Ola Dubh Special Reserve 16 | Harviestoun Brewery Ltd.

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Ola Dubh Special Reserve 16Ola Dubh Special Reserve 16

Brewed by:
Harviestoun Brewery Ltd.
Scotland, United Kingdom

Style: Old Ale

Alcohol by volume (ABV): 8.00%

Availability: Rotating

Notes / Commercial Description:
No notes at this time.

Added by Bitterbill on 02-15-2008

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Reviews: 294 | Ratings: 617
Photo of RemyLeBeau
1.6/5  rDev -61.2%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 1 | feel: 1 | overall: 1

I bought this beer today as a part of a custom six pack at Kahns. I was very excited because I like dark, rich, big beers and from the description I had read I thought this one would be right up my alley. Wrong.

I poured it into my favorite Sam Adams glass and thought the color looked nice. Ola Dubh translates into "old oil" i think, so I got what I expected from the look of it. The smell was very woody and smoky.

On first sip I was disappointed. Slight whiskey flavors and a touch of peat and a lot of molasses. But the most overwhelming flavor was that of sausage. Thats right. This beer tastes overwhelmingly like salty smoked sausage. Which is a flavor that I like, in meats, but not so much in a liquid form.

I had to force this beer down

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Photo of alcstradamus
2.27/5  rDev -44.9%
look: 4 | smell: 2 | taste: 2 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 1.5

Reviewed from notes

Pours black with a small head that disappears rather quickly. Smell is straight up armpit funkiness and chocolate. Not appealing.

The taste is more of the same. Only the armpit is now charred. Wow, this is just a mess. Great mouthfeel so the overall score will be higher than it should be. I haven't really cared for any of the 3 Ola Dubh beers I've tried, so I won't bother seeking out the 40 year.

EDIT: After posting my review I read another person's who claimed they tasted "sausage"...that flavor was definitely present but I didn't identify it on my own. Perhaps I should have paired this with a cheese platter and some Ritz crackers?

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Photo of Overlord
2.73/5  rDev -33.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 2

I really enjoyed the 12 and 30 year old editions a year or two ago, so I figured I'd give this one a try. Wish I hadn't.

Folks, watch out. I don't know if there are new, bad batches, or if the old ones aren't aging well, but this was ... not good.

Pours very black, with a dark brown crust. Almost no bubbling, but it's not an overly thick beer. Perhaps the first warning sign.

Smells of whiskey and some faint notes of roasted malt and coffee. Really not a strong smell, and I remember the other ones having a vivid aroma. Warning sign number two.

Taste was borderline unpleasant. Some soy sauce notes, a whisky/sherry burn, and a pungent aftertaste that wiped out a lot of the nuance. I don't know what happened. Mouthfeel was pretty nice and viscous, too bad the beer isn't that great.

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Photo of Jimmys
2.74/5  rDev -33.5%
look: 2 | smell: 1 | taste: 4 | feel: 2.25 | overall: 2.75

11.2 fl oz bottle. bottle no. 05410. Sept 2007.

A: pours still practically. opaque. dark brown, very dark brown.

S: a lot of autolysis in the aroma. really heavy on the soy sauce. trying to find more, but cannot get past this aspect.

T: flavors cover up the harsh aroma. some mild peat, mild char. very mellow but still very present. you can certainly tell this came from a scotch barrel. finish is bitter dark chocolate. I don't think there is a lot of fruit here, bitter dark malt/roast flavors preside.

M: very still, essentially flat. medium/full bodied. slick and thick all at the same time.

D: I stumbled upon this and a couple other Special Reserves all at once. purchased the 21 and this to do a side-by-side, got home and then realized one was 7 years older than the other, not to mention 9 years old from now. not that that is going to stop me from drinking this! unfortunately, past its prime with the high level of autolysis. however glad I am still getting some aspects of the delicious Highland Park barrel.

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Photo of beerandcycling88
2.84/5  rDev -31.1%
look: 3 | smell: 4 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 2 | overall: 2.5

Poured from a 12oz bottle into a snifter. Bottling date August 2010.

A Pours out black topped off with a mocha head.

