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Ola Dubh Special Reserve 40 - Harviestoun Brewery Ltd.

Ola Dubh Special Reserve 40Ola Dubh Special Reserve 40

Displayed for educational use only; do not reuse.

163 Ratings
no score

(send 'em beer!)
Ratings: 163
Reviews: 110
rAvg: 4.28
pDev: 10.05%

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: Nickls on 01-29-2009)
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Ratings: 163 | Reviews: 110 | Show All Ratings:
Photo of kkipple

South Carolina

4.68/5  rDev +9.3%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

**from extensive notes**

On draft, out of a cask! at the world-class Brick Store Pub's 14th Anniversary party, where the hits just kept on coming. I should note that this was the second-best beer of the day for me, and we were there for over 10 hours. Allagash Little Big Beer being the winner.

A. Served in the Ola Dubh goblet, which itself is a thing of beauty. Olda Dubh 40 is a gorgeous ying / yang of inky darkness and dense, dark tan foam that provides zero lace, yet never falters over the age this took to drink. The ale is still, there are no bubbles to be seen. Imposing, for sure.

S. Magnificent. One could be forgiven for thinking otherwise, this really didn't start to get interesting till it was nearly room temperature. Once it is, the nose can stand against nearly any other barrel aged beer in existence. The aroma is heavy, sweet, complex and smoky, extremely dense and complementary. Smoked pork and a fascinating, 'sea breeze' mellow Scotch are all here, sweet and alluring, blended and lush. There is zero sharpness here, just soft layers of heavy black delight. No improvement possible.

T. The flavor on display is only slightly less impressive. To put it bluntly, this is really for people who appreciate whiskey, and Scotch in particular. It's a mature, comprehensive, contemplative beer, and one that demands attention and slow savoring. Sweet, first, and heavy; everything here is roasted. A hint of barrel-sour falls into an earthy, salty, oily well. Again, nothing here is sharp or even bold.

M / O. Earthy and damp, the finish is wonderfully long and meandering. Lower carbonation (cask, remember) emphasizes just how dense and hearty this beer is. Simply delightful, but I feel like you have to have facial hair to fully appreciate this.

Bottom line: This is the most mellow and challenging of the Ola Dubh lineup, and in my opinion the best. I'm sure the cask presentation adds to the allure. Now with two weeks left in the year, this remains as one of the very best beers I've had in 2011. I do hope to have it again, but I'm willing to wait as the beer did for me.

A quick word on price: yes, this can be silly expensive in the bottle, you may end up paying over $20 for it. Is it that much better than the 12 year (which I rated a 4.4)? For some of you, it will be. If you have a whiskey-tooth and give this one the time and attention it deserves, it's worth the cash.

Serving type: cask

12-21-2011 02:41:43 | More by kkipple
Photo of DoubleSimcoe

New York

4.72/5  rDev +10.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Harviestoun Ola Dubh 40 on cask and into a big goblet at Max's Taphouse in Baltimore, Maryland.

Appearance: A tanned brownish head, quite fluffy and carbonated, lingers. No lacing or carbonation, though. Beautiful jet-black pour, good consistency. Thinner than the draft version of at least one other Harviestoun beer I've had (18 year) but better and more enjoyable overall.

Smell: Sweet malts, creamy dark chocolate. Crystallized sugars. Like a liquid dessert. Bourbon barrel and some alcohol.

Taste: Smoke upfront. Then bourbon (whiskey, I guess, but I have never had a "real" British/Scottish/Irish whiskey). Oak and some distant vanilla from faraway lands. I ought to rate this as exceptional. There is almost nothing like it.

Mouthfeel: Low carbonation, medium body, full flavor. No carbonation, more like a bourbon, but fine (not like some old ales that are flat and just plain odd). Beautiful overall, smooth and creamy.

Drinkability: Good for an 8% beer with lots of whiskey and cask aromas. It hits after a while, but it drinks really good. Well balanced.

I will seek this again, despite the $8-$9 tag.


Serving type: cask

11-16-2010 04:54:37 | More by DoubleSimcoe
Photo of darklordlager


4.22/5  rDev -1.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Had at Happy Gnome's Firkin Fest 2010

A: Pours a dark brown/black with no head. Looks to be clear if it weren't so dark.

S: Molasses, vanilla/oak, dark fruit, chocolate, whisky, caramel, with some booziness.

T: Peat, dark fruit, molasses, vanilla/oak. Definitely a sipper, but something to behold.

M: Very spirit-esque. Starts off medium-thin bodied and moves into a dry spirity finish.

