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.
United Kingdom (Scotland) | website

Style: Old Ale

Alcohol by volume (ABV): 8.00%

Availability: Rotating

Notes / Commercial Description:
No notes at this time.

Added by Bitterbill on 02-17-2008

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Reviews: 369 | Ratings: 808
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 SilentSabre
4.54/5  rDev +9.9%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

$7,99 for an 11,2oz bottle at Arbor Place Beverage in Douglasville, Ga.
Poured absolutely black with no head. When held to a lamp, no light passes through, not even the edges. Smell is spectacular. Molasses, caramel, muted coffee, brown sugar, very faint smoke and whisky, as the label states it's aged in old whisky casks. Flavour echoes much of the same. Dark roasted robust malts, a very faint tobacco profile, a bit of smoke, some charred wood, and again, whisky, are all detectable. Mouthfeel is certainly full and solid, but honestly, I'd have liked to see it a little heavier. Given the style and the fact that you're going to sip this one, I'd say it's highly drinkable. This on a cold Winter night, a fire, your favourite blanket in the house, and a good book would be a winning combination, for sure! Hands down, the most complex, wonderfully crafted beer I have had in a very long time. Period.

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Photo of orbitalr0x
4.25/5  rDev +2.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Bottle 07805. Pours into my glass a dark black hue with some brown edges and a half inch of tan head that falls to bubbles atop the brew. Aromas start out with roasted, slightly burnt dark malts and a nice sturdy chocolate aroma. Interwoven there are wood, smoke, peat and whiskey notes that flow in and out. A very unique and enjoyable aroma.

First sip brings a roasted, smokey dark malt upfront that leads way to chocolate and coffee accents. A salty twang moves in as wood and earthy peat intermingle across the palate. The smokey single malt hits fairly strong on the finish along with a sort of oily mouthfeel. Nice bitterness and a touch of vinous fruit in the aftertaste. Complex, tasty brew.

Mouthfeel is medium bodied with a subtle creaminess and mellow carbonation. I thought this would be heavier, but I am happily surprised as the body makes it more drinkable. Overall, this is the first of the three I have tried, still having to sample the 16 and 30, however so far I am glad I purchased this one. The single malt really adds a new element to this enjoyable, sipping brew. Worth seeking out in my opinion.

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Photo of beerthulhu
4.27/5  rDev +3.4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Bottle #05654. bottled Sept. 2007, sampled August 27, 2008 in memory of John Schnieder. Aged in Highlands 12 year old single malt whiskey barrels.

A: A viscose pour yielded a dark, near engine oil coloring with a bare surface. Dark ruby highlights line the rim of the glass.

S: The nose had a beautiful roasted barley, dark ripe fruit (prunes), fresh black coffee with hints of dried cherries. A light fresh tobacco leaf and earthy roasted bitterness round out the aroma.

T: silky smooth roasted barley, with some charred oaky woodiness. A smooth campfire minearlity and whiskey tones are detected as well. On the fade was a wet charred woodiness, black coffee and burnt bacon. An earthy/soil bitterness with dark ripe prunes also highlight an already great flavor with hints of sugary creamer sweetness laced throughout. The whiskey flavor contributed by the barrel really comes through nicely here combining beautifully with the dark rich roasted nature of the malting.

M: light, extremely silky smooth with a very nice feeling on the tongue with a soft carbonation.

D: Drinkability was incredibly smooth, silky with a well balanced roasted flavor making for a great slow sipper filled with an earthy bitterness and campfire minearlity.

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Photo of champ103
4.15/5  rDev +0.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

A: Pours a pitch black color. A small tan head forms, but recedes to a ring. Light lace is left behind.
S: Like all Ola Dubh beers, this has a huge malty aroma. Coffee and chocolate dominate. Light peat aroma. Not as much of a whiskey character as I was expecting, and seems a bit reserved compared to the others. None the less, extremely enjoyable.
T: Coffee and chocolate again. A very light peat flavor. A chocolate bitterness that is more pronounced than in the other versions.
M/D: A full body that is very creamy. Smooth and easy to drink. Deceptively easy to drink.

Like everything else in this series, a world class beer. Tracking down all the Old Engine and Ola Dubh beers have been a treat. It is almost impossible for me to choose a favorite. This has the lowest score of the series for me, but that is relative to the rest of the amazing beers. It is like choosing between The White Album and Abby Road. All are masterpieces.

