Ola Dubh Special Reserve 16
Harviestoun Brewery Ltd.

Ola Dubh Special Reserve 16Ola Dubh Special Reserve 16
Rate It
Beer Geek Stats | Print Shelf Talker
Old Ale
Ranked #16
Ranked #2,919
4.15 | pDev: 9.88%
Harviestoun Brewery Ltd.
Scotland, United Kingdom
Ola Dubh Special Reserve 16Ola Dubh Special Reserve 16
Notes: This beer is 8% ABV in bottle, 10.5% in cask and keg.

Ola Dubh (pronounced ‘ola-doo’ and Gaelic for ‘black oil’) was conceived in 2007. It was the first ale to be matured in whisky barrels from a named distillery and, with traceable casks and numbered bottles, it is a beer with real provenance. To make Ola Dubh 16, we take our Old Engine Oil (amped up to 10.5%) and age it for up to 6 months in casks that previously held Highland Park 16 Year Old single malt. And it is ready only when our head brewer, Stuart, deems it ready!

Aged in oak casks formerly used to mature Highland Park 16 Year Old Single Malt Whisky, our thick, gloopy base beer takes on distinct whisky notes, perfectly complementing its roasty, toasty bitterness.

Like the others, Ola Dubh 16 pours out jet black, with a small mocha-coloured head. There’s plenty to enjoy on the nose which is a classy blend of whisky, sweet roasted malts, earthy woodland and vanilla. The flavour is rich; loaded with sweet-roasted dark malts and coffee. And just at the finish there’s nice, smoky peat hints with just a touch more bourbon than the 12.

HOPS: Galena, East Kent Goldings, Fuggles
MALTS: Roast barley, oats
View: Beers
Reviews: 321 | Ratings: 661 | Log in to view all ratings and sort
Photo of laketang
laketang from Arizona

4.06/5  rDev -2.2%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4

deep brown or even black with a bubble ring.
Has nice barrel notes as expected, a li so char notes.
I get chocolate and roast, the whiskey gives a smooth edge.
Thin mouthfeel, a really enjoyable sipper.

Dec 19, 2020
Photo of mothmanscott
mothmanscott from Georgia

4.31/5  rDev +3.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

From notes 1/6/13: Pours ebony producing less than half a finger of short-lived, coarse, mocha head which leaves behind only a few small motes of lace as it recedes. Aroma is dark roast, caramel and chocolate malts, burnt pumpernickel, booze, smoky peat, oak/vanilla, candied nuts, a hint of orange peel and faint hops. Taste is chocolate and whisky forward (but less than expected), burnt dark bread, biscuity malt, caramel, molasses, candied walnuts, oak, some dark fruits. As with Ola Dubh 12 there is more burnt flavor and hop character from mid-sip through finish and into the aftertaste than in the nose. Finish and aftertaste are nicely smokey but is short-lived. The 8% ABV is well hidden. Mouthfeel is full throttle FULL bodied with medium-low carbonation, smooth and creamy but leaves behind a slickness on the tongue.

Nov 10, 2019
Photo of AdmiralOzone
AdmiralOzone from Minnesota

3.99/5  rDev -3.9%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Pours as black as night with a thin tan head that falls away rapidly with minimal lacing. Aroma is dark roasted malt, smoke, peat. Flavor follows the nose with little barrel character (bottle date May 2014 is almost five years ago), but it's there. Feel is thinner than I thought it would be. Medium bodied, low carbonation. Overall a nice enough beer but not one I'd seek out.

Jan 10, 2019
Photo of HardTarget
HardTarget from Texas

4.32/5  rDev +4.1%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Bottle hand labelled showing bottled on date of 2014 sometime, it soaked off in the cooler.

Appearance: Black glass, opaque save for a thin brown ring along the top. A thin halo of tan tiny bubbles form what little lace it can show.

Aroma: Smoke, peat, earth, wood, whiskey. You have my attention.

Taste: All the above with a sweet toasted bread base that makes all the fireworks of peaty smoke and whiskey enjoyable instead of harsh. There is a slight burnt rubber, and a hint of brown paper bag, but it all is in the mix of the big flavors going on and just work.

