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Ola Dubh Special Reserve 12 - Harviestoun Brewery Ltd.

Not Rated.
Ola Dubh Special Reserve 12Ola Dubh Special Reserve 12

Educational use only; do not reuse.

359 Reviews
no score

(Send Samples)
Reviews: 359
Hads: 773
Avg: 4.13
pDev: 16.95%
Wants: 41
Gots: 133 | FT: 9
Brewed by:
Harviestoun Brewery Ltd. visit their website
United Kingdom (Scotland)

Style | ABV
Old Ale |  8.00% ABV

Availability: Rotating

Notes & Commercial Description:
Beer added by: Bitterbill on 02-17-2008

No notes at this time.
View: Beers (30) | Events
Beer: Reviews & Ratings
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Reviews: 359 | Hads: 773
Photo of thehyperduck
4.38/5  rDev +6.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.75

330 mL bottle from the LCBO; packaged in Feb. 2012 and best before Oct. 2015. Served at cellar temperature.

Pours an opaque blackish-brown hue, with an aggressive pour generating about one finger of dense, creamy, beige-coloured head. It recedes over the next few minutes, leaving behind a loose, sea-foamy cap and collar; not much lacing. The aroma is quite sweet and enticing, with hints of molasses, oak and vanilla, as well as some figgy dark fruit notes. Slightly smoky/peaty, with a whiff of alcohol.

This is almost sinfully tasty. Molasses and toffee sweetness start us off, leading into some dark chocolate and vanilla. Light fig and raisin notes then blend alongside an oaky, peaty flavour. Smoky finish, with a touch of whisky followed by some lingering wood smoke astringency. This brew has a nice warming quality - actually a little more than I'd expect for an 8% brew, but everything comes together nicely. On the heftier side of medium-bodied, with rather weak carbonation that produces a smooth, slick coating on the palate. Great stuff.

Final Grade: 4.38, an impressive A. My only regret concerning Ola Dubh Special Reserve 12 is that I neglected to pick up a second bottle of the stuff. This is a delicious ale that I would recommend highly to all BAs looking for a proper oak aged beer, and may also have some appeal to Scotch whisky fans as well. It's not cheap, but I don't mind paying for quality - and with that in mind, I'll have to keep an eye out for the other beers in the Ola Dubh series.

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Photo of polloenfuego
4.23/5  rDev +2.4%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

From a 330 ml bottle to a snifter.

Bottled in Feb 2012, enjoyed in March 2014.

A: Black, no light makes it way through this beer. There is almost no head to speak of, but instead when the beer is poured there is a feign of a head, a wisp of foam that disappears as quickly as you look at it. The result is a full glass of black liquid with a very tiny ring of brown bubbly foam on the outside.

S: malts, peat, leather, smoke, oak all working together to give a nice rich smell.

T: smoke, oak, malts, roasts/coffee and a slight vanilla sweetness on the finish.

M: fine carbonation and a fullish body but lighter than expected. Given the heavy nose and taste I would have expected a heavier beer, but did not get one.

O: I decided to let this bottle go after finding myself with a couple of the Ola Dubh Special Reserve 30s. I have to say, this is a damn fine beer, and my only regret is that I didn't wait longer to open it, as I feel it would have only gotten better. There is so much flavor and character in this beer that I wish it was a 750 ml instead of a 330 ml so that I could enjoy it longer. Now...if I can get the one away from my buddy that I know he has...

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Photo of spinrsx
3.52/5  rDev -14.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 3.5

12oz Bottle from the Ottawa LCBO for $7

Appearance - Dark brown colour with a tiny size frothy beige head. I can't make out the amount of carbonation showing and there isn't much lacing. The head lasted for around 2 minutes before it was gone.

Smell - Malts, chocolate, grains, coffee, smoke

Taste & Mouth - There is barley any carbonation and I can taste malts, chocolate, and coffee. There is also some faint wood and smokey/peaty/meaty flavour.

Overall - A little thin/watery and the wood doesn't really show up much. I'm also not a fan of a smoked meat type flavour in my beer. I had higher hopes for this one.

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Photo of jazzyjeff13
3.98/5  rDev -3.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4

A 330ml bottle with a BB of Feb 2014. Bottled in Feb 2010; bottle no. 00494. Picked up ages ago from Booths and stashed away in my garage to mature. Ale aged in casks that previously contained Highland Park 12-year old whisky, resulting in Harviestoun's famous 'Black Oil'.

