Dismiss Notice
Get 12 monthly issues of BeerAdvocate magazine and save $5 when you select "auto-renew."

Subscribe now →
Dismiss Notice
Join our email list →

And we'll send you the latest updates and offers from BeerAdvocate, because knowing is half the battle.

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.
BA SCORE
93
outstanding

142 Reviews
THE BROS
-
no score

(Send Samples)
Reviews: 142
Hads: 407
Avg: 4.2
pDev: 16.43%
Wants: 36
Gots: 114 | FT: 8
Brewed by:
Harviestoun Brewery Ltd.
United Kingdom (Scotland) | website

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.
View: Beers (30) | Events
Beer: Reviews & Ratings
Sort by:  Recent | High | Low | Top Raters
Reviews: 142 | Hads: 407
Photo of kkleu357
4.47/5  rDev +6.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.25

Black thin body with a small fast dissipating head. Aroma is chocolate with a hint of scotch. More it sits, the more it smells like a glass of scotch. Light mouthfeel. Lots of flavor though. Lots of scotch whiskey comes through. Hints of chocolate. Excellent beer.

 264 characters

Photo of RocketRaccoon88
4.5/5  rDev +7.1%

Definitely a great beer! The look was just what I hoped for: dark and refined. It smelled almost like an actual cask! The first taste was phenomenal. Once I took that second taste and let my taste buds explore, boom.. Great to the last drop. Idk how much other people have paid but here in Hawaii it was $13.99. To me, totally worth it!

 336 characters

Photo of Ozzylizard
3.4/5  rDev -19%

$ 10.99/11.2 oz bottle at Vintage Estates, Boardman, OH
Bottle # 01811 Apr 2013 at 45 degrees into snifter
Aroma of generic whiskey
Head small (2 cm), light brown, frothy, slowly diminishing to 3 mm ring and partial layer
Lacing fair – some irregular branching with tiny bubbles
Body dark brown/black and opaque
Flavor of generic whiskey with coffee overtones; no hops, no alcohol, no diacetyl
Palate medium to full, creamy, soft carbonation

Appearance 3, Aroma 3, Flavor 3.5, Palate 4, Overall 3.375. Final weighted score: 3.4.
OK, but not the quality expected from an ale this pampered. The general whiskey aroma and flavor were OK but since the aging takes place in Scotch whisky barrels I expected more of the scotch to come through.

 747 characters

Photo of Sludgeman
3.86/5  rDev -8.1%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.25 | overall: 3.75

Bottle No. 01268, bottled on Feb 2012. Poured into a small stemmed tulip.

I love the look of the bottle. Reminiscent of a porter with some whiskey in the background but too thin to be a stout. A good old ale for those who also like barrel aged beers with a smokey and peaty finish. Let it warm up for the flavors to really come out. 3.75

A – Pours a “clear” reddish brown to black with no head. No extra viscosity apparent, which was unexpected. Some faint lace and alcohol legs coating the glass. 3.75

S – Vinous, maltiness, faint whiskey, tinch of sweetness. 4

T – Low bitterness, some dark fruit, smokey, woody, peaty, leaves alcohol on the palate. 4

MF – Medium-light body (-), medium dry, a bit of a bite on the palate, no head but carbonation creates that bite, smooth but thin with some warming qualities. 3.25

 834 characters

Photo of MasterSki
3.96/5  rDev -5.7%
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.

 1,186 characters

Photo of Bouleboubier
4.24/5  rDev +1%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

(purchased at Binny's on Marcey - bottle 03994, date April 2013 - poured into a balloon)

A: finger-width of chocolate milk colored messy suds, drops and breaks apart within a couple minutes... the liquid is pretty damn black, brown edge... messy collar maintains throughout, tiny specks of lace

S: explosive smell!... dark chocolate milk, lightly caramelized wood... nary a hint of alcohol

