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Ola Dubh Special Reserve 30 - Harviestoun Brewery Ltd.

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

Educational use only; do not reuse.

230 Reviews
no score

(Send Samples)
Reviews: 230
Hads: 411
Avg: 4.25
pDev: 13.65%
Wants: 93
Gots: 94 | FT: 8
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: rallison on 02-23-2008

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.
View: Beers (30) | Events
Beer: Reviews & Ratings
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Reviews: 230 | Hads: 411
Photo of Knapp85
3.88/5  rDev -8.7%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Bottle # 15,294: This one was my favorite in the series until I got a hold of the 40 year version of this. This beer poured out as a dark black thick looking liquid. The head was thin and brown is color. Not much lacing here. The smell once again was full of whiskey and barrel aged aromas. The taste of the beer was quite good, lots of roasted malts, dark chocolate and scotch on the taste buds. The mouthfeel of the beer was thick and smooth. It coats the mouth pretty well. Overall this beer is a little pricy but I think to have it once it's worth looking into.

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Photo of ADZA
4.22/5  rDev -0.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Bottle number 36004 and pours a thick black used engine oil hue with average carbonation that leaves a half finger chocolate laced head and no lacing,the smell is smokey oak,dark belgian chocolate and dark berries,the mouthfeel is really silky smooth medium bodied and has tastes of tobacco,strong peated malts,oak,dark black expresso,smoked wood,cherry ripe and finished with a dark belgian chocolate bittersweetness and overall its a very interesting drop and it really is good to see how different each aged whiskey cask brings its own characteristics to make the same drop taste different eachtime cheers.

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Photo of EnemyWithin
3.89/5  rDev -8.5%
look: 3 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Bottled in 2009. Drank on Aug 10, 2011 into Duvel tulip.

Appearance: 3

Black opaque body with ½ inch brown white head . Head very quickly dissipates into thin rim

Smell: 4

Candy sugar, cola with strong vanilla notes from oak. Faint roasty, peaty notes that become more prominent as beer warms.

Taste: 4

Initially soft roast, biscuit malt with hint of bitterness mixed in with a mild sweetness. Quickly whiskey and vanilla flavors of barrel-aging become present, but are not very overwhelming or too powerful. Get nice balance profile. Not too sweet at all. I find that as the beer warms, the smoky, leathery flavors become increasing present.

Mouthfeel: 3.5

On the thinner side, but for whatever reason, I’m not too bothered by this. Balance, without the sweetness of many other barrel-stouts of higher abv that I’ve had in the past. Mild carbonation.

Overall: 4
A very nice beer that has pleasant more refine, even subdued, flavors from the barrel-aging process. Often in the few other beers I have had that have been barrel-aged, I find that the whiskey or bourbon flavors can be over powering at times. In this beer, everything is much soft and airier. And also is not coying sweet. The 8% abv is not noticed at all. That being said, the beer still has strong flavors of Scotch and is quite enjoyable. I can see how some people may be put off by the this beer, but I find it easy to drink and quite interesting. Also curcious what it would have tasted when fresh?
Recommend trying at least once.

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Photo of Nashvillain
4.42/5  rDev +4%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Pours a deep black, delicate bubbles lining the top. The lacing on the sides tries to hold on, but they lose their grip and slide down the sides.

An integrated scent consisting of peat, roast, and wood with very slight undertones of alcohol. Though all of the flavors compete for the forefront, nothing really overpowers, they're all very balanced.

The taste is an embodiment of the smell, with all edges polished. Everything melds together into an amazing combination of peat, roast, and wood with hints of chocolate. The peat and wood really stand out in this beer, I don't feel like I'm really going out on a limb to say the beer is here merely to showcase the barrel.

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Photo of Cavery
3.62/5  rDev -14.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Small bottle shared with Klym, poured into Stone Nonic.

A: Retro pen ink with a slightly off-white filmy ring head. A speckled constellation of lacing that disappears like stars in the wee hours of the morning. The film really seems to last, at least in terms of maintaining the ring formation. Completely opaque, no light is getting through the black void.

