Ola Dubh Special Reserve 16 - Harviestoun Brewery Ltd.

Not Rated.
Ola Dubh Special Reserve 16Ola Dubh Special Reserve 16

Displayed for educational use only; do not reuse.

522 Ratings
no score

(send 'em beer!)
Ratings: 522
Reviews: 271
rAvg: 4.13
pDev: 10.17%
Wants: 29
Gots: 78 | FT: 3
Brewed by:
Harviestoun Brewery Ltd. visit their website
United Kingdom (Scotland)

Style | ABV
Old Ale |  8.00% ABV

Availability: Rotating

Notes/Commercial Description:
No notes at this time.

(Beer added by: Bitterbill on 02-15-2008)
Beer: Ratings & Reviews
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Ratings: 522 | Reviews: 271 | Display Reviews Only:
Photo of decimator
4.03/5  rDev -2.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

330ml bottle poured into a Goblet.
ABV 8%.

A - Poured a very dark brown which was nearly black. Thin brown head reduced to a ring of bubbles. Some lacing is produced.

S - Roasted malts, chocolate, oak, some smoke and vanilla.

T - Some sweetness, light toast, some chocolate, nice oak flavour, bit of smoke, and a mild bitter finish.

M - Medium-low carbonation. Slick, sticky, smooth finish.

D - An enjoyable sipper.

Photo of spinrsx
4/5  rDev -3.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

330ml Bottle

Appearance - The beer pours a black/brown colour with an average size frothy light brown coloured head. I can't see much carbonation due the darkness of the beer and there is some very nice lacing running in stages down the sides of the glass. The head lasted for a few minutes before it began to dissipate.

Smell - malts, an earthiness, chocolate, coffee, smoke

Taste & Mouth - The beer has a low to average amount of carbonation and it feels slightly syrupy. The taste is made up of malts, coffee/chocolate, and a smokiness. There are also notes of cask wood and scotch. The beer finishes with a smoky bitter coffee aftertaste.

Drink - This beer is really complex and has a lot of different flavours going on. Although it isn't my favourite style of beer, I'm really happy I gave it a try and I suggest others do the same.

Photo of BBP
4.53/5  rDev +9.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

A- Very black and thick. Good carbonation and head.

S- Coffee and whiskey. Slight almond.

T- More coffee than I noticed in the 12 and 18. Almond flavors fell into about the middle. It seemed to incorporate the Ola style the best IMO, as the whiskey and almond flavors were the most noticable in this without becoming overbearing.

M- Perfect. Medium full body. Carbonation was just right.

D- Extremely drinkable. Booziness where are you? IMO the prime example of the Ola Dubh series

Photo of beachbum1975
3.83/5  rDev -7.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

I'm craving old ales tonight, so I thought I'd grab this one from the cellar. Poured at cellar temps - 12 oz bottle # 44381 from July 2009.

Pours a deep root beer in color with a nice off-white head that doesn't stay long.

The nose is very pleasant and enjoyable. Vanilla, caramel, peat and what I call mild nail polish remover meld together nicely. I know its strange, but that's how I perceive it.

The flavor is quite well balanced and enjoyable. Flavors from the nose carry over into the mouth. Whiskey is more noticeable in the mouth, as well.

Smooth and mildy watered down at times, but ample carbonation helps work this out.

Photo of tbeckett
4.3/5  rDev +4.1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

A - Two finger tan head on a black body with no visible carbonation. Solid cap of head lasts throughout. No lacing.

S - Lot's of oak, some slight booze, scotch, molasses, and burnt sugar.

T - Vanilla, oak, smoke, booze, molasses, burnt sugar. Really delicious stuff.

M - Full bodied. Thick. Some carbonation, which is mild but appropriate.

D - Very good. I could have a number of these. Full flavoured and a warming beer for the weather. Well blended and captures whiskey elements well.

Photo of Dreadnaught33
3.78/5  rDev -8.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

Had a bottle dated July 2009.

Pours a dark brown with lighter brown highlights producing a small mocha head that dissipated quickly with little to no retention or lacing at all. Looks quite viscous, lets see what happens.

Smell is of sugary dark bread malt, with huge raisin and prune, dark fruits, and some of the oak vanilla whiskey barrel.

Taste is very different than the smell. I've never had a beer with such a difference in smell and taste, smelled like a big strong ale and tasted more like a small malt-coffee roast beer with a very nice smoky taste overall especially at the back of the palate. Not much going on in terms of alcohol complexity, dark fruit, etc. like the smell which is a little disappointing, but the smoke is so nice from the whiskey I'm still going with a 4.