T: whiskey cask notes jump out up front - a touch of peat smoke, bit of cereal grain, a flash of semi-spicy, dried grassy/floral-ity in the middle... finishes with a flare of whiskey flavor, mild wood tannins, and a micro flash of the alcohol... the core flavor is that of very dark, mildly-bitter chocolate with delicate espresso highlights... sort of black coffee with a sugar realm of moderate sweetness

M: as smooth and a slick as a beer can get for one that doesn't quite feel full-bodied... a flat (as opposed to round) viscosity... very low gas on the outer edges of the tongue... thin film of sugar residue... only a pilot light of afterglow... not quite as lip-smacky, rib-sticky as I hoped

O: I don't know... all of these Ola Dubh's are similar... in memory, this one has the most intense smell of the ones I've had - that translated to the first few sips being superb, but it didn't quite open up and develop like I'd hoped... still, a fantastic dark brew!

 1,362 characters

Photo of pjkelley82
4.69/5  rDev +11.7%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.75

Seen it on the shelf alongside the 12, 16, and 30th Aniv. and knew it was something fancy and probably some coin. Looked it up to see what it was, an old ale... well, I happen to love old ales and it got pretty decent ratings. So I bring it up to the counter expecting to put it back because it would be to much money and the guy says it's $10.99.... Ahhh, not too bad I'll take it. Shared this beer with my father-in-laws buddy who is a BMC drinker but loves Ale's and I share with often. What a lucky bastard...

Poured from bottle into mini snifters

A- Dark Black, hint of brown. Small light brown head, left a nice ring that stayed throughout consumption. Thick and light in the glass with a heft amount of legs and a little bit of lacing.

S- Man oh man. Subdued but so rich, Chocolate, wood, figs, plums, bread, whiskey.

T- Wow, it just gets better and better. Even as it warmed and picked up more nuances. Started off with Chocolate and sweet whiskey, led into some tabacco, plums and figs, dark fruit, slight coffee, rich roast and bread. The warmer it got the more the dark fruit came alive while more cchocolate and roast while it was slightly cooler. I can't begin to tell you how easy drinking this was and the flavors were almost hidden, daring you to seek them out. Not in a bad way, but in a whole cow this beer is the truth kind of way.

M- Simply butter. Smooth and silky, Velvety, light and full, semi sticky, enough carbonationto meet your needs. Sublime.

O- The whole time I was saying my weak(as in fairly young and still learning) pallette would appreciate this beer more in 5 years when I can "really" enjoy this. That's how good this beer was. Even for me I found it simply masterfull. Everything balanced and nothing harsh. Great barrel blend, excellent base and smoother than a baby's bottom. We'll worth the price tag and my father-in-laws friend felt the same way. Seek this out. Simply world class with almost everything else looking up at it.

 1,976 characters

Photo of Dentist666
4.74/5  rDev +12.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.75

0,33l bottle. Bottle 08955 from 09/2012
Pours pitch black beer with smooth tan 2-finger head having good retention. Smell of coffee, roasted malts, dark chocolate, wood, slightly whisky.
Viscous, oily and warming beer. Taste of coffee. Complex aftertaste - tobacco, whisky, wet wood. Carbonation is low. Mind-blowing old ale.

 325 characters

Photo of LambicPentameter
4.35/5  rDev +3.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

Reviewing from notes after drinking on 4/11/14. Enjoyed out of a 330 mL bottle with a black foil sleeve around the neck and cap. The label reads that it was bottled in February of 201?--unfortunately, the final digit has been obfuscated by the label being slightly ripped. That said, based on where I bought this bottle, I'm going to take a wild guess that this is a 2013 bottle, rather than a 2014 bottling. But really, who knows? Poured into a large snifter style glass.

Appearance - Definitely imparts the appearance of the base beer's name--engine oil--but the kind that you remove from your engine, rather than put in. Dark brown that looks black in the glass. I only know it's brown based on the coffee coloring that I can see in the stream of liquid as I pour it into the glass. An aggressive pour yields just a bit of head--a half finger at best of mocha colored suds that dissipate to a ringlet around the edge of the glass and a swirly film across the top. Lacing is nonexistent.