Poured into a Duvel tulip. A very dark reddish-brown hue that appears black as tar in the glass. Yields a decent head of creamy light-brown foam that lasts for a few minutes before reducing to a patchy surface layer. Aroma of rich, fruity malt with notes of roasted grain, prunes, dried fruit, molasses/caramel, brown sugar, a hint of whisky, mild vanilla and faint smokiness. Nicely balanced, with a touch of warming booze in the background.

Tastes of dark, fruity malt with a sweet character and a lingering finish. Notes of roasted grain, dried fruit, molasses, caramel, faint chocolate, brown sugar, mild smoke, subtle whisky, a twinge of vanilla and a hint of wood. A whisper of alcohol in the background but well hidden. Somewhat sweet, with a restrained, malty bitterness upon swallowing. Mouthfeel is smooth and creamy, with very light carbonation and good body. A shade more effervescence wouldn't hurt. Mildly astringent, followed by an aftertaste of roasted malt, fruitiness and a hint of whisky.

Top-notch. As barrel-aged stouts go this is quite subtle, but the character is wonderfully integrated. Looks the part, with an aroma and flavour of rich roasted malt, dried fruit and subtle whisky highlights. The body is satisfyingly unctuous, though a little more carbonation would be nice. Delicious - a touchstone in UK barrel-aged brews. This should go on your must-try list.

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Photo of utfiero
4.48/5  rDev +8.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Color- black oil. Medium head tinted deep mocha.

Aroma- roasty, chocolate, coffee, hint of vanilla, and mild esters.

Taste- A rich, mellow brew! Starts with a subtle date sweetness immediately moving into a rich, roasty body dominated by roasted notes, coffee, and hints of chocolate finishing with a long roasty yet hoppy finish. This gives Traquair House Ale (the best Scotch Ale I've found to date) a run for its money! The bottle notes the following: "Aged in selected oak casks, formerly used to mature Highland Park beautifully balanced 12 year old single malt Scotch whisky." Bottle No. 01207 dated July 2011. Purchased locally at Spec's.

Poured from 330 ml bottle into a Liefmans Goudenband glass (my preferred all purpose beer tasting glass). Tasted on 1/31/14.

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Photo of DenisKolkin
3.96/5  rDev -4.1%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Ahh... Been looking forward to trying this one for some time. 330 ml bottle purchased from LCBO superstore at Summerhill for $6.15 CDN while in Toronto for exam preparation last August. Served chilled.

Appearance - Very dark brown, almost a charcoal color blended in as well. About 1 finger of off-white head that was very frothy looking. Little bit of soapy lacing left around the glass. This stuff really does look like old engine oil.

Smell - Wow. Slightly chocolaty, with a large, but not overdone smoke presence. I detected some dark fruit name figs and an hint of an unusual tropical element too. Some leather tobacco blend too. A lot going on here, which came together very nice for my flaring nostrils.

Taste - Smoke, earthy characteristics and a coffee flavor completely dominate this for me, as I'm not able to discern as many flavors as I was able to on the nose. Quite tasty but I found the taste lacked a bit of the well-rounded feature that was in the nose. Still pretty tasty but because of the intense flavors, a sipper.

Mouthfeel - Thinner than expected, but rather smooth and lowish carbonation. While still retaining a decent body, I still feel this was much thinner than expected especially given the flavor and aroma profiles.

Overall - A very good, yet rather different old ale, that really emphasizes smoke, probably one of the two or three smokiest beers I've had that isn't Rauchbier. And while the price is rather steep, this is one beer I'm glad I could say I tried, since it was a unique experience to me.

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Photo of SoupKitchenBeerSnob
2.46/5  rDev -40.4%
look: 3 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 2.25 | overall: 2.25

Was curious about this one, but I thought the $8.75 price for a single was a bit high. Furthermore, the bottling date on the label was from July 2011 (this review takes place in January of 2014), but was totally assured by the salesperson that this beer was fine with a little aging (of course). Red flags aside, I bought it anyway. Eh...

I poured it in to a Chimay chalice and saw that this stuff looks like old motor oil. No problem though, I'm cool with that. Unfortunately that was last thing I was cool with concerning this beer. There was only a mild aroma and the beer tasted even less dramatic with very little carbonation. All in all this was a very bland, unremarkable beer that definitely wasn't worth the price. Cannot recommend.

