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Ola Dubh Special Reserve 12 - Harviestoun Brewery Ltd.

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

Displayed for educational use only; do not reuse.

651 Ratings
no score

(send 'em beer!)
Ratings: 651
Reviews: 340
rAvg: 4.11
pDev: 11.92%
Wants: 31
Gots: 81 | FT: 5
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 02-17-2008)
Beer: Ratings & Reviews
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Ratings: 651 | Reviews: 340 | Display Reviews Only:
Photo of Zimbo
4.1/5  rDev -0.2%

Five years ago I despaired for the Scottish brewing industry. Maclay was long gone and Belhaven and Caladonian had lost their independence. Things looked pretty grim. But now the more I drink beers like Ola Dubh the more I see just how confidently independents are picking up the slack.

Forms a very thick easy dark tan head and offers rich deep aromas of well baked dark chocolate cake and coffee. Thick blanket body is firm and smooth in the mouth but seemigly lighter and southing going down the hatch. A velvety dark chocolate and a very full earthiness to taste, this is very masculine but superbly balanced considering all the elements being roped in here. A beer of the soil. The whisky cask element is so well integrated playing a supportive but not a dominant role.

The wee man of the range but still pretty top notch.

Zimbo, Nov 19, 2010
Photo of heebes
4.03/5  rDev -1.9%

330 ml bottle
Part of the Harviestoun brewery feature at the LCBO.

Very fine looking bottle, class label and appearance. Pours what can only be jet black with a foamy tan coloured head; thick from the aggressive pour. Fluffy head dissipates slowly and leaves plenty of lacing. The nose is of potent alcohol, the whiskey casks having left its mark. Also hints of roasted malts, toasty chocolate notes. On the sip, the taste isn't overly phenol as expected and this proves to be a well balanced beer. Theres a smooth velvety taste of the roasted chocolate and a semi-bitter aftertaste. Heavy bodied mouthfeel as expected for something named 'Black Oil'. Overall a pretty easy drinker, a great drinkable introduction to the series.

heebes, Nov 17, 2010
Photo of liamt07
4.13/5  rDev +0.5%

Bottle from the LCBO's recent Harviestoun release. 341ml into a snifter. Bottled on February 10, 2010, bottle no. 13950.

Body is damn well near as black as can be, with a finger and change of creamy khaki head. Lacing is sticky as shit, but not a ton of head hangs around. Nose is of dark chocolate, hint of smoke. Tastes more of chocolate with some bitterness, molasses and licorice; the slightest bit of heat finishes it off. Some dark fruits here also, more subtle. Warming feeling to it, but the whiskey barrel aging isn't completely evident to me; the slightest hint of peat and whiskey comes through even around room temperature. A touch metallic in the mouthfeel, but generally slick and smooth. Again, warming feeling and the ABV ain't detectable. Great drinker and there colder months are a great time to be having it.

liamt07, Nov 15, 2010
Photo of Thorpe429
3.78/5  rDev -8%

Reviewed from notes.

Served in a tulip glass. Pours a very dark brown color with a thin head. A bit persistent with some carbonation bubbles throughout. Nose is light whisky plus some oak, vanilla, dark fruits, and smoke. A bit of roast. The taste has some whisky and peat smoke plus a bit of roast and oak. Good body and not too boozy. Drinkability is higher on this than the 30 and 40.

Thorpe429, Nov 14, 2010
Photo of crossovert
3.63/5  rDev -11.7%

July 2009 vintage. 11.2 oz black foiled bottle with a little information tag.

IT pours a dark brown/black, the head is a greyish/brownish/tan and it is nicely foamy. It recedes pretty quickly with not much lacing.

The smell is very smooth and subtle. It isn't an over the top bourbon bomb in the nose. It has notes of chocolate, peat, scotch, and wood.

The scotch is intensified in the flavor as it almost takes center stage. It has a lot of peatiness, smoke, and barrel notes. There are also notes of tobacco and earthiness. It is a very earthy, organic tasting brew. The sweetness of the brew gets more intense as you go. It tastes very rustic.

