Cheers!: Liquid Candy and Robitussin DM


J.W. Lees Harvest Ale Matured in Calvados Casks

J.W. Lees Harvest Ale Matured in Calvados Casks

Since it was such a lovely, gloomy Halloween, I contemplated treating myself to the first port of the season, but before arriving at the small collection of port, my eyes fell upon a limited edition 2013 vintage J.W. Lees’ Harvest Ale matured in Calvados casks.

J.W. Lees is a brewery based in Manchester, England, that is famous for its 11.5 percent Harvest Ale barleywine. I’ve enjoyed various vintages of this in the past, but this is the first time I had run across it aged in Calvados (apple brandy) kegs. That sounded too intriguing to pass up. Port will have to wait. But I went into this knowing I could be drinking something portlike.

It poured still and almost headless, with just the very thinnest whisper of tiny white bubbles on the edge of the clear, mahogany-colored barleywine.

The aroma is lovely, spiced apples – autumn incarnate.

The taste is that of the closest thing you are going to get to a port from a brewery, fortified with Calvados – the sweet pucker of apples, the burn of the brandy and the earthy oakiness of the barrel it sat in. All of that tempered with the cherry/berry and toffee tones of this beer’s portly nature, and you have a fine Halloween treat. Liquid candy.

If I were a patient man, I would buy a few more bottles of this and put it away for future Halloweens.

J.W. Lees Harvest Ale

J.W. Lees Harvest Ale Matured in Lagavulin Whisky casks. Submitted.

Curiosity got the best of me the next day, and I returned to the store to buy the companion to the Calvados-aged Harvest Ale – a 2013 vintage Harvest Ale aged in Lagavulin Whisky casks.

Lagavulin Whisky is one of the smoky peat-flavored Scotch whiskys from the Isle of Islay, which is one of the five Scottish regions recognized for producing Scotch, each bringing its own idiosyncrasies into the mix – in addition to Islay, there is Lowland, Highland, Speyside and Campbeltown.

Islay Scotch whisky is often described as having a medicinal taste. I get that here in this beer, in both nose and taste. In fact, the taste reminds me of Robitussin DM, a flavor I recently became quite familiar with (I thought the Robitussin had lovely hints of chocolate and cherry).

Iodine. Why in the world would I know how iodine tastes? I can’t answer that, but I am getting a definite iodine taste. I always did prefer the light, champagney Highland Scotches to the others.

Well, I will say this is a very unique beer and I’m glad I tried it. I can only wonder what effects time would have on it.

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