1. Extreme Beer Fest. March 20 & 21, 2015 in Boston, Mass. Join us!
  2. The wait is over! Download the BeerAdvocate app on iTunes or Google Play now.
  3. Get 12 issues / year of BeerAdvocate magazine for only $9.99!

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.

502 Ratings
no score

(send 'em beer!)
Ratings: 502
Reviews: 271
rAvg: 4.13
pDev: 10.41%
Wants: 29
Gots: 68 | 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
Sort by:  Usefulness | Recent | High | Low | Top Raters
Ratings: 502 | Reviews: 271 | Display Reviews Only:
Photo of jjanega08
3.88/5  rDev -6.1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3 | overall: 4

A= Pours a very oily black color with no head coming from it. Looks like syrup in a glass. Looks super thick and somewhat lifeless. I expect the lifelessness though. No head means no lacing.
S= quite complex combination of scotch, wood, vanilla, syrup, and chocolate malt.
T= Not nearly as rough as I thought it was gonna be. Super rich sweet vanilla and syrup come through. The chocolate malt finishes with the scotch whiskey taste. The whiskey is actually a lot more relaxed than I thought as well. Pretty woody beer and nice vanilla touch.
M= Smooth almost no carbonation coating and not as heavy as I thought.
D= Pretty good beer here. I'm happy I got it prolly won't get it again just because the cost and the fact that it's nothing too mind blowing but it is quite delicious and works nicely to sip on during a baseball game.

jjanega08, Apr 29, 2009
Photo of Sigmund
4.33/5  rDev +4.8%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

330 ml bottle, courtesy of Cardinal Pub & Bar, Stavanger. Bottle No. 61520. ABV is 8.0%. Pitch black colour, big to moderate and creamy tan head. The whisky oak cask with peaty smoke and notes of tar comes through in the aroma, followed by notes of roastiness (roast malts, coffee) and chocolate. The aroma is more mellow and subdued than the 12 y.o., but still nice. The flavour has also here loads of rich malty sweetness, immediately followed by distinct notes of peaty smoke - it is again quite amazing what impact the whisky cask has. Dark chocolate in the middle. The finish has a firm bitterness from the hops and burnt malts, while the peaty smoke lasts through the long aftertaste. A truly impressive beer, but if you don't like scotch whisky at all, this might not be the beer for you. Not easy drinking (somewhat smoother than the 12 y.o., though), but a great sipping beer, and a real treat for any lover of peatiness.

Sigmund, Apr 26, 2009
Photo of soupyman10
4.4/5  rDev +6.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Got a bottle of this as a birthday present. Nose is huge chocolate and roasted malt. Just a touch of hops in the back. Light licorice and booze. Definite dried fruit in the way of prunes or raisins. Flavor is similarly monstrous and delicious. Hops come through a lot stronger, and heavy roasted malt, dried fruit, light chocolate. Smoke and whiskey flavors. Cookies and some light brown sugar. Body is solid, almost oily at times, with mild and smooth carbonation. Overall, a very nice beer, although I have a guess at the steep price and probably won't be dropping the loot for another.

soupyman10, Apr 14, 2009
Photo of thryn
4.45/5  rDev +7.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4

Had this earlier tonight at the Cock 'n Bull.

Poured dirty-oil black with no head but a bit of tan lace on top.

Smelled like whisky and malt and sin. Hint of smoke.

Taste was spicy, woody whisky, deep black overripe fruit, peat and intensely bitter chocolate.

Mouthfeel was freaking amazing. Pretty damn thick, but the spiciness imparted by the cask made it feel more carbonated than it was.

Drinkable? Well, I had a bit more than half of one, and I could have consumed the whole bottle with little difficulty. Especially out by the fire.

Possibly my No. 2 beer after Goose Creek's BCS right now. Amazing. I will probably buy a bottle to drink at home and revisit this review.

thryn, Apr 10, 2009
Photo of beerthulhu
4.5/5  rDev +9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Bottle # 05517. Bottled Sept. 07.

A: Poured a dark roasted coffee coloring with a thin, 1 finger, creamy dark khaki colored head. Retention was short while a thin slight film ring lacing encircles the glass.

