A while back, I made my first (and so far only) trip to the Four Firkins. Amongst the many excellent and rare beers available I found a bottle of JW Lees Harvet ale. What did I find sitting next them? A row of each of the four barrel aged varieties: sherry, port, laguvulin whisky, and calvados. I picked up a bottle of the 2000 vintage standard Harvest ale and one of the 2008 Laguvulin cask aged bottles. A couple months ago I tried them side by side and took the following notes:
Appearance: Harvest- Deep, dark amber color. A thin lacing, from a dark head whichgrows large when agitated. Lagavulin- Deep golden color. Almost not visible carbonation. Huge chunks of particulate in beer.
Smell: Harvest- Dark molasses scent, slightly musky undertones. Lagavulin- Holy wood! Smells like a bait shop… or whisky barrels. Maybe it’s wet wood that it reminds me of.
Taste: Harvest- Sweet molasses, syrup-like taste followed by a slight roasted malt flavor. Lagavulin- Sickly sweet sugary front followed by some odd sour tang. A slight charred character from whisky barrel.
Mouthfeel: Harvest- Very heavy, viscous, and thick. Sticks on the tongue long after after the sip. Lagavulin- Thin and dissipates quickly. Almost no carbonation.
Drinkability: Harvest- Delicious, but very rich. I could drink this after most meals, especially on cold dark nights. Lagavulin- I can’t even finish this bottle. I should try decanting another bottle or an older vintage.
The Harvest ale was tasty, although, not the best I have had. The lagavulin was not good, but I’m reserving judgement for the time being. Either I got a bottle with an inordinate amount of particlulate, or I did a terrible job decanting it. It’s much more likely that the latter is causing the off flavors. The beer recieved and A- from reviewers on Beeradvocate, so that bottle probably wasn’t representative of the beer. I’ll repeat this tasting experiment in the future, but with better technique.