Ola Dubh Special Reserve 16
Harviestoun Brewery Ltd.

Ola Dubh Special Reserve 16Ola Dubh Special Reserve 16
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Old Ale
Ranked #17
Ranked #2,655
4.15 | pDev: 10.12%
Harviestoun Brewery Ltd.
Scotland, United Kingdom
Ola Dubh Special Reserve 16Ola Dubh Special Reserve 16
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Reviews: 318 | Ratings: 659 | Log in to view all ratings and sort
Reviews by ThaneMcC:
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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
More User Reviews:
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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
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RoyalT from Ohio

4.5/5  rDev +8.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

Appearance – This is almost as dark as their Engine Oil with a tan but slightly less lively head.

Smell – There’s some dark roasted malts to this nose and little sugar even after an hour opened up. The aroma though is exceptional and now I’m also getting a hint of espresso.

Taste – The espresso comes out a little more at the taste and the sugars, closer to raw then anything else, are much stronger on the tongue. The roastiness is passionate but quiet.

Mouthfeel – This Old Ale is close to full-bodied and incredibly smooth in the mouth, probably one of the smoothest OAs that I’ve ever had.

Drinkability – It’s efforts like this that make me fall in love all over again with this uncommon style here in the US. I would love to throw 10 of these in a cellar and open one a year for the next ten years.

May 15, 2011
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merlin48 from Kentucky

4.42/5  rDev +6.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

11.2 oz bottle, #04722, bottled Sept 2007. Pours into a snifter deep dark brown and viscous. Small khaki head leaves some nice sheets of lace.

Complex aroma has charred oak wood, vanilla, dark chocolate, some almond nuttiness, and prominent notes of Scotch whisky. Nice!

Mouthfeel is thick and full bodied. Some whisky essence with the low carbonation.

Taste opens with dark roasty chocolate maltiness, quickly joined by the nuttiness from the aroma. Vanilla, charcoal, and oak tones add depth. The Scotch whisky character is prominent.

Really well done. A wonderful sipper. I'm going to get a few of these to put away for some aging.

Apr 25, 2008
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orbitalr0x from Illinois

4.09/5  rDev -1.4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Pours into my glass a deep black with dark brown accents and a small dark tan head that quickly fades. Not as viscous as I was expecting. Aromas start out with dark roasted malt mixing with some licorice, bitter chocolate and coffee. Dark fruits move in and meet up with a smokey peat aroma. Hints of wood, tobacco and molasses on the back end. Maybe even leather? Quite deep and complex overall.

First sip brings roasted malt quickly moving into chocolate and dark fruit flavors. Licorice, raisin and molasses roll across. The peaty scotch smokiness comes through rather strong with a slightly salty accent. It flows down with notes of wood and tobacco. Not as smoky as the 12 was, quite complex and a good sipper overall.

Mouthfeel is medium bodied and slightly more viscous than the pour lead onto. Still, this is not overly heavy and about on par for the viscosity of your standard stout. Well placed, fine carbonation, this one goes down rather easily. Makes a good after dinner treat. Overall, I've enjoyed this one and I'm glad I made the purchase.

Oct 21, 2008
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jondeelee from Massachusetts

4.92/5  rDev +18.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

Ola Dubh 16 lets the imbiber know from the first whiff that something extraordinary is about to happen. There are, of course, several beers that boast having been aged in used whiskey/wine/scotch/rum/etc. casks, but few of those beers smell so intensely of the cask's former contents. Old Dubh's nose is a mixture of near-black ale, with dark caramel sugars, chocolate malt, peat, coffee, and tobacco aromas, mixed with the scent of aged whiskey and charcoal.

On the tongue, the ale is so immediately dark and foreboding that it's hard to imagine this was made out of grains, and not crafted directly from ash. Huge tobacco and coffee flavors dominate the taste, as well as peat and black malt, and a continuation of the whiskey charcoal from the nose. A good sampling of heavy sugars, port wine, and dark fruit esters (banana, fig, raisin) complement the bitter malts, barely balancing the brew. The aftertaste is a joy of tobacco and coffee, and lingers much like good whiskey. Mouthfeel is medium to medium-heavy, and carbonation is light.

Overall, while I can't say this beer is going to appeal to everyone--in fact, I doubt few will be able to enjoy its extraordinarily intense flavors--it is an amazing accomplishment. I doubt it's possible to cram more flavor into a bottle.

Aug 06, 2011
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MadScientist from New York

4.21/5  rDev +1.4%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4

Bottle No. 69110
& date: July 2011

A: The beer is inky black, not letting any light. The head is a persistent thin cap of medium tan creamy bubbles.