S: A really strong roasty nature of fresh espresso beans with light hints of dried vanilla. Smoky peat, bitter chocolate with an earthy bitterness adds to the flavor. Dark fruit (prunes) with light hints of dark molasses sneaks some sweetness in before a finishing touch of whiskey comes in.

T: Bitter, acidic with dark roasted barley, wet coffee grounds first greets the taste buds. Scorched malting with a smokey dried vanilla bean bean and whiskey notes are also well accounted for. A charred woodiness with a campfire minerality provides a smoother and enticing lingering earthy fade while dark fruit (prunes) also linger about. Bitter dark chocolate and coffee with sweet scorched molasses all combine for a beautiful well rounded and very smooth flavor that you just cant seem to get enough of.

M: medium viscosity and creamy in nature. A very soft carbonation adds to the silkiness of the overall feel. Very nice as it effortlessly slides around the tongue.

D: Drinkability was overall impressive from start to finish. A dark roasty treat that was layered in complexity makes this extraordinary in mostly all aspects. A definite wow factor when drinking this beer.

beerthulhu, Apr 10, 2009
Photo of morimech
3.9/5  rDev -5.6%
look: 3 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Bottle No. 17160/Sept 2007

Pours a thick, black liquid with no head. Just some light spotty lacing. Has notes of vanilla, peat, whisky, and alcohol in the aroma. The flavor consists of heavily roasted malt, vanilla, smoke, tobacco, peat that lends an earthiness, and a little whisky and alcohol. Leaves a burnt flavor in the mouth at the finish. The body is not as full as I would of liked. The carbonation is good and not intrusive in the enjoyment of the beer. Overall I think I liked the 12 Reserve more. I think the flavors were not as bold and in a sense more complex in the lower numbered one.

morimech, Apr 05, 2009
Photo of RemyLeBeau
1.5/5  rDev -63.7%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 1 | feel: 1 | overall: 1

I bought this beer today as a part of a custom six pack at Kahns. I was very excited because I like dark, rich, big beers and from the description I had read I thought this one would be right up my alley. Wrong.

I poured it into my favorite Sam Adams glass and thought the color looked nice. Ola Dubh translates into "old oil" i think, so I got what I expected from the look of it. The smell was very woody and smoky.

On first sip I was disappointed. Slight whiskey flavors and a touch of peat and a lot of molasses. But the most overwhelming flavor was that of sausage. Thats right. This beer tastes overwhelmingly like salty smoked sausage. Which is a flavor that I like, in meats, but not so much in a liquid form.

I had to force this beer down

RemyLeBeau, Mar 24, 2009
Photo of Redwood21
4.2/5  rDev +1.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

i am just going to give my overall impressions of this ber:

the appearance is ok though the head is a bit lacking for an 8% beer i enjoyed this beer quite a lot and it has a great deal of depth. the scotch character is not overwhelming and the taste and drinkability reflect this. i hate to short change such a good beer so here it is:

if you like a smokey meaty old ale with a fair mount of oak tannins that create a vanilla taste...shazam, you have your beer

Redwood21, Mar 22, 2009
Photo of Rchap1
3.18/5  rDev -23%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Found this at Sam's on Clybourn in Chicago...not a cheap bottle, $12 apiece.
A: Dark as dark could be. There wasn't a speck of light coming through this thing. Head was very minimal, just a thin dark haze at the top of the glass. Left very fine lacing along the way.
S: Pretty smoky, lots of peat and alcohol scent to it, unsurprisingly. Think I was picking up a hint of cheddar cheese in there as well, but it could've been the smoke overpowering my nose.
T: There's that cheddar cheese, guess I was right! strong alcohol up front, heavy malt taste, not overly hoppy but it'd be hard to tell with how agressive the whisky flavor is in here. The finish didn't impress me, seemed overly bitter and way to strong on the smoke.
M: Very full, but nothing special.
D: This is a sipper for sure. It had a good up-front taste, and you can definitely find the whisky notes you want in there, but I had to take this one way slow.
All in all, a decent if not somewhat gimmicky beer.