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Photo of brureview
4.4/5  rDev +6.5%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

Poured a deep dark opaque black- brown with 1/2 F head in a Stone Old Guardian glass- a barley wine style glass which works well for Old Ales.

Smoke-plum from the bottle.

Immediate array of aromas from the glass: leather, smoke, plum, and tobacco- quite a mix.

The mouth feel is very carbonated-not too much- which enhances the style.

Taste: magnificent. Leather, smoke plum, tobacco, fig melded into a complex ale. It's only 8% ABV and tastes like 13% ABV beer.

As the beer warms, there is more smoke in the taste. The plum mellows. The tobacco and leather dissipate.

Even though it's 8%, it's a sipper. One has to take time to appreciate this beer.

Serve warm- 50-55F.

Next step- if I can find a bottle-Harvistoun Engine Oil.

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

12 oz bottle

dark brown, slight head. smell is of bourbon/scotch and is very big. taste is hot..whiskey flavor with a tad of dark fruits. big beer that tastes like more than 8% ABV, full bodied for sure with a bit of carbonation...the right amount.

overall impressive for only 8%. recommended.

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Photo of StonedTrippin
4.29/5  rDev +3.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

in some ways I like 12 better than 16 or 18, the reason being, that it still tastes like beer. although some may say this is still more whiskey than beer, to me its the perfect balance. dark brown in color, rich for an old ale, same looks as the others with perhaps a little better head, but its been awhile and this one is on tap. the nose is great, woody and earthy and rich in malt profile, well roasted and toasted, not burnt but real dark. the whiskey isn't sharp, but mellow and clean, strong too, smells like more than 8% abv, that's for sure. the taste is great. tons of roast and body without any bitterness. the whiskey treatment is very effective, the beer has some charcoal to it, as well as vanilla and oak, but not in a sweet way, its more refined, more old school in some sense, more precise, more groovy, hard to describe. its all balanced up well, like the whiskey characteristics could be controlled independently of one another, you know, less vanilla here, more oak there, even though that's not possible, it seems that well dialed in. I prefer this to the 16 and 18 honestly, although I would still love to try the older ones, this is a genuinely great beer.

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Photo of thierrynantes
4.16/5  rDev +0.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Beer bottle (33 cl.) purchased from Le comptoir Irlandais, and tasted in 2013.

Appearance : dark brown color with a tan foamed head.
Smell : roasted and chocolate malty aromas.
Taste & mouthfeel : sweet and roasted malt flavors with notes of whiskey.
Drinkability : a nice beer in the English style Old Ale.

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Photo of Jjski
4.05/5  rDev -1.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Bottle out of cellar, tasted at 57f into a wide rimmed pilsner glass. I'm wearing brown corduroy pants and a green sweater. The dog wants taco chips, my appetizer prior to tasting.

A-opaque black like an RIS, 2 finger head with aggressive pour which then recedes to mocha colored lacing

S- peat, prosciutto or medium rare bacon, smoke faint ethereal whiskey. Fascinating!

T- not as deep or complex as the smell : peat smoke dominates Carmel undertones, very little whiskey. Hops? Nope, more smoke at the end. Barrel oak

M- nice but not great, but for an 8% brew it is spot on.

O- the peat and prosciutto smell are the best attributes, taste does not equal. A special, unique beer but a bit tame for our American blistered palates. Subtle and lacking true whiskey flavor. Even the nose barely discerns the whiskey unless you count the peat smoke.

I like old ales, barley wines etc. this one is good if you like peat smoke scotch whiskey aromas and enjoy bacon with your beer.

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Photo of pkalix
4.35/5  rDev +5.3%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

black and goopy as advertised. no foam, no lace, tiny soap residual.
smells of algae, nut brown ale, malt, whiskey, wood....
earthy, roasted malts, smoked wood, minimal whiskey flavors.... peat. very earthy. nice flavors although very still. no carbonation. seems a little thin from what I was expecting but i'd like to try the others...

