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 DenisKolkin
3.96/5  rDev -3.9%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Ahh... Been looking forward to trying this one for some time. 330 ml bottle purchased from LCBO superstore at Summerhill for $6.15 CDN while in Toronto for exam preparation last August. Served chilled.

Appearance - Very dark brown, almost a charcoal color blended in as well. About 1 finger of off-white head that was very frothy looking. Little bit of soapy lacing left around the glass. This stuff really does look like old engine oil.

Smell - Wow. Slightly chocolaty, with a large, but not overdone smoke presence. I detected some dark fruit name figs and an hint of an unusual tropical element too. Some leather tobacco blend too. A lot going on here, which came together very nice for my flaring nostrils.

Taste - Smoke, earthy characteristics and a coffee flavor completely dominate this for me, as I'm not able to discern as many flavors as I was able to on the nose. Quite tasty but I found the taste lacked a bit of the well-rounded feature that was in the nose. Still pretty tasty but because of the intense flavors, a sipper.

Mouthfeel - Thinner than expected, but rather smooth and lowish carbonation. While still retaining a decent body, I still feel this was much thinner than expected especially given the flavor and aroma profiles.

Overall - A very good, yet rather different old ale, that really emphasizes smoke, probably one of the two or three smokiest beers I've had that isn't Rauchbier. And while the price is rather steep, this is one beer I'm glad I could say I tried, since it was a unique experience to me.

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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 brureview
4.4/5  rDev +6.8%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

Poured a deep dark opaque black- brown with 1/2 F head in a Stone Old Guardian glass- a barley wine style glass which works well for Old Ales.

Smoke-plum from the bottle.

Immediate array of aromas from the glass: leather, smoke, plum, and tobacco- quite a mix.

The mouth feel is very carbonated-not too much- which enhances the style.

Taste: magnificent. Leather, smoke plum, tobacco, fig melded into a complex ale. It's only 8% ABV and tastes like 13% ABV beer.

As the beer warms, there is more smoke in the taste. The plum mellows. The tobacco and leather dissipate.

Even though it's 8%, it's a sipper. One has to take time to appreciate this beer.

Serve warm- 50-55F.

Next step- if I can find a bottle-Harvistoun Engine Oil.

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Photo of Axnjxn
4.05/5  rDev -1.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

12 oz bottle

dark brown, slight head. smell is of bourbon/scotch and is very big. taste is hot..whiskey flavor with a tad of dark fruits. big beer that tastes like more than 8% ABV, full bodied for sure with a bit of carbonation...the right amount.

overall impressive for only 8%. recommended.

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Photo of StonedTrippin
4.29/5  rDev +4.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

in some ways I like 12 better than 16 or 18, the reason being, that it still tastes like beer. although some may say this is still more whiskey than beer, to me its the perfect balance. dark brown in color, rich for an old ale, same looks as the others with perhaps a little better head, but its been awhile and this one is on tap. the nose is great, woody and earthy and rich in malt profile, well roasted and toasted, not burnt but real dark. the whiskey isn't sharp, but mellow and clean, strong too, smells like more than 8% abv, that's for sure. the taste is great. tons of roast and body without any bitterness. the whiskey treatment is very effective, the beer has some charcoal to it, as well as vanilla and oak, but not in a sweet way, its more refined, more old school in some sense, more precise, more groovy, hard to describe. its all balanced up well, like the whiskey characteristics could be controlled independently of one another, you know, less vanilla here, more oak there, even though that's not possible, it seems that well dialed in. I prefer this to the 16 and 18 honestly, although I would still love to try the older ones, this is a genuinely great beer.

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Photo of thierrynantes
4.16/5  rDev +1%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Beer bottle (33 cl.) purchased from Le comptoir Irlandais, and tasted in 2013.

Appearance : dark brown color with a tan foamed head.
Smell : roasted and chocolate malty aromas.
Taste & mouthfeel : sweet and roasted malt flavors with notes of whiskey.
Drinkability : a nice beer in the English style Old Ale.

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Photo of Jjski
4.05/5  rDev -1.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Bottle out of cellar, tasted at 57f into a wide rimmed pilsner glass. I'm wearing brown corduroy pants and a green sweater. The dog wants taco chips, my appetizer prior to tasting.

A-opaque black like an RIS, 2 finger head with aggressive pour which then recedes to mocha colored lacing

S- peat, prosciutto or medium rare bacon, smoke faint ethereal whiskey. Fascinating!

T- not as deep or complex as the smell : peat smoke dominates Carmel undertones, very little whiskey. Hops? Nope, more smoke at the end. Barrel oak

M- nice but not great, but for an 8% brew it is spot on.

