74/5  rDev +16.7%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

A 2003 Vintage Bottle, which released a wonderfully rich aroma that was detected from a 2-foot distance immediately upon removal of the crown...

A- An aggressive pour yielded a 1/4" tan foamy head, which slowly receded to a haze layer and collar. Some nice little bits of lacing were exhibited above the mildly carbonated, clear (yeast cake was nicely compacted at bottom of bottle) ruby-tinged amber body.

S- An incredibly rich nose of stewed malts, caramel, sherry, madiera, and melanoidins... I am absolutely dumbfounded by how good this smells. No hop aroma... just sweet (not cloying) perfection; perfect for a nightcap.

T- This does not disappoint on the palate either. The stewed malts and sherry-like notes are up-front, with the caramel coming-in midway... then some dark fruit esters and madiera-like notes... finishing semi-dry with an echo of melanoidin, and a kiss of booze. Just wonderful!

M- A medium body, with a slight syrupy texture, complimented by a wonderful soft carbonation. No astringency at all.

D- This quaffable masterpiece is dangerously drinkable. The alcohol is well-hidden... and the 7 years of age has done wonders for it! It's a damn shame I only have one 2003 vintage left in the cellar!!

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Photo of Onslow
4.74/5  rDev +16.7%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4

this will be rating #1000 on Beerpal .... what an amazing beer. Lots of sherry notes with dark fruits ... very sweet and cheeky ... almost no alcohol detected, all the complex flavours worked very well with each other ...one of the most regal and well made cask aged beers around ..

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Photo of mrbeermug
4.73/5  rDev +16.5%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

2003 Vintage

A - Beautiful color. It's clear from above with a bright golden honey color peeking through the edges, and when held eye level it has a deep orange amber hue. Poured into a snifter, the thin lacing dissipates to a small amount along the outer edges of the glass.

S - Aroma has characteristic fresh honey smell I find in many well-aged brews, along with some light cream sherry, candy sugar, juicy pear, and banana. Smells wonderful.

T - Outstanding. vanilla bean, oak, sherry, slightly bitter green pepper, and a bit of peachiness all melded wonderfully together because the 6 yrs aging has let everything settle down and weave together. Great balance.

M - Very light and fresh, with the normal syrup chewiness reduced significantly. Flavors linger around on different parts of the palatte just like they do as you swallow a velvety Brunello.

D - At 11.50% ABV and made with the big flavor of sherry casks, the aging lets this barleywine drink like a champion.

Exceptional beer.

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Photo of Traquairlover
4.72/5  rDev +16.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

9.3 oz bottle poured into a snifter. 2004 vintage.

A = It has the medium brown, red tint of an aged Bordeaux wine, but with a light off white head which mostly just results in light lacing on the surface of the beer. I made a very careful pour but nonetheless this is a hazy beer, not incredibly clear.

S = Maple syrup, tart apples, sweet caramel, toffee, when swished increases smells and introduces nuts including almonds and macadamia which I believe are from the sherry cask. Very complex and sweet but with a nice tart bite underneath.

T = This is one of the best beers I have ever tasted, it is creamy, buttery, sweet maple and caramel flavors, very light bitterness to maintain balance but no strong hops flavors, a long sweet finish which clearly brings to mind a dessert moscatel, though whether that is from the sherry or simply because I know it came from sherry casks is not certain to me. What I do know is this is an awesome dessert beer.

M = Heavy body, great mouthcoating, luscious, creamy mouthfeel.

D = This is really one of the best dessert drinks I have ever tasted. An awesome beer that I would highly recommend.

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Photo of GCBrewingCo
4.72/5  rDev +16.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

The beer poured into the sniffer a crystal clear medium golden with a very slight amber hue. The head was low and white and well lasting to lace the glass during consumption.

The aroma was extremely complex with a beautiful bouquet of fruits and sherry, raisins, prunes and an extremely deep caramel maltiness. The aroma was nutty and slightly bready and deepened in complexity as the beer warmed.

