Ola Dubh Special Reserve 18 - Harviestoun Brewery Ltd.

Not Rated.
Ola Dubh Special Reserve 18Ola Dubh Special Reserve 18

Educational use only; do not reuse.

134 Reviews
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Reviews: 134
Hads: 375
Avg: 4.21
pDev: 15.91%
Wants: 30
Gots: 99 | FT: 6
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: Nickls on 01-29-2009

No notes at this time.
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Reviews: 134 | Hads: 375
Photo of Sammy
4/5  rDev -5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Middle of the pack enjoyment of the series. Must do a vertical one night. Pours black, wiskey smoke aromas. Milk chocolate taste, a little more bitter at the end of the bottle. Bit more than medium mouthfeel. Whiskey is right there.Good drinkability.

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Photo of UCLABrewN84
3.97/5  rDev -5.7%
look: 3.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Bottled 2/2012. Bottle No. 05567.

Pours an opaque super dark brown with a foamy super dark khaki head that settles to wisps of film on top of the beer. Small streaks of lace form around the glass on the drink down. Smell is of roasted malt, molasses, smoke, char, cocoa powder, whisky, and wood aromas. Taste is much the same with char, cocoa powder, bittersweet chocolate, earth, smoke, wood, and whisky flavors on the finish. There is a medium amount of roast bitterness and an alcohol kick on the palate with each sip. This beer has a lower level of carbonation with a slightly crisp and medium bodied mouthfeel. Overall, this is a good beer that has more earth and smoke characteristics than the 12 year aged version that I recently had.

Serving type: bottle.

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Photo of metter98
4.23/5  rDev +0.5%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

A: The beer is jet black in color and poured with a quarter-finger high tan head that quickly died down yet consistently left a thick ring of bubbles around the edge of the glass.
S: The smell has relatively light yet complex aromas of dark roasted malts, chocolate, coffee beans and toffee in the nose.
T: The taste is similar to the smell and also has some notes of smoke towards the finish and hints of almonds as well as whiskey from the barrel aging.
M: It feels medium-bodied and very smooth on the palate with a low amount of carbonation. There are some hints of alcohol warming in the finish.
O: This beer is a lot more drinkable compared to other beers in the style, especially considering its smoothness. No traces of alcohol are present in the taste.

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Photo of StonedTrippin
4/5  rDev -5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

on tap at the bull and bush cherry creek. listed at 11% abv, not 8%, it pours flat black into a 10oz. chalice with several inches of chalky off white head. the nose is really interesting, deep dark chocolate notes, really scotchy from the barrel, whiskey heavy for sure, with charcoal and peat, as well as vanilla all bombarding the nose. alcohol is well hidden, I cant pick it up too much even when this gets warm. nice woody flavor complimented by dark roasted barley and char from the barrel. tastes more like a spirit than a beer, especially in the finish. very complex, almost no sweetness, very well done brew. the carbonation is slight but its ample, and the body is a full as they come. bitter finish is interesting here, sort of contradicts the whiskey flavors, but its something new. overall a real fancy beer that I was happy to pay 9 bucks for twice. a treat to get stuff like this on tap in the usa.

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Photo of Knapp85
3.3/5  rDev -21.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 3

When I saw that they had this on cask at the old Tap & Table I was really impressed. I ordered one right away because I had enjoyed trying so many of the others. This is the first and only one that I haven't had from a bottle so far. The beer poured out jet black in color, no surprise there. The smell of the beer wasrich with smokey and roasted aromas as well as scotch as well. The taste of the beer was about the same as the 12 to me. The mouthfeel was a little too light I think, The cask aging didn't benefit this beer in my opinion at all. Overall it was worth trying but I would only ever buy the 30 and 40 year ones again.

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Photo of BEERchitect
4.47/5  rDev +6.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Incredible complexity, masculinity and refinement oozes from the bottle of this regal elixir. Its backbone of Scottish Ale is expounded upon by 18-year scotch barrel aging and the quite calm of patient aging.

The dark ale pours dark tawny brown with mahogany low lights that provide a ribbon of dull light to pierce through its dark clarity. A creamy off-white shallow head slowly builds on top of the beer giving it a characteristically cask ale appearance. Light on retention, but the head regenerates after a gentle swirl of the snifter. Light on lace, sparse islands of foam cling to the sides but its pattern is quite random- preferring a more brandy-like type of legging.

Strong aromas start with black-strap molasses and layers of burnt toffee, caramel and malty sweetnesses. These weave into the alcohol notes to provide savory port, sherry, fresh-hung tobacco, vanilla, cured leather, chocolate and booze-soaked aged oak. Dark pitted fruits of plumb, dates, figs and raisin continue to build upon the unmistakable notes of peated earth and strong campfire.