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Photo of mdfb79
4.1/5  rDev -0.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

From 11/14/13 notes. Have always wanted to try these beers but because of their crazy prices I have mostly passed. I had the 16 once and thought it was ok, but nothing great. 12 oz. pour in a snifter at Ginger Man in NYC.

a - Pours a pitch black color with one inch of tan head and low to moderate carbonation evident. Looks pretty good.

s - Smells of sweet chocolate, roasted malts, scotch, oak, toasted malts, vanilla, alcohol, and lightly bitter dark chocolate. Scotch is up there and a lot of chocolate, with burnt and bitter notes on the back end. Nice.

t - Tastes of sweet milk chocolate, nice sweet scotch, vanilla, oak, toasted malts, roasted malts, burnt malts, earth notes, smoke and peat, light cream and coffee, and light fruits. Taste has more chocolate and scotch and is sweeter; a step up from the nose.

m - Medium to full body and low carbonation. Not quite the motor oil it looks like but on the thicker side of medium bodied. Nice.

o - Overall a beer that is definitely very good, but hard to justify for the price.I actually liked this a lot more than the 16, but again, not worth the price for me at $12/glass or even more for a 11.2 oz. bottle. Lots of chocolate and scotch to it, if you don't like scotch I'd suggest saving your money for something else. If you have the money to spend and like scotch/old ales, this series would be fun to check out.

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Photo of joeseppy
3.61/5  rDev -12.6%
look: 4.25 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Pours a dark brown with half inch head.

Initial aromas are distinct licorice and dark chocolate. As it warms, aroma is muted with undertones of peat and oak.

Cooler temperature taste is bitter dark cocoa with a charred back and lingering black coffee. As this warms up, more scotch quality underlined with peat emerges.

On the lighter side with ample carbonation. Dry cocoa powder finish at cooler temp.. Warmer temp. smooths out and becomes a fine sipper.

You gotta like scotch to appreciate this. Not very complex and lacks body. Reading all the reviews, I was expecting more.

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Photo of Murrhey
4.08/5  rDev -1.2%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4

Poured from a 11.2 oz standard pressure-cap bottle into a snifter in high elevation Kalispell, Mont. Reviewed live.

A- One finger mocha head that dissolves almost instantly. Black, viscous body. Fine looking ale.

S- Chocolate and toffee malts. Warm and roasty with dark fruits. So complex and interesting.

T- Dark roasted malts with dark fruits.

M- Thick and viscous. Like syrup on the tongue. Finishes sticky.

O- Great beer, complex and dynamic.

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Photo of decimator
4.07/5  rDev -1.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

330ml bottle poured into a Leffe goblet. ABV 8.0%. Enjoyed with a plate of cheese & crackers.

A - Poured nearly black with no head and only trace amounts of surface bubbles. Not much lacing. Looks eerily lifeless.

S - Smoke, whiskey, oak, some vanilla, some toast.

T - Some brown sugar, toast, vanilla, oak, some smoke, whiskey. Taste pretty good.

M - Medium-low carbonation, medium-heavy body, smooth, slick, some heat in the finish.

O - Alcohol is noticeable but well balanced by the sweetness and the barrel aging.

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Photo of vinicole
4.7/5  rDev +13.8%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.75

Wow! My big love is for English IPA's and certainly not Stouts and Old Ales but this has taken my breath away. All the superlatives previously written I whole heartedly support. What has particularly hit me is the balance this brew seems to maintain from beginning to end. This was bought as a trial single bottle from S H Jones in Banbury, Oxfordshire for the princely sum of £2.99 because it was sent to them "by mistake" and they did not really know how to price it. I'm back for some more tomorrow.


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Photo of IdeaSpeeder
4.54/5  rDev +9.9%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 3 | overall: 4

Serving Type - 330ml bottle poured into a snifter

Appearance - Pours a pitch black with a thin caramel coloured head which dissipates almost instantly.

Smell - Whoa. Alcohol right up front, followed by oak and smoke and peat...all characteristic of the whiskey barrels it was aged in. Truly a wonderful smelling beer.

Taste - The oak takes a back seat to the intense alcohol notes, but it's still there in a big way. This, combined with the peat and heavy smoke makes this a great brew for anyone into scotch (obviously). Other than the big whiskey flavors, I'm also picking up some dark fruit notes which make it surprisingly sweet.

Mouthfeel - A bit of a let down really. Not much of a body to support what is in every other way a huge beer. As expected for the style, carbonation is very low.

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Photo of lovethebelgians
4.41/5  rDev +6.8%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

Poors beautifully, thick glugs when I opened it the aromas hit me from a foot away and they were good aromas. Thick frothy suds, good lacing.

The taste is smokey, with whiskey dominating the taste. I would have to describe as an oaky, smokey beer flavored whiskey without the alcohol punch. I like it!

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Photo of RSJames
4.16/5  rDev +0.7%
look: 4.25 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25

From a bottle bottled in 2009. Poured into a Brewdog goblet (gotta keep it Scottish). Pours a nice black, thin, coffee-colored head. Lacing disappears quickly.