The flavor was slick and malty when the beer first contacted the palate. The flavor changed almost immediately and a well conceived bittering component kicked the caramel and nutty malt flavor and sweetness in the teeth. The bittering level was darn near spot on and the sherry flavor increased the complexity. The fruity nature of the aroma was more refined and well aged with raisins and prunes, but at a lower and more complex level.

The finish was just above dry with a lasting malty sherry flavor that was accompanied by the bittering component and alcohol that lasted long into the aftertaste. The body was full and viscous with a slickness on the palate. Alcohol was restrained the the aroma, and more prevalent in the flavor and in the finish. The warming after consumption was as expected for an 11.5% beer.

9.3 ounce bottle. $7.75 at Wine Warehouse in Charlottesville, VA. A great beer, worth every penny!

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Photo of NeroFiddled
4.7/5  rDev +15.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

This specially casked Harvest ale pours a deep auburn body with amber and gold highlights beneath an average sized head of creamy off-white froth. The head retention is limited, but at 11.5% that's to be expected - and it still keeps a decent collar which is unusual for such a high alcohol beer! The nose is loaded with sweet, delicately caramelized malt and notes of sticky-sweet dried dark fruit as well as some leafy and almost herbal hops. There's no particular evidence of either sherry or wood, but it is somehow lighter or less malty than the regular version. In the mouth it's full bodied almost to the point of being syrupy; smooth; and quite creamy. It's rich maltiness dominates the flavor with a sticky, honey-like character that's balanced by herbal, leafy and grassy hops. The sherry comes through midway across the palate with a spritz of fruit-juice and alcohol. The bitterness is low-key, but has enough ballast enough to balance it. The sherry comes through again in the finish, lending it just a little more complexity than the original; but of the four specially "casked" versions, this is one of the less interesting (with port being the other - the clavados and Lagavulin were actually interesting).

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Photo of ShadesOfGray
4.7/5  rDev +15.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Bottle shared with me thanks to CarbonIS...thanks Bill! Poured from a 9.3oz bottle into my Koningshoeven small snifter glass. Pours a golden hazy...to redish color. A small tannish colored head rises and quickly disipates. No lacing really to speak of...mostly just a few bubbles.

Aroma is amazing! Very sweet aroma...malty. Definitely resembles wine. Picking up a slight tobacco-smokey aroma too.

Wow, very thick and full bodied mouthfeel. Sweet and boozy! Caramel like sweetness, heavy malts. Booze warmth slides easily down the throat with a smokey finish. This is an incredible beer!

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Photo of spacecake9
4.68/5  rDev +15.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.75

Opened my first bottle today. Poured into my teku glass. This unassuming little bottle of beer is wonderful. Unique flavors - earthy, raisins, maybe a little apple. Wished I hadn't waited so long to try it! So good I went back and got a second bottle.

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Photo of brokenleadedcask
4.67/5  rDev +15%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

Found a 2004 vintage at a store I don't go to very often. Poured into snifter. Reviewed from notes

Surprising that this one still poured with a 1 inch head that lasted the whole time. Under the head, a deep amber brown body. Complex aromas include vanilla, leather, dark grapes and unlit tobacco. Not sure if I could pick it out in a blind tasting but I pick up some sherry in the taste. More dark fruits and some molasses are present but not overboard. Since it's been aged about 5 years, I can't tell it's almost 12 percent. No ABV is noticeable is the mouth, not even a tingle. Thick and creamy coating on the tongue. This beer is an explosion of complex flavors, every sip is a taste bud orgasm.

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Photo of mattcrill
4.67/5  rDev +15%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

2003 bottling in a Sherry Cask noted on the label. Split this with BA cmaruschak.

Appearance: Light orange color with a touch of a red hue. A bone white cap and a crystal clear body.

Smell: Cherries, tart fruit, sparkling white wine, champagne yeast, and a bit of graininess at the end.

Taste: Sweet carmel malt, white grapes, munich malt (reminding me of a bock), maple sweetness. This beer pushes the envelope for cloying but the alcohol base tones it down and keeps it immensely enjoyable. I noticed a honey taste as it warmed. This kept changing character and getting better with each taste.

Mouthfeel: Syrupy, full bodied, and a wonderful lingering finish.