Not as powerful as you'd think, its taste is rich with malty sweetness and barrel flavor but not as intimidating as these succulent aromas would suggest. As the molasses and other malt sweetness wraps around the tongue, the bulk of heavy sweetness seemingly floats effortlessly above the tongue, allowing the dark fruit and aged wine character to slip in between. Its finish of smoky chocolate, prune, and tobacco offers a type of complexity that port and sherry can only hope for.

Deliciously decadent, the ale surprisingly lifts from the palate shortly after the initial sip. Its wood aged powdery texture keeps the ale lightened somewhat and keeps its drinkability high. Wood spices offer a slight bite rather than relying on hop dryness for a semi-arid finish of scotch and umami.

The ale really hits home with the signature flavors that the Wee-ish of Heavies exude. Its a tremendous beer with impeccable balance and an arsenal of complexity that changes dramatically as the palate acclimates to its power and as the ale releases secret after secret as it warms.

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Photo of biboergosum
4.37/5  rDev +3.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

330ml black foil-capped bottle. Now I'm into Ola Dubh territory where I've at least had the chance to try the eponymous whiskey malt - here's to ye, Scotland's famous son.

This beer pours a mahogany-tinted black oil colour, with very slight reddish edges, and one skinny finger of thinly creamy and bubbly tan head, which dissipates rather quickly, essentially leaving a few specks of paramecia lace around the glass.

Wafting from the glass is a lovely Highland Park malt aroma analogue - caramel and vanilla cream malt, soft smoked peat, and an agreeably mild ocean air's bounty of salt spray and iodine. The taste kicks off with a solid bittersweet chocolate tinged caramel malt, a hint of dilute treacle, ashen peat, real vanilla, supermarket honey, a drug-store medicinal acridity, herbal tea leaves, and a soft musty, weedy hoppiness.

As the weak head seems to have given up the remainder of the bubbles, the carbonation is quite innocuous at best, leading to a very smooth, and somewhat creamy medium-full weight body. It finishes with a big barrel sweetness flourish - caramel, vanilla, and oaken woodiness, only slightly offset by the underlying alcohol and musty seaside edge.

Having previously enjoyed the 18 year old Highland Park whisky, I'm delighted to find the same beauty in this spin-off project from its countrymen - all the weight of a well-made, generous malt, blended into a world-class cocoa-heavy porter, and still full of an island character delivered with the deftest of touches. Sublime, aye, this is.

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Photo of mikesgroove
4/5  rDev -5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

The pour was very nice, with a thick, viscous look to it and a really dark menacing presence. There was a thin brown head, maybe one inch in height that came over the top and settled down gracefully into a nice crown of tan that stayed with it throughout the rest of the session. Very nice side glass lace was also apparent throughout the entire time.

The aroma was loaded with peat. This was not nearly as smoky as the 16 was and to be honest had a good deal more sweetness to it which was a bit surprising. The scotch and oak aromas were there, but light as this was coming in a little bit under what I had though, but was nonetheless very good. Still extremely rich and complex, I decided to go in and take a taste. Very smooth and creamy, with the body of it coming off very well indeed. It was a full bodied ale for sure, with the carbonation coming in a little bit above some of the others, offering it that nice silky feel at times. The rich flavor of peat was really coming across well. The light flavor of molasses and wood now coming to the front, with a touch of dark chocolate in there as well. Some nice dark fruity notes lingering way in the back, remnants of the barrel for sure

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Photo of TMoney2591
4.32/5  rDev +2.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Served in a snifter at ChurchKey.

One of the bigger surprises on tap at the CK recently. Now I don't have to shell out for the bottle. It pours a dead black topped by the slightest bit o' bubbles that could be construed as a head. The nose comprises oak, whiskey, vanilla, figs, chocolate, and roasted malts. The taste is very similar, only there's somehow more smoky whiskey and oak notes crammed in there. Damn, son. The body is a light heavy, with a carbonation that is barely able to express itself (it pains me to see it like this) and a rather thick and chewy feel. This is a fine brew, indeed...now I've gotta find a way to sample the other vintages.

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Photo of MasterSki
3.96/5  rDev -5.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4

Bottle from West Lakeview Liquors. Bottle #9500, dated January 2009.

A - A hard pour yields a late-rising crust of dark tan foam and a lighter collar, with perhaps a few lingering wisps on top. Sludgy dark brown body.

