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 #2,383
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
Photo of hman43
4.37/5  rDev +5.3%
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 +1.4%
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 +0.2%
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 +3.1%
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 Beginner2
4.28/5  rDev +3.1%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

This ale is not noted for its Looks, opaque and modest foam. Ola Dubh is about the Smell and, in particular, the smokey peat from the Scotch barrels. There are other aromas, like dark dried fruit and some earthiness... but they all Smell second to the Scotch. Tastes shows how well-roasted the barley is and introduces some nuttiness and cocoa into the mix. 12 sits equally well in the mouth. Balanced. However, the alcohol is most noticeable when it sits still; giving the ale a bit of an edge that probably diminishes with age. I have a 16 in my cellar; I will hold it for a while.

Listed in the "1001 Beers To Drink Before You Die," the reviewer talks about the nuances between the 16 and 30. Introduced in 2006, I'll suppose Harviestoun's barrels were the real deal and set a high standard for the American crafters to come. For that, Special Reserve deserves to be on the list.

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Photo of bnes09
3.91/5  rDev -5.8%
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 +6.7%
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 -0.2%
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 +0.2%
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 +7.7%
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 -14.5%
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 -2.9%
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 +2.4%
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 -0.7%
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 +8.2%
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 +2.4%
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 -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 manfromanotherplace
4.02/5  rDev -3.1%
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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Photo of Phigg1102
4.29/5  rDev +3.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4.25

Pours slick black, small head, no lacing. Initially I got very little in the aroma, waiting 10 minutes released much more. Raisin and toffee are strong with a touch of dark chocolate. Bitter smokiness in the taste with coffee noticeable. A bit thin in the mouthfeel, was expecting a bit more here. Overall very nice.

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Photo of fredmugs
3.15/5  rDev -24.1%
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 chinchill
4.05/5  rDev -2.4%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4

From a bottle in Edinburgh.

Body is a bit too thin and I wish the flavor were closer to the aroma in terms of richness and strength. Other than these two mild complaints, this is a great beer. Prudent use of barrel aging adds some nice complexity, including hints of whisky (of course), wood and vanilla. Very smooth with the alcohol partly hidden (but high ABV is obvious).

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Photo of djack8617
4.47/5  rDev +7.7%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Poured into pint glass and enjoyed in late April 2015. Pours jet black with no light pen et ration. Minimal head that quickly disappears... almost has an oily character to the look.

Smell is mainly smokey and peaty with faint hints of molasses which lends to the whole brewed in scotch barrels concept.

Taste is again smokey sweet with the same peaty taste that lingers well after the first sip. Crisp yet heavy feel to the beer not something that can be quickly consumed and every sip should be cherished.

Overall very enjoyable... but perhaps not for $9/bottle from the LCBO

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Photo of drmeto
4.89/5  rDev +17.8%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

Black with brown tinges with a very tiny light brown head
-pours out very thick
Vanilla,Blueberries,sweet chocolate,figs,faint coffee and toffee notes
-follows the nose plus molasses and rum with a long-lingering coffee and toasty finish
-very low carbonation,alcohol very well hidden,medium mouthfeel
Incredible Beer.Tastewise probably the best ive had yet.

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Photo of BMMillsy
4.25/5  rDev +2.4%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Best of the Ola Dubh series I have had. Bit more sweetness and chocolate, still nice smokey peat but not as dry and boring as some of the higher numbered year ones. Nicely done.

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Photo of jlindros
4.13/5  rDev -0.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4

Thanks to Veggie for this one.

No real head, pitch black super thick.

Nose smoked smoldering log, green olive oil, super dark thick heavy charred choc malt and fluffy nougat, caramel, big whisky barrel fudgey char,

Taste thick heavy dark malts, char and roast, powdered barrel char dust, thick lush, lots of super dark choc and fudgey cocoa, fluffy nougat, caramel, chewy nougat, a little smoke.. Mild bitterness mostly from the roast. Faint booze. Sticky but semi dry finish, chewy nougat dark choc lingering.

Mouth super thick, lighter carb, booze hidden well.

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