S A very strong smokey peat with some faint chocolate. By far the best part of the beer.

T Some faint chocolate and a bit of roast are present however the strong peat character of the scotch dominates.

M A very thin watery mouthfeel.

Overall this is an ok beer that isn't worth the price. The base beer is completely dominated by the scotch barrel and it is incredibly thin almost like water. Overall this one is not worth trying at the price point its at.

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Photo of AgentMunky
2.95/5  rDev -28.4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Poured from a 33cL bottle into a Glencairn whisky glass. Bottle number 08590. Bottled(?) September 2007.

A: Dark, opaque, and brooding, with little to no head. Good lacing.

S: Blackberries, blueberries, loads of fruit. Cobbler. This reminds of 1999 JW Lee's Harvest Ale. Deliciously sweet.

T/M: Mehh. Stale, flat, but full of boozy fruit. I don't get much whisky, certainly no Highland Park. As it warms, the quality lessens. I suppose the end taste has a touch of molasses and merest whiff of smoke. Disappointing.

O: Not a very good beer. Certainly not worth the money. I might drink it again, but I would certainly never seek it out or recommend it.

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Photo of seedsofchaos
3.03/5  rDev -26.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

On a recent trip to our local bottle shop, a buddy and I thought we should get a few "special brews" for a NYE toast at midnight. Among three bottles, we were recommended Ola Dubh Special Reserve 16. At $17 a bottle we figured that an Old Ale aged in 16 year scotch barrels would be pretty phenomenal. At $17 a bottle, we expected much more.

Pours much darker than an Old Ale. Think more Imperial Stout. Black with little carbonation. With this type of color I really expected more viscosity. Relatively thin in body...

Not much of a bouquet to speak of... There's a little oak, some bourbon and roasted malt. Not much else. The aroma is dominated by more of a fresh (green) wood smell if you can even use the word "dominated" with such a weak smelling beer.

Ola Dubh under-impresses on the tongue as well. Thin. Fresh oak. Alcohol is hidden fairly well but there is a hint. A bit of smoke and a bit of salt.

Eventually, I'm glad we had some BCBS for a midnight toasting as well because Ola Dubh Special Reserve 16 was more of a ticker beer than a memorable toast to a new year.

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Photo of coreyfmcdonald
3.15/5  rDev -23.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 2.5

12oz bottle poured into a goblet. I'm not entirely sure how to judge this beer since it is classified as an old ale but I believe the base beer is an English Porter. July 2009 bottling

A: Pours very dark brown with just a hint of light going through the edges of the beer. About a half a finger of very large bubble light brown foam appears above the beer. It recedes rather quickly. Looks nice.

S: Licorice, milk chocolate, and peaty scotch.

T: Fortunately, the scotch and milk chocolate take over (I don't like licorice). It's almost like I poured a shot of scotch in a glass of chocolate milk. I get some oxidation flavors, which fortunately mix fairly well with the milk chocolate I taste.

M: This is quite thin to a point of being distracting. I think a thicker body would complement the flavors much more.

O: If this was a bit thicker I think it would be much more enjoyable. It could also use more depth, especially as an old ale.

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Photo of Rchap1
3.21/5  rDev -22.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Found this at Sam's on Clybourn in Chicago...not a cheap bottle, $12 apiece.
A: Dark as dark could be. There wasn't a speck of light coming through this thing. Head was very minimal, just a thin dark haze at the top of the glass. Left very fine lacing along the way.
S: Pretty smoky, lots of peat and alcohol scent to it, unsurprisingly. Think I was picking up a hint of cheddar cheese in there as well, but it could've been the smoke overpowering my nose.
T: There's that cheddar cheese, guess I was right! strong alcohol up front, heavy malt taste, not overly hoppy but it'd be hard to tell with how agressive the whisky flavor is in here. The finish didn't impress me, seemed overly bitter and way to strong on the smoke.
M: Very full, but nothing special.
D: This is a sipper for sure. It had a good up-front taste, and you can definitely find the whisky notes you want in there, but I had to take this one way slow.
All in all, a decent if not somewhat gimmicky beer.