S - Big dark fruit and molasses aroma, baker's chocolate, and a touch of vanilla, with light notes of peated whisky. Whatever oxidation has occurred is in line with the original flavor profile of the beer. Quite good.

T - Taste has significantly more char, oak, and peat. Chocolate takes on a darker tinge to it, and there's a malted milk ball and vanilla note in the finish. I wish the Scotch was dialed back about 10%, as the bitter char and peat distracts rather than invigorates. Sweetness comes out a bit as the beer warms up, to its benefit. Lingering notes of soy and whisky in the aftertaste.

M - Low carbonation; cask-like, medium-full body, with a bit of tannin to it. Lingering stickiness on the lips. No appreciable alcohol.

D - Enjoyable, but not terribly different than other beers from this series. I enjoyed the 33cl bottle, but probably wouldn't buy it again at this price point. Still, a good example of successfully integrating Scotch and beer.

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Photo of jwc215
3.9/5  rDev -7.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Bottle no. 10032 - bottled in January, 2009:

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

The smell is of chocolate - some lightly roasted coffee - anisette, and whisky.

The taste is very sweet - whisky and vanilla coat the chocolate - with a subtle hint of peat smoke - slight anisette - some woody dryness comes through in an otherwise sweet finish.

Hits full-bodied with medium carbonation.

Whisky/oak prominent, here. A bit too sweet - could use more smoke or dryness, but it does have a nice whisky and malt character. Still, a bit pricey for what it is, IMO.

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Photo of drabmuh
3.78/5  rDev -10.2%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

I have had the privileged to have both the 18 and the 40 year on cask recently, and I am here to tell you that they are completely different beers and I have no idea why the 18 is rated higher than the 40, it should not be.

Served on cask at Churchkey in D.C. Beer poured into a snifter. Black, dark black, no head or carbonation, not to be expected for this kind of beer in a cask.

Smell is a little off putting. It is complex, sweet malt, alcohol, chocolate / cocoa, some roast / wood on the end of the nose. The smell prepares you for a warm, musty beer.

Wood definitely present in the flavor. Sweetness and alcohol. Some back of the mouth roast leads to an unfortunate albeit slight aftertaste.

If you get an opportunity to try these beers they are worth it, the 40 is the best though.

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Photo of mothman
4/5  rDev -5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Had at Firkin Fest 2010

Pours no head. Color is very black, motor oil black.

Aroma: Huge whiskey/bourbon and oak flavors. Roasted malts and chocolate. Fairly rich.

Taste: Tons of whiskey and scotch flavors with some wood characteristics. Some roasted malts, but this thing doesn't taste a lot like beer.

Mouthfeel: Hot, dry, and smooth. Medium to full bodied with low carbonation. Ends sweet, boozy, and slightly dry.

Overall, a fairly solid beer. Lots of alcohol characteristics. Very interesting. Fairly drinkable.

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Photo of stakem
3.93/5  rDev -6.7%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Review from notes taken 7/26/10.

Bottle share care of slk2go, thanks Jonathan. Bottle # 10686 with a date of 1/09. Poured into a snifter, this brew appears a serious level of dark brown to black in color. No light can shine through this except when swirled and even then the color still appears as a dark brown. A creamy tan head appears with a fingers strength and laces with spotty fingers about the glass. Fair retaining power.

The aroma of this brew is a mixture of dark chocolate meets coffee at first and then gets completely dominated by a roasty, smoked character very similar to pete smoke.

The taste is no surprise when taking the nose into consideration. Some minor notes of sweet milk chocolate meet a very roasted pete smoked malt. Light flavoring of coffee that is lightly musty and earthy.

This is a medium to light bodied brew with a matching moderate to light level of carbonation. Overall it is not bad but I was not expecting the pete'd aspect of this brew to be this dominating. I'm guessing there is significant inclusion of pete or smoked malts to the grain bill. If not, wow scotch barrels really have influence in a brew.

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Photo of Alieniloquium
3.85/5  rDev -8.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

330 mL bottle poured into a Hair of the Dog tulip. Bottled July 2011.

Appearance - Dark black with an ample khaki head in the neck of the tulip. Probably looks more impressive as a result of the glass. Sticks and laces nicely.

Smell - A vast improvement over the 12 and 16. This one has a touch of oak, but much more chocolate and a touch of sweetness. I don't know how the chocolate comes out more when it's the same base beer, but it seems to. Some smokey whiskey, but only a bit.

Taste - Also an improvement, but not as dramatic as the nose. Chocolatey of the milky variety. Bitter hops and some smokey notes. A vanilla character permeates without ever being strong. Oak in the finish, but a much higher quality. No ash to it. I still don't love the base beer, but the barrel seems to have made an improvement this time.