O- the peat and prosciutto smell are the best attributes, taste does not equal. A special, unique beer but a bit tame for our American blistered palates. Subtle and lacking true whiskey flavor. Even the nose barely discerns the whiskey unless you count the peat smoke.

I like old ales, barley wines etc. this one is good if you like peat smoke scotch whiskey aromas and enjoy bacon with your beer.

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Photo of pkalix
4.35/5  rDev +5.6%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

black and goopy as advertised. no foam, no lace, tiny soap residual.
smells of algae, nut brown ale, malt, whiskey, wood....
earthy, roasted malts, smoked wood, minimal whiskey flavors.... peat. very earthy. nice flavors although very still. no carbonation. seems a little thin from what I was expecting but i'd like to try the others...

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Photo of mdfb79
4.1/5  rDev -0.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

From 11/14/13 notes. Have always wanted to try these beers but because of their crazy prices I have mostly passed. I had the 16 once and thought it was ok, but nothing great. 12 oz. pour in a snifter at Ginger Man in NYC.

a - Pours a pitch black color with one inch of tan head and low to moderate carbonation evident. Looks pretty good.

s - Smells of sweet chocolate, roasted malts, scotch, oak, toasted malts, vanilla, alcohol, and lightly bitter dark chocolate. Scotch is up there and a lot of chocolate, with burnt and bitter notes on the back end. Nice.

t - Tastes of sweet milk chocolate, nice sweet scotch, vanilla, oak, toasted malts, roasted malts, burnt malts, earth notes, smoke and peat, light cream and coffee, and light fruits. Taste has more chocolate and scotch and is sweeter; a step up from the nose.

m - Medium to full body and low carbonation. Not quite the motor oil it looks like but on the thicker side of medium bodied. Nice.

o - Overall a beer that is definitely very good, but hard to justify for the price.I actually liked this a lot more than the 16, but again, not worth the price for me at $12/glass or even more for a 11.2 oz. bottle. Lots of chocolate and scotch to it, if you don't like scotch I'd suggest saving your money for something else. If you have the money to spend and like scotch/old ales, this series would be fun to check out.

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Photo of joeseppy
3.61/5  rDev -12.4%
look: 4.25 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Pours a dark brown with half inch head.

Initial aromas are distinct licorice and dark chocolate. As it warms, aroma is muted with undertones of peat and oak.

Cooler temperature taste is bitter dark cocoa with a charred back and lingering black coffee. As this warms up, more scotch quality underlined with peat emerges.

On the lighter side with ample carbonation. Dry cocoa powder finish at cooler temp.. Warmer temp. smooths out and becomes a fine sipper.

You gotta like scotch to appreciate this. Not very complex and lacks body. Reading all the reviews, I was expecting more.

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Photo of Murrhey
4.08/5  rDev -1%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4

Poured from a 11.2 oz standard pressure-cap bottle into a snifter in high elevation Kalispell, Mont. Reviewed live.

A- One finger mocha head that dissolves almost instantly. Black, viscous body. Fine looking ale.

S- Chocolate and toffee malts. Warm and roasty with dark fruits. So complex and interesting.

T- Dark roasted malts with dark fruits.

M- Thick and viscous. Like syrup on the tongue. Finishes sticky.

O- Great beer, complex and dynamic.

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Photo of decimator
4.07/5  rDev -1.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

330ml bottle poured into a Leffe goblet. ABV 8.0%. Enjoyed with a plate of cheese & crackers.

A - Poured nearly black with no head and only trace amounts of surface bubbles. Not much lacing. Looks eerily lifeless.

S - Smoke, whiskey, oak, some vanilla, some toast.

T - Some brown sugar, toast, vanilla, oak, some smoke, whiskey. Taste pretty good.

M - Medium-low carbonation, medium-heavy body, smooth, slick, some heat in the finish.

O - Alcohol is noticeable but well balanced by the sweetness and the barrel aging.

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Photo of vinicole
4.69/5  rDev +13.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.75

Wow! My big love is for English IPA's and certainly not Stouts and Old Ales but this has taken my breath away. All the superlatives previously written I whole heartedly support. What has particularly hit me is the balance this brew seems to maintain from beginning to end. This was bought as a trial single bottle from S H Jones in Banbury, Oxfordshire for the princely sum of £2.99 because it was sent to them "by mistake" and they did not really know how to price it. I'm back for some more tomorrow.


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Photo of IdeaSpeeder
4.54/5  rDev +10.2%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 3 | overall: 4

Serving Type - 330ml bottle poured into a snifter

Appearance - Pours a pitch black with a thin caramel coloured head which dissipates almost instantly.