Smell - Wonderful blend of aromas, with notes of dried dark fruits like dates and figs combining with sweeter elements of salted caramel and molasses. There is also a fair amount of subtle bitterness that takes the form of baker's chocolate and roasted malts. Behind the sweet and bitter components, there is a more peaty characteristic, with some leather and light smoke--but nothing even close to approaching what you'd expect from a smoked beer. Just some wisps of char and spice.

Taste - Continuing where the aroma left off, the taste brings in notes of dark caramel, bittersweet chocolate, more dark fruits, and smoke. The molasses and toffee are still there, and I'm a little surprised at just how sweet it is, though I suppose I shouldn't be, based on the aroma and flavor profiles that are working together here. Some strong impressions of port wine come through on the finish.

Mouthfeel - Medium-to-full bodied, with low carbonation and a viscous feel on the tongue. Lingering sweetness is the predominant aftertaste.

Overall, just a fantastic beer, especially for those who like scotch and sweeter beer offerings that lean towards the port wine side of things. That said, it's classification as an Old Ale is curious to me, especially since the base beer is a porter. Perhaps it's simply one of those beers that truly defies classification. Either way, it's delicious.

 2,373 characters

Photo of heygeebee
3.89/5  rDev -7.4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4

From Leura. BB Feb 2014.... Yep outta date.

A - pitch black, oily, head fades quick to leave a ring film and spotty lace. Not so good.

S - tons of vanilla, hint smoke, spirit.

T - all malts, roast, smooth, vanilla, choc notes. Somewhat dry in finish.

M - smooth, little alcohol,

O - Harviestoun doing what they do best, well made traditional BA dark ales. Would love to do a 12/16/18 comparison. I really do not know how tho stands up in that regard, tho certainly not way above.

 485 characters

Photo of khmel
3.83/5  rDev -8.8%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.25 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4

A: A black, opaque pour with a bit of translucence around the edges. Pours a dense, tan head that dissipates fairly quickly to a ring. Doesn't have the "thick" look.

S: Smokey malt, hints of whiskey.

T: Smokey malt, leather, definite whiskey flavor in the finish. Really nice. 4

M: Incredibly smooth and creamy. A whiskey slippery almost. Medium to light body but glides down. A little alcohol warmth in the finish, but not dry. The mouthfeel is the highlight of this beer. You don't even want to swallow it it's so nice.

O: Really great! This beer is solidly outstanding and will be greatly appreciated by whiskey lovers.

 627 characters

Photo of zonker17
4.51/5  rDev +7.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Bottle 646, April 2013 consumed 9/28/15. Smells like heaven - scotch without the alcohol sting. Near black pour with tan head receding to the edge of the glass. Amazing how the stout also brings out the scotch in the flavor. Surprisingly low mouthfeel and expected low carbonation. I'd drink a bunch if they were not so expensive.

 330 characters

Photo of drpimento
4.57/5  rDev +8.8%
look: 3 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.75

Whoa; another masterpiece in this line. Love it. Thick, sultry, and luscious. Love it. Thick, sultry, and luscious. Body is a touch on the soft side, but I can't help but think it fits perfectly here. The tinges of whisky and peat meld seamlessly with the palate and other dark flavors. In spite of its richness, could see having another. Finish is much easier and cleaner than I expected. Sumptuous beer.

 405 characters

Photo of thierrynantes
4.1/5  rDev -2.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Beer bottle (33 cl.) purchased from Le comptoir Irlandais, and tasted in 2014.

Appearance : dark brown color with a tan foamed head.
Smell : roasted and chocolate malty aromas.
Taste & mouthfeel : sweet and roasted malt flavors with notes of whiskey, alcohol presence in finish.
Drinkability : a nice beer in the English style Old Ale.

 337 characters

Photo of GreesyFizeek
4.07/5  rDev -3.1%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 3.25 | overall: 4

Bottle purchased from Nathaniel Square Corner Store. The 18 year version.

Pours a dark, tawny, rich brown color. No visible carbonation, barely any head, and a very small amount of lacing- few splotches on the glass.

