Ola Dubh Special Reserve 12 | Harviestoun Brewery Ltd.

Ola Dubh Special Reserve 12Ola Dubh Special Reserve 12
Liked This Beer
4.12 w/ 841 ratings
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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Ratings: 841 |  Reviews: 386
Photo of atr2605
4.44/5  rDev +7.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

A- pors a rich black color with a fingerwidth head that has pretty short retention.
S-Coffee, sweet malt, smokey oak from the barrels, subtle chocolate in the background.
T-rich chocolate that leads into the coffee that was in the aroma, a nice soft oak flavor in the finish. Everything that is in the aroma pulls through delicately yet rich in the flavor.
M-full bodied
O-Excellent beer. So complex and flavorful while not overwhelming the pallet. Each flavor leads into the next and is very enjoyable to drink. My only complaint is the price, but it's worth it.

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Photo of loren01
4.44/5  rDev +7.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

A: Pours an oily looking black color, no head.
S: Smell is sweet and malty. Also smells smokey
T: Nice sweetness at first with lingering smokey flavor. Hints of wood in there as well
M: Thick oily mouthfeel, medium to full bodied beer
O: This is a great beer, very tasty. Full thick sipping beer. Glad I picked this one up.

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Photo of abraxel
4.02/5  rDev -2.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3 | overall: 4

Bottled Sept. 2007, opened July 2011.

A - Super dark ebony, not a glimmer of color or light shining through. The head is surprisingly long-lasting, considering the size of the bubbles.

S - Dark fruit and oak, rather tasty. Alcohol is evident, but not overpowering. In all, I'm a fan.

T - Lots of smoke, oak, caramel, and burnt sugar. The smoke is prevalent throughout, from when it first hit my tongue to the lingering aftertaste. The smoke is nice, but almost overpowers some of the other flavors.

M - Smooth, with barely a hint of alcohol, but quite a thin body.

Overall, tasty. Somewhat different from other old ales I've had, but still quite good.

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Photo of Kinsman
4.21/5  rDev +2.2%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

As the name suggests, this one pours with an absolutely pitch black motor oil color and is capped by a dense mocha colored foam which leaves a thick lace around the glass as it slowly fades.

Notable woody sweetness with hints of smokey peat but the scotch note is not a prominent as I thought it would be. Sweet and roasty malt notes also come across with hints of coffee and toffee.

Strong malt backbone stands up with flavors of roasted coffee and some bittersweet chocolate and molasses which are paired with a heavy dose of scotch flavors. Vanilla and oak notes start things off before the distinct peat and slightly smokey flavors come along as the beer warms.

Mouthfeel is robust with a velvety smooth texture but feels just a tad bit too hot at this relatively young age (this bottle is about 6mos old). Overall, I'm thoroughly enjoying this beer and look forward to trying the 16 and 18 yera versions.

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

A: Pours a dark brown that seeps into black just off the shore of the glass. A tan foam with a decent head and curtain lacing. I was a little worried about the weakness of the head given the 8%, but the lacing was perfect.

S: Spicy bourbon (I know it's whisky barrels but honestly what I get in the nose) hanging over the smell of a simmering pan loaded with cocoa and vanilla beans. A wafting sweetness helps lift and enhance the smells.

T: Savory spices are upfront followed by high quality cocoa with the creamy sweetness of a warmed, sugar and condensed milk solution. The kick to this beer is the heavier hit of the whisky-esque alcohol, which with all of the great flavors going on comes across as a bit of a coffee bite. Tastes go together very well, this is such a quality blend.

M: This spreads in the mouth well and goes down easily. Thinner, but soothing to the throat and carbonation dances on the tongue but dies off. The carbonation, I think, fights some of the creaminess of the flavors, which adds some drag to the overall experience.

O: This one caused me to shake my head in disappointment-- not at the beer, of course, but at the lack of recognition for the quality beers that are being released or have already been around from places outside of North America. A beer like this is such a pleasure to drink and gives such a multi-faceted, dynamic, delicious beer drinking experience that stands up easily to the likes of things like BCBS but on north american forums you'll almost never hear a peep about it. If you have access to this and you're wondering what a top-notch beer tastes like, grab it. This one almost certainly won't disappoint. That being said, for those who have had some of the generic greats of north american barrel aged stouts, this beer will take you to a less familiar place by playing with things like whisky in successful fashion.

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Photo of RedSpecial1
4.97/5  rDev +20.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

A: Pours a thick, dark black out of the bottle with only a little tan head.

S: Malty sweetness backed by Scotch smokiness. A hint of yeast almost seems to be present as well.

T: Immediate sweet and smokey flavors followed by a long, pleasant smokiness that lingers all the way in the back of your throat.

M: The mouthfeel is surprisingly light and thin for all the flavor packed into this beer. This definitely is a plus since it makes the beer much easier to drink, and enjoy.

O: This is an excellent, and complex ale. Its smokey character is reminiscent of a rauchbier, but this is balanced against the sweet maltiness characteristic of scotch ales.

