Ola Dubh Special Reserve 21 - Harviestoun Brewery Ltd.

Not Rated.
Ola Dubh Special Reserve 21Ola Dubh Special Reserve 21

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97 Ratings
no score

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Ratings: 97
Reviews: 22
rAvg: 4.16
pDev: 10.1%
Wants: 8
Gots: 26 | FT: 3
Brewed by:
Harviestoun Brewery Ltd. visit their website
United Kingdom (Scotland)

Style | ABV
Old Ale |  10.50% ABV

Availability: Rotating

Notes & Commercial Description:
Beer added by: WillCarrera on 05-03-2013

Aged in casks that previously held 21 year old Highland Park Whiskey; wooden sweet flavour with bitter chocolate, smoked peat moss and a touch of vanilla.
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Beer: Ratings & Reviews
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Ratings: 97 | Reviews: 22
Reviews by stinkydaddy:
More User Reviews:
Photo of Bugs318
4.07/5  rDev -2.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4

Pours a pretty dark brown to black with a slight tan head that cups the glass and remains after the majority dissipates. Nose wafts some chocolate, mild peat, traces of mild smoke, some wood character. Taste is similar but also has some brown sugar or molasses sweetness up from, while the linger blends some licorice and chocolate with peaty smokiness. A bit light and watery, with moderately low carbonation. Good.

Photo of DaveBar
4.18/5  rDev +0.5%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25

Purchased at the LCBO for around the $9.00 or so for a 330ml bottle. Served at 4deg C in a draught glass. Bottle number 08176 bottled in April 2014 so it's just over a year old.

A- Opens with a mighty pop and pours a skim head that is gone in seconds. Super dark brown almost black color.

S- Not a lot of Scotch but it is there. Malty notes with hints of chocolate.

T- Fine scotch notes present. Nice blend. Nothing outrageous nor overpowering. Just a good overall brew.

M- Dry and creamy good.

O- Nice blend. Bit expensive but worth one or two a year.

Food Pairing

This nice little brew went well with...... Spicy goat curry. This brew cut through the heat and curry very well.


Photo of bluejacket74
4.49/5  rDev +7.9%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

11.2 ounce bottle, bottle #02468, April 2014. Served in a snifter, the beer pours dark brown/black with about a half inch tan head. Head retention and lacing are both good. Aroma is nice, the brew smells like peaty smoke, dark chocolate, roasted malt, coffee, and some vanilla. I think the taste is pretty much just like the aroma, but there's also a bit of iodine and dark bread noticeable too. Mouthfeel/body is medium, it's creamy and coating with moderate carbonation. It's very smooth and easy to drink. If you like Scotch Whisky (and especially peaty ones), then you'll probably like this a lot, too. Truthfully, all of the Ola Dubh series brews I've had have been good, too bad this isn't made in bombers! Definitely worth trying.

Photo of Phyl21ca
3.75/5  rDev -9.9%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

Bottle: Poured a dark brown color ale with a medium size light brown foamy head with good retention and some light lacing notes. Aroma of light scotch notes with some toffee and light brown sugar notes is quite enticing. Taste is also dominated by toffee notes with some residual candi sugar balanced against some great scotch notes. Body is maybe thinner than I would have expected with some good carbonation and no apparent alcohol. Not as complex as I was expecting but still very enjoyable.

Photo of smakawhat
4.08/5  rDev -1.9%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Poured on tap into a snifter glass at Churchkey.

Faint tan head presented, manages a small soapy collar with a filmy top. Body is classic dark walnut black.

Lots of thick vanilla bean on the nose, faint hints of dark berry fruit, soft caramel and spices. Slightly dry but quite creamy also with a hint of wetness.

Palate hits with a good balance of roast and toffee. Creamy sense is lost with a nice whiskey angle and sharpness dominating. Controlled. A goodgood classic grassy peaty finish mixing with a hop faint bitterness. Nice character and oak roundness with a mellow scotch finish and a little lingering black licorice.

Not a big scotch fan, but this is done nicely. Quite good actually.