D: A sipper for sure--something to sit back with for a couple hours (much more like a Scotch).

Serving type: cask

06-25-2010 07:38:24 | More by darklordlager
Photo of mothman

United Kingdom (Wales)

4.33/5  rDev +1.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Had this at Firkin Fest 2010 a little after the Ola Dubh 18

Pours a 1/4 finger of fizzy tan head. Color is oil black. Very thick.

Aroma: Identical to the 18 year but more rounded it. Huge whiskey/bourbon and oak flavors. Roasted malts and chocolate. Fairly rich.

Taste: More whiskey flavors than the 18. Doesn't taste like beer really. Bigger oak flavors as well. Very interesting.

Mouthfeel: Hot, warming, and smooth. Well done. Low carbonation with a full body. Ends warm.

Overall., better than the 18 year. However it is not like beer, but more of a whiskey. Fairly drinkable for what it is.

Serving type: cask

04-02-2010 18:35:23 | More by mothman
Photo of aerozeppl

New York

4.58/5  rDev +7%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

On cask at Mahar's.

A: Jet black with coffee colored head. Glorious cask head with each bubble clearly defined. No visible carbonation through the darkness. A slight touch of lacing but not much at all.

S: Whiskey and oak. Just a massive nose. Beyond that a little bit of chocolate and roast. The more it warmed up the more the chocolate and oak came out.

T: Whiskey. Not just whiskey but really good whiskey. Plenty of oak and just enough chocolate to balance it out. More of an intense dark chocolate. Good whiskey really downplays how good this was.

M: Perfect cask mouthfeel. Heavy and light. Creamy. Perfect.

D: I liked the 30 on cask a little more. This beer is a whiskey lover's dream. A really awesome beer that I was lucky to be able to try on cask.

Serving type: cask

02-17-2010 15:46:13 | More by aerozeppl
Photo of woosterbill


4.6/5  rDev +7.5%
look: 3 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

On cask at Lazy Boy Saloon into an Old Engine Oil snifter.

A: Practically still black body - just a tiny scattering of bubbles around the rim. Only the slightest glint of orange-brown at the extremities when held up to light. No lace, but nice legs.

S: Beautiful, wonderful Scotch: robust caramel malts, lightly peaty smoke, and strong woodiness. I'm looking forward to this more and more.

T: Like the smell, this seems far more like fine Scotch whisky than beer. Delicately sweet malt stars things off, with profound woodiness and balanced smoke coming through as things develop. Smoke on the finish. It's amazing - the only feature of delicious Scotch that doesn't come through here is the booze; this is extremely smooth throughout. I couldn't have hoped for anything more.

M: It even feels like an old Scotch - silky medium-full body with no carbonation at all. Normal I insist on at least some effervescence in a beer, but this one on cask is an exception.

D: More of a sipper, but only because only small sips are needed to enjoy the intricacies of flavor. Amazing beer.

Notes: I don't know what more to say about this breathtakingly delicious beer. I feel so lucky to have stumbled upon the 40 on cask (and for only $8!). As great as it was, though, I don't know if I can bring myself to shell out for a bottle of this any time soon. I certainly wouldn't blame anyone for doing so, though. If you like Scotch, you'll love this beer.


Serving type: cask

01-30-2010 23:44:00 | More by woosterbill
Photo of drabmuh


4.8/5  rDev +12.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

Cask tapped at the opening of Birch and Barley / Churchkey in Washington DC. Beer served in a snifter. Beer is dark, big bubble brown head, nearly non-existant and disappears quickly, low carbonation, no head to speak of.

Aroma is sweet and creamy. Not what I expected. No hop, no alcohol to speak of, maybe slightly. The sweetness is not the brightness of the alcohol at all, more like chocolate, almost raisin.

This beer in insanely smooth. Some woody notes in the flavor, really sweet up front, almost nothing in the back, medium body, great mouthfeel, drinkability really high. No aftertaste. Beautifully balanced beer all around.

Serving type: cask

10-23-2009 14:54:02 | More by drabmuh
Photo of cyraxx


4.43/5  rDev +3.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4

From Zeno's cask festival in State College, poured into a goblet...

A- Black with some crimson hue around the edges of the glass and absolutely no head.

S- Smell is of scotch, cherry, vanilla, wood.

T- Taste follows suit with the wood more pronounced and some chocolate flavors as well.

M- Incredibly smooth.

D- Somewhat low but still high enough that I can easily make it through a 10oz portion. Some might disagree with me.

Overall a fantastic beer, probably one of my favorites.