Mouthfeel: Medium heavy, not crazy chewy but hard to call it light. It finishes very clean making it seem lighter than the obvious weight it throws around.

Overall: Special beer. I don't think I'd enjoy this on a daily basis, but for a New Year's Day it's a proper pint. Big hairy flavors but a soft heart. Worth the money.

Jan 01, 2019
Photo of woodychandler
woodychandler from Pennsylvania

4.36/5  rDev +5.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25

This one hearkens back to March 2017 & one of the worst f**k-ups of mine in recent history. I had placed a bottle each of 16 & 18 in my reefer to chill, but when I opened the door, I heard a rattling, followed by an unsettling CRASH! 8=( I may have overfilled my reefer, but I prefer to think that it became despondent & committed suicide. 8=( Imagine my elation when I was able to procure a replacement bottle! Yay! 8=) Welcome to the closing ceremonies of Late Night New Beer Sunday (LNNBS) (Week 711)!

From the bottle: "Ale matured in Whisky Casks"; "Aged in selected oak casks, formerly used to mature Highland Park's gloriously rich and smoky 16 Year Old Single Malt Scotch Whisky"; "[Undersigned:] Head Brewer: (JS Cail) Master of Wood: (George Ervine) Bottle No. & Date: 03981 June 2014".

I am SO stoked to drink this one! When the first one shattered, I became despondent of finding a replacement, but I was successful, albeit spendy. It came with a black foil wrapper over its cap & down its neck, which I carefully removed FFT Kris Witman for her art. There was also a small card on a string that gave the series' deets & I likewise removed that & set it aside. Now, it was time for a Pop! of the cap. I prised it open slowly & gently to preserve it for Ms. Witman. Success! Next, a slow, gentle pour that was so slow that a sloth waved to me as he raced past. 8=O Time for some "Black Oil"! My pour had not allowed for the creation of any head, so I employed the Bartender's/Server's Trick & gave it a vigorous in-glass swirl. This raised ~ two fingers of dense, foamy, deep-brown head with great retention, leaving loads of lacing in its wake. Color was like spent motor oil - Back & Opaque (SRM = 44). Clarity? Good luck, pal! Lemme get the duty mechanic to help you with that. Nose instantly reminded me of why I like Rye over Scotch & Bourbon. Bourbon smells like corn silage & Scotch can be so peaty as to be overwhelming. This smelled like we were standing in the middle of a peat bog, harvesting peat squares to be dried as a peat bonfire burned upwind of us. 8=O Smoky, boozy, big, viscous … I feel like I should be sporting a kilt with my tackle hanging loose in the breeze as bagpipes play.

Digressions Alert!: I was a plankowner on the U.S.S. Normandy (CG-60) & during one of our frequent visits to France, we heard of the Scottish bagpipers coming ashore at Gold Beach. Apparently, the sound scared the shite outta the Nazis & they retreated southward to Omaha Beach! My headmaster at the private school which I attended for eleven (11) years was a Scotsman & I hear his burr now: "Right, laddie, now what's yer disconnect with Math? We'll get this sorted out right quick!" 8=O I am currently reading the third of Malcolm MacKay's "Glasgow Crime Trilogy" - "The Sudden Arrival of Violence", preceded by "The Necessary Death of Lewis Winter" & "How a Gunman Says Goodbye". I have read much of the Akashic Noir series, including those set in Scotland & I am a huge admirer of Irvine Welsh so it is all fitting.

Mouthfeel was indeed viscous. 8=O Oil pumping into my gawping yap! The taste was more smoky and peaty than outright whisky. Thank f**k! That previous one was a baseball bat to the rear of my cranium as it were. This was a more mellow booziness, more subtle, like a cudgel swathed in velvet. Yeah, it still came with a cudgel-like ferocity.