Mouthfeel - Bitter and creamy. Oaky, but better than 12 by a mile.

Overall - I thought that the ages of the barrels would be a gimmicky imperceptible difference. Maybe it is and Harviestoun is changing something besides the barrels. This one definitely seems to be a marked improvement over both the 12 and the 18. I have a 30 left and we'll see if that one is better than this.

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Photo of dcmchew
4.39/5  rDev +4.3%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Pitch black, small tan head quick to a thin string.
Nice smokey peaty malts on the nose, roast and rich dark chocolate with a light Scotch dryness. Hints of vanilla, caramel, woody dark licorice and cinnamon, extra cocoa powder.
Scotch up front, kinda "zesty", not too strong, with light chocolate and burnt sugar trying to enhance it. Malts follow, just a bit toasted at first, developing into a nice roast, not too deep, but with a minimum of coffee powder notes showing up. Peat shows up, pretty subtle, with nice vanilla and a charred oak barrel note that's really rich, splashed just by a tiny bit of Scotch warmth.
Medium to light bodied, low carbonated, not entirely smooth, but kinda like slightly watered-down oil, so not too sticky either. Aftertaste has peated Scotch, rich oak barrel, bit of roast. No booze.
As is normal, i guess, somewhere between 16 and 30. Great Scotch barrel notes, as usual, nice rich dark ale underneath. These Ola Dubh's are well worth the expense.

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Photo of Georgiabeer
3.9/5  rDev -7.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Had this on cask at the Brick Store Pub, as a gravity pour. I'm a big fan of this series of beers and of the brewery in general, but this particular one didn't resonate with me quite as much as some of the others. In fact, I found it to be a little much. Still good, mind you, but a bit over the top and not quite as smooth as the older ones, and perhaps a bit hotter than even the 12. Regardless, absolutely wonderful to see this at the Brick Store and lovely to taste this. Pours black with no head, but a slight ring around the glass. The whisky is extremely prominent in the nose, with a lot of alcohol heat, peat, ash, dark malt, and chocolate notes. The taste also exhibits huge whisky flavor with lots of heat and peat, some berry flavors, and caramel. The mouthfeel is smooth but hot. A little much overall, perhaps the beer itself will mellow a bit with time if there is some of this put away at the brewery. I much prefer the 30 or 40, or really even the 16.

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Photo of liamt07
4.13/5  rDev -1.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Bottle picked up from the LCBO, poured into a snifter. Bottled January 2009, and bottle no. 14502.

Pours just off black with a finger or two of tan head, falling to a thin film and some bubbles. Smells of sweet and chocolate covered dark fruits, some almond here too. Significantly less roastiness and smoke than the 12 and 16. Light peatiness creeps through as well to round it out. Taste is some chocolate caramel and toffee, with more chocolate notes, light smoke and peat in the finish. The light sweetness of the chocolate and caramel really blends nicely with the smoke and peat. Mouthfeel is good but could be a bit fuller but this is a bit more than a sipper for me, goes down quite easily. About on par with the 12 and better than the 16.

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Photo of corby112
3.67/5  rDev -12.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

Pours pitch black and completely opaque without even the slightest bit of lighter color when held to a light source and a one finger beige head that slowly fades into a thin ring.

Silky chocolate aroma with a touch of smokey malt, vanilla, earthy oak, bourbon, toffee and lactic cream. There is a perfect amount of barrel presence in the nose providing earthy oak, subtle vanilla and coconut balancing out the roasted malt, burnt toast and coffee bean notes.

Slightly chewy medium body with a very prominent whiskey barrel presence that overtakes the roasted dark malt presence. Underneath there is a very faint viscous chocolate malt character with hints of espresso bean, toffee, oatmeal and burnt toast. The complex balance suggested in the nose is missing here with an overwhelming bourbon presence. Very hot and sweet overpowering the subtle vanilla, caramel and toffee notes. This beer improves as it warms but overall the bourbon is too strong, overpowering the other flavors.

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Photo of biegaman
4.64/5  rDev +10.2%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 5

I couldn't help myself - I didn't even bother looking at the beer I just went straight to smelling it. And I haven't been able to stop. It smells as though a meat smoker and an espresso machine, along with boxes of charred hazelnut and black licorice, were stuffed into a sauna near enough to Orkney Island to catch a stiff, briny sea breeze.

All that from just a few sniffs, and the beer has yet to be swirled and has hardly warmed much from the (excessively) cold temperature it was coming out of the fridge. Expectations have gotten only higher since opening the bottle! And that is also in good part to the impressively chic, steadily black colour, inky complexion and trim, rusty outline.