Smells include scotch whiskey, smoke, chocolate and brown sugar.

The taste is similar. Pretty scotch whiskey forward- some smoke and peat, as well as milk chocolate, brown sugar, dark fruits, and tobacco.

The mouthfeel is a bit thin for my liking, and there is essentially no carbonation. Not very drinkable because of this- requires slow sipping. Once it warms up, the alcohol becomes very noticeable.

Not my favorite BA beer I've ever had, but there are some good flavors. I wish it was a bit thicker, though.

 733 characters

Photo of beerdrifter
3.71/5  rDev -11.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.75

Picked this up at a great little beer store in Arlon, Belgium, Miorge Mihoublon. An aggressive pour yields a deep dark brown, nearly black body with a quickly fading caramel-colored one finger head with decent lacing. The nose is very sweet and malt forward initially with hints of caramel, molasses, dark chocolate, and mocha. As it warms, subtle hints of smokey peat emerge. The taste is much more peaty right from the start. Also getting hints of espresso, mocha, caramel, dark fruit, cola, molasses, and prunes. The mouthfeel is slightly thin for the style with light carbonation and a syrupy sweet finish. Overall, this was kind of disappointing. It wasn't as flavorful as I had expected and the peat was too overpowering for my taste.

 740 characters

Photo of FLima
4.43/5  rDev +5.5%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Deep black color with a thick caramel head with medium retention but leaving a constant lace.
Aroma of coffee, whiskey, caramel and dark fruits.
Delicious flavor of vanilla coffee, whiskey, nuts, oak, peat and dark chocolate. Dry and bitter aftertaste with a residual taste of whiskeyd coffee.
Full body with low carbonation of tiny bubbles and a creamy sensation. Alcohol of 8% abv is well hidden.
Superior beer, tons of flavors for pure pleasure. A highly recommended classic.

 478 characters

Photo of ludachris
4.4/5  rDev +4.8%
look: 3.75 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Ah, the first truly black body of beer which I haven't seen in awhile. One finger of creamy tan head gradually turns to a ring rimming the edges of the glace.

Ripe plums, toffee, and caramel come through in a big fashion. Gooey raisins make an almost equal statement. The smoke and the peat of the Scotch barrels are just as soft and silky as the vanilla that accompanies them. Despite all of these big flavours and aromatics going on, the nose remains distinctively rounded. A truly exceptional smelling beer.

The raisins and plums are almost as pronounced in the taste. A scoop of cocoa is coated on top of them. More roasty than smokey towards the back but both are soft and unobtrusive. Chocolate stays on top of the tongue with plum skins as the peaty element with a boozy stripe folds over top.

Medium bodied, slick and smooth with a rounding creaminess. The roasty quality helps to dry out the finish and the carbonation

Oh so rounded and oh so tasty. Another great example of how some beers can benefit so greatly from barrel aging. 30 is next!

 1,058 characters

Photo of BEERchitect
4.47/5  rDev +6.4%
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.

 2,139 characters

Photo of Dope
4.19/5  rDev -0.2%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Bottle 07117, Feb 2009

A: Really dark brown pour but not quite black. Good sized fluffy light brown head. Fades quickly but a really enduring minimal head sticks around. Decent fluffy swaths of lacing left behind.

S: Lots of umami and smoke in this one. A bit of peat too in fact. Seems to have a lot more barrel character than the 12 I had recently which was the same age.

T: Yes, definitely more barrel character than the 12. Notable peat and smoke up front. Decent chocolate, buried a bit under the scotch. Some caramel throughout and some vanilla in the finish, all to sweeten it up and balance out the peat and smoke.

M: Nice medium body. Very smooth and mellow.

O: Interesting. Lots of scotch in this one, really cranking it up compared to the 12 year version. The 12 was very mellow, this one is a lot more barrel-forward. Stronger flavors in this one as a result. Has the same smooth body that makes it surprisingly drinkable. Nice sweet chocolate, caramel and vanilla to balance it out too. I don't even like scotch and I enjoyed this.