The mouthfeel was not nearly silky or viscous enough, thin and lighter body that anyone would expect.

Not a bad beer overall really, the smoke is great, but it's a strange beer in that all categories of this beer do not line up- looks viscous, feel is not. smells like a strong ale, tastes like a smoke beer (sort of).

Photo of kwjd
3.98/5  rDev -3.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Pours a dark opaque brown colour with thin, yet thick, tan head. Dissipates to a small ring of head with some lacing around the glass. Smells like chocolate, cherry, roast, smoke and some peat. The smoke may be a bit too prevalent here, overpowers much of the other flavours. Very sweet, alcohol is noticeable. Chimney smoke is huge in the aftertaste. Very smooth mouthfeel. I typically love smoke (I had a Laphroig Quarter Cask last night), but I think it is too much in this beer for some reason.

Photo of IronDjinn
3.5/5  rDev -15.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

From a 330 ml brown bottle, black foil around the cap and neck. Pours out pitch opaque black, no light permeation whatsoever. Tall creamy mocha head that slowly settles to a thick retaining cap.

Sharp wood and alcohol first from the nose. Earthy notes, dry musty cocoa, faint cherries and black currants, slight herbal leafy hops.

Rich cocoa and earthy woody notes up front in the flavour, a thinner vinous character is apparent in the middle accompanied by tart cherry, currants and grape, finishing once again with the woody cocoa of the start, along with light alcohol and light leafy herbal hops, the latter of which lingers on the most into the aftertaste.

The mouthfeel is medium-bodied, much lighter than what would be expected to accompany the fuller flavour, almost no carbonation at all.

I'm having ambivalent feelings about this one, not because it isn't a good barrel aged ale, but because the Reserve 18 just seems more superior in comparison. Still a well put together ale worth trying.

Photo of biegaman
4.1/5  rDev -0.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

The surface of the beer looks like a photo from an Apollo mission; bubbles are outlined by a thick, spongy, shadowy textile so that the illusion of craters is created. And speaking of the dark of the moon... this thing is completely lightless. Pitch dark (pitch *black*, to be precise). It's definitely a far cry from the clear, bright, golden colour of the whiskey.

Highland Park's 16 Year is one of the distiller's special releases - and it smells like it. Just as advertised, the 16 seems to have subtle and underlying notes of citrus, a slightly less briny sea spray and a more emphatic honeyed sweetness in the nose. That said, the characteristic peaty and smoky flavours still dominate, as does a note of spiked eggnog.

The richness of cream dissipates when it hits the tongue; flavours of smoky peat, heather-infused honey, almond butter, cocoa nibs and stale coffee prevail but fail to arouse the senses to the same extent they do in the aroma. By all accounts, the palate is one happy camper, but simply is not as spoiled as it would be with the 18, 30 or 40 year reserves.

The word "smooth" is excessively overused with regards to beers; never mind whatever you hear in the commercials for those fizzy, yellow lagers - *this* is a "smooth" beer! And it earns that accolade because of its bittersweet flavours, underlying peaty and smoky textures, nulled alcohol, drying oak, vanilla aftertaste, subdued spiciness and carbonation.

With the Ola Dubh series, Harviestoun has tried to turn people on to a more gastronomically distinctive product. If they've provoked at least some beer drinkers to recognize a part of their palate they didn't know existed then they've accomplished that mission. Their craftsmanship has certainly re-affirmed my affection for barrel-aged beers.

Photo of strangemusic
4.05/5  rDev -1.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

My second Ola Dubh, going upward in age from the 12. Pours pretty much black as you can get, with a dark head that fades very quickly.

The smell has woodiness, whisky, a dominant character of dark chocolate (-covered cherry?) and roasted coffee notes, and vanilla.

As with the 12 Year, the taste is more pronounced and complex than the smell. Big coffee and chocolate flavours, balanced with a prominent maritime character and some red apple and cherry. The whisky notes are more balanced, still smoky, but mellower and sweeter with some vanilla and dryer earthy elements.

The mouthfeel is greatly improved over the 12, it's silky smooth! The body feels a bit heavier, perhaps due to the less "prickling" carbonation. As a result drinkability is also somewhat improved.

Photo of bobsy
4.05/5  rDev -1.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Motor oil pour, except this is oil with a big tan head with yellow highlights. The occasional spot of lace is left on the side of my snifter, and there is some limited retention. Aroma is slightly more barrel-heavy than the 12, but its still quite subdued compared to the 40. Sure, there are peaty, smoky and briny elements lingering around, but they seem to be behind chocolate raisin and cream in prominence. This shouldn't detract from how good this smells though, and it's a pleasure to dip the nose in and take a deep breath.

