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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 Sammy

Ontario (Canada)

3.88/5  rDev -9.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Pours black with no head. Like a cask in a bottle, but there is some carbonation. A sipper, with whiskey, dark fruit even imperial stout characteristics with a tad of roast and chocolate. Richness in taste, above average mouthfeel. Some sweetness helped. Have with a full meal.

Serving type: bottle

12-27-2009 23:40:35 | More by Sammy
Photo of mikesgroove

South Carolina

4.1/5  rDev -4.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

completely opaque except for just the smallest amount of reddish brown that peaked through on the sides when you held it up directly to the light, but still this was enormously big looking.

deep caramel smell coming off of this, literally took me by surprise. Nice aroma of oak and alcohol mixing and swirling around with it now, really starting to pick up steam the warmer it got. Warm oak infused notes of brandy like alcohol running over the tongue, so sweet and sugary. As you roll it around you start to notice there is a little bit of a bitter bite to this one. Way down deep under all of the malt, there was a subtle bitter hoppiness, very grainy and earthy, but it was there, and really pushed through on the finish. Long drawn out finish it was, The alcohol was so well blended, it was a deadly combination. Soo mellow and smooth, understated, it lured you in and would not let you go. The body was as rich and smooth as the flavorDeep dark fruit now coming through for me, really started to actually dominate the scene all together. Huge raisin and plum notes giving it that sweet but yet tart dark fruit flavor we all come to love. A spicy touch in the back perhaps, but here comes that little bit of bitterness to wrap it all up.

Serving type: bottle

12-03-2011 18:53:17 | More by mikesgroove
Photo of Phyl21ca

Quebec (Canada)

4.5/5  rDev +5.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Bottle: Poured a deep black color ale with a large dark brown foamy head with good retention and some lacing. Aroma of sweet roasted malt with dominating notes of warming scotch is quite enjoyable. Taste is also dominated by loads of scotch notes with some light vanilla and oak with marries very well with the base sweetness form the malt. Body is quite full with a creamy texture and some good carbonation with no apparent alcohol. Very well done and would buy some again even with the steep price tag.

Serving type: bottle

03-29-2010 20:08:19 | More by Phyl21ca
Photo of Thorpe429


4.13/5  rDev -3.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Reviewed from notes.

Served in a tulip glass. Pours black with no head or lacing. Nice pitch black color. The nose is really complex and intriguing with whiskey, oak, light vanilla, dark chocolate, roasted malt, and a bit of alcohol. The taste is a bit overly boozy but still quite nice with a lot of whisky and chocolate. The booze fits well in the feel as it's interspersed throughout and finishes nicely. Drinks well; nice sipper.

Serving type: bottle

11-14-2010 00:28:49 | More by Thorpe429
Photo of biboergosum

Alberta (Canada)

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

Packaged in a nice whisky-esque faux-wood grain box, with a small heavy medallion affixed to the neck of the bottle by a string, which announced my arrival wherever I carried this bad boy. Since I obtained this from the Summerhill LCBO in Toronto, that has been no small number of places...

This beer pours the (not 'a') black void, full stop. No edges, no tints, nada. It gives up two fingers of creamy mocha head, which melts away quickly, rendering a pencil-thin circumference of lace around the glass. It smells of non-Islay island whisky - very mild peat smoke, soft seaside iodine, oaky caramel, a bit of chocolate, a bit of oily nuttiness. The taste is lighted roasted caramel malt, Highland Park whisky barrel - mild, balanced smoke, peat, iodine, chocolate, and vanilla. The expected alcohol is notable only by its perceived absence. The carbonation is practically non-existent, the body full, creamy, oily ('Dubhish'?), and thick, and it finishes fairly sweet, offset a fair bit by the briny barrel attributes.

A lovely union of ale and whisky making expertise. Eminently enjoyable and drinkable for every reason but the price - 18 Canuckbucks, and in Ontario only, for that matter. That said, it was difficult to ignore this offering, given that I recently finished the 12 and 18 year old Highland Park malt whiskies, and trying the 40 year old, by proxy, I just couldn't say no. Like the fine whiskies, worth trying once for the extravagance alone.