S: The aroma is dominated by a moderately-strong aroma of scotch whiskey and moderate oak that is somewhat cinnamon and vanilla. The scotch bring peat and some alcohol characters. There is light aroma of the complex malt you find in an old ale but it's in the background to the scotch and oak.

T: A medium sweetness with a great scotch whiskey flavor. There is a good complexity to the malt with moderately-light chocolate and and dry roast aftertaste. The hops bitterness is moderately-light with no hops flavor. The balance is somewhat sweet which helps to balance out the whisky. The finish is towards the sweet and the aftertaste is of scotch peatiness and a roasted grain dryness.

M: Full bodied with moderate carbonation. Moderate creamy and a light alcohol warmth.

O: The beer serves as a nice palate to carry the scotch flavors. The underling beer is a bit had to see under that but with the chocolate and the roast I'm apt to call it a stout and not an old ale. An enjoyable sipping beer.

Jan 24, 2013
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ArrogantDeadGuy from Virginia

4.82/5  rDev +16.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Finally, the proper use of scoth in beer. This interpretation is neither like sucking on a tree nor sipping a glass of single malt. The scoth wonderfully compliments the dark ale. The pour is a nice deep black with moderate single fingered white head. The body is smooth and in fine balance with a wonderful nose and lack of pungent aftertaste so typical of scotch barrel aged brews i have had in the past. Koudos to Harviestoun for doing this right, I only wish that I cold afford to drink more of these.

Oct 20, 2009
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Bitterbill from Wyoming

4.03/5  rDev -2.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

I bought this from South Bay D&L. Thanks Joey!

I really liked the SR 12 so here goes:

With a very vigorous pour at close to room temp, there's a 1 finger of tan foam with some nice lacing. It's close to pitch black but I see some redish highlights at the bottom of my glass. Hehe...looks like some good head retention.

The smell has notes of caramel, dark fruit, some smoke(more than in the 12), and just a touch of whisky.

The taste is pretty smokey on first sip with some notes of caramel, a pretty big coffee flavour, some hot cocoa bitterness, and just a touch of the whiskey. Nice. It has a full silky mouthfeel at first but that fades to more of a medium mouthfeel mid palate with very light carbonation, and the alcohol is well hidden.

This one's a pretty smooth sipper despite the larger smoke profile but it, imho, isn't as complex as the 12 and I'm definitely leaning towards the 12 when it comes to how much it satisfies my palate. Still good stuff and I'm glad I got to try it. Appearance wise, this definitely was more appealing.

Mar 28, 2008
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DanOLeary from Washington

3.7/5  rDev -10.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 4

Aroma: This beer presents itself to the nose with chocolate nibs, vanilla and oak. While not over powering, there is an ever present Bourbon aroma supporting all other aromatics. Faint alcohol spice pushes through. No hop aroma.

Appearance: Entirely black body with a fine but persistent coating of a brown head. Good lacing along the sides of the glass

Flavor: Bourbon and alcohol tartness, along with charred oak touch the tongue with surprising delicacy upfront. Chocolate sweetness is quite prevalent throughout with a hint of alcoholic spice toward the middle. What I keep thinking of Bourbon, but is actually Scotch (from the bottle description) shows up again toward the end before the flavor drops nearly to nothing in the finish where the beer leaves you with a warming alcoholic burn in the lightly sweet finish.

Mouthfeel: Medium-light body with low carbonation. Malt sweetness becomes lightly sticky on the tongue and lips, though it is not slick or chewy. Alcoholic warmth dries out the tongue and burns the back of the throat just enough to let you know there's been some barrel aging going on here.

Overall: Though I know appearances aren't everything, this beer comes off a lot lighter than I expected in body and flavor. When I considered the oil black appearance and reasonably rich nose with the oak and whisky presence, I would hope for a fuller body and more complex flavor profile. A higher chocolate presence would be welcome and better mouthfeel would round this beer out nicely. Aroma represents the Scotch Whisky barrel aging very well and at 8% ABV, the beer drinks incredibly smooth and gives you something to think about with each sip.

May 25, 2010
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kwkdmk from Louisiana

4.5/5  rDev +8.4%

Jan 28, 2014
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francisweizen from Alaska

4.5/5  rDev +8.4%

Oct 01, 2013
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LaPeste from California

3.99/5  rDev -3.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

11.2oz bottle $9.99 from Vendome in North Hollywood. Bottle No. & Date: 09402/Sept. 2007

A: Pours black with perhaps a hint of red w/ quickly dissipating 1/2 finger brown head. No lacing.

S: Chocolate and coffee up front. Hickory, meat, whiskey.

T: Salami, cheese(!), alcohol, perhaps a hint of scotch but very concealed and mellow if so, very much a smoke beer.

M: Well textured, low carbonation, smooth

D: Alcohol burn and warm as swallowed. This beer makes itself ever present, a little bit much at times.

