Ola Dubh Special Reserve 12
Harviestoun Brewery Ltd.

Ola Dubh Special Reserve 12Ola Dubh Special Reserve 12
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Old Ale
Ranked #16
Ranked #2,717
4.15 | pDev: 11.33%
Harviestoun Brewery Ltd.
Scotland, United Kingdom
Ola Dubh Special Reserve 12Ola Dubh Special Reserve 12
Notes: Ola Dubh (or "Black Oil") is so named because it is gloopy and viscous. This limited release has been matured in casks from Orkney's award-winning Highland Park distillery to add complementary whisky notes to what is already an amazing brew. It is chocolatey with a roasty, bittersweet aftertaste.

Highland Park 12 Year Old Single Malt Scotch Whisky was awarded a Double Gold medal at San Francisco World Spirits Competition 2007; it lends balance, smoothness and subtle smoke.
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Reviews: 405 | Ratings: 893 | Log in to view all ratings and sort
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JacobusFavier23 from Texas

4.4/5  rDev +6%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

L-Almost fully black beer with a lacy, yet rocky head. Moderate carbonation.
S-Straight up scotch with a malty sweet finish. That almost savory roasted peat aroma is very much there. Some notes of chocolate as well. Very nice!
T-It starts off very subtle with very mild chocolate notes, and is followed by a toasted malt flavor. As I dig I notice subtle, yet intricate scotch flavor. Roasted peat and savory bonfire like flavors come together in an extremely umami undertone that is very rewarding. As the beer warms, the flavor extends itself.
F-A surprisingly dry finish with a thicker medium bodied feel overall.
O-This is a beer I would like to share with others. There seems to be something new I pick up on with every sip. Incredibly enjoyable and very accessible. The scotch flavor really does make this beer. Sweet, savory, and an enjoyable drink throughout.

Apr 04, 2021
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Wm_Markle from Canada (ON)

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

Bottled July 2020, drunk November 2020.

Pours near-black with a fairly tall dark head with medium-sized bubbles that fades in an okay amount of time to a bit more than lacing. Nose is rather faint. Mouthfeel medium-full like a porter. Sweetish to start, fairly toasty, mild molasses with notes of chocolate, vanilla, dates. Peaty/whiskyish flavours present but quite muted. Alcohol is noticeable but also not terribly strong. Does have a fairly lasting aftertaste, somewhat bitter.

Overall not bad but a bit weak, particularly given its price. Maybe I should have cellared it for a bit before drinking it?

Nov 23, 2020
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Beersnake1 from California

3.94/5  rDev -5.1%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Poured from fridge temp - bottled March 2018. Pours Black with almost no head. Nose has a dominant charred wood note. some bread, licorice, burnt toffee, a touch of soy sauce, burnt rubber, and some coffee grinds. The nose is honestly a tad subtle. The taste, however, packs a nice punch of flavor. Definitely charred wood. The scotch barrel really has a nice influence here. Some tar, oak, dark chocolate, blackberries, hay, leather, and black licorice come through. Overall, it has an initial sweetness, but the aftertaste is fairly bitter. I like scotch, and I think this nicely marries the beer and the barrel. Mouthfeel is medium bodied with a nice long aftertaste.

Aug 16, 2020
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JDub1963 from New Zealand

4.96/5  rDev +19.5%
look: 4.75 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 5

I picked up a bottle in Cambridge New Zealand and it was a revelation. It was reminiscent of a fine peaty smoky island malt whisky. Beautiful and how I wish I could find it again

Aug 12, 2020
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Bierschenker from Belgium

4.81/5  rDev +15.9%
look: 3 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.75

I found this one while driving home from work. I stopped at a supermarket in Rocourt, close to Liège for lunch and was smart enough to check the beer section as well.

Served in an oversized tulip (Chardonnay glass).
Bottle nbr and date says 31098, AUG 2017
No head, never emerged.
Name is well chosen, looks like black goo.
Scent gives alcohol (I will name it, whiskey), wet wood, smoked meat, caramelizing brown sugar and blackberries.
Taste is very respectable and reserved. I was expecting something much more coarse. Cold coffee, spiced with a drop of peated whiskey, add a few drops of hazelnut sirup and blackberries. Smoked/wet wood comes around the corner once in a while.
Full and creamy mouthfeel.
Aftertaste turns just slightly more bitter. Strong vanilla and alcohol with some high end pure Tanzanian chocolate.
Lingering mouthfeel is astringent, reminiscent of that peated whiskey mouth feel, but with more complexity.

