Dismiss Notice
Microbrew Invitational
Join us June 3 + 4 in Boston and help us drink 300+ beers, ciders, kombuchas, meads, sakes and more!

TICKETS: beeradvocate.com/micro/

Ola Dubh Special Reserve 12 | Harviestoun Brewery Ltd.

367 Reviews
no score
Send samples
For Trade:
Ola Dubh Special Reserve 12Ola Dubh Special Reserve 12

Brewed by:
Harviestoun Brewery Ltd.
United Kingdom (Scotland) | website

Style: Old Ale

Alcohol by volume (ABV): 8.00%

Availability: Rotating

Notes / Commercial Description:
No notes at this time.

Added by Bitterbill on 02-17-2008

View: Beers | Events
User Reviews
Sort by:  Recent | High | Low | Top Raters
Reviews: 367 | Ratings: 800
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.


 512 characters

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.

 802 characters

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!

 302 characters

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

 1,052 characters

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.

 545 characters

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.

 1,025 characters

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.

 1,188 characters

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!

 633 characters

Photo of dwren89
4.48/5  rDev +8.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Appearance: Pitch black, tan head, but disintegrated quickly from the high ABV

Aroma: definite strong alcoholic aroma, slight burn in the nostril, very roasty, slightly smoky, slight peaty scotch, a lot of residual sweetness coming through the nose

Taste: Very roasty but not like a stout-roastiness. Has balanced peat and smoke flavors, slight fruitiness on the finish likely from the scotch. Fruitiness is dark fruits and a very small hint of banana. There are dark chocolate flavors as well as a significant amounto of sweetness from residual sugars. Balanced finish however between roasty and sweet. Hops not detectable

Mouthfeel: silky and thick, very little carbonation, smooth on the swallow with a long, long finish.

Overall Impression: I was very impressed by this ale. It obviously takes in a fair amount of scotch character from the barrel to balance roasted malts with peaty/smoky flavor. Dark Chocolate and sugar sweetness are prevalent in the middle of the drink, but subside slightly as the roastiness comes back in the finish. I think this is a stellar ale, with the only draw back being the slightly too alcoholic nose. I am attributing this nose to the fact that the ale was aged in 12-year whiskey barrels rather than older whiskey, so the alcoholic notes in the barrel will be less mellowed and more pervasive, thus more pervasive in the ale. Fantastic beer overall though.

 1,398 characters

Photo of mick303
4.31/5  rDev +4.4%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25

Vertical tasting, from notes.
A - pitch black, little lacing and film in comparison to the un-BA porter. 3.75
S - intoxicating richness, coffee liquer, herbal, hay notes, so interesting and rich, amazing. 4.5
T - salty smoked fish, smooth creaminess, minerally smoothness and maltiness, toffee note. 4.25
M - rich smoothness, no carbonation, a bit sweet, then dry finish. 4.5
O - a subtle floral edge, vanilla coffee, slight earthiness, very nice beer overall with a pleasant dry finish. 4.25

 492 characters

Photo of KingSlayer
4.35/5  rDev +5.3%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25

12 fl oz bottle poured into a cognac snifter.
bottle presentation is superb. poured a jet black untranslucent oily liquid, a 2 finger dense tan head formed with poor retention, but a nice beige ring and swirl was present on top at all times, beautiful lacing.
nose composed of coffee, vainilla, chocolate, biscuit, soy, and alcohol.
palate is rich and complex, same as nose, bitter hop aftertaste in the back of the tongue and lingering biscuit, chocolate coffee flavor.
full enveloping creamy body, nice carbonation.
overall a very tasty brew, complex, mildly alcoholic, with my untrained palate i couldnt feel the whiskey cask ageing kick in, but i still enjoyed this immensely.

 680 characters

Photo of Huhzubendah
4.25/5  rDev +2.9%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

On draft at Churchkey in D.C. Served alongside the Ola Dubh 21, also on draft.

The beer is black with a small tan head. The aroma offers roast, chocolate, alcohol, oak, smoke, scotch. Very nice. Lovely flavor following the scent. Easy to sip and savor. Medium bodied. Vanilla, chocolate, light booze. The 12 year was a bit smoother than the 21 year, actually, though the barrel character was less pronounced. All in all, a delicious beer.

 439 characters

Photo of Rickythejeweler
4.47/5  rDev +8.2%
look: 5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Bottle No. 58432, Date: July 2011.

A - Dark brown-black, thin khaki head, minimal lacing.

S - Peat, wood, burnt coffee, Scotch, campfire.

T - Starts with dark cocoa, roasted malts, and black coffee. Mid palate is heavy on Scotch, grains, earth, and a hint of vanilla. Finish is burnt, woody, and charred.

M - Medium body, low carbonation, fairly smooth.

O - Most dominate Scotch presence in all of the series. This is my favorite version.

 443 characters

Photo of mattsander
3.94/5  rDev -4.6%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A: Deep dark brown with short beige head.

