Ola Dubh Special Reserve 12
Harviestoun Brewery Ltd.

Ola Dubh Special Reserve 12Ola Dubh Special Reserve 12
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English Old Ale
Ranked #15
Ranked #2,476
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: 399 | Ratings: 878 | Log in to view all ratings and sort
Photo of Leif_Eriksson
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.

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Photo of aleigator
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.

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Photo of GuyFawkes
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.

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Photo of LiquidAmber
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.

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Photo of REVZEB
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.

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Photo of josanguapo
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

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Photo of Holderness
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


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Photo of Tucquan
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.

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Photo of patre_tim
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.

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Photo of connecticutpoet
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.

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Photo of Cramshawbar
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.

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Photo of Tony210
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

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Photo of puck1225
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.

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Photo of Bdubz94
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.

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Photo of GratefulBeerGuy
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.

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Photo of Lone_Freighter
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.

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Photo of Bouleboubier
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

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Photo of Thomas_Wikman
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

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Photo of TerryMills
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..

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Photo of tkdchampxi
4.21/5  rDev +1.4%
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 +2.4%
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 -3.6%
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 -12%
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 +2.4%
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 -8.2%
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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Ola Dubh Special Reserve 12 from Harviestoun Brewery Ltd.
Beer rating: 92 out of 100 with 878 ratings