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 #14
Ranked #2,382
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: 397 | Ratings: 873
Reviews by 00chris:
Photo of 00chris
4/5  rDev -3.6%

More User Reviews:
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 stakem
3.88/5  rDev -6.5%
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 BuckeyeNation
4.25/5  rDev +2.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4.5

Bottle 03059/Sept 2007. Ola Dubh is Scottish for Black Oil... and that is pretty much what this brew looks like. No highlights are seen along the edges of the snifter. A barely audible escape of CO2 on crown cracking was followed by a slim slice of caramel colored foam that looks pretty good. Barrel-aged beer is rarely a head and lace stunner.

The unmistakable (and wonderful) scent of Scotch whisky is easily appreciated with a single sniff. Too bad it isn't bolder, but that would probably put off those who aren't in love with the peaty, seaweed-like tang of the world's finest spirit. The base beer could be more aggresive as well, and might get there as room temperature approaches.

Old Engine Oil is lovely stuff, so why wouldn't that beer combined with Highland Park 12 Year Old Single Malt Scotch Whisky be wonderful too? Answer: no reason at all because it is. It bears repeating, if you don't like Scotch, then you won't like this beer, because it's a prominent member of the flavor profile.

A relative shortage of malt for the ABV is typical of English ales, so I'm used to it by now. The brewers still managed to wring a ton of flavor out of this (obviously cellerable) old ale. Specifics include dark chocolate, blackstrap molasses, black licorice, raisin paste and a few peat fire's worth of tangy smokiness. Warming succeeds in turning the intensity knob up another half turn. Don't worry about sweetness because it's at a low ebb.

My love for viscous beer will only let me cut the mouthfeel so much slack. It's too thin and doesn't have even a hint of the creamy, silky, chewy, sticky oiliness that it ought to have. Age might have taken an excessively large bite out of the body. Carbonation is on the subdued side, even for someone who likes them calm, cool and collected.

Whatever Harviestoun Ola Dubh Special 12 Reserve cost, it was worth it. Unfortunately, a measly 330 ml is nothing but a tantalizing treat. Then again, I still have Special 18 Reserve and Special 30 Reserve to look forward to. Mmm mmm good!

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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 pin
3/5  rDev -27.7%

Photo of kevwcamp
4/5  rDev -3.6%

Photo of -ronin-
4.5/5  rDev +8.4%

Photo of BeerForMuscle
4.15/5  rDev 0%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

Photo of CoryR
3.5/5  rDev -15.7%

Photo of polloenfuego
4.23/5  rDev +1.9%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

From a 330 ml bottle to a snifter.

Bottled in Feb 2012, enjoyed in March 2014.

A: Black, no light makes it way through this beer. There is almost no head to speak of, but instead when the beer is poured there is a feign of a head, a wisp of foam that disappears as quickly as you look at it. The result is a full glass of black liquid with a very tiny ring of brown bubbly foam on the outside.

S: malts, peat, leather, smoke, oak all working together to give a nice rich smell.

T: smoke, oak, malts, roasts/coffee and a slight vanilla sweetness on the finish.

M: fine carbonation and a fullish body but lighter than expected. Given the heavy nose and taste I would have expected a heavier beer, but did not get one.

O: I decided to let this bottle go after finding myself with a couple of the Ola Dubh Special Reserve 30s. I have to say, this is a damn fine beer, and my only regret is that I didn't wait longer to open it, as I feel it would have only gotten better. There is so much flavor and character in this beer that I wish it was a 750 ml instead of a 330 ml so that I could enjoy it longer. Now...if I can get the one away from my buddy that I know he has...

 1,173 characters

Photo of HopHead84
3.95/5  rDev -4.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Pours almost black into my snifter. The head is small and fizzy and tan. It quickly fades.

The aroma is of whiskey, smoke, tobacco, molasses, and dark fruits. The whiskey adds a nice touch to the beer. The alcohol is well hidden. Notes of dark chocolate are evident.

The flavor is boozy with Scotch whisky character. The malt is somewhat roasted, with chocolate, tobacco, peat, oak, and a nice mellow smokiness. Sweetness is at a low level and the finish is dry with a warming alcohol effect.