More digressions: I was awaiting the Staten Island Ferry one night, half-asleep on a bench inside the ferry building when I caught the most painful feeling across the soles of my feet. I darted up, only to be confronted by one of Manhattan's Finest, a copper of Scottish descent wielding a cudgel! "Oy, hurts, doesn't it, lad? On yer feet! Let's see some I.D.!" F**ksake, it hurt to stand! I showed him my active duty card & he explained that laying down is prohibited due to the homeless. 8=( We exchanged war stories since I had a year + as a cop & he told me that the best way to roust a sleeping drink is to whack them across the soles of their feet. 8=O He went on to impart that he disliked unleashing the then new PR-24 since it required an incident report and billy clubs & truncheons were a thing of his father's & grandfather's past. His cudgel was of his own fashioning & it was highly polished & whittled to fit his hand. Lesson learned. I made my own after that & routinely used it on Shore Patrol.

Phew! Wotta beer! This oughtta come with a warning label. Finish was dry, bitter, smoky & definitely of Scotch Whisky. Phew!

Oct 08, 2018
Photo of josanguapo
josanguapo from Spain

3.06/5  rDev -26.3%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

From Saveur Biere. In Teku glass. Playing Avernum 4. More or less the same as the 12 years version. This wood excess saturates me a bit but isnt unpleasant

Aug 15, 2018
Photo of Holderness
Holderness from Massachusetts

3.4/5  rDev -18.1%
look: 3.25 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 3.25

Very deep amber body with some retention and minimal lacing. Much smokier and peatier than the Ola Dubh 12, which adds a bit more heft to the flavors and makes the mouthfeel a little less limp and watery. Still not getting that whole "gloopy and viscous" marketing tag.


Jun 01, 2018
Photo of stortore
stortore from Illinois

3.83/5  rDev -7.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.75

11.2 ounce bottle into a snifter. Bottled 5/2014, had 11/30/17.

Pours a dark brown that’s a dark amber on the edge, mostly opaque, with not much of a head and no real lacing. Aromas of malt, chocolate, cocoa, scotch, oak, caramel, some peat, light smoke. Really smells nice. The taste is malt, scotch, chocolate, caramel, oak, smoke, light molasses, a little vanilla. A touch watery. Smooth, a little thin feeling, under carbonated.

Maybe this didn’t age well. But, I also see people checking in older bottles than this one. So for me, this smells great, but a bit flat and watery otherwise. High price point, too, so I don’t recommend a purchase.

Mar 20, 2018
Photo of Giggy
Giggy from Michigan

4.39/5  rDev +5.8%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

Nice dark pour, minimal head. Aroma is very nice malty, dark fruit, with a hint of smoke. Taste is delicious, was expecting more body but is appropriate for ABV.
Bottle no. 04411. June 2014

Mar 09, 2018
Photo of stevoj
stevoj from Idaho

4.13/5  rDev -0.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4

Bottle from Jeremy, 2007 batch. Oily black pour, wispy head. Smoky peaty aroma and taste. Slick and slippery. Nice slow sipper. 26 years in the making. Worth the wait.

Mar 05, 2018
Photo of GuyFawkes
GuyFawkes from Illinois

4.25/5  rDev +2.4%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Bottled February 2012; drank 4/16/14 @ the Kid's.

Murky brown liquid; orange 'round the edges.

Minimal tan head; no lace.

Caramel, smoke & oak nose.

Thick, flat mouthfeel.

Oak, smoke & sweet caramel; assertive but quaffable.

Jan 30, 2018
Photo of connecticutpoet
connecticutpoet from Connecticut

4.03/5  rDev -2.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Appearance - no head atop a very dark brown body. So dark I could not tell if it was clear or hazy.

Aroma - sweet molasses and honey, hoisin sauce, raisins and prunes, booziness fainter than the Special 12 Reserve.

Taste - woody, dark fruits, a bit more boozy as it warms. Better balanced than the 12.

Mouthfeel - very smooth, not at all harsh

Overall - good for an old ale, better than the 12.

Jan 13, 2018
Photo of AleSan
AleSan from Italy

4.36/5  rDev +5.1%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25

Slim and evanescent foam, nut color... heavy brown beer, almost pure black, opaque, some dark ruby reflection... aromas: whiskey, ash, prune, wood, coffee, toasted, light hints of alcohol; a bit intense e vary persisten. Well balanced with the taste... clean, soft, nice body, coffee and red fruits "light acid" in the final, persistent, warm.