Serving type: cask

09-26-2009 20:58:12 | More by cyraxx
Photo of Seru1


4.93/5  rDev +15.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

I had this at a beer dinner on 7/25/09

Appearance- Perfectly black with red round the ends like a glass of old port. There's no head to really speak of

Smell- French oak aromas. Like a fine french wine or a Glenlevit 15. Vanilla, honey, and red berry. There is a ton to take in in the nostril arena. Like a very fine scotch I never had a beer this intense.

Taste- Big Flavors of cherry and vanilla swim around the tongue with hints of oak and leather. Just like sipping a fine old scotch, it's hard not to gush but this beer stole my heart.

Mouthfeel- Full bodied and wonderfully lasting, comforting. Phenomenal beer.

Drinkability- I wish it weren't only available in a cask and so rare, because I would love to drink this beer all day long.

Serving type: cask

07-27-2009 01:26:38 | More by Seru1
Photo of danadeny


4.53/5  rDev +5.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 5

Pours a dark stout body dark brown not yet black. Head is nice and bubble and light brown. Smells of smooth oak and raisens and coco. Taste smooth buttery front with not much in the middle then a oak barrel and alcohol finish. Very very smooth. At times it seems almost flavorless. Great balance. Moth feel is oily slick a little foamy. The drinkability is insane so smooth so balanced. Amazing.

Serving type: cask

07-10-2009 00:24:19 | More by danadeny
Photo of DefenCorps


4.38/5  rDev +2.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

On cask at Maxs.

Like the Ola Dubh 30, this one is dark brown with a dark brown head. Retention is poorer, but this still is a good looking beer. Again, the nose is smoky, peaty, chocolate-y, but smoother, milder and a little more delicate. The peat is a little bit more, and the smoke, a little less. Excellent stuff. Not very boozy, and the whisky notes are incredible. On the palate, the nose is replicated, opening up with the whisky, along with a mild licorice, brown sugar, nuttiness. Finishing rather dry and smoky with some whiskey, this beer is a treat. Excellent stuff

Serving type: cask

06-26-2009 13:30:48 | More by DefenCorps
Photo of Georgiabeer


4.75/5  rDev +11%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

Had this on cask, gravity poured at the Brick Store Pub. I'm a great lover of whisky or whiskey laced beers, at least via the barrel, and this one is no exception. Superb, and my favorits of the series after the 30 year cask. Pours black with no head, but no worries here. Smells of peat, the barrel, and whisky. Very smooth and balanced and not in the least bit hot- compared to say, the 18 which was quite so. The taste is beautifully balanced with lots of restrained whiskey character. Briny, smooth, peaty, malty, and simply whiskyish. Wonderful. Ultra smooth in the mouth and deliciously drinkable.

Serving type: cask

05-06-2009 03:02:14 | More by Georgiabeer
Photo of JohnQVegas


4.4/5  rDev +2.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Pours an smooth, opaque black with no head at all.

Nose is chocolate, smooth, a hint of peaty acidity, and a very subtle, mellow roasty underpinning.

Taste is rich and so mellow - smooth milk chocolate notes, with a tiny bite of acidity, a very subtle peaty smoke note, and an earthy, organic finish. Very unique beer.

Mouthfeel is smooth, but with that round, silky, gentle fluffiness that comes from well conditioned cask. Superb.

30 on cask is still my favorite, but this one is still a gem. Several of my favorite barrel-aged beers are Scotch aged, and this one reinforces that streak.

Serving type: cask

04-09-2009 18:58:35 | More by JohnQVegas
Photo of gford217


4.22/5  rDev -1.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

On cask at the Brick Store.

Arrives ink black in the glass with only a few bubbles around the top, all of which recede quickly to nothing and leave no lacing.

The aroma is big on this one and dominated by the scotch barrels. There are some sweet malts in the background.

The taste is a little different as the sweet chocolate malts come out more as well as some dark fruits. The scotch is present but not as dominate as the nose and the taste, overall, is like a scotch-soaked chocolate dessert.

The mouthfeel is very slick and smooth with almost no carbonation and plenty of barrel presence.

I really enjoyed this one, especially the taste which was very well balanced given the barrel aging. Very tasty.