S: Dark fruits with a bit of a barbecue character. Barbecued (or at least seasoned/dry-rubbed) figs and charred medjool dates really come forward. Spices touch on a light offering of nutmeg, anise, cinnamon, and peppercorns. A strong whiskey sweetness penetrates through the subtleties to create a challengingly spicy/boozy finish. Smells like quite a refined offering indeed.

T: Really sweet barrel character with no heat at all. There really is a lack of alcohol that is a bit perplexing. The barrel is totally apparent, and the sweetness well integrated; but alcohol escapes the flavor. Dark barbecue oaky-wood chips without too much smokiness, and sweet charred tomatoes There's just this generic-charred sweet fruits aspect that is notable; but at the same time a bit vague. Specific notes take a backseat to the process of brewing this beer.

M: A really typical barrel beer mouth feel with an ephemeral sizzle. There's a bit of a hole in this beer here, and it's illuminated by the mouth feel. There are a lot of very good to great beers that have this same mouth feel; but where that unbelievable flavor would be exists a bit of a whole. A standard solid mouth that survived the barrel, but also points out the short comings of the flavor.

O: I think the mouth is a very revealing part of this beer. There was an aspect to it that I couldn't quite figure out, until I focused on the mouth. This beer is akin to a block of Swiss cheese; it seems to be the work of an artisan, but there are some holes and gaps. There is a canvas here for great pronounced flavors. However, they never really seem to come. There is a bit of a buildup in the nose and initial taste, but a bit of a weak follow through. Noticeably, there is a gap in the middle. Coincidentally, this reminds me a great deal of British food. While I love peas and potatoes; I could never stomach those vinegary mashed peas they serve with their deliciously rustic potatoes. It somehow leaves the overall feel of this beer to be incomplete.

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Photo of Klym
3.68/5  rDev -13.4%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Poured into a stone nonic.

A: Like a dark date, black with translucent brown parts. A slightly browned head sits on top and leaves a very slow dripping curtain of lacing.

S: Fig, brown sugar, and a whiskey like spirit to the scent. I typically don't like the whole fig/raisin taste profile so much (part of the reason why I stay away from some UK beers) but this one is coming through pretty rich and well spiced/brown sugared. I'm liking this. Could visualize a date and fig mix covered in a little clove, coriander, some brown sugar and sizzling on top of a skillet in a small layer of whiskey when I whiff this.

T: Spice takes a larger part of the taste than in the nose. I expected some warming heat and while I get a little in the throat and chest honestly I get some good whiskey character yet with almost zero heat or alcohol in taste. Pretty solid flavors but I admit I preferred the more roast/chocolate character of the earlier numbers.

M: I always applaud the UK beers I've had for their great mouthfeel. The carbonation and body is very nice on this and gives a good platform for everything else going on in the beer. Appropriate to style and the beer itself.

O: I really would reach for 12 & 16 again but not sure I'd reach for this twice. Beer didn't seem super dynamic, and while well-rounded and balanced what it was rounding and balancing was a little emptier than I would hope or expect given 12 & 16. I still would say this is worth a shot though. If you have access to this grab it, but to do it justice it might be worth checking out the rest of the special reserves too. I'm curious to see what 40 is like.

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Photo of sweemzander
4.4/5  rDev +3.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

11.2oz. bottle poured into a snifter. Sept. 2007 vintage. Bottle #2054.

(A)- Pours a fairly thick pitch black. Produced a really nice cap of brown foam. Solid retention. Some lace.

(S)- A mellow peated smokiness. Bits of toasted caramel, raisin, licorice, molasses, and brown sugar. A nice mellow dry damp oak finish.

(T)- Pretty much just like the smell in every way. The peaty smoke character is a bit more prevalent, though some nice cocoa pokes through that was not there in the smell.

(M)- A nice smooth/mellow carbonation level. A really great balance too of oaky peat smoke, roasty malts, and a very smooth and mellow whiskey character.

(D)- Yet again, these keep getting better and better as I try each one of these, and this one takes the cake. Perhaps the most balanced of them all thus far and just really showcases the barrel aging the best of them all as well. Just amazing. Just wish it was not so much for a single bottle of this; luckily I was finally able to try it due to it being on sale.

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Photo of andrenaline
4.37/5  rDev +2.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 5

I chose to crack the Reserve 30 in honor of my 30th birthday today! Thought it was rather fitting... Bottled January 2009 #25,337

A - Pitch black finger of dark beige head with some retention and no real lacing.