Flabbergasted. I think I need to visit that supermarket again

Jul 06, 2020
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JonnoWillsteed from England

3.86/5  rDev -7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.75

L- Inky black, pours with 2mm tan head (short-lived).
S- Smoke, and cinders. A very light coffee note.
T- Smoke> charring> deep-roast> *coffee*. I was goinig to say that the coffee seems to be where the evolving flavour ends, and right then suddenly in kicked a prominent whisky note.
F- Pungent but polished. Pretty full on, it's a slow-sippin' beer, lovely but I'm not sure I'd wish to drink two bottles in an evening.
O- The carbonation was a bit underwhelming - was it because I poured it into a glass I'd just finished another beer from? That's not usually a problem IME. It did visibly off-gas pretty fast on the initial pour - IDK. Either way I suggest you drink this from a fresh/clean glass. This is a pokey beer, smokey, roasty, toasty, pretty intense but refined too. Then again I paid £4.08/330ml so it should be seriously top-notch. Bought from BeersOfEurope/UK for home delivery to me in London.

Jun 16, 2020
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Leif_Eriksson from Canada (AB)

4.27/5  rDev +2.9%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

Nose: Molasses and stewed dates.

Look: Dark, rich black, browning at the edges as it thins. Still. Slight lace.

Taste: So much smoky oak. Charred wood with a nice background sweetness. The contrast between what is on the nose and how it tastes is remarkable.

Nov 14, 2019
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aleigator from Germany

4/5  rDev -3.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Pours almost entirely black with a small, bubbly head atop.

Smell is of bitter chocolate, campfire and lighter tar, together with an additional smokiness.

Drinks velvet, with a well working lower carbonation, showcasing the heavier body of this perfectly well.

Tastes of bakers chocolate, lighter caramel and dried, Scotch soaked wood, building up an intriguing interplay from first glance. Leans heavier on the barrel then, with a little bit of peat and smoke cutting through the malt foundation of this, creating a warm glow down the throat. Finishes a little softer with whipped cream, burned malts and glazed caramel among an maintaining, smoky barrel.

This is pretty convincing and tasty, integrating the Scotch barrel playfully into the beer‘s stout base.

Oct 20, 2019
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GuyFawkes from Illinois

4/5  rDev -3.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

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

Murky brown liquid; orange 'round the edges.

Minimal tan head; no lace.

Mild caramel & oak nose.

Medium thick, flat mouthfeel.

Mild caramel flavor with a hint of smoky wood.

Easy fall sipper.

Jun 17, 2019
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LiquidAmber from Washington

4.02/5  rDev -3.1%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Poured into a Fremont small snifter. Pours pitch black, opaque in the glass, with a fine, one finger khaki head with great retention and thick lacing. Aroma of dark toasted malt, molasses, cocoa, peaty smoke. Flavor is dark toasted malt, molasses, dark chocolate, mildly peaty whiskey, hints of nuts and a bit of booze. Medium bodied with light creaminess. A classic old ale that has some porter qualities in the malt. The scotch is somewhat muted, which is a little bit of a disappointment to me, but the peat smoke is still evident. I was surprised by a bit of booziness in the finish because this isn't that big an ABV. I haven't had this in decades, but reviewed the 16 a while back and the review does not seem all that different. A classic barreled old ale with a touch of Scotch whiskey to add interest. A bit mellower than I remember.

May 10, 2019
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REVZEB from Illinois

3.81/5  rDev -8.2%
look: 4.25 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.75

My least favorite of the Ola Dubh special reserves. Still a good beer, but booze is much hotter in this ale, giving the old ale too much of the scottish peat flavor. The being said, the viscous dark chocolate, coffee, and molasses base beer still goes perfectly with the barrel and the feel is spot on for style despite darker elements.

Sep 07, 2018
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josanguapo from Spain

3.03/5  rDev -27%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

From Saveur Biere. In Teku glass. Playing Avernum 4. Too woody, not to the point of being unpleasant but too much to be specially enjoyable. So much wood and whisky hides all the base beer

Aug 15, 2018
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Holderness from Massachusetts

3.1/5  rDev -25.3%
look: 3.25 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3 | feel: 2 | overall: 3

L -- Deep clarified reddish amber with a quickly dissipating rocky tan head produced with aerated pour. No retention or lacing
S -- Molasses, peat, hint of booze
T -- Molasses, brown sugar, just a hint of scotch barrel character and dark chocolate
F -- Quite limp and watery for the ABV. No silkiness or viscocity to speak of. Surprising
O -- Not quite what I was expecting. Not much different from your run-of-the-mill scotch ale, but the barrel aging does add a bit of a unique character


May 27, 2018
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Tucquan from Pennsylvania

4.14/5  rDev -0.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Had this on 2018-03-29 in Columbia, PA from a 11.2oz bottle # 06453 from 2014.

