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 requiem960
1.06/5  rDev -74.3%
look: 2 | smell: 1 | taste: 1 | feel: 1 | overall: 1

It's not often that I find a beer I find to be undrinkable, but the Ola Dubh Special Reserve 12 from Harviestoun Brewery managed to be one of those beers.

My bottle was received at my beer store on 3.12.2008 and is from the Sept '07 batch. It poured dark, pretty much pitch black, with no head. The appearance looked like coffee with very limited carbonation and had a smell that was bland.

Ola Dubh's taste had no whisky notes, which came as a shock and a disappointment; yet the beer reminded me more of a very bland chocolate bock-type beer. Imagine a horrible, less carbonated and watered down version of the Sam Adams Chocolate Bock, and you'd be getting near the resemblance of Ola Dubh Special Reserve 12.

This beer had zero drinkability, and half of a $9.49 beer went down my drain. There was no redeeming factors to this beer and I'd highly advise steering clear of it. It's not often I find a beer I can't finish, but here it is!

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Photo of 1Adam12
2.25/5  rDev -45.4%
look: 2.5 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 2 | feel: 2 | overall: 2.5

Pours a blackish brown. No head, no lacing. Smells of malt, soysauce, whiskey, and thats about it. Taste really is not that great. Soy sauce, whiskey, none of the old ale flavors that I'm used to. Mouthfeel is very thin. Overall, man, this was a major let down. I had high expectations for this, and now I wish I could get my money back. Very underwhelming, and just not very good flavors. Too much soy sauce, and little of anything else good. Once was one to many.

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Photo of tewaris
2.36/5  rDev -42.7%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 2 | feel: 1 | overall: 1

Appearance: 5/5
Aroma: 4/5
Taste: 2/5
Mouthfeel: 1/5
Drinkability: 1/5

11.2 oz 1997 Vintage (September) poured into a 25 oz snifter.

A very impressive bottle, with foil around the neck, two signatures, and a tiny booklet on the neck describing the similarity between the soul of this ale and Highland Park whisky, and describing the different expressions of Highland Park. Classy looks and presentation! I am intrigued! Pours in a clear, very dark brown stream and looks pitch black with a brown bubbly head that stays around and leaves some lacing. A good looking beer for sure. I am even more intrigued at this point, and even before I stick my nose in it, a rich malty aroma is filling the surroundings: massive on figs, rum raisins, dark to burnt caramel, chocolate, and some other things that I'd collectively call Speyside Scotch; and yes, there is soft alcohol present. The aroma is reminiscent of J.W.Lees Harvest Ale to some extent, and I am thinking to myself that I have found another gem from the British Isles.

Cautiously happy with my purchase ($9/11.2 fl oz.), I bring the snifter to my lips and my tastebuds scream WHAT THE FUCK! This can't be! This beer, keeping in mind its aroma and looks, tastes like nothing. Nada. Complex? No. Malts? No. Roast? No. Hops? No. Esters? No. Anything? I don't know. Long after I have let it warm from room temperature to slightly above room temperature, there's some roast in the finish etc. etc. This is such a big fucking letdown that I do not want to waste words. But for the sake of the review, I will: some sweetness that leads towards some astringent roast and leaves a fruit-and-nut chocolate aftertaste riding on a sweet finish.

A very thin body with low carbonation that is entirely against the hopes of strength this beer aroused. Is it a horrible beer? Perhaps not. Is it a beer worth buying and drinking? NO. For the price I paid, I could almost get a four pack of Breakfast Stout for instance, and that would be money well spent. I would rather drink Four Loko than this cloying, yet thin, late term abortion!

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Photo of SoupKitchenBeerSnob
2.46/5  rDev -40.3%
look: 3 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 2.25 | overall: 2.25

Was curious about this one, but I thought the $8.75 price for a single was a bit high. Furthermore, the bottling date on the label was from July 2011 (this review takes place in January of 2014), but was totally assured by the salesperson that this beer was fine with a little aging (of course). Red flags aside, I bought it anyway. Eh...