Drinkability: Man this is fantastic! What a treat. Worth seeking out and enjoying. One of the most enjoyably complex beers I've ever had.

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Photo of mt5000
4.65/5  rDev +14.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

2006 vintage from the bottle.

A nose of fresh figs, grains, and candy.

The palate is where this beer really shines. Mandarin orange, vanilla, nutmeg, and raisins were just a few of the flavors. The sherry flavor is present but very much in the background. On the finish the fresh figs really come out, with a bit of molasses/maple syrup. Sweet but not too sweet in my opinion. The complexity of this beer reminds me of a fine port or fortified muscat. Out of any beer I've ever tried, this one evolves the best on the palate, ie the flavors change as it's in your mouth, like a fine wine. Well balanced.

I think I can safely say this is on of the best barrel-aged beers I've ever tried. Clearly top quality oak was used (I hate the use of oak chips). I'm cellaring one of these for sure. Bravo to J.W. Lees, once again proving why they are one of the world's best breweries.

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Photo of MCDuhamel
4.64/5  rDev +14.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

2005 bottling. Poured from a 9.5 ounce bottle into a snifter at cellar temperature.

A: Pours a deep copper, quite clear except for some suspended yeast picked up despite a gentle pour. A small, very white head forms but quickly fades to a ring with some film on the center.

S: Smells more like a nice ruby port than a beer. Pronounced fig, dried cherry and raisins hit the nose, with a slight underlying note of vanilla.

T: Again, very port-like. Fig and dried fruit are very prominent, with very little alcohol noticeable. Hop bitterness is barely detectable, yet the beer remains balanced; there is no discernible hop flavor.

M: Fills the mouth, but does not become viscous. Carbonation is not really noticeable, except that it seems to lighten the beer somewhat.

D: Obviously a sipping beer, but very easy to drink and enjoy.

Overall: This is an excellent barley wine. The sherry cask aging does not contribute odd or "gamey" flavors as sometimes happens with cask-aged beers. Worthy of a place of honor in any collection.

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Photo of thekanna
4.62/5  rDev +13.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

2007 Vintage, 9.3 oz. bottle.

A: Beautiful cloudy amber mottled by all the sediment it contains. Pours with very thin, white head and very little carbonation present.

S: Strongly sweet caramels and molasses mixed with yeast. A warming alcohol smell is present also. Honey and faint mulling spices round out the smell.

T: Strong yeasts mixed with a beautiful, slick date sweetness and just enough hop bitterness to make it perfect. Aftertaste of smoky, nutty chocolate biscuit or date and walnut cake. Warming alcohol sensation hits the very soul.

M; Wonderfully slick and oily without going overboard. Just enough carbonation to keep things interesting.

D: This is a wonderful sipper. Somehow even more palatable than J.W. Lee's vintage harvest ale... I didn't think that would be possible.

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Photo of Immortale25
4.62/5  rDev +13.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.75

Poured into a teku pint. Label says Brewed in 2013.

A- Pours a dark amber color with a 1/8 tan head that soon becomes a paper-thin ring around the edge of the glass and a small wisp of sheer surface foam. Minimal lacing with sticky alcohol legs.

S- Lots of dark fruit emanates from the glass along with a noticeable booze fume. Notes of vanilla, coconut and raisin all blanketed by a biscuity malt overtone.

T- Raisin. Pure, sweet, delectable raisin. Also some brown sugar and maple but mainly just raisin oozing forth and I love it. There's some mild oxidation which actually complements the big sweetness and the alcohol is barely noticeable.

M- Slick and syrupy with medium-low carbonation and a body leaning toward the fuller side.

O- A slow sipper just because of how rich the flavor is, but the flavor is so nice. I wouldn't sit on this vintage very much longer though since the oxidation is slowly but surely creeping in. Still, quite divine.

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Photo of seand
4.62/5  rDev +13.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

2005 vintage.

A: Pours a clear amber with red highlights, slightly deeper in color than the regular '08 harvest ale. Hardly any head, and what does show up dissipates fairly quickly.

S: Rich honey, and raisins, with a slightly vinous backdrop.