S - Bready molasses, dark cocoa, sweet maraschino cherries, a touch of smoke and peat.

T - The whiskey flavours (smoke, peat, sweet caramel and vanilla) shine through off the top, and further linger on the finish. The aftertaste is definitely reminiscent of that following a dram of scotch. The sweet cocoa and molasses notes come through midway in the swallow. Some bitter espresso notes are also noticeable. Certainly a complex and full flavoured ale.

M - Medium bodied ale that fills the tongue, goes down smooth and finishes with a touch of dryness.

O - A very memorable experience and certainly one of the best cask inspired ales I've had to date. Tons of scotch flavours amid a uniquely flavoured porter. Certainly a great celebratory ale, and even more so for my 30th birthday! Highly recommended to any fan of cask conditioned ales, and I can understand why this particular offering is so well received.

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Photo of Kendo
3.95/5  rDev -7.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Bottle # 21429, Sept. 2007. Consumed on 6/25/11, making this one nearly 4 years old. . . .

A: Poured from the bottle into a Stone snifter. Body looks like motor oil - both thick and black. A small tan head is gone fast.

S: Nice. I get plum, molasses licorice and a touch of whiskey.

T: First impression - wood. Make that charred wood over peat malt. Not much more going on, other than a bit of whiskey. Finishes oddly clean and dry.

M: A bit thinner than expected - maybe reaches medium in heft, but barely. Carbonation levels are low.

O: Good. Not blown away by this, but it was interesting.

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Photo of Jazzcrop
4.33/5  rDev +1.9%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Has tastes of black cherries, oak, Trappist yeast, bay leaves, almonds, and spice. Really easy drinking and may possibly be one of my favorite beers. Definitely the best from all the Special Res. so far imo. Smells like rags that were dipped in a malt liquor than dried on a grill with burnt chicken and peat.

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Photo of Allpe45
4.45/5  rDev +4.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Bottle number & date: 22614 / Sept 2007

Appears pretty much black, not completely though. Aggressive pour yields a small cap not amounting to much. It lingers seemingly forever and leaves a bit of lace.

There's an aroma of peat, along with some chocolate, wood, roasty malt, and scotch.

Taste has plenty of complexity and amazing balance. Roast malt, vanilla, and hints of whiskey lead the way, followed by cocoa, peat, and more roastiness. Baker's chocolate and smooth scotch flavors in the finish, no alcohol heat.

Body is somewhat thin, but that is forgivable considering that the base beer was a porter. Low carbonation, smooth and even a bit creamy.

Very easy to drink but this is a beer that should be savored and cherished slowly.

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Photo of LtCracker20
4.22/5  rDev -0.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Bottled 3/09

A- Pours a very dark, almost black, body with a 1-finger khaki head that slowly falls to a very thin cap. Lace is pretty good.

S- Sweet malts, peat, and a faint hint of whiskey and vanilla.

T- Lots of peat and whiskey flavors, not alchohol, but just the whiskey flavoring. Some burnt malts as well. Slight tartness and some faint dark fruits in there, too.

MF- Moderate to medium bodied. Lightly carbonated, and good palate coating flavors.

O- Overall, a very nicely done beer. A lot of whiskey flavoring without the alchohol burn. Well done.

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Photo of Long813
4.37/5  rDev +2.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

A: Pitch black color with little mocha head and decent lacing.

S: Faint notes all around, nice roasted malts, some coffee and whiskey notes.

T: Smooth flavors of coffee, toffee, vanilla, oak, and some slight whiskey. Extremely pleasing brew, best of the series I'd say.

M: Medium-light bodied, good amount of carbonation. The after taste is amazing. No notes of alcohol.

D: Favourite of the bunch, it's amazing - to bad it's not cheaper.

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Photo of steven9000
4.59/5  rDev +8%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

appearance- pitch black with a 1 finger creamy mocha color head.

smell- This beer smells AMAZING! I get lots of milk chocolate and vinilla and cocoa. some dark fruit and a slight hint of alcohol but this smells delish.

taste- I get dark chocolate and peat. I also get a whiskey aftertaste. One thing that i noticed with this beer is that its extremely soft in the mouth.