Smell - Whoa. Alcohol right up front, followed by oak and smoke and peat...all characteristic of the whiskey barrels it was aged in. Truly a wonderful smelling beer.

Taste - The oak takes a back seat to the intense alcohol notes, but it's still there in a big way. This, combined with the peat and heavy smoke makes this a great brew for anyone into scotch (obviously). Other than the big whiskey flavors, I'm also picking up some dark fruit notes which make it surprisingly sweet.

Mouthfeel - A bit of a let down really. Not much of a body to support what is in every other way a huge beer. As expected for the style, carbonation is very low.

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Photo of lovethebelgians
4.41/5  rDev +7%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

Poors beautifully, thick glugs when I opened it the aromas hit me from a foot away and they were good aromas. Thick frothy suds, good lacing.

The taste is smokey, with whiskey dominating the taste. I would have to describe as an oaky, smokey beer flavored whiskey without the alcohol punch. I like it!

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Photo of RSJames
4.16/5  rDev +1%
look: 4.25 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25

From a bottle bottled in 2009. Poured into a Brewdog goblet (gotta keep it Scottish). Pours a nice black, thin, coffee-colored head. Lacing disappears quickly.

Smell doesn't particularly impress. Smoke is nice, but goes a bit funky after that.

First hit in both smell and taste is smokey. The taste of the peat used to smoke the malts for the whiskey really comes through, more so than the whiskey taste itself. The whiskey taste hangs around, though, outlasting the smokiness. Malt is prevalent from the first hit, and lingers in the aftertaste, hops aroma and taste is nonexistent.

Overall, nicely done. I'm a huge fan of barrel-aged beers, but would like to taste this one before it hits the whiskey barrels just to know what the base flavor is. I suspect quite good, although maybe not brilliant.

Disclaimer: this bottle was purchased in Las Vegas cold and not kept at optimum temperature. I have another bottle (2011) purchased at the Highland Park Distillery that has been more properly stored; may change my assessment after opening that one

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Photo of Flopjack
4.23/5  rDev +2.7%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

bottle into tulip, bottled July 2009

Appearance : Very dark, does not let light through, jet black, light color caramel head

Smell : Smokiness, roasted malt, oak presence from the whiskey casks

Taste : Warming alcohol presence but not overwhelming, smoked flavor similar rauchbier, coats the tongue with bready flavors

Mouthfeel : Not much carbonation, medium body, more smooth than i had expected

Overall : This beer was good. I would buy this beer again given the chance however I'm not sure i would seek this beer out on a regular basis.

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Photo of Roman5150
4.27/5  rDev +3.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

bottle into tulip, bottled July 2009

appearance: black, but not pitch black, the slightest dark copper hue when held to the light, slight 1 finger off white head

smell: a pleasant smokiness that is comparable a German Rauchbier, beef jerky, lots of oak and some notes of caramel and subtle vanilla near the end, but not super noticeable.

taste: Again, this has a gentle smokiness that really reminds me of a Rauchbier, the initial flavor coats your tongue in a resinous sticky manner giving you huge notes of the oak cask and the roasted malt backbone is very forward. The age has really smoothed this one out, very well balanced, not too much oak like some other barrel aged beers i've had. Alcohol is literally nonexistent, the age did wonders in that regard, and the finish is short lived.

mouthfeel: not much carbonation, medium bodied

overall: A great barrel aged beer, lot's of smokiness and oak cask flavors, yet not too much. Would buy again, but I prefer the Special 18 reserve which is only a few dollars more.

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Photo of Dope
4.23/5  rDev +2.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25

Bottle 27813 from July 2009. Might've been sitting around my cellar a few years.

A: Pitch black pour. Nice chocolate milk-colored head. Head is pretty large and dense, like a milkshake. Head fades slowly, leaving numerous little slivers of lacing all over the glass. Looks almost like snake scales. Great head retention.

S: Lots of charry smoke and umami. It's not harsh though, it's about as mellow as smoke could be. Some decent sweet chocolate and vanilla.

T: Smoke, peat and sweet vanilla up front. Some milk chocolate kicks in. Sweet chocolate lingers through to the finish with a mild acrid smoke addition. Hardly acrid, just a little less sweet than before. Lingering bittersweet chocolate, smoke and peat in the aftertaste. Almost feels like there's a little bitter coffee bean in that aftertaste too.

M: Nice, smooth and medium bodied. Borderline creamy. Silky. That's the word I'll use.

