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: 621
Photo of Sammy
3.65/5  rDev -11.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Second in the series. Pours dark with a bit of initial head. Compared to the 12 year: More rich whiskey aroma. More ageing. Less chocolate. More moutheel from what's going on, but that's astringency too. A bit of richness, but also more whiskey, more drying. May have liked the 12 better at the same abv.

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Photo of UCLABrewN84
3.97/5  rDev -3.6%
look: 3.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Thanks to GRG1313 for gifting me this one.

Bottled 1/2009. Bottle # 06435.

Pours an opaque black with a foamy dark khaki head that fades to nothing. Small dots of lace slowly drip into the remaining beer on the drink down. Smell is of dark roasted malt, cocoa, molasses, smoke, wood, whisky, and some oxidation aromas. Taste is much the same with dark roasted malt, cocoa, and whisky flavors on the finish. There is a mild amount of woody bitterness and a very slight tang on the palate with each sip. This beer has a lower level of carbonation with a slightly crisp mouthfeel. Overall, this is a good beer with some complex aromas that I am enjoying slightly more than the flavor.

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Photo of StonedTrippin
4.08/5  rDev -1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

this is a very interesting beer, superior in some ways to the 18yr, oddly. the pour is a matte black color, deep chocolate brown, fairly thick, and with only a thin finger of tan bubbles. the nose is raw cocoa and scotch, its musty and oaky, and the malt is about as black as it can be without being bitter and burnt. the alcohol smells are beautiful in this beer, the barrel has obviously done quite a bit to this. the flavor is surprisingly unsweetened. there is some vanilla and toasted coconut, but none of that is sugary. the alcohol adds flavor without burn, and it actually has a very mellow feel. dark chocolate and bran muffin are the dominant flavors in the finish, in addition to the scotch whiskey. full body and a smooth feel, maybe a little chalky, but the finish is long and complex. there is much to appreciate about this special brew, a very different tune to this than the American barrel aged beers. there is something particularly well refined about this, polished and calculated, intentional, as opposed to the sometimes random chance barrel offerings from this country. very impressive.

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Photo of Knapp85
3.73/5  rDev -9.5%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

This beer much like it's partners in crime pour out nice and black. Thin looking brown head in this beer. The smell of the beer gives off plenty of smokey whiskey/scotch aromas. The taste of the beer gives off a mouthful of scotch like flavors with some smokey and burnt malts. The mouthfeel is smooth with a low carbonation, kind of on the oily side. Overall it's a pretty enjoyable brew, I find the older barrels to be far better but this was a good starting point for me.

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Photo of metter98
4.17/5  rDev +1.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

A: The beer is essentially jet black in color and poured with a quarter-finger high tan head that quickly died down leaving a thin film of bubbles covering the surface and a thick ring of bubbles around the edge of the glass. Eventually the film of bubbles faded into wispy lacing covering the surface.
S: The smell has aromas of oak, roasted malts and smoke along with hints of chocolate, becoming stronger as the beer warms up.
T: Similar to the smell, the taste has flavors of peat and smoke; these particularly linger through the finish and aftertaste. There are also notes of oak and hints of whiskey.
M: It feels on the low end of medium-bodied on the palate with a moderate amount of carbonation and a very dry finish.
O: If you can handle all of the smoky flavors, this beer goes down quite easily because the alcohol is well masked from the taste.

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Photo of BEERchitect
4.12/5  rDev 0%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Most impressive, this one is. As the lable suggests, the beer plops into the glass with a viscous, heavy appearance, rich chocolatey looking head formation that simmered to a trace before holding firm; laces well. Aromas are a fantastic display of mellow, rich, heavily toasted malts, ester-heavy grapes, plumbs, figs, dates and fruitcake. A bold rum-like aroma melds all the characteristics together. Backup notes of peat, campfire, cocoa, and a nutty coffee give much complexity. Flavors are much the same, but with a focus on the Porter / Scottish Ale notes with a hard boozy note. The tannins from the wood give a distinct nutty flavor with a mild balanced astringency and creates a moderate powdery dryness in the feel. Other textures are a fully weighted stout feel, a moderate complex bitterness, and a deep warming sensation from the alcohols. The whisky characteristics come through the flavor and aroma long into the finish. A long, lingering aftertaste keeps the beer going long after the last sip. A fantastic beer; can't wait for the 30.