Serving type: bottle

06-12-2010 01:53:49 | More by biboergosum
Photo of MasterSki


4.15/5  rDev -3%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Stumbled across this at Sam's South Loop and figured I should give it a shot. Served in an Atomium snifter.

A - Surprising foam for an old ale - a half finger of tan foam that dissipates fairly quickly to a ring. Black with some dark, dark brown hints at the fringes of the glass.

S - Dark fruits, smokey peat, wood, whiskey, chocolate, roast malts. Nice balance while rich and complex. It's a little boozy but it obviously is stylistically appropriate.

T - The taste is much smoother, without as much of the whisky flavor and more of the dark fruit old ale/barleywine flavor going on. There's still some wood flavor in the aftertaste, but I don't get as much of the smoke or whiskey flavor. The milder taste makes it easier to drink but also makes me feel cheated a little compared to the wonderful smell.

M - Consider this was basically a cask-only offering until now I'm pretty satisfied with the mild carbonation and medium-to-thick body. It's not totally flat but it's very smooth and leaves behind some dry smokiness and sticky caramel sensations.

D - The 4oz serving was plenty after two pints of Double Jack, but I'm pretty confident I could have had the whole bottle if it was earlier in the session. The aftertaste is smoky but not overwhelming, and the ABV is surprisingly low for a barrel-aged brew that is this rich in flavor.

I'm going to have to re-visit the other Ola Dubh brews to compare them against this one. If you're a Scotch whiskey lover this is worth trying for sure.

Serving type: bottle

07-04-2009 00:32:17 | More by MasterSki
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 Knapp85


4.68/5  rDev +9.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

I fell in love with this beer the first time I had it a few years ago now I've had the chance of having it again and it still kicks ass. The pour is a great black color with a tan head that leaves a nice ring around the top of the glass. The smell is so awesome, it's got a magical sweet smell. The whiskey wooden smell adds to it. It's hard to really explain but it's great. The beer tastes sweet and with a whiskey back bone. There is some vanilla in there not much chocolate but a little bit and a good amount of smokiness there too. The flavors are strong and very pleasing. The mouthfeel is pretty smooth with some light carbonation. The overall take on this brew is just really good in my opinion. I could drink a lot of this but it's very pricey.

Serving type: bottle

05-16-2011 04:51:49 | More by Knapp85
Photo of jwc215


3.9/5  rDev -8.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Bottle no. 48684 - Bottled in January 2009 -

Pours very dark brown to black with a fading light brown head that becomes a thick ring.

The smell is of vanilla/oak with chocolate, some smoke and a hint of anise.

The taste of whisky blends with chocolate - less woody and more whiskyish than I remember the others being (esp. the 18, which I had shortly before this one). Sweet with some woody and peat smoke dryness in the finish.

Hits full-body with light-to-medium carbonation.

Potent - whisky sharpness shows on this one. It has a dark malty, lightly smoked character along with the wood/whisky barrel character. Very nice, though not worth the $20 an 11.2 oz. bottle for this one, IMO.

Serving type: bottle

12-09-2009 02:15:14 | More by jwc215
Photo of jdhilt

New Hampshire

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

Pours a three finger light tan head that fades very slowly to a thin layer, leaving a good lace. Black color, no highlights. Strong whiskey nose. Medium carbonation and heavy bodied. Flavor is sweet burnt coffee and whiskey. Nice old ale but so is Harviestoun's 12 year that is $9 cheaper. Ages well, bottled 1/2009. Beyond expensive at $18.00 for ONE 330ml bottle from Tully's Beer & Wine Wells, Me.

Serving type: bottle

03-12-2010 22:53:38 | More by jdhilt
Photo of biegaman

Ontario (Canada)

4.03/5  rDev -5.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Ola Dubh 40 emerges from the practically ancient barrel black as night with no room for highlights what so ever. As for carbonation, that train obviously left the station long ago. The liquid is flat and no amount of swirling can bring back what extended barrel aging and nearly three years in the bottle undid. So what, it still looks great.

The beer itself may only be 8% but it's absorbed enough alcohol to make one dizzy. The other side of that, of course, is that the depth in the aroma seems to be endless. It's not so great as to be inappreciable by human noses, mind you, but it packs plenty of black licorice, smooth spice, smoke, and macerated coffee beans.

