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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Ratings: 355 |  Reviews: 200
Photo of Arbitrator
3.55/5  rDev -12.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Chilled bottle into a glass. 2009 vintage.

A: Pours a clear, reddish chestnut body with a finger of beige head that retains a little longer than expected, collapsing into the hint of a thin film on top of the beer. It actually maintains a collar, too. Nice.

S: This has a remarkably meaty, red-bean like aroma to it up front. Very odd. The sherry cask is noticeable as a concentrated grape aroma. The base beer's sugar content wafts to the nose as toffee, caramel, dark fruit. Even a touch of earthy hops in there.

T: I'm not sure if this is an off flavor or if it's characteristic of the sherry casks used here, but this beer has a dominant meaty, beany nose as I mentioned in the aroma notes. I don't really know how to react. I don't HATE it... But I don't like it, either. Truthfully, I was hoping this would pass for an approximation of aged J.W. Lees, which takes on a strong sherry note from the oxidation. I taste some sherry here, but it's another flavor component and not a well-integrated accent on the rest of the taste. Some interesting fruitiness is noted (apricot, bananas) along with fig and oak. Quite complex in the finish; if it weren't for that odd beginning, I'd be much more impressed.

M: Great mouthfeel on this one. Very smooth, nearly velvety. Medium-plus bodied.

O: This is enjoyable, but I'd still give the nod to the Port and Calvados versions out of all the cask treatments.

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Photo of Knapp85
4.2/5  rDev +3.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Got a pretty nice sample of this one not too long ago at the Bethlehem Speakeasy. They had just gotten a shipment in and the bartenders were trying it and offered some to me and another gentlemen who was sitting at the bar at the time. The beer was poured into a sampling snifter. The beer looked like I remembered it when I had it a few years ago. The smell was very sweet and quite inviting. The taste is also sweet with plenty of flavorful malts and some sherry hints in there. The mouthfeel of this brew is just like the others. Minimal carbonation but had a great thick feel to it. Overall this one's my favorite out of all four. I don't really know what it is but I really enjoy this one.

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Photo of perrymarcus
4.11/5  rDev +1.2%
look: 2.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 4.5

9.3oz bottle served in a snifter.
2006 vintage.

pours a murky russet brown tone with a fair amount of flakes/sediment; no head whatsoever. not entirely unexpected so i'll keep style in mind but, judging solely on appearance, this is one unappealing looking beer!

nose is sweet and malty with notes of caramel/toffee, brown sugar, sherry, and some dark fruit-like qualities.

taste follows the nose, very rich and buttery with a tasty range of flavors, from the toffee and brown sugar to the sherry and fruity notes. medium-full bodied mouthfeel with below average carbonation, the latter being (beside the appearance) one of my few criticisms.

overall, i tasty, tasty beer; rich and complex, yet not flawless.

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Photo of Blakaeris
4.35/5  rDev +7.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Pours copper red with virtually no head and large chunks of floating sediment.

Aroma rich and malty with generous toffee and dark fruit notes. Alcohol is strong and hot with a brandy-like character.

Taste is initially sweet malty goodness. Plenty of brown sugar and dark fruit - notably raisin and date. Then a pleasant toffee and chocolate quality appears. Mild oak notes. Finishes sweet with plenty of alcohol warmth. Lingering brandy alcohol character and dark fruit.

Mouthfeel is medium bodied, quite viscous.

Overall a great maltbomb. Very fruity and sweet. Intense brown sugar and dark fruit; along with a pleasant woody quality.

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Photo of bashiba
4.33/5  rDev +6.7%
look: 2.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

This was from a 2005 bottle.

Poured a dirty cloudy brown with lots of sediment and a light soap ring of a head.

Has a big sweet brown sugar malty and syrupy sweet lots of brig bready malts.

Wow the flavor is huge, a big giant sherry and brown sugar sweet malt blast with hints of caramel and toffee and light notes of chocolate. So sweet and malty, great sherry flavors, no hops to speak of left.

The mouthfeel is thick and chewy with heavy lingering finish.

Quite and experiance, a monster of a barleywine, very desert like. Almost like drinking actual sherry.