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Photo of PorterLambic
4.89/5  rDev +18.7%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

Pours deep dark and evil looking. Big dark tan head that drops slowly to a film.
Smell is amazing. Malty, rich and full of dark fruits.
OMG this is good. Rich, malty, dark fruits, hints of wood.
Full-bodied, rich. Low effervescence and decadent. An absolutely wonderful brew. Can I have another please?

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Photo of WeedKing4
4.27/5  rDev +3.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Pours a dark black with a decent amount of carbonation into a brandy snifter. Smells nice and roasty as well. Tastes of chocolate notes with a nice roasty, smokey finish. This is definately a porter, and not an old ale. Mouthfeel is beautiful. One of the easiest drinking 8% beers I have ever had. Wish I had easier access to this beer. 16 year is up next.

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Photo of paulozanello
4.3/5  rDev +4.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Beautiful presentation on this bottle from july of 2009.

It pours a very dark brown, almost black opaque color. Subtle amber notes around the foam cap when looked against the light. Head lasts for about one minute and has chocolaty-brown color. Retention and lacing are nothing to write home about but given the style I'm happy with them.

Aroma begins on a very powerful bitter chocolate/cocoa note followed by roasted malts and some dark fruits. It finishes with wooden, vanilla and whisky tones intermingled with some alcohol.

Taste starts out with wonderful sweet malty flavors like roasted grain, mollasses, caramel and chocolate. Very complex and filling. The wood and whisky notes then appear lasting to the very end of the sip. Some residual sweetness as well as some tart coffee/roasty notes show up again in the aftertaste complementing the whisky boozines. A nice vanilla taste hovers over everything if you look for it.

Carbonation is moderate to high, I feel it could be a little smoother. Body is heavy but not nearly as heavy as some imperial stouts aged in similar barrels. Alcohol is very well-hidden behind the roastiness of the grain bill and wooden notes.

Amazingly complex beer. I guess you can't really go wrong when you age a huge malt bomb on a oak barrel taken from one of the best Scotch Single Malt Distilleries in the world.

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Photo of Fatehunter
4.29/5  rDev +4.1%
look: 3 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Nov 2008 Bottling

Poured into a tulip glass. Pure blackness with almost no head save the lace on the edge. Still, impressive blackness.

The nose is all dark molasses with some alcohol and malt.

The tongue has biscuit, molasses, wood smoke and a little alcohol. While it seems simple, the combination and balance are incredible.

Thin and crisp body and low carbonation. Seems strange for this type of beer.

Overall, very easy to drink. I was expecting more body for a cask aged beer, but I enjoyed it more this way. Not as bold as other cask aged beers, also not as obnoxious.

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Photo of OWSLEY069
4.03/5  rDev -2.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Bottle #28538
Pours jet black with a light brown head.In the aroma, roasty malts and just a hint of whiskey. In the taste, roasted malts, earth and chocolate notes and a faint whiskey taste lingering underneath it all. A smooth and medium bodied mouthfeel, with a dry chocolate and mellow whiskey aftertaste. Not as whiskey barreled as thought, nice chocolate presence and mellow for a bigger beer.

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Photo of SgtStout
4.69/5  rDev +13.8%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

Pours pitch black, like tar. Really viscous with a finger and a half of mocha coloured head. The alcohol really stuck well to the glass, and left patchy lacing.

The smell is of really overripe bananas (like after they've gone black in the freezer for banana bread), vanilla, toffee, and some definite boozy notes.

The taste up front is vanilla, with some serious alcohol burn and prominent Whiskey heathery, smoky, roasty flavours. There's also some chocolate, maple, and faint hazelnut characters.

The mouthfeel is rich and full, almost sirupy, but in a good way.

Overall an exceptional beer. Very heavy, tasty, and complex. A great dessert or after dinner beer to savour by a fire from the comfort of an overstuffed leather wingback chair...Now that's living.

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Photo of zoso1967
4.02/5  rDev -2.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3 | overall: 4

I wanted to drink something interesting for my 400th review and I figured that a 2.5 year old beer that was barrel aged in Scotch whisky barrels would do the trick.

Bottled November 2008

Ola Dubh (meaning black oil) lives up to its namesake and pours a deep and dark black brown that does in fact look like used motor oil. It is completely impenetrable to light and has a medium tan head that had to be coaxed from a vigorous pour. The head fades quickly but leaves splashy lace on the sides of the snifter.

The aroma is quite pungent with a definite hit of scotch right off the bat. The scent of this spirit is bolstered by plenty of rich molasses, smooth roasty character and a surprising amount of vanilla sweetness. Alcoholic heat is evident as well as some earthy woodiness.

The flavor has a fairly heavy dose of charred wood like character. I would imagine it is the result of the peaty scotch mixed with the roasted malts. There is still a nice amount of molasses, vanilla and scotch notes, but to me the char really comes to dominate in the flavor. Other flavors present include raisin, licorice and some cocoa.

The mouthfeel is medium, but seems disappointingly watery. The beer has a nice smoothness to it, but it is a watery smoothness that seems like it is coming more from the low carbonation than from the malt bill. The finish however is quite nice, leaving some subtle charred and bitter cocoa notes after swallowing.