Jan 06, 2018
Photo of dave_ackbar
dave_ackbar from Hawaii

4.53/5  rDev +9.2%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Poured from bottle into a pint glass.
Color is jet black with a thin tan head that fades away quickly leaving a little bit of a lip throughout.
Smell is coffee and dark chocolate. Nary a hint of the scotch barrel.
Taste is terrific straight to the last sip. The hint of peat is always there, but never too much.
Feel is warm, I live in Hawaii so 65 F is cold for me, this kept me warm on a 64F night.
Overall, I need to find more of this and the 18.

Dec 30, 2017
Photo of seedyone
seedyone from New York

4.84/5  rDev +16.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.75

From bottle at home. Dated June 2017. I'm looking at over 750 beers reviewed & this is, without a doubt a singular event.

I'm a big McCallan fan, but shy away from the Big Peat stuff that I thought might overshadow this brew.

The aroma was licorice, bittersweet chocolate & coffee with the distinct smokey peat I expected. Perfect body. Medium-heavy with an unctuousness that bordered on oily, but wasn't.

That said, the aftertaste was the biggest surprise. It brought back a very distinct memory of the first time I repaired a bicycle tire tube. To get the glue to adhere properly you had to use the rasp on the lid of the kit container to roughen up the area around the puncture. The memory of that precise moment was awakened when to Ola Dubh hit my tongue. It was most surprising that it was the taste that brought back the memory of the smell of the freshly bruised rubber, not the aroma.

Freak factor aside, I found this to be a near perfect example of the depth & breadth of what out there in the world of craft. This is an event drink that is sure to bring those that share closer to an understanding of their similarities & differences all in the same snifter, of course

Dec 10, 2017
Photo of SHODriver
SHODriver from North Carolina

4.25/5  rDev +2.4%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

A: Poured into a snifter to a nice black beer topped by a half finger of dnese tan head which fades quickly to a collar around the edge of the glass with minimal lacing
S: Smells of smoke and roasted malts with a little oak.
T: Taste is a little chocolate with some smoke. Hints of caramel and some slight oak. Slight campfire and light fruitiness as well. Swallow is more smoke, some charred wood, chocolate, slight coffee, oak, and a slight hint of sweetness
M: This beer is on the heavier side of medium in body with soft carbonation which is adequate for the style. This one has a slightly drying finish as well which is expected.
O: Overall this is a really nice beer. I think I like the 12 a little better but this one is still really nice. It has good complexity and flavors which makes it an interesting drink. Well worth a try.

Oct 15, 2017
Photo of VoxRationis
VoxRationis from New York

4.26/5  rDev +2.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Decanted from an 11.2 oz (330 ml) bottle into a conical pint glass; bottle no. 00733, date June 2014.
A: Pours a very dark brown, essentially black. A one quarter inch, khaki head that dissipates rapidly, leaving good quality lacing.
S: Dark malts, black coffee, cocoa, whiskey, peat smoke, and bacon aromas.
T: Dark malts, cocoa, peat smoke, coffee grounds, and ham and peas flavors. Bitterness strong and solid throughout.
M: Full bodied with low to medium persistence of effervescence.
O: Interesting. Very reminiscent of a rauchbier. Not for every day, but reasonable for special occasions.

Sep 24, 2017
Photo of puck1225
puck1225 from Texas

4.19/5  rDev +1%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Poured from a bottle into a tulip glass. Black-brown color with a small brown head and good lacing. Interesting smell and taste. Smell of oats and smoke. Smooth and silky feel. The taste is hard to define but sophisticated: raisin, chocolate, oats, peat, earthy, a bit fruity. A very enjoyable beer.

Aug 29, 2017
Photo of maximum12
maximum12 from Minnesota

3.55/5  rDev -14.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Thanks to the best wife a guy could have for this Christmas present, the last of a four pack of random, pricey beers received last winter. 11.2 oz bottle #11521 with a label date of May 2014.

Nary a whisper breaks the anticipatory silence as the cap pops off, but there is minimal head with a hard pour. Black trench coat gives off a more stout than old ale attitude. Smells wicked. Malts soaked in leather & raisin treacle. No barrel.