Great milk chocolate notes throughout the flavour show that you can throw old engine oil into a barrel for as long as you want, but it will always retain the best aspects of its character. Caramel, coffee, molasses and condensed milk come together for a good showing, and make for a complex drink. This is added to by the barrel character, which provides a light woodiness and vanilla character, along with the smoky and earthy tones you would expect from a scotch. What I really like, though, is that despite being chock full of traditionally sweet flavours, at no point does this beer become overbearing, and even the alcohol is consigned to a vague warming feeling in the stomach. The body is slick with a soft carbonation that helps to bulk things up in the mouth, creating a pleasing feel.

Better than the 12, but not as good as the higher numbers.

Photo of RDHerm
4.35/5  rDev +5.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

September 2007 Edition.

Like I said in my review of the 12, "Black Oil" is a highly appropriate name. Pours a deep, dark black with almost zero light transmittance, and very faint, dark brown highlights that are just barely visible around the edges. Has a very thin coffee colored head that dissipates almost immediately, leaving a thin ring that holds throughout.

Wonderfully sweet aroma, with strong aromas of roasted malts and whiskey. Slight notes of oak, vanilla, and dark chocolate, with just a hint of cherry and smoke.

Initial taste is somewhat sweet, with flavors of malt, chocolate, and dark fruit. The sweetness gives way to notes of whiskey and oak, with a bit of a bitter finish predominated by flavors of coffee and more oak, with a bit of smokiness. Compared to the 12, it's a lot more bitter and woodier.

Medium body, low carbonation level. Pretty good feel. It's smooth, and has a nice creaminess to it, but it dries the palate a bit too much. Not as thin as the 12, which is an improvement, but the dryness was an unwelcome addition.

Drinkability is the same as the 12 - smooth and very tasty, but definitely something you want to sit and savor.

Photo of ThatWineGuy
4.47/5  rDev +8.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

July 2009 edition, opaque black with minimal tan head and slippery lace, small bubbles under the ring get quite energetic with a tilt of the glass. Rich vanilla and scotch whiskey nose impresses, hard candy, quite a nice smelling beer. The taste is cocoa chocolate, oatmeal, sweet, oaky and roasted malt. Very smooth and alcohol extremely well handled. The brew has a smooth, rich texture with superb balance, bitterness and sweetness well integrated with a pleasing taste that makes you want more. I was surprized that the substantial body was so light in terms of drinkability, I really enjoyed this beer and rate it more highly than the 12.

Photo of StarshipPoopers
4.38/5  rDev +6.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

A - Opaque and almost black. Creamy tan head with a finger or two of head. Good lacing and good retention that keeps the head as a steady film over the surface.

S - Dark chocolate, roasted malts, slight oak and strong whiskey notes.

T - Roasted and smokey malts with dark chocolate and bitter coffee. The whiskey provides a nice edge with slight sweetness to offset the bitterness in the malt. It also presents a slight amount of alcohol heat that lies beneath the bitterness and sweetness. I've had oak aged stuff before but the whiskey really adds a nicer edge to the flavour the barrel aging gives.

M/D - Smooth and medium/heavy bodied. Good drinkability. I find that the bitterness gives a better amount of drinkability than the 12 year had.

Great beer. I am a big fan of this. Can't wait to try the 40 year.

Photo of MattyV
4/5  rDev -3.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Pours an opaque black colour with a creamy mocha head that lasts for a few minutes and then leaves a couple thick strands of lacing in its wake.

Picking up some cocoa, dark roasted malt, a touch of smokiness, and some light earthiness and maybe even some floral hop notes.

The taste is malty at first, with nice dark chocolate, coffee, and roasted characteristics. Then some very light smoke that tends to linger and become more apparent as you drink, along with hints of vanilla and oak. The finish is on the bitter side, at first reminiscent of dark-roasted coffee, then of whiskey and oak.

Rich and full-bodied, creamy carbonation, slight chewy.

I have only tried this and the 12, and I find the scotch characteristics to be a bit more subdued in this version. I found there to be less smokiness and a slightly more boozy finish. Regardless, I thoroughly enjoyed this one and look forward to sampling the rest of the series if I can find a friend or two to split with.

Photo of liamt07
3.83/5  rDev -7.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Bottle from the LCBO, 341ml into a snifter. Bottled in August 2010, bottle no. 22598.