A - Opaque dark brown with just a hint of ruby. 1-finger light brown head and very good lace.

S - Chocolate malt and peaty scotch. A unique aroma for sure, and one that is quite appealing.

T - Very-well-toasted brown bread with some char on the crust, which has been slathered with original Nutella and consumed while simultaneously sipping a dram of the very-peaty Highland Park Scotch while also doing expresso shooters. Finishes with oak tannin and roasted bitterness but the peaty malt hangs in there too.

M - Medium-heavy body and light carbonation. Creamy but also astringent from the char bitterness.

O - I wouldn't have guessed this combination of flavors would work so well together. I like peaty scotch and nuts and chocolate and beer so this works for me! Pretty cool.

Mar 29, 2018
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patre_tim from Thailand

4.09/5  rDev -1.4%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Dark brown to almost black with a ruby tinge. Topped with 3 fingers of creamy, beige head.

Smells of whiskey, cream, toffee, and slightly smokey.

Deep and roasted notes but extremely smooth with hints of whiskey, toffee, coffee and caramel. A touch of oak barrel is in there too.

Very light and frothy texture, that totally covers the ABV. Slightly oily, but lightened by the carbonation.

Got this in Toronto a couple days ago, drinking at Lake Muskoka Jan 21st, 2018. Excellent, top of the line brew.

Jan 22, 2018
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connecticutpoet from Connecticut

3.62/5  rDev -12.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Appearance - very dark brown and clear, with zero head.

Aroma - strong rich malt, sweet molasses, oak and light whiskey,

Taste - Bitter coffee, woody, hints of whiskey, almost a little smoky

Mouthfeel - surprisingly thin but OK.

Overall - after cellaring 7+ years and waiting to try out the series, I was a little disappointed. Good for an old ale but I expected more from the buildup.

Jan 13, 2018
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Cramshawbar from Canada (ON)

1.96/5  rDev -52.8%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 1.5 | feel: 1 | overall: 1.5

This well constructed beer will essentially hinge on one important question: do you like whiskey or not? It's that simple, because the whiskey taste is obviously overwhelming, even within this 12 year association (I can imagine the 40 year).
My answer is: I really don't like whiskey at all.
I knew this going into this $6 bottle (330ml), but I had to try it, because I will try practically anything.
I utterly hated this one. So very gross to me, that I had to pour most of it down the drain.
Sorry whiskey lovers.

Nov 03, 2017
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Tony210 from New Jersey

3.48/5  rDev -16.1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Look: pours thin, black but not impervious to light. Minimal head with large foam bubbles.

Smell: some molasses, a little vanilla and whiskey, yeast.

Taste: sweet, roasty, chocolate malt , bittersweet chocolate, roasted espresso. Slightly bitter finish.

Feel: surprisingly thin

Overall: had to try it, very underwhelmed. Pricy for a 12 oz.

12 oz bottle
3.5 rating

Sep 28, 2017
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puck1225 from Texas

4.09/5  rDev -1.4%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Poured from a bottle into a tulip glass. Very dark brown with a slight head and decent lacing. Smell and taste of licorice and dark chocolate. Nice spiciness and even a bit of strawberry. Just a hint of the Scotch whiskey. A bit thin, but a very enjoyable beer.

Aug 27, 2017
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Bdubz94 from Wisconsin

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

11.2oz bottle dated Sept 2014. Number 04803.

Pours pitch black color. Thin .5 finger dark tan head. Some retention.

Smells roasty and chocolaty. Some whisky as well. Definitely boozy on the nose.

Taste is like mellowed whisky. Definite booze and chocolate. Sweet with some dark fruit notes.

Feel is thinner than expected. A bit too watery for the style.

Overall an interesting take on the style. A bit too thin for my liking.

Aug 20, 2017
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GratefulBeerGuy from New Hampshire

4.52/5  rDev +8.9%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.5

Bottle no: 02106 Bottled on: FEB 2014
Opened on 7/23/17

A thick and oily black color. A small, brown foam cap forms, fizzles out to just a thin ring. As expected from a cask aged heavyweight.