Mouthfeel- Extremely soft with low carbonation. Medium to full bodied.

Overall- This was such a treat to drink. This was one of the best smelling beers i have smelt. The only thing it was a little expensive at $10.99 for a small 330ml bottle. If this was half the price i would be buying it all the time. This was probably my all time favorite beer. I just loved how good it smelt and taste. AMAZING.

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Photo of tbeckett
4.29/5  rDev +0.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Bottle shared with my Girlfriend during an Ola Dubh tasting.

A - Poured with a one finger, beige head which was gone to a film quickly. Black body with mild visible carbonation. Leaves no lacing but a half finger of retention.

S - Cocoa, vanilla, dark fruit, flight coffee note, roasted notes. Oak and a slight alcoholic note round out the aroma.

T - Cocoa, vanilla, dark fruit, and a roasted coffee note form this. Less whiskey than the others but it's still there, mild but good.

M - Medium carbonation and a medium to full body.

O/D - Lovely. Well balanced and complex while capturing the whiskey element and rounding it out with other good flavours.

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Photo of zaphodchak
4.89/5  rDev +15.1%
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?

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Photo of OBeerMeGreatOne
4.24/5  rDev -0.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Bottle date, March 2009.
Pours out deep black with about half an inch of head, no lace.
The smell starts with cocoa powder and whiskey barrel, plums and earth follow.
I should have served this warmer. I was unimpressed to start, so I waited 20 minutes and re-tasted. Plum, toffee, a hint of tobacco and a little oak and earth make up the start. The finish is all scotch (and good scotch at that). Nice and complex.
The mouth could use some work. I know it's only 8%, but it's a bit too thin, almost watery.
A bit expensive for a 12oz, but a good sipper. Went well with a banger and some chips.

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Photo of cjgator3
4.67/5  rDev +9.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 5

11.2oz bottle

Bottle No. 21981
Bottle Date: Sept. 2007

A- The box the bottle comes in is first class and the bottle and label is top notch as well. Poured into a snifter. Pours a dark black color with a light tan head with great retention and lacing. Looks beautiful in the glass.

S- The aroma is absolutely fantastic. Wow! The aroma is sweet and slightly roasty with chocolate, molasses, brown sugar and peat. Smells delicious!

T- The taste like the aroma leaves me speechless. The taste starts out with some sweetness and roasted malts. The finish features some of the scotch flavors from the cask aging along with some warmth from the alcohol.

M- The mouthfeel is medium bodied with a nice thickness and the perfect amount of carbonation. Spot on.

O- Overall, I am a huge fan of barrel aged beers and this is one of the better crafted beers that I have tried. Highly recommended!

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Photo of lowendfrequency
4.7/5  rDev +10.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

*Disclaimer! I like scotch and my brand of coice is Highland Park. I might be a wee bit biased.

Ola Dubh Special 30 - Vintage February 2009

11.2 fl oz poured into 2 tall fluted glasses to share with a friend.

Pours a shadowy black with mahogany edges where the liquid is thin. A quarter inch chestnut colored head with moderate lacing quickly recedes to the edges of the glass.

The nose is big on chocolate, peat and a subdued smoke. Burnt sugars and a medicinal note are there as well with a slightly oxidized scent that the scotch lover in me has learned to appreciate.

Scotch, scotch, scotch. I love scotch... and this beer delivers. There are hints of roasted coffee, dark chocolate and a malty sweetness but they all play second fiddle to the scotch. This isn't just any scotch either, this is Highland Park 30 year and it's apparent. There is a distinct sherry-like oxidation that I prefer in barrel aged beers as well as a complimentary alcohol note. The peated scotch character hangs on the tongue for what seems like forever.

While the mouth feel isn't huge, it's certainly adequate for this beer. Typically, I expect a big finish on roasty/smoky beers of this type but Ola Dubh 30 crosses the line into single malt territory and has a satisfying finish. One of the most complex and well-balanced barrel aged beers I've had to date.

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Photo of biegaman
4.45/5  rDev +4.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Ola Dubh Reserve 30 looks like something from a gourmet chocolate shop; it appears resolutely black - although does subtly let's on its true brownish tone along the trim - and decadently tasty. Its head, coloured like a walnut, is reserved and stays largely to the sides, leaving little to no lacing in its wake. The packaging, as always, was superb too.