O: Interesting old ale. Scotch notes are not too harsh, but rather well integrated. Nice and mellow. Great balance of scotch flavors and roasted malt. It may be due to the age, but the smoke is nicely subdued, sweetened by the milk chocolate. Ends up being a really nice combination.

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Photo of RaphaelSC
4.77/5  rDev +15.8%
look: 5 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.75

A: Pours a wonderful black liquid, very consistent, a thin cream head with low retention.

S: Its bouquet is a mix of coffee, toasted malts and whisky, very strong, but very pleasant bouquet.

T: Coffee, woody and a good bitter that makes a good and consistent flavour, some whisky in the end. Its alcohol is well hidden despite its whisky flavour.

M: a strong coffee bitterness and many whisky malts in the aftertaste, medium body. Every sip makes me want the next.

O: Ola Dubh 12 is a well made beer, consistent with equilibrium and good taste combination of flavours and smells. I think that every beer lover must try this beer!

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Photo of dwren89
4.48/5  rDev +8.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Appearance: Pitch black, tan head, but disintegrated quickly from the high ABV

Aroma: definite strong alcoholic aroma, slight burn in the nostril, very roasty, slightly smoky, slight peaty scotch, a lot of residual sweetness coming through the nose

Taste: Very roasty but not like a stout-roastiness. Has balanced peat and smoke flavors, slight fruitiness on the finish likely from the scotch. Fruitiness is dark fruits and a very small hint of banana. There are dark chocolate flavors as well as a significant amounto of sweetness from residual sugars. Balanced finish however between roasty and sweet. Hops not detectable

Mouthfeel: silky and thick, very little carbonation, smooth on the swallow with a long, long finish.

Overall Impression: I was very impressed by this ale. It obviously takes in a fair amount of scotch character from the barrel to balance roasted malts with peaty/smoky flavor. Dark Chocolate and sugar sweetness are prevalent in the middle of the drink, but subside slightly as the roastiness comes back in the finish. I think this is a stellar ale, with the only draw back being the slightly too alcoholic nose. I am attributing this nose to the fact that the ale was aged in 12-year whiskey barrels rather than older whiskey, so the alcoholic notes in the barrel will be less mellowed and more pervasive, thus more pervasive in the ale. Fantastic beer overall though.

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Photo of mick303
4.31/5  rDev +4.6%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25

Vertical tasting, from notes.
A - pitch black, little lacing and film in comparison to the un-BA porter. 3.75
S - intoxicating richness, coffee liquer, herbal, hay notes, so interesting and rich, amazing. 4.5
T - salty smoked fish, smooth creaminess, minerally smoothness and maltiness, toffee note. 4.25
M - rich smoothness, no carbonation, a bit sweet, then dry finish. 4.5
O - a subtle floral edge, vanilla coffee, slight earthiness, very nice beer overall with a pleasant dry finish. 4.25

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Photo of KingSlayer
4.35/5  rDev +5.6%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25

12 fl oz bottle poured into a cognac snifter.
bottle presentation is superb. poured a jet black untranslucent oily liquid, a 2 finger dense tan head formed with poor retention, but a nice beige ring and swirl was present on top at all times, beautiful lacing.
nose composed of coffee, vainilla, chocolate, biscuit, soy, and alcohol.
palate is rich and complex, same as nose, bitter hop aftertaste in the back of the tongue and lingering biscuit, chocolate coffee flavor.
full enveloping creamy body, nice carbonation.
overall a very tasty brew, complex, mildly alcoholic, with my untrained palate i couldnt feel the whiskey cask ageing kick in, but i still enjoyed this immensely.

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Photo of Huhzubendah
4.25/5  rDev +3.2%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

On draft at Churchkey in D.C. Served alongside the Ola Dubh 21, also on draft.

The beer is black with a small tan head. The aroma offers roast, chocolate, alcohol, oak, smoke, scotch. Very nice. Lovely flavor following the scent. Easy to sip and savor. Medium bodied. Vanilla, chocolate, light booze. The 12 year was a bit smoother than the 21 year, actually, though the barrel character was less pronounced. All in all, a delicious beer.

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Photo of Rickythejeweler
4.47/5  rDev +8.5%
look: 5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Bottle No. 58432, Date: July 2011.

A - Dark brown-black, thin khaki head, minimal lacing.

S - Peat, wood, burnt coffee, Scotch, campfire.

T - Starts with dark cocoa, roasted malts, and black coffee. Mid palate is heavy on Scotch, grains, earth, and a hint of vanilla. Finish is burnt, woody, and charred.

M - Medium body, low carbonation, fairly smooth.

O - Most dominate Scotch presence in all of the series. This is my favorite version.

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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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