The nose has some seriously remarkable aspects, such as: Honey bbq chicken, toasty herbs, toasty coffee, chocolate, oak/woody cask with a boozy effect and vanilla sweetness. Seriously complex.

A thick, smooth and oily body and mouthfeel. Once again, very expected from such a cask relaxed brew and with further aging of three years. A malty wonder, cocoa and dark roasted coffee, oak and vanilla cask and whiskey effects that seem very deep and rich in flavor and texture. Some mild heat rides on for a bit, dark wild berries and wood fire smoke carries on. Old leather, maple bbq sauce with a peaty, earthy and herbal backdrop and base.

This is seriously a righteously aged Scottish ale with rather deep complexity from the high quality oak casks and whiskey charecter. High quality.

Jul 24, 2017
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Lone_Freighter from Vermont

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

Bottle to snifter.
The appearance was a mostly dark brown close to black color with a finger's worth of eggshell white foamy head that slid off at a good pace. Lace seemed stringy and sliding.
The aroma had some whiskey, milk chocolate, dark chocolate, some earthiness, plums, ash/char, sweet wood/somewhat like oak, and a clean airy sort of red grapes.
The flavor started sweet and developed a fantastic sort of dried dark fruitiness rolling over top of some of that whisky sweet booziness. Aftertaste was malty sweet with the red grapes, oak/sweet wood and earthiness.
The mouthfeel was about medium bodied with a fair sipping quality as the alcohol notes were felt. Carbonation leaned out as expected but didn't bother me (I don't know the date of the bottle, but I do know this is aged). ABV did seem to keep to brewer's projections.
Overall, an absolutely wonderful take on an old ale. I'd love to have again.

Jun 30, 2017
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Bouleboubier from New Jersey

4.52/5  rDev +8.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

(11.2 oz bottle, code 06589 FEB 2014... poured into a teku)

L: tall, two-finger width, tan-colored foam (with green-gray highlights) atop impenetrably black (deep brown) liquid... the foam quietly dies down into a messy, fish eye film, then later disappears, leaving only thin, pimply collar and random webby blots of lace

S: dark, molasses-y, hard-crumb cookie... overtones of sea air and ash... hints of charred, caramelized wood... marginally toffee-like aroma packed into the background... little boozy notes... the apparent depth and grit to the malt is tantalizing

T: aftertaste is charred coffee grounds, rust, dry grass, twice-baked molasses knuckles... immediate flavors are roasted nut, dark cocoa powder... bright but super-delicate, almost grappa-like thread of alcohol hanging in the finish... very little oak or whiskey character coming through, but what's there wraps around the gloriously grimy, gristly malt wonderfully

F: only subtle waves of warmth throughout the thorax, mild acidic tingle in back of throat... the body is moderately thick and dense, but not so much round or sticky-viscous... absolute dream on the palate - quiet, restrained, deadly easy to knock back in big gulps or bitty sips - an example of the magic of aging

O: this bottle had likely been at this particular store since 2014 - light blanket of dust on it and the other ones in the Ola Dubh range stocked beside it - I really need to put aside a rainy-day fund, enough to eventually (hopefully sooner than later) buy all of those bottles that are still sitting there along with the 2-3 dozen bottles of JW Lees Harvest variety on the neighboring shelf - I've at least gotta do a side-by-side tasting of each OD in the range - long over due... one of those beers that makes you re-evaluate the seemingly generous reviews of other beers you've made

Jun 06, 2017
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Thomas_Wikman from Texas

4.01/5  rDev -3.4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

I bought Ola Dubh 12, 16, and 18 at the store (a few of each). I liked all of them including this one, but I think Iiked 16 the best.

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

Aroma: roasted malts and some whiskey

Taste: Roasted malts, chocolate, coffee, and a distinct whiskey flavor. Compared to Ola Dubh 16 and Ola Dubh 18 it seems to have a slightly lighter body but it has a more distinct whiskey flavor. Like the other two Ola Dubh this one is also outstanding.

Feel: full stout-like body

May 23, 2017
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TerryMills from Tennessee

3.79/5  rDev -8.7%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.75

Taste of barrel and a little bit of peat but not too much , I dont like peat and this still taste good to me so its balanced.

Has the body of a regular stout but I would prefer a thick oily feel like an imperial on this type beer..

Glad I tried it and its a fine beer but for the price there are much better out there..

May 07, 2017
Ola Dubh Special Reserve 12 from Harviestoun Brewery Ltd.
Beer rating: 92 out of 100 with 893 ratings