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Photo of russpowell
4.02/5  rDev -2.7%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Review based on notes

Pours black as night with a smidge of brown head. Nice viscous look, a bit of head retention & lacing

S: brown sugar, a whiff of smoke & some oakyness

T: Smokeyness, chocolate, vanilla, & oakyness up front. Smokeyness, charred oak & caramel as this warms along with raisins, plums, & dates. Finishes dry, fruitty, almost tastes like raisinettes with a bit of smoke. Almost pulled a 5.0

MF: Rich, chewy & oily

Drinks fairly easy for the style & ABV

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Photo of scruffwhor
4.14/5  rDev +0.2%
look: 3 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Not as black as other dark beers. Btthis dos havea heavy blck colo with brown and garnet highlighs. Only a flash in the pan head and a few spots of lacing with each sip. The aroma is a nutty coffee and smoked peet aroma. Maybe a little heavy cream too. The peet, wood, and mi of toasted an roasted malts spash the tastebuds first. The smoke and whskey grains start to some trough in the middle. With a very creamy coffee and oakey finish. The palate is smooth and warm. This beer was made for the snifter an constant swirling. The combo of whiskey, oak, and old ale are a very unique combination. The first of the three Ola Dubh beer. I wonder what the other two wll taste like in comparison.

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Photo of hckyfn9999
4.02/5  rDev -2.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Pours a thick black color with some dark brown hues around the edges when held to light. About a finger of tan head. Aroma is of roasted malts, bittersweet chocolate, and a bit of smokey scotch.

Taste is very roasted like espresso, along with some smokey peat, a bit of oak, bitter chocolate, licorice, finish is dry with a touch of cinnamon powder. Mouthfeel is a little thin, though as it warms it becomes more full. Pretty good beer though, Im not sure its worth the price tag.

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Photo of Duffman
4.13/5  rDev 0%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 5 | overall: 4

Pours just like its namesake, black oil, with a thin coffee-colored head that quickly fades. Smells like a syrupy sweet. Some peat and heather honey notes from the highland park casks are present. Some caramel, coffee, and oak tones too. Focused and sharp. You can taste the highland park, which is is fine harmony with the natural flavors of the stout. Cream oaky honeyed palate. Some nuttiness and very mild smoky notes. Body is oily and grips the mouth seductively. A protracted and clean finish. A splendid collaboration with the highland park distillery oin the part of harviestoun. Though I've had the HP 12 year old before and can locate some of those falvors in this beer I wish I had some know to match them up.

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Photo of 3Vandoo
4.32/5  rDev +4.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

An Old Ale they say, we thought it was an Imperial Stout because it was so dark and molasses.
Dark with some red hues, very shy lace, no head at all, not much to say "hey I'm here!"

Smell is deep roasted coffee, notes of alcohol with some shy maltiness.
Taste is with some acid tannic with some kind of cold coffee flavour, some saltiness with shy milky notes.

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Photo of doubleipa
3.84/5  rDev -7%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3

Appearaance: on einch, frothy, light brown head. Black. Aroma: burnt, peat, charcoal, licorice, cola, and cask wood. Heavy bitter finish and very dry finish. Nothing like I've ever had before. Can really taste the charcoal from the cask. Couldn't drink more than one of these. Would go great with a Maduro wrapped cigar.

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Photo of JamesS
4.97/5  rDev +20.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

Pours a great pitch black in color with a great tan (if bit small) head, and just a little bit of lacing. It has a wonderful scent, part coffee, part whiskey, part malt, part hop, a near perfectly balanced scent that ends with a sweet note. Wonderful taste, the whiskey flavor is there, but not overly dominant like so many other such beers; it has a great slight coffee start with a wonderful dark, malty, old ale flavor, a nice sweet finish with a bit of hoppiness to tone it down. It goes down wonderfully smooth for such a bold beer. Absolutely freaking fantastic.

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Photo of JMBSH
4.13/5  rDev 0%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Bottle says that it was bottled September 2007 and is bottle #5613.
Pours very dark. Looks black but is really a very dark amber/ruby color. I can't see or detect any carbonation. Almost no head from a fairly hard pour. Smells lightly of whisky.
A very good flavor. Notes of molasses and dark chocolate are detected. Coats the tongue and mouth very nicely. The whisky flavor is not overpowering, it just adds a nice addition to the beer. There is a hint of the "heat" that you might find in whisky but this beer is only 8% ABV. Very good beer. Recommended.

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Photo of grub
3.82/5  rDev -7.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 4

Lupe hooked me up with this one as part of the 80s BIF. thanks jason!

11.2oz bottle topped with black foil. bottle #05064, bottled sept 2007. sampled beside the other two ola dub beers july 19/08.

pours dark brown, nearly black, thick and viscous. the only sign of a head is a few big brown bubbles around the edges and a few spots of lace on the way down the glass.

aroma is good. nice whiskey and vanilla character. bit of caramel. bread. lots of biscuit.

taste is nice. light alcohol. vanilla. bit of oxidation. bread. light roast. dark chocolate. medium bitterness level. touch of caramel. bit of a letdown after the aroma.

mouthfeel is ok. a touch on the thin side. low carbonation level.

drinkability is pretty good. nicely balanced, just not that exciting overall. my least favourite of the three.