 1,052 characters

Photo of Roman5150
4.29/5  rDev +2.1%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4.5

bottle into tulip, bottled 2011

appearance: black with half finger slight off white head, not much lacing

smell: roasted malt, aged whiskey casks, oak, pepper, chocolate, espresso

taste: oak, burnt roasted malt, dark chocolate, a little more watery than expected, slight coffee taste

mouthfeel: medium carbonation, thick full bodied

overall: damn good, like an aged stout, alcohol is completely hidden and there are also some rauchbier qualities present. Very, very good beer for special occasions.

 507 characters

Photo of acevenom
4.75/5  rDev +13.1%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.75

Poured into a snifter glass. The beer pours jet black with no head. There's a thin light tan ring around the edge of the glass. There are a few tiny visible bubbles along the side of the glass that are rising to the top. The aroma is so awesome on this beer. I get chocolate, toffee, oak, nuts, and maybe just a touch of smokiness and vanilla. I get some of that malt as well, but it blends so well with the other aromas. The flavor is just as awesome as the aroma, though definitely more scotch heavy than the 16. The taste does follow the nose with those chocolate, toffee, vanilla, oak, nuts, and some smokiness. The smell keeps hitting the nose during each sip, which only helps make you want to drink this more. The body on this beer is surprisingly medium and very smooth. The drinkability is very high on this beer. It's a real treat. This is an excellent beer.

 868 characters

Photo of mick303
4.36/5  rDev +3.8%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

Vertical tasting of the range, from notes.
A - a dark black colour, thick, with great whispy lacing. 4.25
S - rich aged red fruit, super rich, and interesting complexities. 4.5
T - plum, raisin, shellfish, some acidic rosemary, aged vanilla taste, oak, coriander, lemon, creamy roast malt, dry smoked meat. 4.25
M - super smooth, rich caramel sweetness, very rich and tasty, dry tannic, woody finish, creamy with very full body, big and heavy. 4.25
O - smooth mineral taste, salt and green tea, salty caramel and some aged woody vanilla smoke. Very well put together, amazing beer all around, complex, dynamic and demands your attention. 4.5

 641 characters

Photo of bobhits
3.75/5  rDev -10.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 2 | overall: 4

Very clean and lacking strong aromas. Light oak and sugars vanilla and butter scotch elements. Very clean through the smell.

Carbonated but bubbles eventually are only around the brim of the glass and faded. Looks high abv though all bottles are 8%.

Very clean flavor much like the aroma and even look. This is much like you’d expect an 18 year scotch. Clean and smooth flavors, but unlike an 18 year old scotch this isn’t scotch. Beer looses flavor when it is simple and smooth. Ultimately this is lacking in character from the 12 year and greatly lacking in flavor.

The lack of carbonation here is really hurting this beer. It’s almost flat and it isn’t flavorful enough for this lack of carbonation.

A good beer but it needs more barrel or more sweetness. It lacks both.

 787 characters

Photo of MadScientist
4.29/5  rDev +2.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4.25

A: Very black showing a hint of deep garnet on the edges. The head is very thin but is long lasting and made of a fine medium brown bubbles.

S: Moderate whiskey and malt aromas that well balanced, the smoky and peaty scotch notes blend well with the beer although the light roast and bit of chocolate notes are more stout-like than old ale. There isn't much in the way of hops. There is a light note of stone fruit in there as well. Alcohol is evident and soft.

T: A smooth and palate coating beer with a moderate whisky flavor and a light malt sweetness. The malt has a slight raisin character along with bringing a touch of cocoa and little roast.There is a moderately-light hops bitterness. Some moderately-light oak character comes through as well. The balance is slightly bitter. The finish is medium and the aftertaste is a long lingering whisky flavor blended with a moderate alcohol.

M: Full bodied and slightly slick with moderately-light carbonation.

O: A heavy, sipping beer with layers of flavor and a great balanced whisky character.

BottleNo. 72188
& Date: July 2011

 1,086 characters

Ola Dubh Special Reserve 18 from Harviestoun Brewery Ltd.
93 out of 100 based on 142 ratings.