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Photo of biboergosum
4.03/5  rDev -2.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

330ml, black foil-capped bottle, as ever was. Further down the Scottish rabbit hole I go - happy 252th, dear auld Rabbie!

This beer pours a seemingly familiar (!) deep, practically opaque dark brown used oil hue, with a ton of foamy, rocky head, which settles in the glass at the three finger mark, slowly receding to eventually reveal a pleasant curtain of ragged lace around the glass.

It smells of densely toasted caramel malt, light, slightly acrid peaty smoke, bittersweet chocolate, earthy, dry coffee, muddled musty black fruit, and a bit of bristling metallic alcohol. The taste is singed caramel malt, hard toffee, more less-than-sweet chocolate, woody, grainy oak, some vegetal, boozy vanilla, fig and date-like dark fruit, reduced brown sugar, and a suggestion of a softly peaty dram of Scotch whisky chaser.

The carbonation is quite reserved, just a meek frothiness to be found at most, the body a sturdy medium-heavy weight, while smooth and creamy as if on cue. It finishes a tad drier than its brethren have thus far, the latent earthy hops actually discernible over the potent malt, wood, peat, and alk-ee-hall.

It seems that the Ola Dubhs steeped in relatively younger Highland Park barrels exhibit significantly fewer pungent ocean-side characteristics, which, in the end, renders this a nicely balanced barrel-aged old ale. That's not to say that the North Sea doesn't well inform this one, another splendid re-jiggering of Old Engine Oil - it certainly does.

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Photo of Phyl21ca
4.3/5  rDev +4.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4

Bottle courtesy of goryshkewych: Poured a pitch-black color ale with a medium foamy head with good retention and some good lacing. Aroma of sweet malt with distinctive barley notes from scotch. Taste is a mix between some really nice creamy barley notes from the barrel and some light roasted notes from the original beer. Body is quite full with a nice creamy texture, no apparent alcohol and good carbonation. Very good overall and easily drinkable which makes this one the best in this series.

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Photo of Thorpe429
4.17/5  rDev +1.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Reviewed from notes.

Served in a tulip glass. Pours a very dark brown color with a thin tan head. A bit of legs on the side of the glass. The nose is whisky, oak, light vanilla, caramel, roasted malt, and a bit of dark fruits. The taste is a bit less complex with a tad bit of oak and some light whisky character. Really nice feel that captures all the elements well. Drinks nicely and is a solid sipper.

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Photo of oberon
4.5/5  rDev +9.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Drank this as a nightcap last night and I really enjoyed it.Poured into a nonic a deep nearly opaque black with tight craterous mocha colored head,a little ruby showed thru when held up to the light.Deep complex aromas, some vanilla from the barrel aging really showed thru as well as some dark fruit and caramel and a touch of smoked peat wich was more pronounced in the flavors.I couldnt find a single flaw flavor wise just awesome and complex to the hilt,starting out sweetish with caramel and vanilla tones melding into a woody-smokey finish that lingered nicely.The only flaw and its not major is the body was not as full as I would have liked but it was by no means thin.A great after dinner brew,one to savor for sure.

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Photo of superspak
4.1/5  rDev -0.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

330 ml bottle into tulip glass, bottled in 7/2011. Pours nearly opaque dark brown color with a small dense khaki head with good retention, that reduces to a thin lace cap that lingers. Light spotty soapy lacing clings around the glass. Aromas of dark chocolate, cocoa, roasted malt, brown sugar, raisin, peat smoke, wood, tobacco, leather, toast, light vanilla, and roasted earthiness. Damn nice aromas with good balance and deep complexity of dark/roasted malt and barrel notes; with good strength. Taste of dark chocolate, cocoa, roasted malt, brown sugar, raisin, peat smoke, wood, tobacco, leather, toast, dark bread, vanilla, light clove, and roasted earthiness. Lingering notes of chocolate, cocoa, roasted malt, brown sugar, raisin, peat smoke, wood, toast, tobacco, dark bread, and roasted earthiness on the finish for a while. Very nice flavors with deep complexity and great balance of dark/roasted malt and scotch barrel flavors; with zero cloying flavors after the finish. Light-medium carbonation and medium bodied; with a moderately creamy, smooth, and slightly chalky mouthfeel that is good. Alcohol is very well hidden with only a slight warming present after the finish. Overall this is an excellent barrel aged old ale. All around great complexity and balance of dark/roasted malt and scotch barrel flavors; and very smooth to sip on. A very enjoyable offering.