Rchap1, Mar 16, 2009
Photo of cvfish
4.05/5  rDev -1.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

A - This beer poured a deep black color that produced a foamy tan head that had good retention and left a decent lace on the side of the glass

S - The aromas that were produced by this beer were chocolate, molasses, and a little heat

T - The taste of this beer was nice malty beginning, bitter chocolate, molasses, a whiskey taste and burn that was quickly was replaced by a smokiness

M - The mouthfeel of this beer had a medium to heavy body that was very syrupy and had a light amount of carbonation

D - This was a very good Whiskey/Stout combo, but I really did not taste much of a difference in the other two that I have had, but it was still good

cvfish, Mar 14, 2009
Photo of rwrk42
3.98/5  rDev -3.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

The don't say engine oil on the label for nothing. Dark as can be with a nice tan head.
Smell: Sweet smell mixed with a nice faint aroma of scotch whiskey from being aged in a cask.
Taste: A sweet taste of toffee and chocolate. Very faint taste of scotch, a little less than I was hoping for. Very much like a Stout.
I was hoping for a bit more of a scotch flavor but overall a very good beer with I would recommend. Nice amd smooth.

rwrk42, Mar 12, 2009
Photo of grayburn
3.73/5  rDev -9.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3

I was absolutely psyched to be able to try this beer. Poured into a snifter at around 50 degrees.
She poured a heavy black engine oil with a wee little head and a good bit of lacing.
The smell was a little less complex than I was expecting, even as I let it warm. A lot of malt, very little scotch or oak, which are really the two things I was looking for.
The taste was very nice, not quite what I was expecting, more of a stout than an old ale. Again, a little disappointed by the lack of whisky notes. Overall, a good flavored beer.
The mouth was creamy and large, a definite sipper, not much bitterness, a little licorice and malt combo.
Drinkability was low, this beer is overpriced in my opinion, it was good, but it just didn't seem world class.

grayburn, Mar 09, 2009
Photo of GClarkage
4.58/5  rDev +10.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

03/05/09- Purchased at Total Wine in Roseville, CA.

Presentation- 11.2oz bottle poured into a Duvel tulip. Bottle number and date of bottling on the label. This happened to be Sept of '07.

Appearance- Deep black in color. Does look like used motor oil as stated on the little booklet that comes with the bottle. About a 1/2 inch head on the pour with a light rim remaining. Leaves some spotting and some light lines of lace.

Smell- Mixture of molasses, chocolate, coffee, toffee and caramel. A bit of wood in the nose as well as a hint of alcohol.

Taste- Really reminds me more of a Double Stout than it does an Old Ale. Mildly hoppy finish, lots of caramel and toffee goodness with a large chocolate base. Very flavorful. Woody notes in the finish as well with a minor alcohol addition.

Mouthfeel- Lightly chewy, thick and pretty smooth with a low to medium carbonation level. Wood really comes out in the aftertaste.

Drinkability- Hits much harder than the 8% that it claims. I dreamt of this all night after I finished it, so I'm assuming the drinkability is high. Not sure what I paid, assuming around $8, which was worth it in this case. Maybe I should try the rest of them?

GClarkage, Mar 05, 2009
Photo of tempest
4/5  rDev -3.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

$8 for a bottle at Abe's Cold Beer. Poured a dark brown, near pitch-black with a short tan head. The aroma and flavor are dominated by heavy peat smoke with a drop of honey sweetness for balance. While the scotch element here is wonderful, I'm struggling to taste any beer here. I can tell the roasty chocolate profile is vaguely there, but it's mostly just a delivery device for the delicious scotch. I'm not complaining, but I'd expect a little more from such a relatively expensive beer.

tempest, Feb 26, 2009
Photo of Buebie
3.8/5  rDev -8%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Picked this 11.2 oz bottle up for $3 at a 50% off sale.

Poured into my surly tulip. Blacker then the black hole. forming a 2 inch brown frothy head. Slowly receeding to a nice brown cap thin streaks of brown left down my glass.

Aroma of chocolate grains, oak, a touch of whiskey and some molasses aromas.

