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Ola Dubh Special Reserve 30 - Harviestoun Brewery Ltd.

Not Rated.
Ola Dubh Special Reserve 30Ola Dubh Special Reserve 30

Displayed for educational use only; do not reuse.

383 Ratings
no score

(send 'em beer!)
Ratings: 383
Reviews: 222
rAvg: 4.26
pDev: 10.56%
Wants: 78
Gots: 91 | 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:
Every bottle of this extremely limited Ola Dubh 30th Anniversary Ale has been individually numbered. Our ale has been aged for up to six months in first fill sherry butts, formerly used to mature Highland Park's award-winning 30 Year Old Single Malt Scotch Whisky. These hand selected butts add subtle whisky notes to what is already a complex ale with its chocolatey mouthfeel and distinctive bittersweet finish. The high ABV has been deliberately created to stand up to, and blend with, the intensity of flavor created by the infused wood.

(Beer added by: rallison on 02-23-2008)
Beer: Ratings & Reviews
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Ratings: 383 | Reviews: 222 | Display Reviews Only:
Reviews by Odysseyalien:
Photo of Odysseyalien
4.3/5  rDev +0.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

OMFG, I didn't expect much from this but now I'm sorry I didn't buy another bottle. I've tried this whole line of old ales and this one, albeit pricey, I think is my favorite.

It pours pitch black. Think moonless night in Maine, minus the stars. Hardly any head when poured and what head there was vanished within a couple of minutes. Very thin strips of lacing. More like the stars retreating from the moonless night adorning the sides of my snifter. The smell is sweet, with subtle alcohol.

The taste -- man this thing has a very subtle sweetness surrounded by oak and alcohol. I'm going to say prayers tonight that one of my favorite bars in New York gets this on tap sometime soon. I'm adding to my bucket list - visit Scotland, tour Harviestoun Brewery, and sip this stuff from the tap or cask till I can't walk. Seriously, this stuff is delicious. I've enjoyed the whole line of the Ola Dubh's but this one takes the cake, at least for me.

Odysseyalien, Oct 27, 2013
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3.75/5  rDev -12%

DanGeo, Dec 01, 2013
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4.5/5  rDev +5.6%

t2grogan, Oct 09, 2014
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5/5  rDev +17.4%

tbryan5, Mar 23, 2013
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4.25/5  rDev -0.2%

DaftPatrick, Aug 17, 2014
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5/5  rDev +17.4%

R_Kole, Nov 01, 2014
Photo of merlin48
4.5/5  rDev +5.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Bottle number 07576. Pours an opaque dark brown body with a surprisingly sturdy tan head that leaves some delicate sheet lacing on the snifter.

Aroma is baked chocolate, smokey peated malt, Scotch whiskey, vanilla, and old oak logs.

Exquisitely smooth on the palate with a subtle carbonation and nearly full body.

Taste is complex, as expected. Chocolate, vanilla, and Scotch whiskey notes open the door to nuances of anise, raisins, and walnuts. Dark roasty bitterness adds complexity. A fireplace smokiness seals the deal.

The Scotch whiskey is a bit more prominent in this one than in the 16 year edition and this one is a bit more complex, as well. A real pleasure to sip.

merlin48, Aug 25, 2008
Photo of JohnnyBarman
4.03/5  rDev -5.4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Part of a double boxed set I got for Christmas, along with the 40 Reserve. A handsome bottle and box combo; both remind me a great deal of those 'mini' sampler scotch bottles. I also love the mouse medallion as well.

Poured into a Duvel chalice. A dark chestnut colour, almost black, but with a touch of lighter tones around the edges. Initially formed a thick, 1/2 inch tan head, but this fizzled out of existence fairly quickly. A thin ring was all that remained. A few flecks of lacing here and there.

Although the nose on the brew could have been more mind-blowingly powerful, it certainly was the highlight of the experience. The scotch notes were unmistakably Orkney, its peaty/leather/iodine character reminding me of the whiskies produced by the nearby Scapa distillery (nearby to Highland Park, anyways) Bourbon, chocolate, cream, dark coffee, dark fruit also made an appearance.

The 30 held its own well, with a strong malty chocolate hit on the front of the tongue and the peaty musky burn towards the back, as is typical of northern scotches. Now the beer doesn't taste like a scotch; it just boasts some strong scotch-like notes. There's still a good Scottish ale background that keeps everything in place. I certainly enjoyed the brew, but again, for something barrel-aged, I was expecting more.