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Photo of dbrauneis
4.13/5  rDev +0.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Bottle 06196 from July 2011

A: Pours opaque extremely dark brown to black in color with slight brown highlights in the light and with a half finger tall tan head. The head reduces to a thin layer covering the entire surface of the beer with thicker patches and ring at the edges of the glass. There is some light visible carbonation visible at the edges of the glass. Significant lacing is observed.

S: There are aromas of some sweetness - caramel, molasses, and dark fruits - along with the very obvious presence of the whiskey (from the barrels). There is some light smokiness from the whiskey presence but it does not dominate.

T: The flavor follows the smell, it starts with the sweetness - caramel, molasses, and dark fruit (more raisins and plum). That is followed by some hints of chocolate and the whiskey barrel flavors including the oak and some light smokiness. Finally there is a very light lingering bitterness.

M: On the lighter side of medium bodied with light amounts of carbonation. Smooth.

O: This beer is definitely a sipper but one that I could enjoy sipping on all day long. There is a nice complexity and balance to both the taste and the smell. I definitely want to try this one again along with it's sibling versions that are aged in different barrels. Very enjoyable and very smooth.

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Photo of dcmchew
4.21/5  rDev +2.2%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Black oily pour with a really small tan string of foam, leaving a nice curtain as it recedes.
Mildly peated Scotch and roast on the nose, rich dark chocolate, oaky vanilla, burnt sugar, faint dark fruit.
Nice clear dry Scotch in the start, but not boozy at all. Rich roasted malts, with a touch of dark bread, light chocolate and some burnt sugar. Woody towards the finish, with a bit of smoke and peat, touch of vanilla, faint coffee bean. Dried up by a bit of Scotch, just mildly warm.
Aftertaste is bready, bittersweet, with nice oak barrel notes. Medium to light body actually, low carbonation, just a tiny bit sticky.
Not as robust as Engine Oil, not as complex as Ola Dubh 30, but it's a really huge show for whisky barrel aging. Easy to drink, clean and tasty.

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Photo of BuckeyeNation
4.3/5  rDev +4.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Bottle 07003/Sept 2007. Polished ebony with barely one finger of mocha colored cream after a soft escape of carbonation on crown cracking. The beer looks surprisingly good. A thinnish layer of foam hangs around and actually leaves some spidery lace when the snifter is tilted for drinking.

The nose is a wonderful combination of darker-malty-than-usual old ale and aged Scotch whisky. Earthy smoked peat notes come through loud and clear, but don't dominate the rest of the aroma. This should be as much of a treat as Special Reserve 12.

It's difficult to tell what 3 years and 6 months in the bottle has done to Ola Dubh Special Reserve 16, since I didn't have it fresh. Right now, though, it's a beautiful example of a whisky barrel-aged English old ale. Highland Park 16 Year Old Single Malt Scotch Whisky barrel-aged to be exact.

Old Engine Oil is similar to Great Divide Yeti, North Coast Old Rasputin (and any number of others) in that it's pretty much bullet-proof. Every one of those ales thrives with all sorts of additions and all types of barrel-aging. This one certainly has... and is a palate pleaser of the highest order.

Specifics include pumpernickel toast, raisin paste, molasses, dark caramel and bittersweet chocolate. The final piece of the puzzle is a perfectly calibrated amount of earthy-herbal-smoky Scottish peat that puts a big beautiful bow on a flavor profile that is both deep and incredibly complex. Alcohol... what alcohol?

Okay, so the mouthfeel is not American 8.0% ale. Well, this isn't American big beer, is it? The mouthfeel that has been provided is classically English (light-medium for the ABV) and fits the rest of the beer like hand in glove. No need to change a single thing.