Mouthfeel is smooth and just a little creamy, with just a touch of carbonation

The taste is of a dark roasty chocolate grain flavor. Some other cereally grains in the mix. The whiskey is mellow with just a touch of flavor at the swallow. Heating up just a little in a lingering smokey woody taste. A nice bittering finish lingering for a long time with bitter bites of semi sweet chocolate.

Interesting brew. Definatly somthing to be enjoyed as an after dinner sipper.

Buebie, Feb 25, 2009
Photo of optiontwo
4.58/5  rDev +10.9%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

11.2oz. poured into tulip

Appearance: A vigorous pour results in a quarter inch tan, bubbly head that dissipates quickly. The color is black as black can be.

Smell: Plenty of complexity here, first there is a sweetness that I relate to cherries, but still somewhat sour. Then there is a strong smokiness that imparts licorice like aromas. Roasted malt and brandy scents dance around together to close out this performance.

Taste: If it's anything like the smell then I'm excited. The strong smokiness mixes perfectly with the dark fruit flavors and roasted malt. Every flavor balances the other out in a very harmonious way. Sweetness is countered quickly by a bitter hop bite and flavor; nothing too radical, but noticeable nonetheless. Finally it finishes clean and smooth with just the right amount of bitter. Each sip instills the desire for another.

Mouthfeel: Medium bodied with proper carbonation. Hugely flavored but not overbearing, love it.

Drinkability: For such a delicious, cask-aged brew you'd think it'd be higher than 8% ABV but luckily it is not. I could definitely enjoy another bottle directly after this one, if I had it.

Overall: Simply put, amazing. For a whisky barrel aged beer this is quite refreshing and not too cloying. All the right flavors from the barrel aging are intertwined with the already delicious recipe. This is definitely one to seek out and I will most certainly be trying the other offerings from this brewery.

optiontwo, Feb 22, 2009
Photo of tmoneyba
4.15/5  rDev +0.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Bottle from Dilly Deli.

Poured clear dark brown color with full brown head that diminished slowly with good lacing. Heavy aroma of caramel, nuts, and peat toasted malt. Medium to full body with smooth texture. Medium toasted sweet earthy wood flavor with a medium sweet whiskey finish of long duration.

My expectations were met with a smooth complex brew.

tmoneyba, Feb 17, 2009
Photo of Mebuzzard
3.35/5  rDev -18.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

I went with the 16 year instead of the 12 or 30, just to get a sense of "middle of the road" so to speak.
Black pour, not really thick as the edges were a bit brown and clear. Very little head, but dense, tan. Some lacing.
Smelled of jerky, wet beer jerky and sweet caramel. A hint of peat and smoke. Alcohol not detected.
Flavorful, like liquid jerky. Malt gives it a nice sweet-n-smokey effect. I think of beer when drinking this. It just misses the salt of jerky. It's good, would like to see more peat; perhaps the 30 is more like this.

Mebuzzard, Feb 16, 2009
Photo of Reagan1984
3.58/5  rDev -13.3%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Bottle 02937 Sept 2007

Well, I guess the beer is aptly named.. On the label tag it speaks about black oil. Sure does look like black oil... Not much of a head. Just a scant bit of beige foam across the top that clings to the edges. The beer is so dark and black you really can't even see into it. No light shines through. No real lacing... but the beer almost has legs....

Aroma is decidedly smoky. You can detect the higher level of alcohol. Some dark roasted notes.

Flavor is a bit dryer than I expected. Wood, wood and more wood... Chocolate, smoke... burnt/black roasted flavors. Some coffee/espresso notes as well. You can taste the higher alcohol level... almost want to pour it over rocks (ice) since it reminds me of scotch so much. The more I think of it, it's like unsweetened chocolate. The finish is a big sense of smoky charred wood again.

Body is not quite as thick as you'd imagine, but it's still thick and a HUGE mouth presence.

This is a sip and savor beer. That's for sure. A warming effect comes over you as you slowly enjoy this brew. I view this as a beer to share. To me the entire bottle is a bit much...

Reagan1984, Feb 08, 2009
Photo of Thefinerthings
4.4/5  rDev +6.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

A: Pours with little head, a tannish color. Dark brown to black color. Clean.