Photo of Beer-A-Lot
4.38/5  rDev +5.3%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25

An incredible beer from a style I'd not previously appreciated that much. While I love Scotch Ales, Old Ales have tended to be too dry or funky tasting for me. This beer is much more like an imperial stout. It looks like it, feels like it, and tastes like it. Extremely balanced and smooth tasting going down. I could easily put this in my Top 10 or Top 15 must-have list. As satisfying at first taste as the last. Doesn't need to warm up. doesn't need to grow on you. This is superb and unfortunately won't be easy to find. Gotta drink more while I can.

Photo of maxwelldeux
4.63/5  rDev +11.3%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.75

Draught in a flight. Then another pint. Pours an extremely black color with almost no head on it. Nose has some definite roasting in there, with that sour/bitterness that comes off from the scotch and a bit of a coffee smell. Taste is slightly smokey with a fair amount of the scotch coming through and SUPER smooth. Damn. This beer will put hair on your chest.

Photo of damndirtyape
4.28/5  rDev +2.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

11.2oz bottle poured into a Gordon's Highland Scotch Ale thistle glass. bottle #05685, bottled April 2014.

Appearance: Black with a dark mahogany brown at the edges where the light peaks in. Very thin tan ring at the edge with an occasional persistent fine strand of lacing noted.

Smell: Fine smoky/peaty scotch - very mellow - with hints of chocolate.

Taste: Incredibly smooth and well blended flavor. Toffee, chocolate, high end scotch all well mixed together. The finish is a little bit smoky with some char and tobacco notes.

Mouthfeel: Smooth, slick, and approaching creamy. Light carbonation. A tiny bite of alcohol/whiskey as it goes down.

Overall / Drinkability: A slow sipper and I wish I had another bottle, but as expensive as these bottles are, this is probably one of those once in a lifetime treats. Overall, a special treat of a beer especially if you like scotch and beer, but I think the flavors of the Ola Dubh 18 are more intense and more enjoyable.

Photo of thehyperduck
4.3/5  rDev +3.4%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4.5

330 mL foil-capped bottle from the LCBO; bottled Apr 2014, listed at 8% and served at cellar temperature. I've had their 12-year a few times now, and was impressed enough to be willing to splurge on this variant ($9/bottle).

Pours an inky black colour, capped off with one finger of soapy, tan-coloured head. It fades away fairly quickly, lasting no more than two or three minutes, before being replaced with a thin collar and a modest quantity of lace. Good legs. The nose abounds with peaty scotch whisky notes, in addition to notes of vanilla, charred wood, chocolate and molasses. Fruity hints of raisin and prune are also apparent, with a boozy character that punches well above where you'd expect for 8%.

Quite rich-flavoured. Molasses and caramelized sugar sweetness, alongside some prune and fig fruitiness, blend well with the notes of peaty whisky, oak and vanilla. A charred wood astringency becomes more prominent as you reach the tail end of the sip, with flavours of cocoa, coffee grounds and some herbal bitterness ramping up. Finishes with a mildly boozy note of vanilla, oak and scotch, with a faint suggestion of smoke. Medium-full in body; the carbonation levels are quite low, with barely any agitation registered on the tongue - it's exceptionally silky-smooth, but still feels a little flatter than a beer this boldly-flavoured should.

Final Grade: 4.3, an outstanding A grade. Ola Dubh Special Reserve 21 is a ridiculously delicious beverage. Compared to the 12-year, the scotch whisky flavour has been seriously amplified. This brew is by its very nature a slow sipper, but given such a small volume, you will likely want to conserve and savour every gulp of this stuff anyway. I like this better than the 12-year in some ways, but the 21-year's weak mouthfeel prevents it from running away with the competition. I will probably pick up another bottle of this for cellaring purposes, and while the price point certainly stings, this brew's overall quality manages to justify the cost.

Photo of WillCarrera
4.11/5  rDev -1.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

On-tap at Pizzeria Paradiso. Served in a snifter.

A- Pours pitch black and oily looking, with a thin chocolate colored head that recedes to a collar.

S- An appealing blend of whiskey, earthy peat, vanilla and raisins.

T- Malt character here is huge, lots of chocolate, roasted grain, lots of peaty whiskey flavors. Towards the finish there are some sweet molasses/fruit and maybe light anise flavors.

M- Full-bodied, low carbonation with a sticky feel, nice boozy warmth on the end.

O- A tasty beer with some great barrel flavors, my first experience with the Ola Dubh series, I'll have to check out more of these.