It is pretty good, I wonder if the other editions would be better or worse, or any different.

crossovert, Nov 13, 2010
Photo of MattyV
4.18/5  rDev +1.7%

Pours a thick viscous dark-brown black with a 2 finger mocha head that laces very well. The aroma is rich with toffee, dark chocolate malt, a touch of whiskey-like smoke and spice, and maybe just a bit chalky. The taste is complex and well-balanced. Dark caramel and chocolate malt up front, leading into a light smokiness and peaty whiskey character, and finishing up with a pronounced bitterness and mild scotch-like lingering finish. Rich and full-bodied, moderately carbonated. This is a wonderfully tasty and complex beer. The ABV is well-hidden and it shows nice scotch characteristics as it warms without being too sweet/cloying. I'm interested in trying some of the others in the series, $ permitting.

MattyV, Nov 12, 2010
Photo of hooliganlife
4/5  rDev -2.7%

vintage sept 2007

pours a dark cola black with a light cocoa head leaving light retention.

lots of sweet vanilla and whiskey up front. dark fruits and toffee in the back. very rich.

a light smoky and vanilla kick in first a complex blend of fruit and candy really emerge with the vanilla. lots of fig and rich toffee meet subtle smooth whiskey. light roasted malt.

full body, slight chewiness. little to no alcohol from the whiskey barrels. bit of an oily residue on the teeth.

this was good, the smell was amazing. very well blended and smooth. i plan on trying the 16 and 30 year old barrel versions.

hooliganlife, Nov 12, 2010
Photo of Daniellobo
3.98/5  rDev -3.2%

Good barrel aged ale with a distinct Orkney Whisky range in a fairly balanced and not too assertive profile.

Presentation: 11.2 oz brown capped bottle with a dark foil cover on top. Simple and sober labeling with the logo of the brewery, name and main data in black white and orange touches. Label hanging from the neck offers a brief description of the brew, intent and history with Whisky notes for the several reserve releases, and a Highland Park description. Shows bottle number (15623), date (Nov 2008), and Alc. by Vol. (8%). Served in a snifter.

A - Black pour with a small frothy head, minimum retention, as expected, with a faint surface ring and no lacing.

S - Orkney nose, distinct Whisky whiff with a malty range, not too strong but rather pleasing, touch of dried fruits as the malt is woven back to the aroma of Whiskey.

T - Whisky range, Orkney in the palate, with chocolate notes, touch of caramel underneath, lightly peaty and smokey as the malt profile goes through. Touch of faint bitterness with a woody hint.

M - Medium to medium-full body, it is not that thick, and while one may long for it actually it is not necessarily a bad thing. Medium to low carbonation as the brew progresses with a smooth flow that does not quite hit too thin a note.

D - Nice sipper, accessible and maybe if one is after something a touch more intense it may feel short, but it is pretty good in any case.

Notes: Nice brew, and while it hits all the right Whisky notes with dexterity, and I sure would love to have it again, there is something that does not quite take to the next level for me. Maybe its the Orkney style that does not make it for me compared to other Scotchs. It is like it is lacking a touch to make it truly memorable. Dunno, maybe I need to try other Ola Dubh reserve offerings...

Daniellobo, Nov 02, 2010
Photo of bruachan
4.08/5  rDev -0.7%

super dark...old ale? more like porter. weak head, but lacing should be decent

many similarities to the ever-so-popular bourbon stouts in the US. the lame head detracts from scent experiences, but solid roastiness and scotchy oak abound

but scotch is even more apparent in the finish, which is dry for an old ale (i suppose that could be an illusion). good sweetness to support some sharp flavors--oak is highly present (especially in the 12-year, as opposed to 30-year). i think bitterness shows up more in 12-year than 30. quite roasty-flavored: mos def more of a porter than old ale