I poured it in to a Chimay chalice and saw that this stuff looks like old motor oil. No problem though, I'm cool with that. Unfortunately that was last thing I was cool with concerning this beer. There was only a mild aroma and the beer tasted even less dramatic with very little carbonation. All in all this was a very bland, unremarkable beer that definitely wasn't worth the price. Cannot recommend.

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Photo of flyingpig
2.56/5  rDev -37.9%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 2 | feel: 3 | overall: 2.5

A strong, opaque black colour with a thumb sized, brown and foamy head that seems to hold well. It very gradually reduces in size but leaves some good lacing on the glass and eventually settles to a thin & patchy, soapy lacing.

Sweet and with touches of whisky are quite noticeable to begin with along with some peat and a burnt wood finish. There is a strong, roasted malt aroma as well and a lot of alcohol on the nose.

Very whisky like in flavour with a lot of peat and alcohol upfront. It has strong, burnt oak and very, rich dark chocolate flavour with some dark fruits. It had a few different flavours fighting to be noticed but it is the whisky taste that comes across strongest, and far to strongly for my liking sadly.

Medium bodied and with a slightly chewy feel to it. There is a massive alcohol taste and burn at the end and a lingering malt flavour. Carbonation is very low with this beer.

Complex beer but sadly not one that I enjoyed, I felt the whisky aroma was too strong for me to enjoy the beer. I found this beer a huge struggle to finish. The whisky was too strong with this one.

1001 Beers Blog:

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Photo of LowDrag
2.73/5  rDev -33.7%
look: 3 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

Appearance: Deep swamp water dark with light brown head. The head looked almost creamy immediately after the pour but had very little retention.

Glass: I used a goblet due to the fact that I wanted to get the full aroma.

Smell: Wood-fire cooked bacon, oak, tobacco leaf and a hint of whiskey.

Mouthfeel: Not as thick as the color would suggest I was very disappointed.

Taste: Reminescent of a Rochefort 10 lacking the sweet undertones. This being my first barrel aged beer I was very let down. Aftertaste lasted longer than I am used to.

Overall: Not a beer that I would ever consider again. Being that it was my first barrel aged beer this may be more because I am not fond of the genre and less because of the beer.

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Photo of Arbitrator
2.73/5  rDev -33.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 2 | overall: 2

Lightly chilled bottle into a glass. Bottled Sept. 2007. Split with a buddy for his housewarming.

A: Pours a nearly pitch black (with slight rubyish penetration at the edges) body in the glass. The head is a limpid half-finger of light-tan foam, but pouring very aggressively (read: up-ending it) in the second glass yields an inch of foam that retains impressively. Neither glass has much lace to speak of. The final stage for the cap is a thin collar.

S: Soy sauce (very pronounced at first, but it gets progressively subdued and blended as the beer warms), sea salt, chocolate, roasted malt, coffee, tannins, molasses, and smoke. The guy I'm sharing it with is a Scotch connoisseur, and neither of us can pick out peat or whiskey.

T: Starts off with molasses and chocolate, but gradually introduces roasted malt and coffee. Salt and strong sherry in the mid-taste, v-e-r-y slight whiskey near the finish. The finish itself is tannic and smoky, with the latter pulling through well into the aftertaste. An undercurrent of soy sauce adorns the flavor without dominating it.

What bothers me about this is that the flavors are very distinct, coming in at specific times instead of blending seamlessly. It's modular, if that is an appropriate term. Certainly not awful, but not nearly as mellow or integrated as you'd expect a several-year-old brew to be. (And, in retrospect, not as impressive as the 16.)

M: Thin-bodied, but the lack of carbonation makes it feel kind of creamy. It delivers the flavors well but ultimately feels unsatisfying.

D: We wound up being pretty unimpressed with this one. The 16, which followed after, was better.