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Photo of claytong
4.5/5  rDev +10.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

2004 bottle
appearance- small tan head off a dark ruby color. hazy

smell - sherry and cherry. brown sugar and caramel. a bit of toffee and plum. beautiful, didnt expect so much out of this.

taste - follows the smell to a tee with a bit of molasses added to it

mouthfeel - had this the same night as a 98-00 vertical of the regular harvest ale and while the mouthfeel is much nicer and much less cloying its still in the same boat, something id be more than happy to have every night in the winter

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Photo of BlackWednesday
3.57/5  rDev -12.1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 4.5

2003 bottle: Pours an amber color with some red color on the outside with a thin off-white head. Aroma is of sherry, caramel, dark fruits, cherry, and some alcohol. Flavor is basically the same with sherry, cherry, dark fruits and plenty of caramel and sweet malts. Very delicious, but I think I still liked the aged Harvest Ale better.

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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 FosterJM
3.68/5  rDev -9.4%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

449th review on BA
Bottle to snifter
9.3oz 2009

App- A very dark creamy orange with some intermixed soft peach highlights. This poured with a minimal 1/4 in head that quickly faded to a ring of very small bubbles at the edges.

Smell- The booze is upfront from the cap coming off. Very unique scents. I'll admit I've never had a sherry so this is all new to me. Sweet, boozy with the oak as well.

Taste- This is very creamy for a beer that's not a creamy stout or a malt bomb. The Sherry is quite overpowering for me and the normal barley wine flavors just get lost in this one.

Mouth- Medium bodied with a medium carbonation and it feels more like a creamy distilled spirit than a beer with the sherry notes and residual sweetness.

Drink- The cask versions are very nice and quite different from a lot of things I have had. I was particularly fond of this blend and I'm hoping the whiskey and port will come through as the best two so far.

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Photo of trappistlover
4.17/5  rDev +2.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4.5

(275ml bottle). Pours cloudy reddish-brown coor with minimal off-white head. It's quite impressive to look at. The aroma is sherry, booze, sweet caramel and chocolate malts. I could smell it the moment I popped the cap. Taste is sweet with roasted-almost burnt-nuts and chocolate. A little sweet wine is present also. Full bodied with a sticky texture and smooth finish. This is one nice beer.

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Photo of seeswo
2.99/5  rDev -26.4%
look: 3 | smell: 4 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 2.5

2006 bottle. Pours brown with floaties and no head. Ehh. Smells like sugar, apple, caramel. Smells pretty good. Taste is very sweet and smooth in the front - very tasty up front, then the finish dries a bit with a touch of smokiness, though it's still sweet. I can't help but notice the "ham" flavor in the finish. It drives me nuts as it just lingers. Gross. Sugar just hangs out on the tongue with a heavy mouthfeel and almost no carbonation. Not very drinkable because of the ham, but definitely hides booze well. The ham just kills it for me...Hard to get through.

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Photo of PicoPapa
3.22/5  rDev -20.7%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 4 | overall: 3

2005 Vintage. 9.3oz bottle. Pours a rusty brown color with tons of sediment floating around. Thin layer of head that dissipates rapidly. Kind of smells like a boozey caramel apple. Strong alcohol aroma. Flavors of caramel, sherry, alcohol, apple, and slightly bready. Pretty boozey tasting. Even with this beer being less than 12oz the booziness make this a sipper for certain. Overall it is an alright brew but the price helps make this time probably the only time I will drink it.

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Photo of brystmar
3.39/5  rDev -16.5%
look: 3 | smell: 4 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5


A: hazy orangeish gold with TONS of sediment. Minimal white head and lace, looks very oily.

S: smells of sweetly aged booze and malts. Oaky too.

T: woah, sherry cask overload! Woody / oaky flavors absolutely dominate everything else here. The deliciously aged, boozy malty notes I loved from the regular Harvest brew are apparent but take a backseat to the cask's presence. And by backseat, I mean they're actually 3 cars behind this one in the caravan.

M/D: creamier than expected; syrupy. Would be easier to drink if not for the cask flavor dominance.

Should probably note that I'm not a big fan of the flavors imparted from cask conditioning in general, but I really love the JW Lees Harvest ale.

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Photo of sugit
3.75/5  rDev -7.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3 | overall: 4


A: Hazy cloudy brownish orange color. Very aggresive pour brought out some nice bubbly action, but quickly faded away leaving a very thin foam cap. A very little bit of lacing.
Lots of little chucks floating around.

S: Sugary sweet aroma. Very malty. Not as much Sherry as I was expecting.

T: A bitter sugary flavor. Honey and little bit smokey. Good wood flavor. Def sherry in the mix. Maybe I'm not a big fan of sherry, but I didn't think thee flavor blends as well as the other versions. Maybe I'm just not a big Sherry fan. If you like Sherry, you will probably enjoy this. Big bitter aftertaste.

M: Leaves a gritty feel on the tongue and teeth. Other EBW I've had seem to have a much smooth mouthfeel. A little too much on the syrupy side. Very little carbonation. A bit more would have really help but the syrupy feel.