It's a damn shame that very little Harviestoun beer makes it to these shores because everything that I've had from these guys is either good or (more often) great. Ola Dubh Special Reserve 16 definitely deserves to be released again... and again... and again...

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Photo of russpowell
3.89/5  rDev -5.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

Cheers to Bitterbill for this one!

Pours mahogany/black with some brown head. Nice viscosity to this, plus above average head retention& average lacing

S: Rich dark fruit & some oakyness

T: Chocolate, some raisins, oaky dryness & some smokeyness up front. More dryness as this warms, along with figs & some leafy hops. finishes oaky & sweet, much raisins & plums

MF: Slick with noticeable carbonation & medium body

Drinks a tad slow, due to the dryness. A nice old ale, but i think I liked the 12 year offering best

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Photo of mikesgroove
4.33/5  rDev +5.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

So I have to admit I was really not blown away by the reserve 12, and it really made me hesitant to try this one, but I had it so I wanted to give it a fair chance. I grabbed this one out of the fridge and poured it very hard into an over sized wine glass and let it warm up a bit before consuming.

Appearance - I was very surprised by the pour on this one. After the debacle that was the lifeless pour on the 12, this was quite refreshing. Still inky black and dark, but with a decidedly more life to it. A nice one-inch high head of chocolate tan lace formed on the top and took what seemed like forever to go down. It never fully did fade and even after thirty minutes had passed, a thin chocolate line was still clearly visible. Very nice side glass lace as well with a good retention level. I was very impressed with the look of this one.

Smell - The aroma was very rich as well, with lots of hints of oak. Nice chocolate contribution and a good hint of vanilla were all readily apparent. I was very impressed with the depth here. I really did not pick up any fruit or other light tones, this was dark, smoky, with a lot of earthy tones.

Taste - The flavor was spectacular here and was really worth the price of the bottle alone. The flavor was really full and so complex, I really did not think I had enough to fully interpret it. In a word smoky. Huge flavors of peat and smoke, but done in a really nice way. Lots of oakey wood flavor as well, but hidden underneath the smoke. A good touch of vanilla is present here too. As it warmed it got a little sweeter, maybe something caramel like, or honey, do not know, but the smoky complexity was still apparent. Very dry finish with the flavor lasting for a good long while.

Mouthfeel - This was much better carbonated then I thought it was going to be. Nice smooth feel and it was definitely a medium-bodied ale, but nowhere near as filling as I thought it would be.

Drinkability - Outstanding sipper here. The alcohol is all but absent from it and the rich complexity of the taste made it something that I really could have kept going on with all night long. It was just that good.

Overall, I have to say this was excellent. I was losing interest after the 12, but this has brought it all right back. I was shocked by how good this was, and I am honestly glad I have a few more. I would drink this all the time if I could. Really a quality sipper and an excellent beer all around.

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Photo of mdfb79
3.8/5  rDev -7.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Have passed by the Ola Dubh Special Reserve beers for a while now simply because of the price tag, but decided to grab this one at Oak Tree Discount last time I was in NJ. Poured from a 12 oz. bottle into my Bruery tulip. Bottle #40661, dated July 2009.

a - Pours a very dark brown color, almost black, with an inch and a half of tan head and low carbonation evident. Head lasts for two minutes and then fades into a few bubbles.

s - Smells of whiskey, wood, caramel malts, nuts, roasted malts, toffee, alcohol, and light chocolate. Pretty nice, with a lot of whiskey, caramel, and nuts mixing together.

t - Tastes of roasted malts, chocolate, whiskey, smokey malts,light coffee, and light oak. Not quite as much whiskey as the nose, and a lot roasted malts and smokey malts. Nice, but a slight step down from the nose.

m - Full bodied old ale with moderate carbonation.

o - Overall I enjoyed this old ale, but it was a little bit disappointing. The whiskey is there in the nose, but it wasn't quite as enjoyable as I was hoping for, and it was drown out in the taste by the smokey malts a bit. Still a very good beer, but not really worth the price tag in my opinion.