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Photo of fostachild
2.95/5  rDev -28.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 2.5

bottle date: feb2010

pours a pitch dark colour, with lots of bubbly dark tan head - decent retention.

smell had coffee, chocolate, milk, malt - was nice.

slight smoky taste. earthy, wood. was okay but not the best drinkability.

overall it was kind of interesting but perhaps not my style as i didn't find it to be overly enjoyable. glad i decided against buying some of the higher special reserves.

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Photo of alcstradamus
3/5  rDev -27.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 2

Reviewed from notes

Near black pour with a small sliver of head. Smell is thick fudge, an odd sour element, booze, and toffee.

The taste is very unique, but I must admit right away that it doesn't appeal to me at all. There is a chocolaty element that I enjoy, but beyond that almost tastes like motor oil smells. Tough to explain...not necessarily off-putting but definitely pointless and unappealing. The mouthfeel was nice and full and fairly flat, but this just wasn't drinkable for me.

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Photo of Tilley4
3.08/5  rDev -25.2%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 2.5

Poured into my CCB snifter...

Bottle 22151, bottled in Sept 2007...

This thing pours absolutely dead with no head whatsoever... Very thick black appearance that coats the glass with every swirl..

Old stale malty aromas mingle with an oakiness that tries to redeem this but doesn't quite make it... This smells like a 3 year old flat ale to me... Very unremarkable.. Perhaps a little bit of raisins going on as this warms but nostly just sorta stale and cardboard-like...

Yep, I'm guessing this one lost its spark somewhere over the last 3 years.. This tastes spent.... Mouthfeel is quite a bit thinner than I was expecting as well.. Dark roasted but stale malts with a touch of whiskey and oak...

I really loved the 16 from this series and I'm hoping I just have an off bottle here but this one surely didn't match up to its older brother...disappointing..

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Photo of CampusCrew
3.1/5  rDev -24.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

at jp henleys in st augustine

appearance: deep dark brown to black. no head rentention even with a rough pour

smell: smokieness, earthy, maybe peat

taste: sublte whiskey, liked the smokiness on the backend, but the dry malty backbone slowed my drinking too much. uncomfortable chalky malt.

mouthfeel: full bodied

drinkability: was a treat to try but I paid 15 for a 12oz. disppointed in that.

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Photo of jim102864
3.12/5  rDev -24.3%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Pours thick as motor oil into my Czechvar glass. Bottled in September of 2007. Thin, creamy skin of head. Obviously zero carbonation. Aroma registers bourbon notes and smoky moss. The taste reflects the nose; smokey; whiskey overtones and some vanilla. Mouthfeel is viscous. Not a drinkable brew IMO. Yeah, the smoky flavor is interesting, but this is just not my favorite style and thus not worth plunking down the big bucks for again.

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Photo of Alieniloquium
3.15/5  rDev -23.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

330 mL bottle poured into a Kate the Great snifter. Bottled July 2009.

Appearance - Dark brown with not much of a head. A few islands of bubbles remain but that's it.

Smell - Oaky to a fault. Ashy oak with a peaty whiskey presence. Slightly vegetal aroma.

Taste - Chocolatey malt. Spicy. Smokey scotch flavors. What ruins it is the finish. It's very vegetal. Hoppy bitterness in the finish. Extremely oaky.

Mouthfeel - Bitter and rough from the green flavors. Medium carbonation and easy drinking aside from the overt flaws.

Overall - Decent. I'd not buy it again though. The 16 had a much improved barrel character.

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Photo of fredmugs
3.15/5  rDev -23.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

I don't know what the base beer is for this but it is very disappointing. For a beer rated this highly it is just thin. Thin taste and little barrel presence.

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Photo of sinstaineddemon
3.25/5  rDev -21.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 2.5

drank this with all three reserves side-by-side, the 12, 16, and 30.