As with the others in the series, my curiosity was too great for me to spend much time looking at it. I had to smell it right away. Not like I had a choice in the matter anyway - the aroma is so strong that it filled the room off the pour. Like the roar of a male lion through a still Savannah air, scents of peat and scorched earth let out a muscular and undaunted bellow. This is followed by restrained espresso-like roast and port-like grapiness.

What ensues is a succession of smells and flavours that are part of the charm and experience of both Highland whiskeys and stouter English old ales: bittersweet chocolate balanced by vanilla, wildflower honey, roasted cereal grains, wood spice, roast nuts, heather, peat, tea leaves and a subtle hint of Curacao orange. With flavour like this it's not hard to see why barrel-aging became all the rage with American brewers.

Although it may border on imperial stout territory and took up residence in the former haunt of a 48.1% percent whiskey, alcohol is a non-issue here. In place of any burning sensation, the palate and throat alike are made to feel at easy by the presence of a campfire-like smoke, an espresso-like roast, a faint anise-like spice as well as lush vanilla and honey sweetness. I opted for a snifter but in hindsight a pint glass would have worked as well.

Do not try to make this at home. I wish it were as simple as blending Highland Park 30 with Harveistoun Old Engine Oil, but I assure you it's not. The barrel this beer called home for an extended period had its previous tenant for 30 years; in a way, this beer was in the works well over a decade before I was even conceived. Considering the results, I'd say it's worth the $16 dollars I spent on it (and the other $16 I spent on a second bottle).

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Photo of xnicknj
3.8/5  rDev -10.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

12oz bottle poured into snifter glass. thanks to cjo for sharing.

Pours a thick black color with a caramel brown edge. A thin tanned head disappears, leaving little lacing on the glass.

Wooden bourbon warmth followed by peat and smoke, molasses w earthy malt and faint sweetness.

Heavily roasted malt with earthy tones and body. Decent bourbon presence with boozy warmth and smoothing oak presence. Caramel sweetness with somewhat aggressive smoke and char. Syrupy sweet towards the finish with slick anise. Finishes warm and roasty.

Fuller body, sticky and syrupy. Nice drinking, but I would like better bal aging integration and some more interesting flavors.

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Photo of garbercury
3.94/5  rDev -7.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Vintage 2007, poured into a snifter...

A--Dark reddish-black, very little lacing and carbonation.

S--Chocolate malt, scotch, great nose. Very unique.

T--Mellow, taste the scotch in this guy. Not a ton of sweetness, interesting.

M--Super feel, really silky on the tongue.

O--Strange, but good. Certainly not a brew you are going drink a lot of, or all that often, but certainly worth a try...

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Photo of bsp77
3.9/5  rDev -8.2%
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.

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Photo of windypete
4.35/5  rDev +2.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

poured into glass a very dark black & thick looking. with a light chocolate one finger head.

aroma was very mellow with peat & malty notes & whiskey tones to it.

taste, wow a very smooth mellow taste. charcol,coffee & peaty very nice tasting beer indeed!.

overall a better more smoother & mellower beer than the reserve 12 edition, just a great beer to try, not everyone will love this beer but for me great! just need to try the 16,18 & 40 versions now.


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Photo of wordemupg
4.3/5  rDev +1.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

330ml bottle poured into tulip feb15 2011

A near black with a fast falling fingers worth of dark tan foam that leaves a single ring of lace

S smokey chocolate with some licorice and charred wood

T all I smell with some tobacco and leather, lots of evidence of the whiskey barrels with the smokey earthy goodness and some faint espresso, fairly complex and where the 8% of booze is hiding I'll never know

M not overly thick but still not thin, just enough carbonation to give it a creamy feel and long lingering flavors

D quite mellow and a little too easy to drink, just about perfect for this chilly night

this bottles a little over two years old and I can't see how it could mellow out further, I'm undecided if I need a few of these to age, at 12bucks a bottle it's not for the faint of heart. Who am I kidding? If this beers this mellow after 2 years I can't imagine it on its BB date

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Ola Dubh Special Reserve 30 from Harviestoun Brewery Ltd.
94 out of 100 based on 230 ratings.