Overall, worth a try. I'm interested in trying the 12 and 30 year varieties.

May 20, 2009
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Dirt from Ohio

4.25/5  rDev +2.4%

Jun 09, 2013
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feloniousmonk from Minnesota

4.17/5  rDev +0.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

When I buy a $10 12 oz bottle, I tend to want to share it, and spread the experience around. Just that kind of guy, you know. And when I share with friends a beer I probably won't re-purchase, I want to take notes for review.
But these notes tend to be on the skinny side.
Case in point:

Ola Dubh (Black Oil)

full ebon look, toasted tan head, a bit thin in the glass.

Peaty malt big in aroma...dry and deep.

Rich, thick, twisted, bittersweet, and utterly unique. Big, viscous malt..."gloopy", though?

Interesting...unique...tasty. Oh, yum.

I suppose I could pad the review by quoting from the copious label copy. That's one way. Or I could explain the circumstances. Could go even further...what was my cat doing, what was my friend wearing, what Miles Davis record was on the Hi-Fi...what favorite chalice was employed.
No, I'm not going to do that.

Jun 19, 2008
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Dreadnaught33 from District of Columbia

3.77/5  rDev -9.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

Had a bottle dated July 2009.

Pours a dark brown with lighter brown highlights producing a small mocha head that dissipated quickly with little to no retention or lacing at all. Looks quite viscous, lets see what happens.

Smell is of sugary dark bread malt, with huge raisin and prune, dark fruits, and some of the oak vanilla whiskey barrel.

Taste is very different than the smell. I've never had a beer with such a difference in smell and taste, smelled like a big strong ale and tasted more like a small malt-coffee roast beer with a very nice smoky taste overall especially at the back of the palate. Not much going on in terms of alcohol complexity, dark fruit, etc. like the smell which is a little disappointing, but the smoke is so nice from the whiskey I'm still going with a 4.

The mouthfeel was not nearly silky or viscous enough, thin and lighter body that anyone would expect.

Not a bad beer overall really, the smoke is great, but it's a strange beer in that all categories of this beer do not line up- looks viscous, feel is not. smells like a strong ale, tastes like a smoke beer (sort of).

Dec 26, 2010
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Fusebuddy from Wisconsin

4.18/5  rDev +0.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Jan 23, 2015
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lackenhauser from Maryland

3.94/5  rDev -5.1%
look: 3 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Almost black in color-some deep mahogany highlights around the edges. Aroma is somewhat wine like with a nice level of scotch whiskey notes. Not overly done. Rich and malty roasted flavors. Enough whiskey character to make it noticeable and blend together. Faint alcohol flavor from the whiskey notes. Good body-maybe a touch thin for my liking. Overall quite drinkable. I was afraid it would really be scotch like. Decent effort.

Dec 08, 2009
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facesnorth from Pennsylvania

4/5  rDev -3.6%

Apr 12, 2014
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NeoClassicist from Texas

4.75/5  rDev +14.5%

Sep 18, 2014
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cbl2 from New York

4.37/5  rDev +5.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

3/8/2008 $7.95 11.2 oz 8.00% Bottle #07667, bottled September 2007.


Pours a thick dark blakc with a quarter inch of dark brown head that quickly settles to just a rim of brown that laces the edges of the glass.


Rich dark chocolate with a hint of wood smoke, mushrooms and a touch of bourbon.


Sublime flavor explosion in the mouth! Thick sweetly textured on the tongue with nuances of chocolate, coffee, smoke, loads of vanilla, and just a hint of bourbon to finish things off. Very well balanced, and thoroughly enjoyable.

These guys only seem to know how to do one thing: throw some old ale (which to me is more of a stout) into some bourbon barrels, and wait, but they do it exceedingly well. Expensive at nearly $8/bottle, but worth it just once.

Mar 08, 2008
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drummermattie02 from Texas

4.25/5  rDev +2.4%

Jul 20, 2013
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kmoen from California

4/5  rDev -3.6%

Apr 17, 2014
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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
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bylerteck from Canada

4.27/5  rDev +2.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

A - Two finger tan head on a black body with no visible carbonation. Solid cap of head lasts throughout. No lacing.

S - Lot's of oak, some slight booze, scotch, molasses, and burnt sugar.

T - Vanilla, oak, smoke, booze, molasses, burnt sugar. Really delicious stuff.

M - Full bodied. Thick. Some carbonation, which is mild but appropriate.

D - Very good. I could have a number of these. Full flavoured and a warming beer for the weather. Well blended and captures whiskey elements well.

Jan 08, 2011
Ola Dubh Special Reserve 16 from Harviestoun Brewery Ltd.
Beer rating: 92 out of 100 with 659 ratings