S: Nutty malt, peaty barrel, coffee, oreo cookies, graham cracker, slightly leathery. Interesting and complex, this doesn't smell much like the barrel aged beers I know.

T: Well balanced and complex, never feels too heavy handed. Big wood flavor, light roasted malt, low acidity.

M: Creamy and medium bodied, a nice sipping beer.

 375 characters

Photo of BradtheGreat7
4.17/5  rDev +1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Review taken from notes almost 2 weeks ago.

330 ml brown bottle with Harviestoun mouse logo, a fine quality green label in highland park style just below ensuring you know which age of Highland barrel were used. a nice tag giving a bit of background on the great relationship amongst brewer and distiller. Harviestoun and Highland Park that is. Poured into an English style port glass(stemmed). Label notes: July 2011, head brewer & master of wood both listed as well as the 57219 bottle #.

A - Ola Dubh translates to, 'black oil', and this brew is properly named without doubt. It's nearly unpenetratable with the smallest bit of dark brown ruby cutting the bottom edges. Soft and cozy black in color with a Small tan head that leaves a thin ring of lace before vanishing.

S - Dark fruit and rich caramel aroma. Tiny whiff of chocolate malt and a scotch booziness.

T - Smoked whiskey and smoked barrels. Dark fruits and a hint of caramel sweetness. A fine acheivement in giving that scotch whiskey barrel flavor.

M - Smooth mouthfeel and booziness is brilliant and easy going. Very enjoyable and drinkable. It's an oil like thickness but still remains thin enough to quench the thirst.

O - this is my first harviestoun brew, but won't be my last. I really enjoyed the 12 and will pick up a few more. Ill do the 16 in a few days, but for now I'm left admiring a brilliant black old ale. I'm big on scotch and bourbon and this one is pure class. I'd recommend Highland park scotch to anyone and after this I can say Harviestoun puts the same amount of brilliance and class into this ale. A real treat.

 1,607 characters

Photo of cvm4
3.88/5  rDev -6.1%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A - Pours a thin black, coffee like and with a light tan head.

S - Very peaty, smokeyness and dark fruits.

T - Roasted malts, chocolatey, smokey & peaty.

M - Medium carbonation & body. Smooth & velvety.

O - I've had my share of scotch & this comes across as a great scotch beer. Really peaty & smokey and smooth as velvet.

 330 characters

Photo of BGDrock
4.17/5  rDev +1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Cellared about 1 1/2 yrs

Appearance: very dark brown, almost pitch; nice mocha head dies to a film disappointingly fast

Aroma: medicinal peat, roasted malt, caramel, anise, raisin, dates; lot;s of rich fruit sweetness with a hint of acid bitterness

Taste & Mouthfeel: texture of hot chocolate - thick and creamy with a bit of chalkiness - and some of the flavour of it too, but add some anise and espresso; these flavours combine with sweet toffee at the start, but then turn to a pronounced bitterness that is not only due to the roasted malt, but also grassy hops; some of the peat character is also sneaking around towards the end, rising in the back of the throat; a port comes to mind - rich dark fruitiness, cherries

Overall: some really great character to this beer, definitely at least partially imparted by the scotch barrels; always like a brew that takes you on a ride of experiences from first sniff to finish, and this is one of them

 950 characters

Photo of SLeffler27
4.15/5  rDev +0.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

The quick, dark walnut brown head is rocky over a very dark beer with reddish brown highlights. Highly viscous with spotty lacing.

Pronounced malt with molasses, licorice, and a light note of mint in the background.

The flavor clearly showcases roasted malt with some baker’s chocolate, moderate bitterness, and plums. The finish has a light bitterness and peat flavors.

Special 12 is dry with a full to dense body and fine, prickly carbonation. The smooth, silky texture gives way to light chalkiness while the alcohol is less than expected.

While this bottle was enjoyed from a Glen Cairn snifter with George, it would be fantastic for reading or contemplation.

 669 characters

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

Bottle purchased from Plonk in Canberra.

Pours a deep, deep brown. Dark and ominous in the centre, with a solid deep toasted edge. Head is a reasonably frothy and solid crest of mocha bubbles. Not much lace, but there's solid residual liquid when swirled. Fine, delicate carbonation forms as the glass is tilted. Looks really good.

Nose is dark and toasty, with lashings of oak and dark smouldering whiskey. There's a slight peppery twang that comes up as it warms, or perhaps vaporises out of the heady alcohol. It's a dark, oaky, delicious beast.

Taste is also good, and aided by a lovely slick, almost oily smoothness. The toasty notes are still present, but the richness of the wood and whiskey is lost a little bit from the nose. Back feels certainly a little bit empty after the depth on the front, but accentuates the volatile booze character that seems to evaporate in your mouth along with the flavour.

Overall, this is a nice beer blended and executed very nicely. By coincidence, my scores for the Ola Dubh series rise as the age of the whiskey barrels do. I'd love to say that it was intentional.

 1,112 characters

Photo of Darkmagus82
4.17/5  rDev +1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Served on cask in a 10 oz chalice glass

Appearance – Served a pitch black brew with no head.