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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 johnnnniee
4.19/5  rDev +1.7%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

$9 for 11.2oz bottle
Bottled Sept 2007 Sampled Nov 2008

A vigorous pour coaxes a thin tan head out of this solid black beer. The head dissipates quickly. Heavy aroma of vanilla some roasted malts, dark chocolate and some scotch. Taste is chocolate and roasted malts, faint scotch and ash. Lingering roasted malt bitterness in the finish. Mouthfeel is creamy smooth. Body is medium Carbonation is adequate. Great smelling and tasting brew. I would have liked the body a bit thicker, but great just the same. Subtle, not over whiskey'd. This one seemed smoother and creamier than the 12. Both great though.

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Photo of RblWthACoz
4.23/5  rDev +2.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Pours very dark with a decent tan head that falls very quickly. Nose has quite a bit of peat going on here. I am getting much more here than the 12. Flavor is along the same lines. More peat. Definitely drawing thicker character off the barrels. Nice thick malty and peaty presence. Feel is nice. This is good. Definite differences between the 12 and 16 here. I am getting really curious about the 30 now.

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Photo of jwc215
3.59/5  rDev -12.9%
look: 3 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Like the 12 Reserve, it pours black with no head - just a few bubbles.

The smell is sweeter than in the 12 (which I preferred), with whisky notes and maltiness coming through much more.

The taste, like the nose suggested, is quite sweet. Less woodiness, with more maltiness. It does have a bit longer finish than the 12.

The body, as in the 12, is a quite understated. Something thinnish about it compared to what it could be, but decent enough.

A slow sipper. Sweeter than the 12, with less oaky character.

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Photo of feloniousmonk
4.17/5  rDev +1.2%
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.

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Photo of GClarkage
4.57/5  rDev +10.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

03/05/09- Purchased at Total Wine in Roseville, CA.

Presentation- 11.2oz bottle poured into a Duvel tulip. Bottle number and date of bottling on the label. This happened to be Sept of '07.

Appearance- Deep black in color. Does look like used motor oil as stated on the little booklet that comes with the bottle. About a 1/2 inch head on the pour with a light rim remaining. Leaves some spotting and some light lines of lace.

Smell- Mixture of molasses, chocolate, coffee, toffee and caramel. A bit of wood in the nose as well as a hint of alcohol.

Taste- Really reminds me more of a Double Stout than it does an Old Ale. Mildly hoppy finish, lots of caramel and toffee goodness with a large chocolate base. Very flavorful. Woody notes in the finish as well with a minor alcohol addition.

Mouthfeel- Lightly chewy, thick and pretty smooth with a low to medium carbonation level. Wood really comes out in the aftertaste.

Drinkability- Hits much harder than the 8% that it claims. I dreamt of this all night after I finished it, so I'm assuming the drinkability is high. Not sure what I paid, assuming around $8, which was worth it in this case. Maybe I should try the rest of them?

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Photo of LiquidAmber
4.05/5  rDev -1.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4

Poured into a Fremont small snifter. Pours a very dark mahogany brown, appearing opaque black in the glass with a thin head that dissappears quickly, but leaves light lacing. Aroma of dark toasted malt, molasses, brown bread and light smoke. Flavor of dark, lightly toasted malt, chocolate, molasses, smoked peat, hints of oak and dark dried fruit. Finishes with lightly peaty mellow dark malt. Medium bodied with slight creaminess and light carbonation. Flavor is dark and complex, but relatively subdued and mellow. Dark malt with chocolate is the dominant flavor, with only hints of fruit. The peat from the scotch barrels is mild at first, but creates a nice lingering light finish. A classic old ale that well balanced and smoky.

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Photo of tempest
4/5  rDev -2.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

$8 for a bottle at Abe's Cold Beer. Poured a dark brown, near pitch-black with a short tan head. The aroma and flavor are dominated by heavy peat smoke with a drop of honey sweetness for balance. While the scotch element here is wonderful, I'm struggling to taste any beer here. I can tell the roasty chocolate profile is vaguely there, but it's mostly just a delivery device for the delicious scotch. I'm not complaining, but I'd expect a little more from such a relatively expensive beer.

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Ola Dubh Special Reserve 16 from Harviestoun Brewery Ltd.
4.12 out of 5 based on 621 ratings.
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