bruachan, Oct 24, 2010
Photo of Jwale73
4.03/5  rDev -1.9%

11.2oz. bottle served in my Old Stock snifter. Bottle# 28316/Bottled in September 2007. Pours one shade shy of black with no head - just a mocha-colored skim that quickly disperses towards the edges forming a bubbly band around the perimeter of the bowl. No lacing on this one. Exceptional nose with wonderful complexity - brown sugar, molasses, dark fruit and toffee on a malty base. A light whiskey presence is also expressed towards the back. Taste somewhat consistent with nose - molasses and brown sugar are apparent, but a light coffee character also comes out, as well as a hint of char; toffee seems to disappear. Mouthfeel is medium-light, perhaps a little watery, with an almost non-existent carbonation. A really solid Old Ale. The highlight on this one is definitely in the nose. Unfortunately, it falls a little short in terms of the mouthfeel. Well worth a try and I am intrigued as to what 5-7 years might do to this one.

Jwale73, Oct 13, 2010
Photo of TheSevenDuffs
4.28/5  rDev +4.1%

Thanks to alpineclimber for this one. Bottle #11310. Brewed Fed 2010. Poured in to Duvel tulip.

A - Dark black with a half finger of bubbly light brown head.

S - Sweet roasted malts hit the nose initially with hints of coffee and molasses. A faint whisky nose exists in the background but it is not prominent at all.

T - A somewhat complex palate with a lot of different flavours coming through. There is a nice whisky flavour that comes through in perfect strength (doesn't dominate but is noticeable). Other flavours that come through include sweet molasses and brown sugar, some subtle roasted malts and notes of coffee and chocolate with a hint of licorice. A very nice palate.

M - Medium body, chewy, lightly carbonated.

D - A remarkable beer.

TheSevenDuffs, Oct 09, 2010
Photo of kingcrowing
3.83/5  rDev -6.8%

11.2oz bottle poured into a weiß glass. Bottled in 2007.

Pours oily black with a very small dark brown head. Nose is whisky and booze it's rich and sweet and malty.

taste is really sweet, smokey and very rich. It's got a lot of whisky flavor to it which is nice. It's really creamy and drinkable.

kingcrowing, Oct 09, 2010
Photo of msmezher
4.63/5  rDev +12.7%

Massive props to the BAs who recommended this to me after asking for rec's on scotch barrel aged beers, I really enjoyed this one. Ola Dubh 12 poured a thick, muddled black, reddish brown around the edges and only a little lacing, no head. Smokey, peaty aromas, a hint of chocolate, dried fruit. The mouth feel was excellent, rolled over tongue to bring out more of the subtle flavors. Oak and cedar finish, roasted coffee and malts, sweet prunes in the taste. Pricey, but well finished and great for an occasion meriting a 9$ bottle. I look forward to trying other beers from Harviestoun's lineup.

msmezher, Sep 28, 2010
Photo of alpineclimber
4.5/5  rDev +9.5%

Brew was poured from bottle # 11950 brewed on Feb 2010, into a chalice. A small tan head formed on a black brew.

A deep whiff reveals a whiskey cask sourness, dark fruit and a light smell of alcohol. The smell is awesome.

Taste has big malt flavors upfront, the whiskey comes out and a light alcohol warming, with a perfect bitter finish. Some light oxidation can be perceived but it's not at all bad, maybe it's just a taste that the whiskey cask has imparted on the ale.

Perfect mouthfeel, medium and slightly slick.

I really enjoy this beer, it's fairly complex but highly drinkable. I have drank this one quite a bit in the last few months. I can get this locally so I plan to stock up before it disappears.

alpineclimber, Sep 21, 2010
Photo of kjyost
4.05/5  rDev -1.5%

Poured into a tulip from a bottle dated Feb 2010, bottle #10444.