Smell -Oaky and roasty aromas were the heaviest. Mixed with these were some good notes of whiskey, a lighter smoke and some chocolate.

Taste – The taste begins with flavors of roasted malt as well as some chocolate. Flavors of oak and a light whiskey flavor quickly come to the tongue. While the whiskey starts out lighter it grows stronger thought the taste. While the whiskey intensifies, some dark fruit flavors and a bitter herbal flavor come to the tongue. In the end with increases in both the whiskey and roasted flavors, a very satisfying dark boozy flavor is left to linger on the tongue.

Mouthfeel – The body of the beer was on the creamier and smoother side with a very low level of carbonation due to the cask nature of the pour. Nice for the style, although I think I may have been one I would have enjoyed with a bit more carbonation (I should try and find a bottled version).

Overall – Quite tasty and well worth a try. It had a nice roasted and whiskey flavor with all the flavors melding well throughout the taste experience.

 1,149 characters

Photo of Alieniloquium
3.15/5  rDev -23.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

330 mL bottle poured into a Kate the Great snifter. Bottled July 2009.

Appearance - Dark brown with not much of a head. A few islands of bubbles remain but that's it.

Smell - Oaky to a fault. Ashy oak with a peaty whiskey presence. Slightly vegetal aroma.

Taste - Chocolatey malt. Spicy. Smokey scotch flavors. What ruins it is the finish. It's very vegetal. Hoppy bitterness in the finish. Extremely oaky.

Mouthfeel - Bitter and rough from the green flavors. Medium carbonation and easy drinking aside from the overt flaws.

Overall - Decent. I'd not buy it again though. The 16 had a much improved barrel character.

 621 characters

Photo of SebD
4.19/5  rDev +1.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Appearance: It has a nice dark brown color to it. It has a thin tan head that dies down somewhat fast and leaves some lacing.

Smell: The aromas definitly give out hints of dark fruit, chocolate, roasted malts, caramel and some whiskey.

Taste: Like the aromas, it has a nice roasted malt character along with some chocolate, dark fruit, molasses, light caramel and a light hint of whiskey.

Mouthfeel: It has a medium carbonation with a nice overall balance and feel.

Drinkability: It's a very smooth drinkable beer accompanied with good flavors and aromas.

 562 characters

Photo of IceTrey9785
4.35/5  rDev +5.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Finally found this bottle at Total Wine & More in Bellevue, Washington. Decided to give it a try after some fish & chips. Poured the beer into a nice Spieglau Burgundy glass...

A: Dark brown, almost black -- thin off white lace on the top of the beer. Reminds me of thick espresso with the oils floating toward the top of the brew.

S: Bittersweet chocolate, hints of black fruit, roasted hazelnuts and coffee. Smells great, but very subtle. As the beer became warmer the aromas became more precise and defined.

T&M: Rich, thick and full bodied. Not quite as thick as motor oil, but the beer is definitely concentrated. Rich dark cocoa and espresso dominate the palate, with toasted nuts, toffee, and earth shining through on the mid-palate. The oak aging certainly leaves it mark with toasty vanilla extract near the finish. Being that they use Highland Park whisky casks for the beer, there is certainly a salty finish that lingers for a few minutes. Not quite as intense and peaty as the Scotch itself, but it definitely leaves it mark. Fantastic beer with strong flavors and amazing complexity.

Love this beer! So excited that I finally found it. I'm a huge whisky fan, so having the two combined is certainly a huge perk. I find this beer intense, but very inviting and welcoming. The alcohol level is appropriate and the concentration really propels this beer to the next level. Amazing!

 1,397 characters

Photo of acevenom
4.55/5  rDev +10.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Bottle dated July 2011.

Poured into a goblet. Pours black with a thin, quickly dissipating tan head. There are some visible alcohol legs. I pick up the aroma of dark roasted barley malt, chocolate, oak, and that familiar whisky aroma. Those dark roasted malt notes hit up front and the whisky comes right through in the back. I also detect that oak and chocolate from the nose. The malt profile almost comes across as porter-like. Many of those flavors come through in the aftertaste. The body is full with low carbonation. The beer is smooth, but also sticky. It is easy to consume for an 8% beer. This is an excellent beer that I wouldn't mind having again.

 660 characters

Photo of 1Adam12
2.25/5  rDev -45.5%
look: 2.5 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 2 | feel: 2 | overall: 2.5

Pours a blackish brown. No head, no lacing. Smells of malt, soysauce, whiskey, and thats about it. Taste really is not that great. Soy sauce, whiskey, none of the old ale flavors that I'm used to. Mouthfeel is very thin. Overall, man, this was a major let down. I had high expectations for this, and now I wish I could get my money back. Very underwhelming, and just not very good flavors. Too much soy sauce, and little of anything else good. Once was one to many.

 465 characters

Ola Dubh Special Reserve 12 from Harviestoun Brewery Ltd.
92 out of 100 based on 367 ratings.