The brewery figured I'd have until April of 2012 to enjoy this beer at peak performance, but I've got to believe that it's best days are already behind it. A lot of its roasty, stout-like flavours are diminished and the whiskey notes aren't as prevalent as they are in the other offerings. Unlike HP 40, this one won't hold up indefinitely.

There are common threads that run through every beer in this series. All share, to one degree or another, the taste of scorched earth and peat, oceanside brine, heather and earthy honey, but Ola Dubh 40 has much more smoky wood character. It brings the barrel right into your living room, but tempers it into a silken texture.

After trying every other offering in the series, I wasn't convinced that the more expensive bottles were more complex beers. Ola Dubh 40 was the first $20 beer that I wondered, not if I would be worthy of it, but whether it would be worthy of me. Turns out, I prefer the 16, 18, and 30. If I buy another Ola Dubh, it won't be this one.

Serving type: bottle

10-07-2011 02:59:54 | More by biegaman
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 Viggo

Ontario (Canada)

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

12 oz bottle, picked up the LCBO. The bottles look great, nicely presented.

Pours an opaque dark brownish black, some dark red highlights in the corners, medium sized light brown head forms and quickly settles to a very thick ring around the glass, decent layer, some lace spots stick.

Smell is neat, nice and smokey, some peat, caramel, biscuit, a bit of alcohol and some plastic, some chocolate, really neat scotch character in the nose, vanilla, lots of oak, different aroma, almost like cake or muffin batter.

Taste is similar, some raisin, chocolate wafer, a touch of roast, less smoke than the aroma but a touch of peat, whiskey, vanilla, oak, alcohol is well hidden, biscuit, toasty, caramel and brown sugar sweetness in the finish, nice and nutty, well balanced.

Mouthfeel is medium bodied, slightly oily, low to medium carbonation. Alcohol is well hidden, really nice scotch flavours in this one.

Serving type: bottle

04-05-2010 03:03:08 | More by Viggo
Photo of beerthulhu

New Jersey

3.9/5  rDev -8.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

-Ale matured in 40 yr. Old Highland Park Single Malt Scotch Whiskey casks.

A: Rich nestle chocolate on the pour is opaque in the glass with a bubbly 1 finger nutmeg colored head that is quick to dissipate. Standard issue representation.

S: Heavy on the scotch, perhaps a bit to much so, hides most of the rich dark roasted nature. With so much scotch hard to pick up on anything else.

T: The flavor continues the trend of the heavy hand of scotch presence. Really boozy upfront but the dark roasted nature is more evident here, very smooth in character and flavor after you get the initial scotch shock. Bitter bakers chocolate, fresh roast coffee line up for the finish.

M: The mouthful was very silky, incredibly fluid and viscose, with no sense of carbonation.

D: Very smooth flavor wise, nice sense of dark roasted malt but the scotch soaked cask notes were a bit much. I like some cask presence but the scotch notes were to a point where it overtook the general character of the beer which I could of achieved by grabbing some cheap scotch and watered it down. A slow moderate sipper at room temp, the lesser 16 came off much better and would recommend that instead.

Serving type: bottle

11-23-2010 00:01:40 | More by beerthulhu
Photo of DrJay


4.25/5  rDev -0.7%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Very dark, nearly black, with not much in the way of visible edges. It had a thick tan/brown cap of very fine bubbles, good head retention with sticky, spotty lacing. Great aroma. Lots of whisky character when the bottle was opened, more of a refined alcohol that you get from a good scotch rather than a boozy nose. Notes of caramel and vanilla, lots of malt, a hints of chocolate and smoke, plus a bit of oak. Mild to moderate bitterness, toffee and caramel sweetness, whisky, light vanilla and woodiness. There was a bit of wood tannin dryness and booze, but it stayed refined and pleasant throughout. Full bodied with low carbonation made of up fine bubbles. Mild warmth and a tingle of alcohol on the tongue. Nice texture. I quite enjoyed this. The marriage of beer and whisky really worked.

