Ola Dubh Special Reserve 12 | Harviestoun Brewery Ltd.

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Ola Dubh Special Reserve 12Ola Dubh Special Reserve 12

Brewed by:
Harviestoun Brewery Ltd.
Scotland, United Kingdom

Style: Old Ale

Alcohol by volume (ABV): 8.00%

Availability: Rotating

Notes / Commercial Description:
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.

Added by Bitterbill on 02-17-2008

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Reviews: 379 | Ratings: 828
Photo of tkdchampxi
4.21/5  rDev +2.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Nice stout-ish beer with a bit of a sour barrel quality. Interesting. Not as boozy or whisky-y as I'd like. Nice. Drinkable.

Very dark color with little head. Could benefit from smoother body

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Photo of VoxRationis
4.25/5  rDev +3.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

Decanted into a conical pint glass; bottle number 0967, Feb 2014. Poured a opaque brown, almost black with very little effervescence or head. Real discordance between bouquet and palate. Nose: sweet maltiness, cafe au lait, and chocolate; taste: pleasantly bitter with notes reminiscent of irish peat and rauchbier. Full-bodied with carbonation evident when held in mouth. A thoroughly different and enjoyable experience.

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

12 oz bottle poured into a stemmed tulip style glass. L: Black, hence the name. S: Roasted malt with a hint of peat/smoke. T: Chocolately, smooth. F: Heavier bodied. O: Unique beer, awesome use of Highland Park barrels.

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

Very pretty brew, with a modest head with reasonable retention. The brew itself is quite dark, clear around the edges.

The aroma portends wonderful notes of oak, whisky, smoke, and roasted barley.

Sadly, the influence of the whisky is overpowering on the presence; there's very little of the base beer which makes it through. It doesn't help that Highland Park, the whisky of the moment, is fairly inimitable and equally strong. The result is a flat, woody taste, where the barrels and the smoke (not at all Rauchbier-like, it's worth noting) make this beer essentially one-note.

I have had other varieties of Ola Dubh; only the 16 year was something special in my opinion. More of the base beer could make this something uniquely interesting and special; as it is, I feel it's likely attractive only to fans of Highland Park.

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Photo of Radcpa
4.25/5  rDev +3.2%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

On Maui and this is the best bottled beer I could find. Not disappointed. Light brown appearance with little head and carbonation. Great nutty flavor.

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Photo of ccg
3.81/5  rDev -7.5%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

It doesn't really look like anything special. There's no head or lacing, just some grittiness in the legs. Beer itself is black and opaque.
The smell is quite interesting, and the scotch-barrel aging comes through. Peat and smokiness dominates over the other stout smells.
Taste is not as overpowering as I was expecting. It's subtle. There's still smoke and peat. Below that, there is a hint of chocolate and malt. All the promised flavors are there, but it's a bit... bland, to be honest.
Mouthfeel is about middle of the road for a decent stout. It has medium body and weight, low carbonation, not a lot of oiliness. Not really "goopy" as described on the label.
Overall, it's well-balanced and subtle, so I think how much you like it will depend on how much you appreciate that subtlety, or maybe just how your palate is tuned that particular day. Following a couple of relatively big beers (Perrin No Rules: super sweet; Big Bad Baptista: strong cinnamon coffee), this beer seems rather dull, but I will have to try it again in the future when it's not under the shadow of more in-your-face BA stouts.

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Photo of damndirtyape
4.3/5  rDev +4.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25

11.2oz bottle poured in a Gordon's Highland Scotch Ale thistle glass. Bottle No. 09303. Bottle date: Sept 2014.

Appearance: Black letting no light through. Thin tan head on top that died back to a thin ring. Some strands and islands of fine lacing noted.

Smell: Fine scotch whiskey, toffee.

Taste: Buttery toffee, roasted malt, a tiny bit of chocolate, vanilla, oak, and very nice scotch that is very smooth.

Mouthfeel: Very smooth and quite creamy. Very light carbonation that is noticeable at the end of the sip. A bit of a whiskey bite and warming sensation to the mouth after swallowing the beer.

Overall / Drinkability: This is one very good barrel aged beer. Very smooth from start to finish. Not powerful in flavor or aroma, but perfectly balanced and tasty. A slow sipping beer that I wish would never end - a large bottle of this would be dangerous indeed. I will definitely have to get this beer again as a special treat.

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Photo of q33jeff
3.74/5  rDev -9.2%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.75


Bottle to snifter.

Dark black, no head...right to lacing.

Toasty barley
Light fruit finish

A little Smokey. From the scotch,


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Photo of hman43
4.37/5  rDev +6.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Look: It pours black with a brown head.

Smell: It has aromas of whiskey, coffee, vanilla, and dark fruit. Taste: It has flavors of roast, whiskey, coffee, vanilla, some dark fruit, and a touch of chocolate.

Feel: It has a heavy body with a bitter finish.