Pours a deep, dark charcoal, completely opaque. Finger or two of khaki head with a purplish tinge to it, bubbles are retained. Nose is smoke, molasses and dark fruits. A hint of whisky here too. Taste is more smoke dominated than the Special Reserve 12, with a campfire type smokiness, in a very subtle sense. Rich and bitter dark chocolate here too, and the slightest hint of dark stone fruits (some plum) and blackberry. A bit of charcoal and the whiskey underlies this entire process. Smooth and slick mouthfeel, full and warming. Lingering smoke and roastiness finish it off. A sipper and good for the cooler parts of the year. Not as good as the 12.

Photo of Thorpe429
4.15/5  rDev +0.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Reviewed from notes.

Served in a tulip glass. Pours a very dark brown color with a thin tan head. A bit of legs on the side of the glass. The nose is whisky, oak, light vanilla, caramel, roasted malt, and a bit of dark fruits. The taste is a bit less complex with a tad bit of oak and some light whisky character. Really nice feel that captures all the elements well. Drinks nicely and is a solid sipper.

Photo of Brad007
4.13/5  rDev 0%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Pours a pitch black with a small brown head into my glass. Good colors for an old ale.

Aroma has a slight hint of bourbon on upfront followed by dark fruit and a bit of alcohol burn.

Taste is of sweet malt with a slight bourbon edge to it. A hint of raisin is present.

Mouthfeel is full of lingering sweet malt, raisin and bourbon. Very clean.

An enjoyable old ale. Hard to be more specific but you really can't go wrong with this, especially if you enjoy the style.

Photo of Daktyls
4.35/5  rDev +5.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

A: Pours a pitch black with almost no head. The existing head was about half a finger thick, but very white and foamy. The foam left a nice lacing in the middle of the brew and clings to the side of the glass.

S: A definitive smoked whiskey aroma is present and very upfront followed by some dark fruits like raisins and a little bit of prune. Following is a little bit vanilla that rounds out the aroma nicely.

T: Whoa. Very good taste. Right up front is a mild whiskey taste much like the nose. A distinct oakiness hits the tongue and follows with bitter chocolate notes and some caramel. A lot of general roastiness is present along with a slight earthiness.

M: Medium amount of carbonation which definitely suits this beer well. Somewhat viscous but not so much that it isn't drank easily. Leaves a little bit of stickiness on the lips and tongue but gives way to a nice sweetness.

D: Quite drinkable, definitely worth the $18 I spent on it. But apparently my state didn't get too many cases of this, so I'm grateful for the opportunity afforded by seeing this in the store.

Photo of BMoney575
3.58/5  rDev -13.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

Sampled on 10-7-10
Bottle No. 07415
Bottled in January 2009

Pours extremely black, with a pleasant tan head that settles quickly. Lacing is a ring of bubbles around the edge, that leave a thin film on the sides of the glass.

Smell is all pungent dark fruit and alcohol. Oak and peat come in next, adding a great scotch character. Strong and very complex, with more sweetness as it warms.

Taste is not as complex as the smell, and thinner than I would have expected. The peat is there, and so is a good amount of hop bitterness. The deep fruity sweetness just isn't there.

Mouthfeel is thin, and carbonation is low. Suits the scotch flavors but not the beer.

Drinkability is limited by the mouthfeel, but the flavors are nice.

Overall, could have been better, just not a big enough beer.

Photo of TheJollyHop
3.88/5  rDev -6.1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Raisins, creme brulee, smoked fish, peat, and burnt sugar (possibly nutmeg) on the nose.

Deep brown, nearly black body. Earthy upfront intermixed with ample peat and smoked malt flavors; a bit salty. Medium to low carbonation while being medium to full bodied and exhibiting a velvety smooth mouthfeel. Finishes salty brine with some residual sweetness; tongue drying.

A very interesting beer made all the more enjoyable with the addition of the complexity of Highland Park scotch.

Photo of milkbaby9
4.72/5  rDev +14.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

330ml bottle (#39710 bottled July 2009, drank 9-2-2010) into Duvel tulip. 1 finger tan brown head reduces to a thin layer of bubbles. Looks opaque brown black in the wide balloon tulip, on the pour it looked like soy sauce.

Aroma was initially a hit of soy sauce which disappears after it warmed up a little whereupon raisin takes over, then roasty malt, then alcoholic scotch whisky and a creamy smell, probably vanilla. Taste begins with a sweetly malty entry, then dark chocolate, vanilla and scotch, sweet dark raisin and dates, and finishing with a gentle bitter roastiness. Sooo smooth!