Smoky peat, waxy honey, charred almonds, cereal grain, bittersweet chocolate, black licorice, heather, jasmine tea, espresso, dark fruits - what's more to say? A flavour list like that says it all. It's nearly unprecedented. And with roasty malts, smoky peat, sea brine, splintery wood and earthy hops, rest assured it has as much texture as it does flavour. Just think: all that without the help of even a trace of alcohol. Wow.

The beer strikes me as being slightly thin, perhaps because the bottling date was some 15 months ago (implying it was brewed even before then). Still, I don't know what more I'd expect - the whiskey (and its potency too for that matter) is not so strong so as to override the roasty, bittersweet flavours of the malts nor the earthy bitterness of the hops. It is definitively smooth (despite being quite drying) and disappeared far too quickly.

You don't have to like whiskey to love this beer. In fact, if you're like me and appreciate the complexity and depth of a quality whiskey but don't necessarily have a palate (or stomach) to tolerate the excessive alcohol that comes with it, Ola Dubh 18 is perfect. Regardless of how your eyes feel about the price tag, I promise your nose and mouth will be grateful. Need more convincing? Go back and remind yourself of what I had to say about flavour.

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Photo of John_M
4.14/5  rDev -1.7%
look: 3 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

On tap at Max's the other day.

The beer pours a darkish black brown color with minimal head retention and lacing. On the nose there is chocolate, coffee, smoke and peat. On the palate, this beer is magnificently complex, with an incredible array of smoke, peat, and chocolate. Unlike the 12, 30 and 40, this beer finishes very dry, although it still has the trademark richness and smoothness all these beers show. As with all these beers, the alcohol is well disguised and drinkability is good.

Frankly, of the two, I preferred the 12, but this is still excellent stuff.

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Photo of TheSevenDuffs
4.37/5  rDev +3.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Tasted side-by-side with the 12 and 30.
Poured in to brandy snifter.

A - Dark black with half a finger of light brown head.

S - Sweet brown sugar and molasses, oak, vanilla, whisky. Very complex with no one note being overwhelming.

T - A nice whisky flavour up front that is perfectly balanced without being overwhelming; oak, vanilla and brown sugar round out the palate.

M - Medium body, lightly carbonated.

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Photo of jdhilt
4.1/5  rDev -2.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Pours a three finger brown head that leaves some lace. Black, no highlights. Chocolate/whiskey nose. Light-medium carbonation and heavy bodied. Flavor is smooth, roasted chocolate and whiskey. Almost a burnt chocolate finish. Bottled Jan 2009. Worth trying - $10.50 for a 330ml bottle from Tully's Beer & Wine Wells, Me.

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Photo of rhoadsrage
4.1/5  rDev -2.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

(Served in a teku)
bottle 07696
Date Feb 2009

A- The jet black body supports a fizzy light tan head that is creamy until it fades to a thin ring. This beer is a bit to dense to see any carbonation except for the random bubble that pops at the surface.

S- The blend of smoke and barrel oak lets a few notes of toffee and caramel bled through before the smooth black roasted malt finishes the nose.

T- The smoky taste if full with a mescal quality and some slight saltiness to it. Then a thin black malt roasted flavor peaks through before the smoky oak flavor finishes with a slight bacon quality.

M- This beer has a medium-light mouthfeel and a bright little fizz with just a touch of alcohol that only comes through when warmed a bit.

O- The nice rich smoky flavor has no band-aid or off qualities at all and is supported by a smooth stout with some flavors developing a bit as it warms. Very nice sipper.

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

Poured from 330mL bottle into a pint glass. Bottled February 2012.

Appearance: completely black with just a little brown around the edges when held up to the light. Head poured a finger of creamy tan foam which subsided somewhat quickly. Quite good.

Smell: dank dark malt aroma with a smoky woodiness right up front but with some wonderful depth. Beautiful, intense, profound. Love it.

Taste: rich chocolatey flavor with a nice, slightly burnt, slightly bitter edge. Smooth and tasty.

Mouthfeel: two words: Sha. Zam. This is the creamiest, silkiest, smoothest beer it has ever been my pleasure to quaff. It is truly hard to imagine anything better than this.

Overall: just a wonderful beer. The flavor is good if, honestly, unremarkable, but the aroma and that *outstanding* mouthfeel mean I have to grade this one outstandingly high.

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Ola Dubh Special Reserve 18 from Harviestoun Brewery Ltd.
93 out of 100 based on 134 ratings.