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Photo of Goldorak
3.33/5  rDev -19.2%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 3

Big thanks to 3Vandoo for poping the awesome bottle at our last tasting! Bottle 08083/Sept2007

Appearance: Surprise! It's dark, which I didn't expect. It's pretty much pitch black in fact.

Smell: Iodine was the first thing that came through in the nose, something I pick up when I'm sampling a dram of Scotch. Funny, from memory, Highland Park didn't smell like that. Enjoyable smoky and vanilla effluves as well.

Taste: Salty and acidic, it tasted like Tamari sauce, with a side of ashes. Light body, you can tell that the barrel aging stripped the Beer of some of it's 'soul', something I find a bit deplorable. I enjoyed, but this seems to be a case of a Beer not exceeding the sum of it's parts.

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Photo of Mebuzzard
3.35/5  rDev -18.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

I went with the 16 year instead of the 12 or 30, just to get a sense of "middle of the road" so to speak.
Black pour, not really thick as the edges were a bit brown and clear. Very little head, but dense, tan. Some lacing.
Smelled of jerky, wet beer jerky and sweet caramel. A hint of peat and smoke. Alcohol not detected.
Flavorful, like liquid jerky. Malt gives it a nice sweet-n-smokey effect. I think of beer when drinking this. It just misses the salt of jerky. It's good, would like to see more peat; perhaps the 30 is more like this.

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Photo of Jeffo
3.4/5  rDev -17.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 3.5

Got this one in Bodegraven. Drank this one, then the 18yr and 21.

From a 33cl bottle into a snifter
May 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.

SMELL: Some peated whisky, aromas of leather and some dark chocolate on the nose. Medium strength. Nice, but not overly impressive.

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.

PALATE: Slightly thinner body and medium levels of carbonation. A bit watery, unfortunately. Goes down fine and finishes somewhat sticky.

OVERALL: This is pretty nice, but for some reason, it's nowhere near the 2010 bottle of Dubh 12yr I had about a year ago. This one had some nice earthy and peated whisky characteristics going on, but it just wasn't nearly as black and decadent as that 2010 bottle. Still, a fine brew worth checking out.

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Photo of BeefyMee
3.43/5  rDev -16.7%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 3.5

2009 vintage

I tried this vertically with the 12 and unfortunately this one was not the winner. They're very similar except the 16 seems a lot more watery and less flavorful. The roasted, smoky characteristics are a little muted here. Still pretty good overall, but I might actually go for an Old Engine Oil over this and a 12 over both.

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Photo of JDV
3.48/5  rDev -15.5%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

Pours a black color almost, with light shades of dark brown. Rich, dark malty, caramel and light peaty smokiness. Taste is dry almost roasty, peaty, a touch tart, and chalky. Medium to thin bodied. Perhaps not worth the price, but certainly not a bad beer by any means. Just not my style.

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Photo of IronDjinn
3.51/5  rDev -14.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

From a 330 ml brown bottle, black foil around the cap and neck. Pours out pitch opaque black, no light permeation whatsoever. Tall creamy mocha head that slowly settles to a thick retaining cap.

Sharp wood and alcohol first from the nose. Earthy notes, dry musty cocoa, faint cherries and black currants, slight herbal leafy hops.

Rich cocoa and earthy woody notes up front in the flavour, a thinner vinous character is apparent in the middle accompanied by tart cherry, currants and grape, finishing once again with the woody cocoa of the start, along with light alcohol and light leafy herbal hops, the latter of which lingers on the most into the aftertaste.

The mouthfeel is medium-bodied, much lighter than what would be expected to accompany the fuller flavour, almost no carbonation at all.

I'm having ambivalent feelings about this one, not because it isn't a good barrel aged ale, but because the Reserve 18 just seems more superior in comparison. Still a well put together ale worth trying.

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Photo of Alieniloquium
3.53/5  rDev -14.3%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

330 mL bottle poured into a Kate the Great snifter. Bottled August 2010.

Appearance - Pours a dark brown, nearly black. Brown in the pour, black in the glass. Nice khaki head and some even clings to the glass.