Initially a nice creamy mocha head sits atop a viscous black oil-like beer. It settled slowly, but I was disappointed by the complete lack of lacing. Aromas of licorice, molasses and caramel come off the nose accompanied by strong alcoholic esters. The mouthfeel is thick, but the beer has balance, being sweet though not cloying whatsoever. Licorice is the primary flavour I get along with some burnt sugar / caramel & toffee notes. Light whiskey notes play in the background when allowed to come out, much less so than I had expected though. Quite drinkable. Pulled this one out for a cool rainy night and it matched perfectly.

kjyost, Sep 21, 2010
Photo of Thur123
4.53/5  rDev +10.2%

Bottled on Sept 2. 2007. This means the scotch has been aged 15 years right?

This brew pours a nearly opaque black color with minimal caramel colored lacing. Looks thick pouring out of the bottle. The smell is deep and mellow fruity smell, like black and blue berries and plum. Whiskey comes through subtly and under the other flavors as a smoky balanced spice that rides under the dark fruits.

Glug glug glug, or sip rather

The flavor is smoooth and really complex. Plum and a strong presence of berries are there and the smokiness of the scotch really comes through at the end of the flavor profile. Caramel, molasses and berry syrup are present as well. Raisins and dates too. The body on this is much thinner than expected but still manages to retain a lot of mellow flavors. The oak and smoke from the barrel begin to emerge as I continue drinking. Overall a great very drinkable beer with tons of complexity and subtly without any challenging or difficult aspects.

Thur123, Sep 16, 2010
Photo of tbeckett
3.73/5  rDev -9.2%

Really surprised to see this has been retired. Glad I hung onto a few when I had access. Bottled July 2009.

A - Pours pure opaque black. One finger tan head that dissipates slowly but leaves a nice cap. I can see some carbonation streaming up the side of the glass also.

S - Huge dark fruit aromas. A little booze. Maybe some licorice. Smokey. Oaky.

T - Sweet to start and then some dark fruit then it's full on oaky, smoke taste. Really interesting. I can't tell if I like it but I admire the effort and complexity alot. Sweetness is there too. There's a some burn, woodiness and dryness in the aftertaste. You can taste the scotch too.

M - Medium mouthfeel. Minimal carbonation. Nice and soft in the mouth.

D - Sipper for sure. Just like a whiskey/whisky. Nice to try but I couldn't have more than one in an evening b/c of the strength of the flavours.

Definately a complex and tasty beer but the oak and smokiness hold it back. I like it for its complexity but less for its flavour. Given all those factors, it's still a top notch beer.

tbeckett, Sep 15, 2010
Photo of milkbaby9
3.88/5  rDev -5.6%

330ml bottle (#15335 bottled Nov 2008, drank 9-5-2010) into Duvel tulip. Black brown color. About 1 finger light cocoa head reducing quickly to thin layer of bubbles then almost to nothing.

Aroma initially scotch whisky and soy sauce, but the soy sauce disappears after a little bit (only smelt early after the pour). Undercurrent of the roasted malt. Taste of sweet and roasted malts, touch of scotch and a vanilla note. Ultra-smooth dark roasted coffee with touch of nuttiness on the finish. Shortbread cookie in the aftertaste.

Very low carbonation, medium bodied mouthfeel, not as viscous as its parent brew, Old Engine Oil. Light bitterness doesn't linger. Finishes very smooth similar to the Ola Dubh Special Reserve 16.

Scotch whisky is lower in the taste of this 12 versus the 16. This one shows more of the beery malts. Strangely though, it feels a little "hollow" though overall it is good. But in my opinion this pales in comparison to the Special Reserve 16. Maybe it's just that is was an older bottle and age didn't do it any favors?

milkbaby9, Sep 09, 2010
Photo of JoEBoBpr
4.03/5  rDev -1.9%

Poured into a nice Schlafly tulip. Bottle 16024 from Nov 2008.

A - Pours a very nice and delicious looking dark brown color with a great .5 inch head. The color is nice and tan with some nice dense bubbles and some slight medium bubbles. The head recedes fairly quickly.

S - Very sweet malty tones are present up front with some dark fruits. Raisins, caramel some toffee and nice boozy sweetness as well. Slight citrusy aroma from the hops. There is some mild chocolate and roasted malt aroma.