D: A nice after dinner drink. Alcohol is nicely hidden. Maybe just a bit too heavy to have more than one.

I like J.W. Lees, but I much prefer the Lagavulin version. This one was my least favorite. If you are a fan of Sherry though, I think this one will do you right.

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Photo of sisuspeed
4.37/5  rDev +7.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

2008 Vintage

Poured into a Duck-Rabbit snifter. Nice, clear, burnt-orange body with a few patches of white bubbles on top. Mostly forms a thin ring of foam that leaves some light lacing.

Sweet candied apples, plums, figs, caramel and honey on the nose. Cherries, oak and vanilla as well. Sweet malts with a biscuit aroma. Nice complexity. Well done like the rest of the J.W. Lees Harvest Ales. I could smell these beers all day.

Caramel malts soaked in sherry mix with ripe fruits, vanilla and honey. This is quite tasty. Cherry, apple, pear and a touch of grape and fig. Quite sweet and fruity. The ABV is surprisingly well masked, especially for this age.

Mouthfeel is smooth and creamy with light carbonation. Almost syrupy, but maybe not quite as thick as the regular offering. Feels just like an English barleywine should.

Drinkability is good. The sherry cask version has all of the complexities that makes J.W. Lees Harvest Ale a great beer. However, it is probably the sweetest of the four variations, which brings down the drinkability half a point. Splitting a bottle with another person is about perfect. I'll probably hang onto my other bottles for awhile before trying it again, but this is surprisingly smooth for only 2 years of age. Definitely worth checking out if you like English barleywines.

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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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Photo of Halcyondays
3.54/5  rDev -12.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 3

275 mL bottle, 2009 vintage,

A: Pours a deep orange red with a moderate white head, good retention, no lace.

S: Notes of red wine, lots of brown sugar, pleasing smell.

T: Aged malt, bit of a harsh husky quality to the flavour. Hint of oxidation/ash on the finish. Still a lot of sugar. The base barleywine is still great, it's just not surrounded by anything interesting or real tasty.

M: Full-bodied, viscous, fairly smooth. Light carbonation.

D: In my opinion the weakest of the JW Lee's barrel experiments. Still a good beer, but doesn't reach out and grab you or dazzle with its complexity.

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Photo of augustgarage
4.41/5  rDev +8.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

2007 vintage. Poured from a 275mL bottle into a snifter.

Rust and dark coral intermingle in the color of the body - relatively clear though numerous globules float throughout the liquid. Light ivory head recedes to a bubbly collar and a faint tattoo on the surface. Glassy legs.

Extremely fruit-fillled aromatics - pungent apple sauce notes lead the way into a more diverse array of stone-fruit esters. Leathery young brandy and light oak notes as well. Caramel, orange-blossom honey, and berry syrup is in there as well. Drosophilia come running (well, flying).

Malt syrup, gingerbread, loam, tobacco, and vanilla flavors on the palate. Fine/delicate sherry flavors come out mid-palate along with toffee and stewed fruit. Faintly vinuous, though this is more of a sherry character than that of oxidation. Lush oaky notes with a touch of bergamot in the finish - complexity grows as the beer warms.

Oily, medium-bodied, with low carbonation.

I'm still impressed that the base beer can be improved upon by soaking up the best characteristics of the barrels it is aged in, but these special editions of Harvest Ale have certainly "matured" more than simply "aged."

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Photo of chinabeergeek
4.28/5  rDev +5.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

2003 vintage. from notes, tasted in june 2009.

decanted 1cm with lots of sediment remaining in the bottle. clear, deep coppery amber. half-finger of light tan head, shrinks to wisps, then mostly just creamy ring. thin, splotchy, but consistent lace.

aroma: oaky sherry w/ fruit and rum, into the malty rich caramel. more apple tones. faintest hint of english hop.

taste: caramel malt meets slightly livelier english hop profile, giving mild to moderate bitterness. fruit quickly moves to vinous sherry and oak, with noticeable but not boozy alcohol. warming.

moderate body, almost syrupy. touch of resins. gentle carbonation for some body, very light tingle and flavor lift.

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Photo of bobhits
3.21/5  rDev -20.9%
look: 3 | smell: 2 | taste: 3 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Sometimes I love people that don't get beer. I really don't know what this was supposed to be (8-11 bucks I suspect) but the girl at the register couldnt' find it so she gave it to me for 50 cents...I tried to tell her it was wrong but how hard can you fight about a deal like that?