Serving type: bottle

06-07-2010 18:33:46 | More by DrJay
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 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 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 HopHead84


3.83/5  rDev -10.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Thanks for sharing this, Chris. Consumed on the night of 11/08/2009 and poured into a snifter. The beer is black when held to the light. The head is dark brown and an inch high.

The nose is mellow, but excellent. Chocolate is present with a moderate roast. Notes of peat and smoke are at a moderate level. Alcohol heat is noticeable, but it is inoffensive and blends nicely with the peaty scotch notes. Nice and mellow nose. Peat blends nicely with the smoke and the mild stout.

The flavor is similar to the nose but mellower. It's light roast with some wood notes, moderate peat, and smoke. Chocolate is present and the beer is slightly bitter. I'm surprised to find the alcohol well hidden in the flavor, after its potency in the nose. All around a dry and very mellow stout with prominent single malt characteristics.

Low carbonation and a slightly thin mouthfeel. Damn drinkable beer. After a weekend of IPAs this is refreshing on the palate.

Serving type: bottle

11-17-2009 08:21:17 | More by HopHead84
Photo of Derek

British Columbia (Canada)

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

Bottle number: 39593
Date: Jan 2009

LCBO relabelled to 9%.

A: Black, light tan head, ring of retention, light leg.

S: Over-the-top whisky barrel... a little one-dimensional, but seriously enticing.

T: Mmmm... whisky, wood, peat smoke, espresso, bakers chocolate, rye bread, a little spice, balanced bitterness, warming alcohol.

M: Well-attenuated, moderate body, modest carbonation, some roasted acidity, drying alcohol finish. Definitely dried out and a little lighter than the 12 (or the standard dubh).

D: A wonderfully pleasant sipper.

I absolutely loved the 12, this one is a little over-the-top & not as balanced. It's more of an American Extreme brew than an English old ale.

Serving type: bottle

06-09-2010 23:05:03 | More by Derek
Photo of kylehay2004


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

single finger head with some scattered lacing on a jet black body without any light passing through. smokey and confectioners chocolate sweetness to the aroma. Incredibably smooth chocolate, toffee and vanilla flavor. Nicely complex with each flavor standing out. moderate carbonation and full bodied. Overall a very smooth and drinkable beer for its genre. Complex and memorable. An excellent beer though not very much like olde ales I have tried.

Serving type: bottle

12-30-2011 05:36:00 | More by kylehay2004
Photo of largadeer


3.73/5  rDev -12.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Grabbed a bottle of this at the Pizza Port bottle shop in Carlsbad last Sunday, split later that day with HopHead84 while trying to pacify his maniacal dog.

Pours a dark chestnut brown, black and opaque in the snifter, with a dark brown head that quickly settles to a disc. Aromas of baking chocolate, smoke and peat are most prominent. There's a hint of heat from the Scotch barrel. The taste closely resembles the aroma, with baking chocolate and smoke up front, followed by subtle peat. The beer is medium-bodied and dry. The barrel character is well-integrated but quite dominant; a bolder base beer may have been better suited for Scotch barrels. Good stuff all the same.

Serving type: bottle

11-12-2009 17:57:14 | More by largadeer
Photo of bluejacket74


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

11.2 ounce bottle, bottle 54407, bottled on January 20, 2009. Served in a nonic pint glass, the beer pours very dark brown with a half inch tan head. Head retention is good, but not much lacing. The brew smells like roasted malt, chocolate, dark fruit, smoke, peat, iodine, oak, and vanilla. The Scotch Whisky aromas are pretty strong in this brew! The taste is pretty much the same as the aroma, it's all Scotch and malt. And as far as I'm concerned, that's a good thing. Mouthfeel/body is medium, it has low/moderate carbonation and it's a little bit coating although it does seem a bit thin at times. Drinkability is very good, it's smooth and pretty easy to drink. Overall I think this is a pretty good beer, but then I like malty beers and Scotch. That and I liked the other Ola Dubh beers I've tried. This beer isn't cheap at all, but it's definitely worth a try.

Serving type: bottle

12-27-2009 00:38:23 | More by bluejacket74
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 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
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Ola Dubh Special Reserve 40 from Harviestoun Brewery Ltd.
95 out of 100 based on 163 ratings.