Smell - Roasted malt. Licorice. Definitely a touch smokey, but I don't know that I'd peg it as a Scotch aroma. Oaky.

Taste - Much more pronounced chocolate malt and a sustained hop presence. More smokey in the finish here. Bitter. Oaky finish.

Mouthfeel - Bitter and quite oaky, but it's a smooth beer without much booze. Every once in a while I get a hint of the alcohol.

Overall - Not the most interesting beer, but tasty. We'll see how different the other bottles are.

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Photo of TheSevenDuffs
3.53/5  rDev -14.3%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Bottle #19800. Date of Aug 2010. Best before Aug 2013. Poured in to CBS Snifter.

Have previously tried the 12, 18 and 30. Looking forward to this one.

A - Poured dark brown and settled black with half a finger of bubbly espresso coloured head that quickly receded to a few bubbles around the edges of the glass.

S - Whisky, oak, smoke and a touch of vanilla are the dominant aromas. Some sweet molasses is evident as well but the barrle aging qualities definitely dominate the nose.

T - A big smoky flavour up front with some peat flavours coming through. Oak, whisky and burnt malts round out the palate. There is a fairly big overall sweetness from the malt bill and a mild bitterness and slightly noticeable ABV that somewhat cut through the sweetness.

M -Medium body with moderate carbonation.

O - My least favourite of the 4 I have tried. Seemed to lack some complexity and a touch too sweet.

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Photo of Zythophile
3.53/5  rDev -14.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 3.25 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.25

Bottle Date: May 2014
Palate Contaminants: none

If it looks good, buy it. Unless you already have too much. (Note from later: I try to be optimistic.)

Appearance is very dark, and there's not much lacing in the glass, either.

Smell is pleasant for such a dark brew. If there's one thing that could roll it all up into one, I'd say semi-sweet, fresh rye bread.

I had high hopes with the smell, but the taste isn't nearly as nice. I'm under the impression that this is one that should age okay, so I can't just write it off; it's one for the record. It's palatable, but I won't be looking for more. Basically, start with your basic Guinness, make it a little thinner, add a little bitterness, and then a heaping dose of charred barrel. This might make a great marinade.

At least, this is my bottle. Your mileage may vary.

Feel is thin for a dark beer.

Here's hoping my bottle of 18 is better.

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Photo of JAXSON
3.53/5  rDev -14.3%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

From a bottle, pours black with a pretty large cappuccino head. Nose is a soft montage of smoke, tobacco, peat, leather, whiskey,dark fruits. Soft and gentle. Flavors are dark fruits and leather up front, light and non-assertive, and really focus on that tobacco leaf through the finish. Leafy, dry, lightly bitter, earthy. Feel is surprisingly light. One of the more tobacco-heavy old ales / stouts I've had. Decent.

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Photo of Sludgeman
3.55/5  rDev -13.8%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.25 | overall: 3.5

$10.99 for 11.2 oz. Bottle #0835, bottled on 2/2012. Purchased on a business trip and drank in my hotel room. Poured into a highball glass.

A truly unique beer, but disappointing. 3.5

A – Pours black with a half-finger tan rocky head, opaque, not at all viscous, average lacing. 3.75

S – Dark fruit/raisin, sweet but not cloying, metallic (-), grape preserves some smokiness, port notes 3.75

T – Roasted malt, but not too bitter, no whiskey flavor, no noticeable alcohol. 3.5

MF – Medium bodied, semi-dry finish, thing by my expectations, slightly metallic 3.25

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Photo of Hophead101
3.55/5  rDev -13.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

had in a bottle at Zeno's in State College. quite a unique beer - ale matured in whisky casks. not much head - super dark brown - almost black - what head was there was tan. smell is roasted - chocolate malt. you can definitely smell the whisky. taste was great. a little whisky bite at first - but still a smooth taste. not as much smoke in the taste as smell. mouthfeel and drinkability much better than i would have expected for a beer like this one.

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Photo of sinstaineddemon
3.56/5  rDev -13.6%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

drank this with all three reserves side-by-side, the 12, 16, and 30.