2007 poured into a new style stone old gardian glass.

Thick, cloudy, huge chunks of yeast, and a dirty orange and red mix leaning toward well nasty water. That said nothing wrong with the beer, I just can't think of a discription that sounds nice. A very thin head poured and quickly vanished.

Red wine like sweetness coming off, subdued by yeast aroma. Gone is the fruity complex nose from a normal one. I suspect this is greatly a result of the sherry barrels and well I really don't even know what sherry is.

Sweet, yeasty, ummm...well that's it? The alcohol is nearly gone, which is impressive. There are some hops in the back but they are only adding a slightly bitter feel and mostly just a part of the sugary sweet malt finish. The sherry plus the age seems to have more or less just left us a very mellow and tame beer.

I mean it's as drinkable as a flat beer that's got a very high density can be. It's a sipper if you want or you could drink it pretty fast (would be a wast if you did). Seems thinner than the normal beer which is odd. Again could be an age issue but I somewhat doubt it.

I certainly won't be trying this again (unless it's at 50 cents a bottle cause i'll drink it nightly for that!!!).

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Photo of TurdFurgison
4.17/5  rDev +2.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

J.W. Lee's 2006 version, aged in sherry casks, 275mL bottle gifted by PapaTurd (gratitude!). I poured it into the closest approximation to a snifter that I own, a small Surly Darkness goblet. The beer is burgandy colored, murky with floaties, and a thin (nearly non-existent) head.

The aroma of fruitcake, it smells sugary sweet with dark fruits like figs and plums and raisins, maybe cherries too. A little woody, and a noticeable alcoholic smell that I'll attribute to sherry.

The beer tastes big and strong, starting and finishing with intensely sweet flavors. I've never tried sherry before, nor the base beer for this creation, and I'm now wishing I'd tried both. It would make it easier to call out flavors. For now I'll say that I guess sherry is a sweet version of liquor, this tasted sweet and strong. All of the fruit is present in the taste, raisins, plums, figs, maybe red grapes too. Just a hint of alcohol burn in the aftertaste.

The body is thick but not as syrupy as you might expect with the sweetness, still a chore to drink too quickly. A nice night cap beer, or to sip in a red leather chair while contemplating the finer aspects of life.

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Photo of brentk56
4.54/5  rDev +11.8%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Brewed in 2004; tasted in 2010

Appearance: Pours a caramel color with a thin film of a head that neither lasts nor laces, but who would have expected that from a six year old barleywine?

Smell: Dark fruit (raisins and prune) but so much more, as it reeks of an Oloroso sherry, with fortified grape and oak character

Taste: From the start, the rich caramel English barleywine flavors merge with the Oloroso sherry and blend perfectly throughout, with the grape and sugar sweetness never becoming cloying though maintaining a rich complexity

Mouthfeel: Full bodied with low to moderate carbonation

Drinkability: Just a superb English barleywine with incredible complexity

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Photo of aasher
4.5/5  rDev +10.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

2005 Vintage

Appearance: poured a ruby/dark raspberry color, slight foam that laced the glass, a good amount of sediment

Smell: a mixture of candied fruits and cognac, raisins/plum, decent alcohol aroma

Taste: sweet and liquor like, very complex, woody, raisin/plum/vanilla in flavor

Mouthfeel: full bodied and very smooth, little carbonation

Drinkability: is very sweet yet has excellent flavor and continues to give off flavor in the after taste, was very drinkable and had good alcohol content

Delicious beer yet too expensive. Good for a special occasion.

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Photo of 7ways
4.49/5  rDev +10.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

2005 vintage, I could smell it the moment it was open. Mmmm, English Barleywine.

11.5% + 5 yrs old = small tan head, some clinging lace, but no real retention. With a beer like this, I couldn't care less. I got excited and accidentally poured at least half the sediment into the glass, but despite the chunks, the warm red and copper color is quite nice. Smells like yellow cake, hint of cherry/pear/banana and Harvey's Bristol Cream. R.I.P. hops, see you next time.
Alcohol is very apparent, almost smokey, but as with any good barleywine it melds nicely with the sweet flavors of caramel apple, wine, raisins, and awesome. Oak is notably absent. Nice big, chewy body; between the mouthfeel and warming flavors, its a shame to have to swallow. But no worries, I will be having another immediately.

This beer is not a drink so much as an experience unto itself.
This is ambrosia.
THIS is goddamn barleywine.

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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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J.W. Lees Harvest Ale (Sherry Cask) from J.W. Lees & Co (Brewers) Ltd
4.06 out of 5 based on 355 ratings.
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