T & M - Wow! Woody, smokey and earthy. Very barrel aged flavors some burnt wood as is expected from Scotch barrels. There is a nice whiskey flavor mixed in with some good barley grain flavors. Some slight chocolate as well as some nice spice. The brew is well carbonated and doesn't feel as viscous as it pours. Nice and smooth.

D - Good beer but very complex and flavorful. Definitely for sipping.

JoEBoBpr, Sep 09, 2010
Photo of wordemupg
4.45/5  rDev +8.3%

330ml bottle poured into tulip sept4 2010

A pours near jet black right out of the bottle with a massive half a glass of tan head that slowly falls to a thin film that leaves several large rings of lace with patches in between

S some chocolate, smoke, molasses and some raisin mix well together with a little booze and faint coffee

T now the barrel aging is a little easier to notice, much more earthiness, wood and smoke but not at all overbearing. all I smell is in the mouth and all together they create a great balance of flavors with just a little sweetness

M a little thin for the color but not thin, good carbonation and the flavors linger after you swallow it

D no problems with this one at all, a great beer and for 8% I could get in trouble with this one

I can't wait to try the other beers from this line up because if this is the starting point I'm in for a good time. I only have the 18 to try after this one but I'll be on the look out for the others.

wordemupg, Sep 05, 2010
Photo of Mitchster
4.75/5  rDev +15.6%

$7.99 for a 11.2oz bottle. Bottle # 25610, Sept 2007. "Ale matured in Whisky Casks", formerly used to mature Highland Parks 12 year old single malt scotch. 8% ABV.

Pours out to a thick, black, oily brew, not forming a single bead of foam. No head, no retention, no carbonation at all. The aroma is of soy sauce, smoke, blackstrap molasses, vanilla, black licorice, and when swirled, prunes and raisins. Very nice nose. The mouthfeel is medium dense (not as dense at the looks would suggest), but it is certainly oily, rich and syrupy. I like it. The taste is really good, and recaps the aroma exactly as I would hope for. There is a wonderful balance between the sweet, salty, smoky, soy sauce, burnt marshmallow, licorice, molasses, and bitterness. Lightly astringent in the finish due to the charred malts. Mild degree of leafy hop sourness. I know my scotches well, and honestly, I can't tell you that this was aged in oak casks used for scotch, as there isn't any truly distinct scotch taste. A rich night-capper.

This is a lovely brew. Considering the cost, I'd probably grab a bottle of Sam Adams Triple Bock, which is a few bucks cheaper, when I'm in the mood for something like this. Still, it's definitely recommended if the price doesn't bother you.

Mitchster, Aug 26, 2010
Photo of BeefyMee
4.43/5  rDev +7.8%

2007 vintage

Wonderfully smoky aroma and flavor. Most of the characteristics are very similar to their flagship with some added nuances. Many barrel aged beers come out a little boozy, but this one does not. The 8% abv is not noticeable, unless you can't help yourself and polish off the bottle in ten minutes, then you might notice something.

BeefyMee, Aug 23, 2010
Photo of StephenRich
4.65/5  rDev +13.1%

"Ola Dubh" means "black oil", and is a fitting name for this beer. The Ola Dubh is a beer which I had been aware of for some time, however it had only first crossed my path at the end of the summer 2009. I had done some reading about this beer previously, as well I have had a few of Harviestoun's other creations. So knowing that this is a Harvieston Imperial Stout aged in 12 year old Highland Park Single Malt Whisky Barrels encouraged me to buy several bottles.

The Ola Dubh is a bit different than other cask conditioned beers aged in oak whisky barrels; its not aged in fresh oak barrels, but rather the barrels in which the Imperial Stout is aged are previously used 12 year old Highland Park Whisky Barrels. The Harviestoun Brewery and Highland Park Distillery have formed an alliance ensuring that this will be the only beer aged in Highland Park Barrels.

