Continuing a theme from a couple nights ago, I opened a bottle of Dominion Millennium bottled Feb. 15, 2004, according to the dot-matrix-printed date on the bottle.
Pours deep, dark reddish brown/mahogany with a nice but not-long-lived head. Bottle has considerable dark sediment at the bottom. A rich nose promising a slightly peaty, dry British barleywine. Initial sips reveal a much drier barleywine than either remembered or anticipated. Unfortunately, a drier barleywine loses something in the translation; the sugars in J.W. Lees Harvest Ale provide a thicker, richer, fuller mouthfeel that is noticeably absent here, and thus the flavors are muted in the process. The mouthfeel is alcoholic and more akin to a watered-down spirit than a beer or barleywine. Some definite hop bite in the long finish as well. Think a woody, diluted-by-water single malt.
Verdict: This is an aged barleywine for those who find the typical Thomas Hardy's, Samichlaus, etc. too sweet and cloying or loaded with syrupy richness. It would be interesting to see what happened to one of these after another 15 years and see if it "rotted out" like that 20-year-old JW Lees sampled the other night. I strongly suspect there would be even less left of this than there was of the Lees Harvest after that time--though some brave soul will have to tell us in 2014 at the earliest.