Bottle 04371/Sept 2007

A - pours a motor oil, RIS-esque black, with a thick caramel colored head, that fades into a retentive ring (Same on all three)

S - blander than the first, wait.... the whiskey notes take a minute, very whistey-sweet, with inherent alcohol notes

T - thicker and sweeter than ther first, but not as quite as the 30, much more mellow than the 12, richer and butterier from the diacetyls

M&D - satiny, most easily quaffable of the three, lacks the balance of the 30, but also the bitterness of the 12. the most enjoyable to drink, but not quite as flavorful as the 30

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Photo of TheSixthRing
3.58/5  rDev -13.1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

Bottle number and date: 08676 / Sept 2007

Appearance - Pours black with a cluster of bubbles that find their way to the edge of the glass and slowly pop away.

Smell - Slightly sour notes, along with traces of charred oak, vanilla and chocolate.

Taste - Dull, distant flavors that follow the nose. Mostly old, earthy oak. A hint of smoke, vanilla and chocolate.

Mouthfeel - Medium in body with almost zero carbonation. Slick, smooth texture with a slightly dry finish.

Overall - I got this for a Christmas present. I hadn't noticed the bottling date until now. Nearly 9 years old, yeesh! I'd say it passed the optimal age quite a few years ago. What's left is remnants of what I can only imagine was a pretty darn tasty treat during it's peak. This is one I'll have to keep an eye out for and review again.

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Photo of ccrida
3.58/5  rDev -13.1%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

33cl bottle (#27221/Sept 2007) poured into my Deschutes snifter, Ola Dubh Special Reserve 12 is an pitch black with a light brown head that settles to a thick collar and leaves zero lace. After having the 16, I decided I wanted to have the 16 and 30, but for true contrast, I poured them at the same time, so this review will focus more on the differences. Right after pouring from rom temp, I let them both sit for a good 10 min while I took out the dog, and coming back, I was shocked how much more head there was in the 30, which was poured in my Delirium snifter, which is etched on the bottom.

Smell roasty and boozy, like an RIS, with some dark fruitiness, like a BSDA or quad, but smoked, with some waxy lactose coming out as it warms. Not much different then the 30, a tad more umph, which I appreciate.

Taste is also rather boozy, this one is the simplest of the bunch, a scotch aged RIS, but it has more smoke then the 30, which I prefer...but it's sharper on the phenols, with less oak and vanilla.

Mouthfeel is oily, smooth and drier, with a medium body, much less carbonation then the 30.

Drinkability is ok, a tasty beer, but for the price and rarity, it's pretty much one and done. Still, a good one, but I think prefer the 12 the most of the bunch, although I only did the showdown on the 16 and 30. Fine, but too rare and expensive. Still, I highly recommend serving them all at once as a vertical tasting, bouncing back and forth to pick up the subtle differences of aging the same beer in barrels that held the same spirit, but for different lengths of time.

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Photo of Reagan1984
3.58/5  rDev -13.1%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Bottle 02937 Sept 2007

Well, I guess the beer is aptly named.. On the label tag it speaks about black oil. Sure does look like black oil... Not much of a head. Just a scant bit of beige foam across the top that clings to the edges. The beer is so dark and black you really can't even see into it. No light shines through. No real lacing... but the beer almost has legs....

Aroma is decidedly smoky. You can detect the higher level of alcohol. Some dark roasted notes.

Flavor is a bit dryer than I expected. Wood, wood and more wood... Chocolate, smoke... burnt/black roasted flavors. Some coffee/espresso notes as well. You can taste the higher alcohol level... almost want to pour it over rocks (ice) since it reminds me of scotch so much. The more I think of it, it's like unsweetened chocolate. The finish is a big sense of smoky charred wood again.

Body is not quite as thick as you'd imagine, but it's still thick and a HUGE mouth presence.

This is a sip and savor beer. That's for sure. A warming effect comes over you as you slowly enjoy this brew. I view this as a beer to share. To me the entire bottle is a bit much...

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Ola Dubh Special Reserve 16 from Harviestoun Brewery Ltd.
4.12 out of 5 based on 617 ratings.
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