Aggressive, spritzy carbonation at first, but towards the end of the bottle, it almost became flat. I'm going to chock that up to aggressive swirling on my part to induce the nose, as well as the fact that I drank this over the course of about an hour. Thinner bodied, silky.

Like many a high-priced brew, it's good to try this one once, especially if one is comparing it to the 12, 16, 18 and 40, but probably not more than once (unless it's gifted to me, then by all means!). I've had the 12 before, not enough to warrant a review, but enough to find it as drinkable and complex as the 30, so I'm not sure the older barrels are doing as much as the price point says they are. For about 14 bucks a bottle, a beer better be 'damned fantastic'. The 30 was merely 'very good'. till, I have to admit the peaty scotch notes were nice, and the brew itself was worth savoring over the course of an evening, just like I would with a dram of single malt whisky.

JohnnyBarman, Jan 07, 2011
Photo of bsp77
3.9/5  rDev -8.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Serving glass: Poured from bottle into Snifter.

Appearance: Nearly black with very thin head and some spotty lacing.

Smell: Sweet, salty and barely smoky, like a combination of soy sauce, molasses and peat.

Taste: Peat, molasses and chocolate are the stars of the show here. Some nice oak nuances. Scotch-like finish, with some bitter roasted notes as well. Leaves an odd aftertaste in my mouth.

Feel: Very think, syrupy body with low carbonation. Somewhat chalky, but very smooth.

Overall: Very interesting, unique beer. Doesn't really fit any style. This was actually a birthday present from my barber! Glad I tried it (and glad I didn't pay for it), but not something I would return to.

bsp77, Mar 18, 2011
Photo of magictrokini
4.47/5  rDev +4.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

I love beer and I love scotch. Most of the time, the combination is awesome (except for that BrewDog Storm, yikes). This is representative of the former. Pours black with brown edges. Short-lived brown head, slight lacing. Peat and chocolate fill the nose, but don't overtake the caramel and cream. Coffee-and-chocolate flavor hits you first, but the slow burn of the scotch is right there. Lovely centered, sweet cream and toffee finds its way through. Smoky, peaty, oaky, but avoids the oily/soy-sauce tang that some of the younger brews had. A welcome salty-sweet finish as well. Expensive, but worth it.

magictrokini, Jul 24, 2009
Photo of ImFlyerThanYou
4.5/5  rDev +5.6%

ImFlyerThanYou, Jun 28, 2014
Photo of SurpriseTruck
4.75/5  rDev +11.5%

SurpriseTruck, Mar 23, 2014
Photo of beerexplorer1973
3/5  rDev -29.6%

beerexplorer1973, Mar 28, 2012
Photo of rhoadsrage
4.5/5  rDev +5.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

(Served in a snifter)
bottle 04773/sept.2007
A- This beer pours a jet black body with a creamy mocha colored head that is thick and last for about 1/2 of the beer. There are some micro-bubbles that can only be seen up close.

S- The smell of dark black malt is soft and a full smell of wet peat moss comes through with some green peppercorn notes and a graham note to follow. There is a woody oak note that comes through and a cocoa note as the beer warms.

T- This beer has a dry black malt flavor with some taste of green apples, peat moss and whiskey with a soft caramel malt note. There is a softer note of black licorice that is not sweet and a dry cinnamon bark note with some black-strap molasses hints as the beer warms. The finish has a nice soft whiskey note that lingers just a second.

M- This beer has a medium mouthfeel with a slightly full texture and no real alcohol heat.

D- This beer has a good depth of flavor and they are very rich flavors. The barrel compliments the beer and I was looking for a bit of heat to really finish the tasting. Still a wonderful beer.

rhoadsrage, Jun 11, 2008
Photo of FlyingRabbit
4.85/5  rDev +13.8%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

Appearance: Exactly as the name translates to: "Black Oil"

Aroma: You can smell that this was a cask beer, with hints of chocolate, and scotch.

Taste: Absolutely smooth dark chocolately taste that tones down the undercurrent of scotch and black licorice.

Overall: One of the best beers I've had the luck of stumbling upon. Absolutely incredible. Was it worth the $14 I paid per bottle? No doubt. This was drank as an "end-of-vacation" beer, and man, did I wish I had bought a few more. Also, you can feel the alcohol content on this one. Its thick and drinks like it.

FlyingRabbit, Aug 23, 2009
Photo of IntriqKen
4.18/5  rDev -1.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Ok...now the 30.
Reviews put this higher than the others, but I don't quite agree.

Pour is a little darker mahogany with a creamy off white head that leaves sticky lacing and a solid ring. Better than the 16.