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Photo of barleywinebrewer
4.15/5  rDev +0.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

so, I go from the 30 to the 12 leaving the 16 to end the series. No reason other than whim.

A - rich dark brown, black color with a nice dark tan head.
S - smokey, smoked wood, peat, sweet malts, vinous aspect
T - very strong woody peaty smokey oaky (is that enough words ending in Y for one taste sentence?) notes with underlying dark sweet malt body.
M - medium bodied, smoothly carbonated, smooth finish
D - the smokey whiskey aspects say sip and savor as it hides the 8% well. To do so however would be to miss the point on this brew.

much more character than the 30 but not as smooth or as subtle.

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Photo of Viggo
3.81/5  rDev -7.7%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Sampled all 3; the 12, 16, and 30 one after another after a recent brewday. grub contributed the 12.

Pours an opaque black with dark brown and red highlights, medium sized thick brown head forms, looks like tar, settles to a thin ring quickly, drops a ton of lace, this stuff is dark! Smell is nice, chocolate and toffee, whiskey, oak, dark fruits, some alcohol, figs, cherries, very roasty, quite nice. Taste is charred wood, bread, toffee, chocolate, whiskey, sherry, some licorice and vanilla, but the flavour is kind of light and not as rich as I expected. Mouthfeel is light to medium bodied with low carbonation, not as thick as I would have liked. Solid stuff though, thanks Russ!

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Photo of asabreed
4.72/5  rDev +14.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4 | overall: 5

12 oz. bottle into a tulip glass. My snifter has somehow disappeared, which doesn't make me happy.

Appearance: Opaque with a mocha colored head, though there's not as much lacing or head retention as I'd like. I imagine the tulip may not have been the best glass for this, but I'm now sure how that would've changed things otherwise.

Smell: A heady meld of bourbon, cream, chocolate, coffee, mild mocha, woodiness, mild dark berries, vanilla, and booze.

Taste: Beautiful blackened malt flavors come through in a way I'm not sure I've experienced before. There's a fine line here between a creaminess and a blackened flavor, letting the other flavors creep in gradually: mocha, mild coffee, honey, chocolate, welcomed coffee with a bit of sourness and acridness that I think oddly meld with some other flavors quite nicely, vanilla, woodiness, earthiness, and the finishing touch of a good whiskey, lingering amidst all the flavors on the tongue. Even in this not-even-a-year-old state, with it being bottled in September 2007, I wish I could try a sample in the years to come, as I imagine it can only get better. But yes, this is pretty amazing stuff. Nuanced, balanced, heady, and delicious, especially if you're a fan of whiskey. I'll be seeking out the 16 and 30 when I can.

Mouthfeel: Full, though it's a bit odd because the lack of carbonation actually makes the flavors come out a bit more I think. There's a burst near the end, but it's mild, and still, I think they meant it like this, to get the full sense of the whiskey rather than having it be bogged down with carbonation, and yet it still remains fairly smooth.

Drinkability: Highly highly drinkable, and if we're taking the high price tag away I give it a perfect rating. A 6-pack of this, however, would cost you... a lot. But it's quality stuff, as they say it is, and as it should be.

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Photo of Hojaminbag
4.3/5  rDev +4.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Dark brown to black opaque body with a nice brown head that laces my glass.

Smells of some fruits, chocolately malts, and scotch.

Tasty. Nice malt profile is joined by some fruit notes. The bourbon flavor comes through, providing a smokey flavor with a touch of booziness. Has a fairly full-bodied mouthfeel.

Drinkable beer, I had to remind myself to sip and not chug.

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Photo of Sammy
4/5  rDev -3.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

First of the series, retrieved at State Line Liquor, and most promising. Aroma is of an imperial stout with some whiskey. Black body. Creamy mouthfeel with whiskey,chocolate, ah a drinkable pleasure rather than bourbon. A bit woody. Most satisfying, and a bit malty sweet at the end.

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Photo of Goliath
4.15/5  rDev +0.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 3.5

Pours black and completely opaque with a half inch brown frothy head. Decent retention and a fine bubbley lace.

Aroma is pretty nice. Some dark fruits, plums and raisins. Dark malts, showing some chocolate and grainy tones. A little smoke in there too.

Taste is pretty nice. Dark malts, giving some chocolate and toffee. Raisins, alcohol, and a bit of smoke. Not overly complex but a few items to ponder.

Mouthfeel is full bodied, thick, and chewy. Low carbonation, very nice.

Drinkability is moderate. Moderate alcohol limits the beer only slightly. Good flavor makes it pretty easy to consume. A sipper for sure.