Very low carbonation, medium bodied mouthfeel, maybe a tad lighter than I expected. The long finish was a nice mix of tangy espresso roastiness, light vanilla, scotch whisky, and sweet malt and crusty biscuit.

Though Ola Dubh is based on Old Engine Oil, I much preferred Ola Dubh, maybe because I was somewhat surprised how smooth it compared to what I feel is a certain sharpness or harshness in Old Engine Oil. Not sure I would drink two or more bottles of this at a time, but it's relatively expensive and really, it's probably not meant to be a drink-mass-quantities kinda beer. Complex but everything comes together well and results in a supremely smooth drink. Awesome!

Note: I had the Special Reserve 12 later and enjoyed this 16 more. However, the 12 was bottled 7 months earlier than the 16 and maybe that was part of the difference...

Photo of BeefyMee
3.43/5  rDev -16.9%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 3.5

2009 vintage

I tried this vertically with the 12 and unfortunately this one was not the winner. They're very similar except the 16 seems a lot more watery and less flavorful. The roasted, smoky characteristics are a little muted here. Still pretty good overall, but I might actually go for an Old Engine Oil over this and a 12 over both.

Photo of lordofthewiens
3.93/5  rDev -4.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Bottle #38219
Bottled July 2009
In a pint glass the beer was a viscous black with a tiny tan head.
It had a raisin bread aroma, as well as some whiskey.
Tasted like raisin bread soaked in whiskey. A little peaty.
I thought the alcohol was a little on the intrusive side, but still enjoyed this.

Photo of CrellMoset
4.03/5  rDev -2.4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

12 oz. bottle courtesy of a friend. This one's been aged for a little while, and was poured in to a cervoise. Part of my "3 Ola Dubhs in 3 days" series, or, perhaps now that I'm drinking them a little quicker, "3 Ola Dubhs in 3 hours" series.

Appearance: Pours just about as dark and oily as the Ola Dubh 12, jet black and inky with no hint of translucence though at same time suggesting a few lighter brown notes. Perhaps learning from my last pour, I gave this one an even more vigorous pour, and was fittingly rewarded with a slightly larger head, perhaps a little darker than the list, sort of a uniformly fallow taupe with an erratic and soapy bubble structure. The retention is just as pour, however, even though this one does leave a thicker, frothier collar and a few more eruptions of lacing, sticky and stringy, both as the head fades (quickly) and after successive sips.

Aroma: Whiskey-smoked raisins and earthy, woody sauteed portabella mushroom (the officially spelling of the Mushroom Council, believe it or not), almost like a brown mushroom gravy, mingle with light cocoa nibs and dirty malts. I wouldn't have rated this a 4.5 if I hadn't just pulled "brown mushroom gravy" out of it, but after some delicious broccoli with brown mushroom oyster sauce from Charlottesville's second best Chinese establishment yesterday evening, I'm craving some more, so this one's earned it.

Taste: Not quite as balanced as the 12, with a stronger spirit component and less estery flourishes. The base beer is still here - truffle-like cocoa, burnt toast, dark toffee, a touch of smoke, a few coffee notes. It's a little more intense here, or at least more ... laid bare, very earthy, with a fewer of the cherry, prune, raisin, and faint plum overtones than before. The barrel notes and spirit addition are a little stronger though, with mostly earthy but also faintly spicy whisky notes (whiskey? whiskey), as well as a few hints of barrel sugars (lighter caramel, slightly woody) and leathery coconut.

Mouthfeel: A little thinner than the Ola Dubh 12, perhaps a result of more spirit seepage from the wood in to the beer, or perhaps it's all in my head. Either way, it seems thinner, with the same low level of carbonation, resulting in a slightly "flatter" feeling beer, if that makes sense - low carbonation in a thick mess makes it feel like a thick mess, and you're not sure whether to blame the carbonation level or the thickness, but low carbonation in a thinner beer just results in a quasi-watery feeling.

Drinkability: A step down from the 12, in my opinion. Still a solid beer - lots of good aromas and flavors, but a little less complex, a little more "watery," and a little more spicy in an unappealing way (i.e., not enough else there to cover it up). Still definitely worth one seeking out, though if I were looking for one of these beers to pair with a portabella burger or some fruit cake, I'd go with the 12.

Ola Dubh Special Reserve 16 from Harviestoun Brewery Ltd.
92 out of 100 based on 522 ratings.