The 12 year is one of four expressions of the Ola Dubh. Harviestoun also ages their beer in 16 year, 30 year, and 40 year old Highland Park Barrels. These bottles do get pricey jumping to upwards of $20 for the 40 year old. But consider that the Highland Park Cask Strength 40 Year Old bottle is $800. It is a different beast, but that is the type of prestige that we are living in here. The 12 year comes in a 330ml, foil wrapped, individually numbered bottle at 8% abv. We are discussing bottle no. 45525, which was bottled in July 2009. The Ola Dubh poured smooth and oily with a powerful aroma roaring from the glass immediately. The beer seemed to fall heavily into the glass as if there was stronger gravity at the base of it compared to anywhere else. With a twirl you expose thick legs on the walls of the glass and only a film of tan head that caresses the glass gently. The beer is black, and scarily reminiscent of engine oil. Into the light it does glimmer with a tint of ruby, but beyond all other lights, it is black.

The nose is rich and aggressive brining smoke, roasted malt, sweet whisky, tart oak, anise, and muddled spices. Its a very creamy aroma; all of the flavors seem to meld together as one. It does have a light peat like smoke which rings around your nose the whole time suggesting its hibernation in Highland Park barrels.

After looking at this beer and smelling it I was sure, and also unsure of what to expect. I knew something of great strength and supreme smoothness would with no doubt be gracing my lips. But would it be balanced? Would the power of the whisky whose character has been embraced by the beer be to much too raw? Well, thankfully, is is balanced and the whisky is sublime!

I served it at cellar temperature around 12 degrees Celsius (45F). The beers melts over your palate in a slow and gentle wave of peaty smoke, oak, whisky, and roasted coffee. It has a light dark chocolate note floating in the background accompanied by some more Imperial Stout flavors like dried fruits, a touch of spice, molasses, and vanilla. There is very little if any carbonation on the palate, so the beer is not really all that live when you are enjoying it. It more or less gets in your mouth, then takes over and makes its presence known. Almost as if it knows that it doesn't need the carbonation to prove anything to you; its just going to lye there and do its thang!

And it does it well. I was supremely impressed with the distinct Highland Park Whisky character which the Ola Dubh retains, as well as how the beer carries its flavors. It has a lot of powerful flavors working here with some roast and hop bitterness, but no noticeable hop flavor. The dark malts are dominant without being controlling. Overall the beer was a pleasure to drink, and also an extremely unique representation of a wood aged imperial stout.

I do have three more bottles relaxing in my cellar, so look for a one year tasting in July 2010, I am already starting to get excited for that one!

StephenRich, Aug 23, 2010
Photo of alseger83
4.47/5  rDev +8.8%

I happened to get a bottle of this today thanks to a friend. Thanks D.

This poured a viscous black color with no head what so ever.

It smelled mainly of single malt scotch with a nice choclatey, coffee stout coming through.

It tasted much like it smelled, dominated by a scotch flavor, but also some nicely roasted malts in there. The choclatey coffee was also a nice up front flavor.

This had a nice smooth mouthfeel, that was lighter than I expected.

I have since found another bottle that I will be enjoying at a later date.

alseger83, Aug 15, 2010
Photo of Tilley4
3.05/5  rDev -25.8%

Poured into my CCB snifter...

Bottle 22151, bottled in Sept 2007...

This thing pours absolutely dead with no head whatsoever... Very thick black appearance that coats the glass with every swirl..

Old stale malty aromas mingle with an oakiness that tries to redeem this but doesn't quite make it... This smells like a 3 year old flat ale to me... Very unremarkable.. Perhaps a little bit of raisins going on as this warms but nostly just sorta stale and cardboard-like...

Yep, I'm guessing this one lost its spark somewhere over the last 3 years.. This tastes spent.... Mouthfeel is quite a bit thinner than I was expecting as well.. Dark roasted but stale malts with a touch of whiskey and oak...

I really loved the 16 from this series and I'm hoping I just have an off bottle here but this one surely didn't match up to its older brother...disappointing..

Tilley4, Aug 07, 2010
Ola Dubh Special Reserve 12 from Harviestoun Brewery Ltd.
92 out of 100 based on 651 ratings.