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Photo of jdhilt
4.35/5  rDev +5.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Pours a one finger brown head that fades slowly to a thin layer, leaving some lace. Totally black, no highlights. Light carbonation and heavy bodied. Sweet whiskey nose. Flavor is sweet oak and whiskey with hints of sweet smokiness. Nice old ale. $8.95 for a 3300ml bottle from Colonial Spirits Acton, Ma bottled Sep 2007.

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Photo of cokes
4/5  rDev -3.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Bottle # 12529/Sept 2007
It pours to a virtually headless ebony, as small clusters of beige bubbles grip the edges of the glass.
Scented of fudge, espresso, anise, and peat, but lacks a true and real statement from the whisky on the nose.
Tastewise, it begins with more fudgey fullness and spent coffee acridness. Notes of stewed dark fruits dot the middle. Smoke and peat are bit players, but emerge in the later portion, as the barrel aging begins to materialize, also bringing wispy dried heather, and a more definite sherried, oaken dryness. Hops are subdued, but impart a backing notion of black tea. It concludes with an ashy sour twinge that's hard to place.
Medium bodied, seeming fatter at first but thinning over the sip with a rasping dryness. It's every bit a sipper, but one that's consumed quickly as the 8% is barely recognized.

End of review, and on to my digression-filled editorial:
At the end of the day, this is generally a winner, but I must say that I'm a hair disappointed. As a big fan of Highland Park 12yo with it's balance of caramel, honey, sherry, heather, maritime elements, medicine, and smoke. As such, It's a bottle I always have on hand, especially because I find it on the very high end of the quality/price ratio in the Scotch world and easily found.
I dropped $8 on this bottle of beer (in perspective, that's 1/4 the price of the whisky...and I also bought the 16 and the 30 Special Reserves, so that's 3 bottles of beer for right about the same price as a bottle of HP12, which would last me months) and solely because of the barrels it was aged in. To be honest, the scotch whisky aged notions are pushed to fringes, and I couldn't link this taste-wise in any way to HP, even sipping on it along side the beer (though they are quite agreeable, harmonious, and tasty partners, and I recommend having a dram along with it). I just would have liked to see more direct quotations from the spirit itself in this beer. I hoping for more of this in the 16 and the 30, though I'm worried, as I tend to enjoy moderately younger Scotches more than their older brether regardless of price. As decent as it is, I won't be seaching out more of the 12.

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

(Served in a snifter)

A- This beer has a jet black body with a deep tan cocoa head with some fairy tiny bubbles stuck to the glass. The head last for a few sips before it is only seen sticking to the sides of the glass.

S- This beer has a smoky almost musty whiskey note with nice peat moss, cream and maple notes giving way to a smoky finish. There are smooth dark black roasted malt aromas that come through when it warms a bit.

T- The black malt flavors have a hint of dark dried fruit and black roasted chicory. There are some smoky hints and a more full whiskey note finished by a soft green wet wood note. As the beer warms the smoky notes increased but they were never over the top.

M- This beer has a medium mouthfeel with a silky texture and a soft alcohol note that is just a tad fusel.

D- This beer has nice dark malt notes with a balance of smoky and whiskey notes that stay in their supporting roles. The flavor is not over the top and there are some nice depth to it.

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Photo of kmo1030
4.15/5  rDev +0.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

pours a thick dark brown with a faint whisp of a head.
in the aroma you find lots of roasted malts with chocolate, caramel, and some molasses. notes of smoked peat are present, but not especially powerful.
the flavor has more of the smoked peat action going on than the aroma. in addition to similar malt flavors to the aroma this beer has got vanilla, nuttiness, and some faint dark fruitiness, like black cherry. the taste is very smooth an evened out, with some very nice balance. a more substantial bitterness than it immediately seems to provide.
the mouthfeel is very smooth and somewhat full with soft carbonation.
the drinkability is very good for the viscosity and flavor profile. it's a mellow and well crafted scotch ale-esque old ale.

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Photo of Georgiabeer
4.2/5  rDev +1.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Pours black with a lacy head that settles to a ring. The aroma starts with some roasty notes that are tinged with a faint peatiness followed by some firm, dry malt. The taste is a little more aggressive than the aroma as far as the scotch notes go. Lightly peaty, woody tasting oak, very light pepper and vanilla notes, and hints of cherry and caramel. Most of these notes are picked up from the barrel than from the beer itself. There is a lingering roastiness that comes from the brew. Very smooth and even a bit light for what this is, which makes it quite easy to drink, but ot could use a tad more oomph in the body for me. I don't like this quite as much as the 16, primarily beacause of the heft and flavor complexity. I tend to find that I like the balance id middle aged scotches as well where there is more flavorr development and integration than 12 year olds and less woodiness and fade than in 30 year olds. Haven't tried the Ola Dubh 30 yet, so we'll see if that holds true there as well.

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Ola Dubh Special Reserve 12 from Harviestoun Brewery Ltd.
4.13 out of 5 based on 808 ratings.
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