Smell doesn't particularly impress. Smoke is nice, but goes a bit funky after that.

First hit in both smell and taste is smokey. The taste of the peat used to smoke the malts for the whiskey really comes through, more so than the whiskey taste itself. The whiskey taste hangs around, though, outlasting the smokiness. Malt is prevalent from the first hit, and lingers in the aftertaste, hops aroma and taste is nonexistent.

Overall, nicely done. I'm a huge fan of barrel-aged beers, but would like to taste this one before it hits the whiskey barrels just to know what the base flavor is. I suspect quite good, although maybe not brilliant.

Disclaimer: this bottle was purchased in Las Vegas cold and not kept at optimum temperature. I have another bottle (2011) purchased at the Highland Park Distillery that has been more properly stored; may change my assessment after opening that one

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Photo of Flopjack
4.23/5  rDev +2.4%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

bottle into tulip, bottled July 2009

Appearance : Very dark, does not let light through, jet black, light color caramel head

Smell : Smokiness, roasted malt, oak presence from the whiskey casks

Taste : Warming alcohol presence but not overwhelming, smoked flavor similar rauchbier, coats the tongue with bready flavors

Mouthfeel : Not much carbonation, medium body, more smooth than i had expected

Overall : This beer was good. I would buy this beer again given the chance however I'm not sure i would seek this beer out on a regular basis.

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Photo of Roman5150
4.27/5  rDev +3.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

bottle into tulip, bottled July 2009

appearance: black, but not pitch black, the slightest dark copper hue when held to the light, slight 1 finger off white head

smell: a pleasant smokiness that is comparable a German Rauchbier, beef jerky, lots of oak and some notes of caramel and subtle vanilla near the end, but not super noticeable.

taste: Again, this has a gentle smokiness that really reminds me of a Rauchbier, the initial flavor coats your tongue in a resinous sticky manner giving you huge notes of the oak cask and the roasted malt backbone is very forward. The age has really smoothed this one out, very well balanced, not too much oak like some other barrel aged beers i've had. Alcohol is literally nonexistent, the age did wonders in that regard, and the finish is short lived.

mouthfeel: not much carbonation, medium bodied

overall: A great barrel aged beer, lot's of smokiness and oak cask flavors, yet not too much. Would buy again, but I prefer the Special 18 reserve which is only a few dollars more.

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Photo of Dope
4.23/5  rDev +2.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25

Bottle 27813 from July 2009. Might've been sitting around my cellar a few years.

A: Pitch black pour. Nice chocolate milk-colored head. Head is pretty large and dense, like a milkshake. Head fades slowly, leaving numerous little slivers of lacing all over the glass. Looks almost like snake scales. Great head retention.

S: Lots of charry smoke and umami. It's not harsh though, it's about as mellow as smoke could be. Some decent sweet chocolate and vanilla.

T: Smoke, peat and sweet vanilla up front. Some milk chocolate kicks in. Sweet chocolate lingers through to the finish with a mild acrid smoke addition. Hardly acrid, just a little less sweet than before. Lingering bittersweet chocolate, smoke and peat in the aftertaste. Almost feels like there's a little bitter coffee bean in that aftertaste too.

M: Nice, smooth and medium bodied. Borderline creamy. Silky. That's the word I'll use.

O: Interesting old ale. Scotch notes are not too harsh, but rather well integrated. Nice and mellow. Great balance of scotch flavors and roasted malt. It may be due to the age, but the smoke is nicely subdued, sweetened by the milk chocolate. Ends up being a really nice combination.

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Photo of RaphaelSC
4.77/5  rDev +15.5%
look: 5 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.75

A: Pours a wonderful black liquid, very consistent, a thin cream head with low retention.

S: Its bouquet is a mix of coffee, toasted malts and whisky, very strong, but very pleasant bouquet.

T: Coffee, woody and a good bitter that makes a good and consistent flavour, some whisky in the end. Its alcohol is well hidden despite its whisky flavour.

M: a strong coffee bitterness and many whisky malts in the aftertaste, medium body. Every sip makes me want the next.

O: Ola Dubh 12 is a well made beer, consistent with equilibrium and good taste combination of flavours and smells. I think that every beer lover must try this beer!

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Ola Dubh Special Reserve 12 from Harviestoun Brewery Ltd.
92 out of 100 based on 359 ratings.