S: Smokey, tart fruit with a hint of wood. Also small ammount of wiskey.

T: Initially hits with sour fruits and some of the wiskey flavor. Follows with smokey wood hints mixed with coffee and roasted nuts.Finished well.

M: Lighter than expected with little carbanation.Complex, rich flavor.

D: Very easy drinker, the 8% alcohol is noticable but not overwhelming. Alcohol taste almost seems slightly higher due to the wiskey

Overall found this beer to be very unique. Was very satisfied and would highly recommend it.

Thefinerthings, Jan 29, 2009
Photo of Beerenauslese
4.4/5  rDev +6.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

A: Pours with a creamy brown head that dissipates quickly. Jet black.

S: Sour cherries, nutmeats, burnt wood.

T: Sour fruits and fruity coffee, resolving into a strong but pleasant taste of roasted walnuts and burnt wood, and a bit of whiskey. The only beer that I have ever associated with walnuts.

M: Rich in flavor but light in mouthfeel, with a mild level of carbonation, very well done.

D: Very drinkable, but the alcohol seems stronger than 8%. Must be the whiskey taste. A unique, legendary brew.

Beerenauslese, Jan 07, 2009
Photo of blackie
4.1/5  rDev -0.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

a: small head sits momentarily atop a coffee brown beer

s: distinct scotch makes a decent attempt of hiding a body of bittersweet chocolate and burnt sugars, strong aromas of smoky peat, sweet wood char, unique and intriguing

m: lightly carbonated, smooth body on the lighter side of full

t: much like the aroma, waves of semi- and bittersweet chocolate run through a toffee malt body, dominated by a clear flavor of scotch, loads of smoked peat in the finish, a touch more malt richness would make this much more satisfying

d: the mini-snifter serving (half a bottle) suits me just fine

2007 vintage, shared with the dirtman in msn, enjoyed with some quality community access television

blackie, Jan 02, 2009
Photo of dirtylou
4.05/5  rDev -1.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

12oz single - september 2007 bottling, via secret santa bif, split while watching reno 911 reruns

appearance: poured into a snifter, mahogany-cola body. the name means "black oil" and that seems pretty accurate. there is a light tan ring but not much head at all

smell: nice aroma - a nice, well-rounded scotch nose...vanilla, woody, tons of smoked peat, earthy

taste: not nearly as satisfying as the nose - scotch and vanilla chips dominate the nose but dont hit the taste buds until the follow-through...the flavors seem to be dominate by earthy tones, smoked peat, and oak. also find touches of toffee, rich chocolate, light bitter espresso bean

mouthfeel: despite the level of focus on scotch-barrel aging, the alcohol remains fairly well controlled...rather thin body

drinkability: ok

dirtylou, Jan 02, 2009
Photo of DogFood11
4.53/5  rDev +9.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

Poured this 330ml brown bottle into a snifter. With an aggressive pour you can get a thin layer of head. Very thick body slightly thinner than used oil.

This is a solid offering from start to finish. It starts rich, thick and sweet and finishes with a sharp wooded, smokey, and dry. A tad bitter in the initial aftertaste but it fades to a sweetened bakers chocolate and back to wood.

This is worth seeking out. A unique rich offering in that it has a high drinkability score and could be enjoyed back to back to back.

DogFood11, Jan 02, 2009
Photo of charlzm
4.13/5  rDev 0%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Consumed 12/29/08.

Pours into a Triple Petrus tulip glass a clear, deep brown (almost black). A thin tan head forms but quickly becomes a barely-sticky ring of foam.

Aroma of scotch and copper.

Texture is a little thin.

Flavor has little booze, though it is a nuance; it's mostly peaty, smoky roasted malt. Hint of chocolate. Slightly sweet. A touch of acidity. Alcohol warming on the swallow.

I find this the most drinkable of the three Ola Dubh varieties. It's not as harsh as the 16 nor as overtly scotchy as the 30.

charlzm, Dec 30, 2008
Ola Dubh Special Reserve 16 from Harviestoun Brewery Ltd.
92 out of 100 based on 502 ratings.