Aroma is even milder than the others...no smoke...soft caramel malts and a hint of alcohol.

Taste is milder as well. No smoke at all to my palette...sweet dark amber malts with some candied sugars....a little vanilla and some bitter chocolate that doesn't exist in the 'younger' versions of this brew. Scotch whiskey is very faint and very smooth in this one.

Drying aftertaste with a bit of bitter chocolate. Mouthfeel is creamy, rich and smooth.

Final evaluation of all three and my vote goes to #16

IntriqKen, Mar 08, 2008
Photo of biboergosum
4.15/5  rDev -2.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

'Tis Burns' Night, and I've nae a wee dram in my cupboard - however - I do have a nice selection of Ola Dubh...best I start with the 'oldest' (read: dearest), methinks...

This beer pours a very dark, dense chocolate brown colour, with cola highlights at the edges, and one finger of creamy mocha head, which settles quickly, leaving little in the way of lace around the glass. Upon jamming my nose into the glass, I'm immediately accosted by that Orkney essence - mild peat smoke, salty fish oil, and iodine - all atop a pretty hefty roasted chocolate caramel malt. The flavour follows suit almost to a tee, but with a tilt towards the chocolate toffee malt, as the barrel characteristics are somewhat consumed, and with an afterthought involving a minor coffee liqueur insurrection. Very little in the way of carbonation, as any resident bubbles were last seen back in the short-lived days of the head. This makes for one smooth tipple, and well, not quite creamy, as the alcohol's astringency tugs at the palate just a tad too much. Last rites are given over to a softening seaside fervour, abutting the persistently loyal Scotch maltiness.

I suppose the 'auld' in this ale comes from the time spent in the Highland casks. And it's a good thing - the nip of the northern islands provide a nice edge to this big malty bastard, which hides its booze like a real miser...

biboergosum, Jan 26, 2011
Photo of Metalmonk
4.43/5  rDev +4%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 4.5

Completely, utterly black in color, with a small head that dissipates rather quickly. Only a thin brown ring encircles the top. Looks like decadent stuff.

I remember the aroma on the 16 being terrific; the smells coming off the 30 are absolutely tremendous. Rich gooey fudge, warming alcohol, sherry-soaked dark fruit, a hint of dark roast coffee, vanilla, oak, caramel, even a little graham cracker. Exceptional, indeed.

Flavor is predominantly cola, dark baking chocolate, chocolate fudge/ice-cream, marshmallow, wood, vanilla and alcohol. Not as distinctively Scotch-like as expected. A dark baking chocolate/dark roast coffee bitterness coats the tongue and dominates the finish. This is a wonderful treat, a real sipper and a thing to take slow and behold.

A little surprised at the thinness of body. Leans toward watery, although the mellow carbonation props it up a bit, and the big flavor tricks you into thinking it's thicker than it is. Kind of disappointing in this department.

The strength of this beer is not so much the barrel-aging, but the old ale itself. I'd love to try the old ale in its pure state, before it even hits the barrel. I have a feeling it's a mindblower. The other strength is that this beer will impress Scotch whisky fans, lovers of barrel-aged beers, and even skeptics who generally don't go for this sort of thing. Different enough from the norm that it easily stands out, and actually worth the high price. If the mouthfeel were as viscous and chewy as it should be, it would be an absolute monster.

Metalmonk, Jul 01, 2008
Photo of AKBelgianBeast
4.3/5  rDev +0.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

a pricy bitch at $15.99, but for beer aged in 30yr highland park casks...

Pours a deep dark brown with some small ruby highlights, damn near impenetrable. good off white/light tan head. Nose is peat and smoke with some chocolate. A touch of scotch. Flavor is huge with roasted peat malt, some smokiness, smoked malt, defenite peat and some chocolate notes that dance across the palate at different times during each sip. Slight dark fruit and a bit of cherry. The scotch barrell flavor is very apparent just before and throught he finish. Scotch and wood are clear in the flavor on the end. Mouthfeel is rich and viscous, and low in carbonation, in a good way. Drinkability is hampered a bit by the huge richness here, but is quite good for the style and the abv. Great scotch flavor here without the great sctoch burn. Overall a cherishable brew that i think will be excellent with a bit of age. A truly unique brew, and one i will revisit when i feel like a rockstar. A solid, well crafted old ale, that is a real treat when one can afford it. The scot in my lineage smiles with each sip. Great beer.

AKBelgianBeast, Sep 17, 2008
Photo of cokes
4.65/5  rDev +9.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Bottle 07394/Sept 2007.