Serving type: cask

02-21-2009 05:45:54 | More by gford217
Photo of bhalter8


4.33/5  rDev +1.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

The run of casks leading up to the Ola Dubh 40 yr at the Brick has been fun. 40 yr was certainly an exciting pour. Looks very similar to the 30 yr in that it is an ink black, this one has little to almost no head though. Very low carbonization, as well, it really looks like ink, really... The whiskey smell is apparent, with some sweet malt hints. A very warming feeling as soon as it hits your mouth, the whiskey is once again significantly present. There is some , maybe caramel, sweetness in the background that provides an interesting dynamic to the whiskey. I enjoyed drinking this to start off my evening at the Brick, but the strength of it, and the whiskey, makes it more of a beer that stands on it own. Definitely a distinct, and delicious flavor.

Serving type: cask

02-21-2009 03:30:37 | More by bhalter8
Photo of glid02


4.53/5  rDev +5.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Had this at the glorious Brick Store Pub in Atlanta.

Pours black with dark brown highlights and a large-bubbled tan head the recedes very quickly into a thin ring around the glass leaving no lacing.

Smells of whiskey with hints of chocolate and roasted malts. The whiskey isn't overpowering though, which is impressive.

Tastes similar to how it smells. Whiskey flavors are at the forefront, although it still retains a good amount of "beer" flavors. Light chocolate flavors and roasted malts are there, along with simple sweet malts. The ending holds a bit of alcohol burn along with whiskey flavors that stick around for a bit.

Mouthfeel is interesting. It has the tiniest amount of carbonation, but it manages to not taste flat.

Drinkability is good - at least for me. I'm a fan of whiskey, and I could sip on this beer for quite a while.

Overall this is one of those Sam Adams/Calagione "extreme beers" that pushes the limits of what beer can be. The whiskey flavors are as intense as any beer I've had, but it still manages not to go too far over the threshold. Be sure to give this one a shot if you can.

Serving type: cask

02-21-2009 00:40:36 | More by glid02
Photo of ATLbeerDog


4.28/5  rDev 0%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4.5

Gravity Pour from a 40L Steel Cask at The Brick Store Pub - Pours pitch black almost completely opaque with a small one finger head that immediately recedes. Smells mostly of whisky with some burnt roasted malts in the nose. First sip is tangy with a rush of whisky being by far the most dominate flavor. There is chocolate and a tad of coffee along with some burnt malts and dark fruits all a supporting role. As it warms, some vanilla and smoke appear adding to the beer's complexity. There is absolutely no carbonation present and the beer is fairly light bodied. I sipped this in a vertical of Old Engine Oil, 12 Year, 30 Year, and a shot of 12 Year old single malt Highland Park Whisky. The difference between the 30 and the 40 year versions were minuet.

Serving type: cask

02-20-2009 15:36:40 | More by ATLbeerDog
Photo of LittleDon


4.47/5  rDev +4.4%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 5

8 oz. pour into a snifter. Dark brown to black with no head or noticeable carbonation. Yeasty nose with hints of whiskey. Sweet, caramelized malt taste and medium-heavy on the tounge. Aldehydes in the finish with hops barely present.

Very interesting beer. The whiskey barrel aging is evident in the nose, but not overly so. Sweet, but not cloying. The taste reminded me of the sweetness found in dark bread. The finish was complex, with cabernet notes. Might have had a second if it wasn't so expensive ($16 US) and this isn't a style of beer I usually drink.

Serving type: cask

02-20-2009 12:53:48 | More by LittleDon
Photo of johnmichaelsen


4.28/5  rDev 0%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

On tap/cask at Mahaffey's the other day.

The beer pours a blacksih brown color with fairly good head retention and lacing. The nose on this beer is attractive, consisting of molasses, peat, light chocolate and vanilla. The peatiness in this beer is very dominant in this beer and is almost too much of a good thing. Nevertheless, like the 30, it adds some additional comlexity to the aroma that is attractive and intriguing. The beer is pretty delicious on the palate, with the flavors replicating the nose. The beer has a very soft, plush mouthfeel, with a long, creamy finish. Alcohol is pretty well disguised and I had no problem knocking back a couple of 5 ounce glasses.

A nice beer, though I'm not sure it's any better then the 30. Unless they were priced similarly, I would probably always get the 30.

Serving type: cask

02-16-2009 19:29:37 | More by johnmichaelsen
Photo of bonbini26

New Jersey

4.2/5  rDev -1.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

On cask @ the Rattle n Hum 02-07-09

A - black as night pour with very little carbonation, barely a head that fades quickly

S - Whiskey, vanilla, oak, charred smoked smell

T - Def. taste the whiskey but its not overwhelming, then the smokiness of vanilla and oak, no carbonation, almost on the sweet side

M - no carbonation at all, silky smooth

D -Def. a sipper, stands up to any whiskey barrel ale i've had before

Serving type: cask

02-08-2009 10:12:11 | More by bonbini26
Photo of Nickls

District of Columbia

4.43/5  rDev +3.5%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

(From notes)

A - Near jet black appearance, with brown highlights and hues around the edges. Poured with a thin tan head that quickly dissipated. Looks very dense.