Photo of John_M
4.46/5  rDev +7.2%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

On tap at Churchkey the other day.

The beer pours a blackish brown color with pretty good head retention and light lacing. The nose is about what you'd expect in an Ola Dubh beer, as I pick up considerable peat, dark chocolate, vanilla and coffee. The flavor profile replicates the nose pretty closely, with the peat/smoke flavor helping to tame the moderate sweetness in this beer. The mouthfeel is great as well... it's full, soft and almost creamy. Alcohol is well integrated into the flavor profile, and while delicious, I can't really see drinking a whole lot of this (just got a 4 ounce pour at CK). Nevertheless, this is another fine effort from Hariestoun, espeically for those who love the aroma and flavor of single malt scoth in their stout and/or old aged ale. (which I confess I do)

Photo of superspak
4.1/5  rDev -1.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

330 ml bottle into snifter; bottle # 05043, bottled in 4/2014. Pours fairly pitch black color with a 1 finger dense tan head with good retention, that reduces to a thin cap that lingers. Nice spotty soapy lacing clings around the glass. Aromas of chocolate, cocoa, toast, dark bread, leather, tobacco, peat smoke, oak, light dark fruit, and roast/smokey earthiness. Damn nice aromas with good balance and complexity of roast/bready malt and scotch barrel notes; with good strength. Taste of big chocolate, cocoa, toast, dark bread, leather, tobacco, peat smoke, oak, light dark fruit, light vanilla, and roast/smokey earthiness. Light roast/oaky bitterness on the finish; with lingering notes of chocolate, cocoa, toast, dark bread, leather, tobacco, peat smoke, oak, light dark fruit/vanilla, and roast/smokey earthiness on the finish for a while. Damn nice balance, complexity, and robustness of roast/bready malt and scotch barrel flavors; with a nice roasted bitterness/sweetness balance and zero cloying flavors after the finish. Light carbonation and medium bodied; with a very smooth, fairly creamy, and lightly chalky mouthfeel that is nice. Alcohol is very well hidden with only a light warming present after the finish. Overall this is an excellent old ale style. All around great complexity and balance of roast/bready malt and scotch barrel flavors; and very smooth to sip on. An interesting note about this vintage is it is much bolder on peat smoke and earthy leather/tobacco notes than the younger scotch vintages. A very enjoyable offering.

Photo of darktronica
3.83/5  rDev -7.9%
look: 4.25 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.25 | overall: 3.75

Always hard to trust memories when not tasting side by side, but I feel like the 21 is lacking compared to both old ales on either side in the lineup, the 18 and the 30. This is heavily imbued with both whisky and cask oak, but to the point where the base ale was almost overwhelmed. Despite the heavy whisky notes, the majority of what comes through is smoky peat, losing much of the sherry influence and rich malting that makes Highland Park so special. The peat lends some bitter herbal notes that are interesting and uncommon for an old ale, but this is very different from most other beers in the style. I get hints of vanilla and caramel, but very much in the background.

The closest flavor comparison I have is Meantime's Old Naval College Porter, as that is a great example of using a heavily peated whisky to great effect. But in comparison, the Ola Dubh 21 has a much thinner mouthfeel and less pleasing appearance (the porter pours some of the nicest, creamiest head of any beer ever).

Photo of Cramshawbar
2.75/5  rDev -33.9%
look: 2.75 | smell: 2.75 | taste: 2.75 | feel: 2.75 | overall: 2.75

Heads up, before you take my opinion seriously: I do not like whiskey.
You may wonder why I would try this then. Well, I attempt to try all beer. How else does one know what is the most suitable one for personal taste?
So I have attempted to put the cask taste aside (tough, as it is well done) focusing on the chocolate and smokey tastes, which are wonderful here. I actually wish they could remove the whiskey cask part of the equation, just to see how the beer would turn out.
Anyway, I am glad I have tried.