T: Extremely well balanced rich sweetness. Strong honey, along with molasses and dried fruit. No bitterness.

M: Fully body, very little carbonation.

Fantastic; possibly the best I've tried in the style, though I've yet to try any of the other barrel aged versions of this beer.

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Photo of smakawhat
4.61/5  rDev +13.5%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.75

Poured from the bottle into a snifter glass. Vintage 2010.

Deep red and orange body, slight bright copper with some brassy haze color. Head is big bubbled but very fleeting and manages a big bubbled collar that does stay. Airy and fine whispy top on the puck like a fine cloud streaking across the sky. Neat looking brew.

Big fruit notes galore. Huge notes of thick dried apricot, marmalade and dried orange peel. Spiced nutmeg and hints of milky caramel cut in with some real good quality. Slight hints of fruited brandy quality and a touch of alcohol heat but not too much. Real impressive.

The palate is fruit huge, without being overbearing, and diverse. Sugared marmalade, and large apricot chewy flavors. A wooden splintered oak and almost cloved spiced and balsam woody character really comes out in the mid palate. Finishes light and clean, mildly sticky fruit like toffee. Large hints of chewy citrus brown sugared rind fruit all over, as if picked from a tree. Not a touch of heat or alcohol on this at all.

Stunning stuff, the sherry has worked incredible natural fruit tones out of this brew. Fantastic.

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Photo of nemetz
4.6/5  rDev +13.3%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.75

To start off - I live in Hawaii and it is hot! plus I have no cellar. So it was served well beyond the recommended temperature. About 70F.
The glassware was on the spot though.

A Dark honey color, no head

S. amazing aroma of sweetness.

T. Sweet then instantly strong. rich with warm

M. Very rich and smooth

O. Despite being 11.5% its very pleasant. After half glass it just runs smooth and rich

P.S. My first review - Please message me if I did something wrong.

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Photo of jdprmd
4.59/5  rDev +13.1%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

2005 Vintage, pored in oversized snifter.

A - ruby red, very little head that disappears quickly.

S - Wow, sherry, and so many dark fruits, peat and sweetness... sublime

T - Damn this is sweet, tastes more like a grand crue than a barleywine. It has some smokiness and peaty notes that make it interesting. This taste is really complex, if you like sweeter beers this is a home run. Lots of dark fruits: grape, cherry, plum... and so on... and of course sherry! The only thing not giving this a 5 on taste is the high sweetness.

M - very velvety, I had the lagavulin version the other night and it was perfect, this one not as good but very close... super smooth going down the hatch.

O - damn J.W... the whole series is great from what I have had... if you find any of them do your self a favor and make the purchase! This as well as the others are very complex... a bit pricy but well worth it. What is even greater is that you can find bottles as far back as 2005! I will be seeking bottles of this out for years to come.

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Photo of chinchill
4.58/5  rDev +12.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

Cask pour at the 2017 ACAF.
Clear dark brown with a minimal bubbly head.
Fantastic aroma with toffee, bread and sherry. The flavor follows. Superb creamy smooth mouthfeel.
Perhaps a touch too sweet.

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Photo of abuliarose
4.58/5  rDev +12.8%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 5

2008 vintage, poured into a snifter. Body is a clear rich gold with a slight foam at the surface and some bubbly spritz. Very pretty. Smells sweet and warm with an excellent caramel malt presence and a little apple. Luscious velvety sherry on the nose. Very nice smells.

Tastes sweet and lighter with a distinct fruitiness. Very smooth signature J.W. Lees malt backbone as usual highlighted by the ever so slightest of bitterness flavors heavily laced with raw honey. Mouthfeel is light-bodied and thin, tiny tickling of carbonation but alcohol is not noticeable except for a lingering warmth after some sips. Extraordinarily drinkable for a barleywine.

Overall I like it quite a bit. Not my favorite of the Lees cask flavors, but not my least favorite for sure.

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J.W. Lees Harvest Ale (Sherry Cask) from J.W. Lees & Co (Brewers) Ltd
4.06 out of 5 based on 349 ratings.
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