Bottle 20110/Sept 2007

A - pours a motor oil, RIS-esque black, with a thick caramel colored head, that fades into a retentive ring (Same on all three)

S - more non-alcohol related sweet notes in this one than the other two, dark chocolates, caramel, toffee, and some slight whiskey notes

T - very bitter chocolate taste, like the darkest of dark chocolates, some woody resiny notes, not as sweet as the aroma hinted, some distinct coffee beaniness

M&D - thinner than its friends, but far more bitter than expected, almost to an unenjoyable extent, definitely my least favorite of the three

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Photo of kojevergas
3.27/5  rDev -20.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.25 | feel: 3.25 | overall: 3.25

Bottle into pint glass in low altitude Galway, Ireland on February 24th, 2011.

A: Pours a four finger tan head of brilliant cream and thickness. I want this beer to have my babies.

Sm: Whiskey (shocker!), alcohol, maybe some roast. The alcohol/whiskey scent masks the underlying notes. Let's hope the taste unveils them.

T: Smooth open to whiskey and roasted barley build. Alcohol. Creamy finish. Caramel. A bit of coffee. Sort of a stout gone whiskey and wrong - but in a good way.

Mf: Quite smooth but adequately coarse.

Dr: I could drink another, but the ABV is poorly hidden. Not as complex as it could be, maybe even without the whiskey aging.


04.17.15: I found it above average but underwhelming the second time around.


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Photo of DavoleBomb
3.28/5  rDev -20.4%
look: 3 | smell: 5 | taste: 3 | feel: 2 | overall: 2.5

Poured into a snifter. Bottle #25,160 from September 2007.

3.0 A: Black color. Maybe a quarter finger of frothy light brown head that quickly fell and left no lacing. I'll cut it some slack since it's so old.

5.0 S: This may be the strongest smelling and booziest of the series and also the best smelling. Tangy caramel, loads of chocolate, light coffee, vanilla combine to form a creme brulee type aroma. Molasses, a formitable earthiness, and peat and oak from the whiskey and barrel. Supple roast underneath. I wouldn't ask for a much better nose, but if I did, I'd ask for a little more sweetness.

3.0 T: The frailty of the base beer is quite apparent in the taste. Aside from roastiness and some chocolate, the taste is dominated by the whiskey instead of the whiskey playing complement to the base. Most of the flavors found in the nose are still there, but in vastly reduced amounts with chocolate, molasses, and caramel taking the biggest hits. Still a decent amount of vanilla and oak from the barrel and peat from the whiskey. Earthy mineral from the water.

2.0 M: Light to ligher medium body. Whatever the descriptors, it's too thin. A good bit undercarbonated, but not quite flat. Lacking creaminess.

2.5 D: These beers smell great, but then ultimately disappoint. The base for these is weak and the barrel overshadows it by far too much. Only the 18 year to go, then I'm done with this unsatisfying, overpriced series.

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Photo of Br0
3.29/5  rDev -20.1%
look: 4 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Appearance: It pours a coffee black, as I would have expected for a beer this dark and aged as long as this one in casks of such a nature.

Smell: Coffee, notes of whiskey, and oak, nothing spectactular.

Taste: remarkably smooth, with nothing exemplary or outstanding. Subtle hints of coffee, whiskey, oak and a light burn of ethanol, but nothing major. There is also a slight twinge of smoke flavor, but again, nothing overpowering or powerful. I feel a touch more of hops to bring a bit more extreme character to the flavor would have helped. however, I am a definite hophead, and take it as you will.

Mouthfeel & Drinkability: amazingly mooth. Must have something to do with the aging in the casks, because this beer is ridiculously smooth. The 8% is merely a light warmth and the caramel, coffee, charcoal, and smoke are not overpowering in the LEAST. Id definitely reccommend this to anyone, at least for one glass.

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Photo of sacullen
3.32/5  rDev -19.4%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Bottle 6067 from September, 2007.

A: Pours black with almost no head and no lacing whatsoever, even with an aggressive pour.