Photo of kevinlater
4.35/5  rDev +4.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 4.5

330ml bottle into snifter. 8% abv. bottled april 2014. enjoyed on may 13, 2015

a: pitch black with a finger of light brown head

s: chocolate, whisky, rich toffee, hints of vanilla, prunes & raisins. a sweet and enticing aroma

t: raisin and prune up front that quickly lead into oaky cocoa, whisky, and toffee flavours. there's a bit of vanilla and some smoky notes that follow. finishes roasty (toast, charred wood) and somewhat bitter

m: medium-bodied with virtually no carbonation

o: the mouthfeel is a real let-down. a beer this complex and tasty should have a bit more body to it. otherwise, this is some truly delicious stuff -- very chocolaty and sweet with excellent prominent barrel characteristics. almost worth the $9 i paid for it

Photo of jmikepool
5/5  rDev +20.2%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

Great beer. It's a must.

Photo of Jeffo
3.65/5  rDev -12.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

Got this one in Bodegraven. Drank the 16, then the 18 and then the 21 yr. Some notes for comparison.

From a 33cl bottle into a snifter
April 2014

APPEARANCE: A clear dark brown pour yields a 1 finger, medium looking, creamy and bubbly light tan head with good retention. Head fades to a full swirly wisp. Bistre brown body with no carbonation evident. A swirly wisp remains until the end leaving touches of lacing down the glass. Same as the other two..

SMELL: Some decent peated whisky, aromas of leather and some dark chocolate on the nose. Medium strength. Nice, but not overly impressive. Same as the 18 yr with a touch more peat and smoke than the 16.

TASTE: More peated whisky, leather and smoky flavors up front. More earthy notes at the swallow with a medium strength but lingering finish of peat, earthy hops, leather, some dark chocolate, toffee and raisins. Flavorful with some well balanced peat and smoky notes. Same as the 18 yr but with even a bit more smoke, perhaps.

PALATE: Slightly thinner body with medium levels of carbonation. Semi-creamy on the palate, perhaps the creamiest of the three, goes down fine and finishes rather dry.

OVERALL: Nice stuff. Probably the best of the three we tried today, as it had the best combination of flavor and feel. That said, none of these can hold a candle to that mythical creature that was the 2010 Ola Dubh 12 that floored me about a year ago. That was the batch that made it to the LCBO and it ended up sitting in my basement for four years. Man, how I'd love to that that one again... Anyways, as for this batch of the 16, 18 and 21, they are certainly nice brews if you're a peat fan, but in my view, are nothing worth getting all worked up about.

Photo of Huhzubendah
4.25/5  rDev +2.2%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

On draft at Churchkey in D.C. Served alongside the Ola Dubh 12, also on draft.

The beer is black with a small tan head. The aroma offers roast, chocolate, alcohol, oak, smoke, scotch. Very nice. A bit more of the scotch character comes through in the aroma here.Lovely flavor following the scent. Easy to sip and savor. Medium bodied. Vanilla, chocolate, light booze. The 12 year was a bit smoother than the 21 year, though the barrel character was less pronounced in the younger version. Overall, a delicious beer.

Photo of fredmugs
3.25/5  rDev -21.9%
look: 3.25 | smell: 3.25 | taste: 3.25 | feel: 3.25 | overall: 3.25

April 2014 bottle date. Bought these based on the BA score and the entire series was disappointing. Very thin taste and not much barrel from a beer that brags so much about the barrels used.

Photo of danieelol
2.54/5  rDev -38.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 2.25 | overall: 2.5

Thin in body, barrel is so "subtle" as to be almost imperceptible. Just an extremely tame beer which is not expected given the ABV, price tag or barrel aging. Fades away into nothingness. Have had two bottles of this quite a time apart and had similar experiences with both.

Photo of SavvyStudent
4.75/5  rDev +14.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.75

A: pours deep dark brown with little lacing.
S: oak and strong whiskey at the front. Some dark chocolate and caramel at the end. Really focused alcohol smell.
T: vanilla, alcohol burn, dark chocolate and continues burn at the end.
M: medium mouthfeel which is lighter than anticipated by the style.
O: amazingly bold Oaked whiskey flavor that I love. A completely random buy but now one of my top Barrell aged beers now

Photo of MLaVioletteJr
2.71/5  rDev -34.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 2.75 | feel: 2.75 | overall: 2

I was expecting an Old Ale. Thin and black, like a single stout. Not even close to big enough to go into a barrel in my opinion. Watery black whisky. And it cost me $18 for a single, majorly overpriced and a serious disappointment.

Ola Dubh Special Reserve 21 from Harviestoun Brewery Ltd.
92 out of 100 based on 97 ratings.