Black with just a ray or two of light penetrating the edge, trimmed with small, tan-brown, lacy froth.
Finally! More Highland Park signatures on the nose. The 12 and 16yo expressions left me wanting. This doesn't. Plenty of plummy, anise-rich, fudge and espresso maltiness, but now the Sherry wood and honey and peat and subtle maritime elements of HP show up in the nose of this beer.
It enters with a tidal wave of toffeed fudge, fading slowly to reveal espresso, bitter cocoa shavings, anise, sassafras, liquorice, molasses, chicory, cigar smoke, and peat smoked malt. The 30yo barrels bring a load of sherry to this, turning it quite vinous, but also imparting honey-vanilla candied notes, furthering the smokiness, and adding the trademark salty north island rugged coastal notes. I couldn't really taste the HP stamp on the 12 or the 16. I can honestly say I do here. Maybe it just takes 14 more years of barrel seasoning. The other two I thought needed an accompanying dram to be truly satisfying. I don't think that here, the whisky (or at least the sherry) is already present and accounted for, but as is always the case with Scotch, it doesn't hurt...I just don't think it adds anything, and quickly overpowers a glorious beer.
The mouthfeel is a rich medium, and as with the others, seems like it could support a somewhat larger beer, as this (again, similar to the others) thins as it travels through the mouth.

The other two I thought to be good, whereas this is special. None are cheap, but this one gets into the scary expensive realm. Considering that you get some real taste of a fairly rare $350+ whisky, it may oddly be the best bargain of the three.

cokes, Nov 04, 2008
Photo of Sammy
4.1/5  rDev -3.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

The best and the most expensive of the trio, all tried in a week. Pours black with small bubbly head. Aroma of whisky, a little bourbon. The taste is rich and complete, how would it be after a few more years?A unique ale with a whiskey character. Above average mouthfeel. Feels more "cooked" or complete than the previous two others.
Had on cask at Cole's and it was the clear winner of the festival. Big whiskey but great, above average mouthfee.

Sammy, Jul 20, 2008
Photo of alovesupreme
3.63/5  rDev -14.8%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Served in a wine glass at Deep Ellum. This beer is very dark brown with absolutely no head.
Grapes and grape soda are upfront in the nose with some light molasses. Finishes with a prominent malt character.
Almost like drinking a red wine, a very similar except with a strong malt finish. Carbonation is non existent, a little would have been nice.
A good beer that I dont plan on revisiting again in the future unless more carbonation is a possibility. Cask is probably not the ideal way to drink this beer.

alovesupreme, Mar 31, 2009
Photo of zaphodchak
4.9/5  rDev +15%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

Normalish pour yields minimal orangey head that recedes into almost nothing, body is deep ruddy amber.

Nose is incredible, plenty of wood and peat, with some caramel. A scotch that smelled like this would be a nice one.

Taste is... amazing. Peaty, smoky, complex. This has truly absorbed the essence of the scotch casks in which it was aged. Torn between scotch and beer, why not choose both?

Mouthfeel is impossibly creamy; carbonation is imperceptible, but lends an extra substance and creaminess to the body.

Outstanding, scotchy, little more to be said. It's complex but defies adequate description in human languages. What more can I say?

zaphodchak, May 11, 2011
Photo of dirtylou
4.4/5  rDev +3.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

12oz bottle, graciously shipped to me in a recent bif. available in stores here and quite pricey

bottle #16682 / Sept 07

appearance: sold in an individual box, bottle neck wrapped in black foil with a metal brewery medallion draped around the neck...poured into a snifter, jet black body, creamy chocolate cap and light-moderate retention...opaque and full of intrigue

smell: lovely smooth nose - well aged whisky, vanilla and oak tones provide a great compliment...creamy chocolate

taste: fascinating complexity - enough whisky is present to prevent you from forgetting the life of this great beer. full of oak, vanilla, dark chocolate, caramel and a subtle but brilliant smokiness. this is so much better than the 16 in my eyes. chances are this will be the only time i ever have this (due to the price tag), but i'll certainly savor the experience

mouthfeel: creamy and rich, lingering whisky bite. absolutely not for the faint of heart - drinks like its nearly double the ABV it actually is

drinkability: tough - but great

dirtylou, Jun 14, 2009
Photo of Ciocanelu
4.75/5  rDev +11.5%

Ciocanelu, Oct 01, 2013
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Ola Dubh Special Reserve 30 from Harviestoun Brewery Ltd.
95 out of 100 based on 383 ratings.