S: Smells like a stout with hints of vanilla, dark fruits, and whisky. I was hoping for a little more whisky aroma.

T: Wait, where is the whisky? I was very underwhelmed with the taste of this one. It almost turns me off from picking up the 16- and 30-year old versions. OK, fine, I know I will try them some day. However, I was very unpleasantly surprised to find very little whisky taste with this one. Don't get me wrong - it didn't taste *bad*; I was just expecting a nice boozy flavor from it. I kept in mind the age of the bottle when giving it a score, though, knowing how these types of brews change over time. My benchmark is GI BCS (because it's my own personal favorite) and even the freshest examples of it have changed dramatically over the past 6 months.

M: Surprisingly light, compared with the color. One would almost expect it to coat your mouth and stick around for a long time. however, I found it to be a bit on the thin side

D: Hard to imagine having more than one of these at a time. While I have had the opportunity to sample more brews of these types, this is far from my favorite. That said, I would still love to try one of these fresh. I expect my opinion to be very different.

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Photo of KeefD
3.34/5  rDev -18.9%
look: 3 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 2 | overall: 3

Pours a dark brown, almost black color, with zero head and zero lacing. Looks flat and fairly unappealing. Sharp alcoholic aroma, a touch of chocolate and dark fruits, dry yeast, and the typical British Old Ale maltiness. Nice dark chocolate flavor, molasses, caramel, dark fruits, a hint of wood and smokiness, maybe just the lightest touch of whisky, and a bit of oxidation. This beer is completely flat. I know some people like their old ales to be this way, but it's just not doing it for me. Carbonation is needed for every beer, regardless of the style IMO. Not bad tasting, but need some bubbles.

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Photo of smuttanator
3.37/5  rDev -18.2%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

I love the base beer for this, but the barrel aging really hasn't done it any favors. While the drinkability of this beer is impressive the rest is a mess. The hops really don't meld well with the whisky, and the thin body doesn't help matters. I'd still drink it again, but wouldn't pay for it.

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Photo of russwbeck
3.37/5  rDev -18.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

Bottle: 23296
Date: July 2009

A: Brown pour that isn't quite as thick as I was expecting. About a finger of light brown head rests on top, and lasts for a little while before receding into nothing.

S: It has a really nice smell. Roasty, whisky, complex and deep.

T: The taste really falls off. Perhaps this shouldn't have been purchased aged. It's thin, with a decent amount of roastiness, but no whiskey. Sort of a weird aftertaste.

MF: Too thin, under-carbonated. Very dry finish.

O: I thought it was pretty drinkable, but not all that good. Thought this would be way better. Hopefully that isn't true of the others in the series.

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Photo of LanceW
3.4/5  rDev -17.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

A: Very dark. Could pass as coffee if no one was the wiser

S: Very sweet aroma

T: The taste reminded me of burnt wood. I was surprised by the charred flavor

Mouthfeel: Follows suit with the charred flavor. The burnt flavor covered your mouth and almost made me more thirsty.

D: Not a bad beer but I don't believe it was worth the 10 dollars we paid for 12oz/

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Photo of FtownThrowDown
3.42/5  rDev -17%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

Pours a very dark brown with only a slight head. You can still find the underlying Old Engine Oil that is not lost due to the barrel aging. Some of the integrity and characters that I like about the Old Engine Oil are lost. It is a thinner, less creamy version. There is a nice peat flavor that you would find in a nice scotch that saves this beer. Decent.

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Photo of Knapp85
3.42/5  rDev -17%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

This brew poured out much like the others in the series. The beer was very dark in color with a thin tan head that faded very quickly. The smell of the beer has a lot of whiskey/scotch aromas to it along with some other roasted chocolaty aromas. The taste of the beer was pretty strong to me, I found it to be more harsh than the others in the series. The mouthfeel was with out much carbonation at all, the feel was a little on the watery side. Overall I just wasn't digging this one too much.

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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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