The beer is medium full bodied with a low level of carbonation. The mouthfeel is a bit thin for my taste.

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Photo of zaphodchak
4.23/5  rDev +1.9%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Completely opaque tar-brown body, tan head of large bubbles and some gorgeous fine lacing.

Nose is knockout malt and Scotch, some oak and maybe small game meat? Some faint date undertones, along with a bit of booze.

Smoky, Scotchy body with some bitter oak and peat. Remarkably subtle. Some toffee, but not sweet at all. The peat lingers, in a good way.

Mouthfeel is smooth, with a fine texture. Pleasant, but not extraordinary.

Drinkability is not too high on this one, but of course this is by design. I couldn't see drinking more than one of these in an evening, despite being quite enjoyable.

 600 characters

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.

 253 characters

Photo of jaymo18
4.15/5  rDev 0%

Photo of kjkinsey
4.08/5  rDev -1.7%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Photo of Bill235
4/5  rDev -3.6%

Photo of harrisjohnson
4.25/5  rDev +2.4%

Photo of Erockss
4.6/5  rDev +10.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

had it from a sherry cask at Novare Res Bier Cafe was marked 11%abv

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Photo of Cyberkedi
4.21/5  rDev +1.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Pours a luscious opaque sable with a respectable pale tan head that leaves a little lacing. Strong aroma has an overtone of honey and hints of caramel, wood and malt. Flavor has caramel, malty and woody tones with nutty, woody and honey hints and a touch of yeast. Texture is thick and smooth and just a little tingly, but still pleasing and beer-like.

 352 characters

Photo of roodie
3.5/5  rDev -15.7%

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 Atron67
4.47/5  rDev +7.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Just had a bottle over at brasserie V in madison, pretty damn awesome brew.

A- poured a black oil as expected from the "black oil" title of the name. roasted milk chocolate head on top where the thickness made it hard for the bubbles to build up

S- pretty damn awesome, roasted and chocolate character, really nice whiskey character to it.

T- very thick delicious stout with amazing smoothness and chocolate characters with a pretty decent scotch strong character throughout, overall just really good

M- lightly carbonation sticky thick body that lingers on the tongue forever

D- ide drink this all day

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Photo of UnknownKoger
4.5/5  rDev +8.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Bought from The Bruery Provisions in Orange, CA. An ale matured in Highland Park barrels? Sounds like a winner to me.

The pour is jet black. I mean there is no light coming through it. The head pours coffee brown, thin, and quickly dies off. The aroma from the pour is definitely interesting. The peaty scent of the whiskey casks actually comes through. Now for the taste...

Very interesting! It has a great smokiness to it. Unlike porters or stouts where you're sometimes hit with roasted grains, here the smokiness is way subtle and must come from the scotch barrel aging.

The real surprise is the mouthfeel and drinkability. Very light bodied. In spite of a thick, black look, it goes down very smooth. This makes it very drinkable.

For me the ultimate test is whether or not I would buy this again, and I definitely would buy this again. Great stuff.


Revisiting this brew on 11/9/11...almost a year later. Bottled in July 2009. Let's see what two years of age does to this. Poured into Bruery Tulip

Appearance is that of motor oil. Jet black. Fairly vigorous pour yields mild carbonation which quickly dies. Foam head settles down to a ring around the glass

Smell is scotchy. Highland Park isn't super peaty, so it's not overwhelming. Still smells pretty boozy. The smell actually kind of reminds me of Parabola

The taste is pretty interesting. The smokiness is still there but it doesn't beat you over the head. Same with the scotch notes. It smells boozier than it tastes which I like.

Drinkability is still quite good. Mouthfeel is still great.

Overall, I'm pleasantly surprised with how this has aged. It's a fantastic beer that has mellowed and developed quite nicely. I would still buy this (and age it) again. My rating stands

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Photo of yancot
3.75/5  rDev -9.6%

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Ola Dubh Special Reserve 12 from Harviestoun Brewery Ltd.
Beer rating: 92 out of 100 with 873 ratings