Ola Dubh 16 is more continental than the Free City of Danzig. Smokey, burning peat whiskey is on top of this beer (why couldn’t I smell that?) & wound tightly into its DNA. The beer itself is a shadow of the wood & whiskey (what a great band name), with the aforementioned old leather, raisins, Shasta cola, finishing with a grain of roast. Thick & heavy for a sub-10% brew. This would pair well with a fire, warm night & topless…wife.

Interesting beer that leaves my bell only partially rung; glad I had it, but wouldn’t pay a premium for any others in the series. Good beer.

Aug 04, 2017
Photo of ThaneMcC
ThaneMcC from Germany

4.25/5  rDev +2.4%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

I purchased the Ola Dubh special reserve 16 and 12 for – I have to admit I was intrigued by the description on the label.
The 16: pours a deep dull black with scant khaki head, mild effervescence with swirling and minimal lacing.
Smells of dark roast malts, earthy peat, some vanilla notes with just a hint of leather, wet burlap and smoke.
Tastes is surprisingly malty without being sweet, the peat and flat notes predominate, hints of coffee, caramel, vanilla, very mild whisky notes and some woody notes. Well balanced throughout – with a very clean finish. The textures is full bodied, somewhat viscous with just enough carbonation.

Overall, this was a pretty solid ale – captures the peat and whisky notes – quite a contrast to the sweet stouts aged in whisky barrels to which I’ve become accustomed – but overall, quite good. Balanced, mature – not as sweet as the aroma would suggest – a pretty solid ale.

Aug 03, 2017
Photo of Thomas_Wikman
Thomas_Wikman from Texas

4.22/5  rDev +1.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

I bought Ola Dubh 12, 16, and 18 at the store (a few of each). This is an Old Ale matured in 16 year old whiskey barrels, ABV 8.00%. I liked all of them especially this one.

Look: black with an almost non-existent mocca colored head.

Aroma: nice aroma of roasted malts and some whiskey

Taste: There's roasted malts, chocolate, coffee, and a moderate whiskey flavor. I think it is outstanding.

Feel: full body like a stout, smooth

May 23, 2017
Photo of captaincoffee
captaincoffee from Virginia

4.24/5  rDev +2.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Deep and dark with a smallish but dense tan head. Surprisingly only spotty lacing. Nose has coffee, burnt toffee, and slight earthy and peaty notes. Flavor is not as sweet as nose suggested. Coffee is there along with a touch of peat. A tad short on the finish. The scotch barrel influence always seems to fall short compared to bourbon barrel because the scotch barrels have likely seen many more uses and no just single use like bourbon. Nice mouthfeel. Overall, very good and very well rounded, and I actually liked this a bit more than the 18. Still can't beat Old Engine Oil on cask...but that's a very different beer.

May 12, 2017
Photo of Radcpa
Radcpa from Washington

4.25/5  rDev +2.4%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Light brown appearance with little head but just the right amount of carbonation. Complex aroma with a slight nutty coffee hint. Excellent nutty flavor.

Jan 10, 2017
Photo of sokol_1993
sokol_1993 from California

4.23/5  rDev +1.9%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

Had one on Jan 1st. Happy new year!
Look: pitch black, with little head but good lacing.
Smell: Molasses, burnt sugar, some malty taste.
Taste: Dominantly molasses, but also some spiciness, licorice, with a distinct burnt malt bitterness. Creaminess. Little hoppiness. Very chewy and viscous.
Feel: viscous and luscious, full body. Great after taste.

Excellent brew, I'd rate it higher than its brother Ola Dubh 12.

Jan 03, 2017
Photo of KettleBellFreak
KettleBellFreak from Tennessee

4.62/5  rDev +11.3%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.75

Couldn't have been happier with this beer. Bottle from 2012.

Black as night. No head.

Great coffee, scotch and malt aroma. Bitter chocolate and almonds were there as it warmed.

Scotch character but no boozy burn, smooth malt and bitter chocolate. Sourdough bread and nutella.

Slick as hell, very drinkable.


Jan 01, 2017
Ola Dubh Special Reserve 16 from Harviestoun Brewery Ltd.
Beer rating: 92 out of 100 with 661 ratings