Overall, this has a complex combination of malts with whiskey flavoring that is not overpowering like so many others and a warm alcohol finish.

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

From a 330ml bottle with a foil cap. Bottled April 2015, consumed September 2016, BBE date November 2018.

L: Black. When held to the light...still black. Half-finger, coffee-coloured head is short-lived.

S: Bitter chocolate with whisky.

T: Dark, roasted malts. Prunes, espresso and whisky.

F: Light/Medium body. Some alcohol burn. Long, dry finish. Silky feel.

O: Enjoyable. The whisky barrel imparts a distinct, sharp edge that emphasises the alcohol content. Dangerously drinkable.

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Photo of sokol_1993
4.16/5  rDev +1%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Look: dark black with very little head, but what head was there was quite long-lived, lacing around the glass. Very viscous.
Smell: predominantly cocoa, chocolaty, toffee and coffee. Very creamy.
Taste: bitterness from the roasted malt, quite malty. A lot of cocoa and coffee taste; it's as if I drank coffee. Some whiskey taste cropped up at the end.
Feel: full body, with a good amount of coffee aftertaste in the mouth.

Great beer all round!

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Photo of RachelinBrooklyn
4.28/5  rDev +3.9%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25

A very interesting and complex beer. It's not mentioned here, but the version I had on tap was brewed with chillies and had a definite kick on the back end.

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Photo of bnes09
3.91/5  rDev -5.1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.25 | overall: 3.75

Dark brown with weak head and tiny lace spots. Mild aroma of toasty wheat and smoked meats with subtle, smooth scotch and oak. Flavor is dry with plenty of roasted character. Less scotch and oak than the nose suggests. Medium body, watery mid-drink but finishes dry. Low carbonation. Hint of a gritty, sandy texture.

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Photo of Odysseyalien
4.43/5  rDev +7.5%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

On cask at the Ginger Man, Manhattan.

I've had virtually all of the Ola Dubh family in bottles over the years. This is my first having any of them on cask. Man, what an awesome surprise. Mouthfeel is creamy, surprising to me for "only" an 8 abv. Smell is dried fruit. But the taste...caramel, dried fruit...it really blew me away. Gosh, I want more of this on cask. Really an unexpected taste treat on cask. Bravo to the brewers. Bartender...

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Photo of neurobot01
4.14/5  rDev +0.5%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

11.2oz bottle dated Sept. 2014 into a snifter at cellar temp.

Look: a surprisingly dark brown with just a smattering of light tan head.

Smell: coffee, barbecue/bacon, toffee, smoke. It took me a minute to place the bacon-y flavor, but once I figured it out, it's very distinguishable as such.

Taste: smoke, caramelized sugar, medium-roast coffee. Honestly, a letdown from the complexity evident in the nose.

Feel: medium, but comes across a bit thin and fizzy. Slightly dry.

Overall: this is a decent beer, but the highlight is the aroma, and on the whole it doesn't justify the hefty pricetag.

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Photo of HattedClassic
4.16/5  rDev +1%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

The beer pours a nice chocolate brown head that dissipates quickly. The foam looks pretty nice and the texture is a little bit creamy. The beer itself is a nice and opaque black with a pretty smooth and slightly creamy texture. Overall, it has a very nice look after being aged for a while.

The smell has some strong sweet chocolate notes that are surrounded by wooden oak notes and a nice strong whiskey note. The whiskey note is a bit peaty but complements the beer rather well.

The taste is a bit different from the smell even though it has the same notes. The sweet chocolate note is still the main flavor present in the beer but there are hints of cocoa and a nice whiskey peatness that complements it as well.

The feel is pretty good. The beer is heavy bodied and goes done with a fairly slick feel to it. The carbonation is light and effervescent but doesn't detract from it in any way.

Overall, a fairly good beer even though it's been aged for several years. I'm sure the younger bottles are more fresh and have stronger notes than the whiskey. It's a pretty good ale for the price and worth the price. Go for it.

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Photo of DIM
4.47/5  rDev +8.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Enjoyed on cask at the Bulls Head in Lititz PA. According to Harvietoun's website, that means my glass 10.5% abv. The pump handle noted that this came from first fill sherry casks. I'm a bit confused about that.

This was a dark, chestnut brown and it came to me with a small, but long lasting and firm looking mocha colored cap. I smelled roasty cocoa and coffee, smokey peats, sharp, perfumed alcohol, and faint soy sauce. The aroma overall was subtle and nuanced with many layers.

This tasted every bit as good as it smells. There wasn't one element that dominated the flavor profile, but there was a good deal of subtle complexity at work here. I found stout like roastiness that tasted of bitter chocolate and coffee grounds. There was also a salty, smokey component that asserted itself mid-palate. Toward the end oaky leather and tobacco gave way to strong whiskey exhale.

This was full-bodied and oily with gentle carbonation. Maybe the best cask offering I've enjoyed to date.