S - Emphatic (in a good way) whiskey aromas with definitive vanilla and oak aromas as well. Really great in this dept.

T - Whiskey dominates at first, but the vanilla comes into play wonderfully as you continue. Some earthiness and almost savory characteristics as well

M - A little viscous and oily, but not as heavy as the other aspects of the brew might suggest. Very muted carbonation (on cask), but suited the brew very well

D - Very drinkable in that the overall complexity of the brew demanded another sip. Very easy to sip and enjoy.

Overall, this was a fantastic brew. I would highly recommend.

Serving type: cask

01-29-2009 14:33:08 | More by Nickls
Photo of Resuin


4.51/5  rDev +5.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4.5

Poured from an 11.2 ounce bottle into a snifter. This was bottled in January 2009, so has nearly 5 years of age since bottling. Bottle #51952.

Appearance: Pours black and leaves about a half finger of tan head which fades away relatively quickly to a rim around the glass.

Smell: Roasted malts, peat, big fudge, coffee, whiskey, oak, lots of dark fruits: plums, raisins, figs. Well balanced aroma with a lot of good flavors.

Taste: The taste is a bit milder than the aroma. Light fudge, roasted malts, mild whiskey, plums, figs, finishes with oak. Really mellow flavor - I bet the time in the bottle did this. Mild, tasty, smooth.

Mouth-feel: Really low carbonation, but some. Actually a surprisingly light to medium body (for the style, this is surprising). Finishes super smooth.

Overall: Very mellow old ale with really well balanced, pleasant flavors. The ABV is all but hidden. Everything in here is wonderful, and it is a real easy drinker. Definitely recommended if you can find it.

Serving type: bottle

11-26-2013 23:25:39 | More by Resuin
Photo of Dope


4.26/5  rDev -0.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

Jan 2009 bottling, coming up on 5 years old.

A: Pitch black pour with a small, dense medium brown head. Head fades slowly with great retention. Zero lacing.

S: Big peat and caramel notes. Hints of smoke when swirled, very mild though. Nice sweet chocolate backing everything up.

T: Peaty with lots of caramel up front. Vanilla too. Lightest hint of smoke mixing with lots of chocolate in the middle and finish. Spicy on the back end with more hints of peat and oaky vanilla. Kind of a chewy caramel lingering between sips.

M: Medium-heavy with a nice viscous, syrupy mouthfeel.

O: Hmph. I've had all of the Ola Dubh brews and I found them all to be surprisingly different. I didn't like the 30 very much but I liked the 18. The 12 was a little too mild on the barrel aging. This one is pretty damn close to "just right" along with the 18. This one is more complex though. Nice balance of flavors too. Really nice.

Serving type: bottle

09-11-2013 01:55:43 | More by Dope
Photo of bobhits


3.83/5  rDev -10.5%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Dark yet weak body. Relatively flat with mild carbonation.

Caramel, oak, slight smoke and a hint of peat.

Caramel, smoke, peat, with a floral hop finish. A bit of chocolate and molasses as well. A very light and understated beer, doesn't have the power one expects from a beer that costs this much, but at the same time inviting and lingering.

A bit of a bit from alcohol or something. Very very light carbonation and low body.

I can't recall the other versions of this well so I can't comment on how this varies. A mild body and unique mix of caramel and scotch notes makes this very exciting.

Serving type: bottle

02-23-2013 04:41:04 | More by bobhits
Photo of thecheapies


4.2/5  rDev -1.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 4.5

Ola Dubh 40. August, 2010.

Pours about-black with a half-inch of tan foam.

Peaty, but chocolaty. Cream-like aroma with some spent espresso ground character and char. Extreme roast plus sugars. Snippets of caraway and caramelized fruit.

Enormous Scotch influence of smoky wood, peat, vanilla, some chocolate, floral notes, and burnt bread malts. Caramelly, too.

Drinks thinner than style would dictate, but it's not offending. Okay carb level still left in the bottle, so I'm satisfied.

Awesome old ale. Can't wait to try the 30 yr.

Serving type: bottle

12-19-2012 02:12:23 | More by thecheapies
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Ola Dubh Special Reserve 40 from Harviestoun Brewery Ltd.
95 out of 100 based on 163 ratings.