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Photo of maximum12
3.55/5  rDev -13.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Thanks to my lovely wife for this, a birthday present a couple of weeks ago. 11.2 ounces bottle dated July 2011, poured into a Hunahpu’s glass, which may tear the space-time continuum.

The pour is dead black, with only the thinnest ring of of small bubbles along the edges of the glass. Stick your nose in & prepare for greatness: huge chocolate notes, strong scotch, & a mortar of an almost syrup-like sweetness holding it together. Lovely.

Ola Dubh 12 has that distinctive peat character that comes from old-country barrels. There’s a long wisp of smoking peat bog mixed in with the soft tones of U.K. whiskey. It’s more of an earthy, old oak (if that makes sense) kind of whiskey than the sharper, younger U.S. veins. Mid-palate brings much lighter chocolate than the nose, good fresh syrup, brown leather jacket, bit of roast & wood. The finish, though, is all about the peat. Very thick, & I find myself very sip-curious.

Good to the last drop. Not a lot of beer character, but the barrel is delicious. Good beer.

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Photo of clayrock81
4.03/5  rDev -2.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4

Poured a black body with very little head. Some woodiness in aroma but to be honest the barrels/whiskey component, teamed with the roasted malts in this beer, give beer a smoky aroma (not meaty). Sticky and full-bodied, this beer packs a punch with a strong roasted/toasted malts sensation that at times comes off as burnt or smoky. Caramel/toffee/chocolate sweetness gives beer a little bit of sugary sweetness while taking off some of the hardness of beer and beer passes easy thanks to barrels (minimal vanilla sweetness) and finishes with a slightly boozed up kick.

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Photo of SHODriver
4.25/5  rDev +3.2%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Bottle from Feb 2014

A: poured into a snifter to a deep brown to black with a finger of dense tan head that fades to a collar around the edge of the glass leaving minimal lacing
S: Smells of dark fruits, caramel and toffee with a little whiskey influence
T: Taste is a little plum and raisin with some oak and slight smoke. Light caramel and toffee sweetness. Swallow is more oak and smoke with some lingering dark fruit flavors.
M: fairly full on the palate with soft carbonation that's perfect for the style.
O: This may be one of my best purchases made on a whim ever. The flavors and complexity are just fantastic and it drinks very well. Considering the price per bottle this is a great value and it doesn't have the hype of something like Bourbon County.

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

330 ml bottle (bottled 8/13) poured into a Teku.

A- Black, head is brown, weak, but leaves some decent lacing.

S- Strong oak and whisky notes. Subtle coffee, chocolate, and some really bready character.

T- Oaky, big whisky/booze. Some sweetness, dark chocolate, but dampened by the booze.

M- Full body. Boozy. Dry whisky finish.

O- Really nice. Tastes like some one dropped a shot into my ale.

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Photo of Saviour
4.49/5  rDev +9%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

L - pours the blackest black with a little and quickly disappearing dark head.
S - very intense and complex nose with a roasty notes of whisky, wood, chocolate.
T - strong, but not very boozy taste with the same notes as the smell.
F - small carbonization, full-bodied with a great oily and turfy aftertaste.
O - great craft from Scotland, looking forward to taste a 16 y.o. version.

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Photo of Ciocanelu
4.25/5  rDev +3.2%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Very dark color, almost black, with just a bit of dark head. Aroma is not too intense, just some caramel and dark fruit notes, especially figs. Taste is also more faint compared to the other versions. Definitely the weakest of the Ola Dubh bunch, but still a very good, complex beer. What I enjoy most from the series is the strong fig character and the very balanced, complex taste.

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Photo of stakem
3.88/5  rDev -5.8%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Recently decided I have been holding on to this 2007 bottling for too long. Drank along side a bottle of Ola Dubh 30 from the same time period. 12oz bottle poured into a tulip. It appears black in color with a tan finger that fades to a thin ring. Some spotty lace sticks to the glass.

The nose is pete smoked with slight soy-like oxidation. Roasted and smoked chocolate blend into an overall feeling of camp fire. A very mild indication of anise and tangy raison blend out the back.

Flavors of chocolate and roast with earthen appeal and fruity raison. The smoke is mild with earthiness and coffee-like bitterness. Mild alcohol warnth in finish along with a sensation of savory umami.

This is medium in body and lightly carbonated. Nice flavor, not too smokey and displays minimal oxidation that doesnt show its age for being 8 years in the bottle. In comparison to the 30 year, this 12 had deeper layers of complexity but was showing oxidation much more than it's counterpart.

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Photo of manfromanotherplace
4.02/5  rDev -2.4%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

Smells like pond water, taste is a bit smoky for me but after initial disappointment it did grow on me. Overall though i am surprised on the difference between this and the 16, which was excellent, this is good but not up to par with the 16. I have an 18,21 and 30 left, expecting a big improvement on the 12.

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Ola Dubh Special Reserve 12 from Harviestoun Brewery Ltd.
4.12 out of 5 based on 828 ratings.
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