This has to be the easiest drinking of any barrel aged beer I have tried to date. It was sort of refreshing to have a beer of this type that was so laid back. That being said, I found that the mouthfeel really did a huge injustice to the flavor and aroma of this beer. If improved upon, this tasty and unique beer would have much more of a complete package.

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Photo of theboozecruise
4.17/5  rDev +1.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4.5

Poured into a goblet from a small bottle.

It's very dark, impenetrable when held up to a light. A very small off-white head with a little retention but not excessive.

The aroma is very rich, dark fruit and caramel and booze. A little chocolate in there as well. Not bad at all.

The taste has a lot more smoky scotch flavor than the aroma. Not as much caramel or dark fruit, but it's still good. I like that it's different from the aroma.

I'm really a fan of this one, different, unique, delicious.

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Photo of lowendfrequency
4.18/5  rDev +1.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Ola Dubh Special 12 - Vintage July 2009

11.2 fl oz poured into 2 tall fluted glasses to share with a friend.

Pours a robust brown to black with thin caramel colored head. Fine lacing keeps a ring of foam afloat at the edge of the glass.

Dark chocolate dominates the nose with a solid smoke backbone. Notes of heavy roast espresso beans, molasses and black licorice linger in the nostrils.

Initial impression is of a sharp black malt, peat smoke and dark sugar. The roasted grain astringency gives way to softer flavors of vanilla bean, molasses and star anise. Complex but well balanced.

Mouth feel is deceivingly large at first but ends somewhat thin for a beer of this size and flavor. A very nice beverage overall.

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Photo of biegaman
4.2/5  rDev +1.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4.5

Ola Dubh 12 may appear black, but it's definitely more of a chestnut brown. This becomes certain as the beer diminishes and the liquid around the glass' trim becomes increasingly illuminated by clear, colourful highlights. But don't think you'll be able to stare through it. Most of its head faded but remnants of the grayed ocher tone are plastered everywhere.

The nose on Special Reserve 12 interests me very much, not only because it manages to have nearly as much dimension and intensity as the others, but because, unlike the others, it still contains a lot of the character of the original Old Engine Oil as well as the additional whiskey notes. Beyond the peat, citrus and sea-brine you can still make out a beer!

And that beer, on first impression, might strike you as as much an imperial stout as anything else. It has plenty of dark chocolaty character to go along with a tarry, gooey, bittersweet maltiness. The presence of tart cherries, charred wood, honey and heather root - found in both smell and taste - set it apart, however, as something distinguished.

Andrew Jefford wrote of the Highland 12 that "the holy trinity of malt, peat and cask come together in heathery harmony". Now imagine that liquid blended with a beer that offers even more malt as well as hints of black licorice, roast, tobacco, dark chocolate, sweet caramel, black coffee and dark cherry - "holy trinity" becomes more like "holy infinity"!

Even while still lightly chilled, the mouthfeel already felt as though it had warmed up: alcohol could be felt seeping into the pores of the tongue and the liquid itself was thinnish and flat against the palate. Smokiness was restrained, much more so than the salty sea brine character which left a more lasting impression. No matter, it's all part of the charm.

The fact that I'm drastically less impressed with barrel-aged beers in general - but have enjoyed Ola Dubh Special Reserve 12 much more - now than when I first tried it some years ago must say something about the blend, taste and craftsmanship of this product. It is a tremendously rich, distinct and innate mix of Scottish terroir, heritage and gastronomy.

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Photo of BeerFMAndy
4.32/5  rDev +4.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

12 oz bottle split and poured into a tulip.

Thanks to bnieman and his Dad for sharing this for the Packer Superbowl win (yeah, I've got a little back log).

A - Clear dark brown on the pour and in the glass but no head is produced at all.

S - Smooth chocolate and cocoa with mellow barrel and alcohol aroma.

T - Whiskey barrel and chocolate roasted malts with a mellow alcohol finish. Very smooth flavor.

M - Smooth and mellow with a warming alcohol finish. Medium-bodied.

D - A nice sipping brew to share two ways and enjoy over a lengthier period of time than a normal brew.

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Photo of zaphodchak
4.23/5  rDev +2.7%
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.

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Photo of StJamesGate
4.3/5  rDev +4.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4

Pours a viscous opaque black with a creamy beige head and little hair-like thread of sediment (?) that leaves chunky trailers. Smoke and oak on the nose, almost like sausage, with scotch fusels and fruity port cork notes underneath. Irish coffee malts, some prune, roasty sourness, a chocolate hit, some tight mint and bark hops. Bittersweet comeback, some seaweed on the end and long whisky fade. Big, creamy, silky, slight burn.

Bottled Nov 2008 and cellared for over a year, so this one has some age on it.

Not sure I'd know this from a barrel-aged porter, but then again, I'm not sure that old ale as a style is much different from that anyway. This beer is missing the vinous quality that many other old and barreled ales have, though.

Gorgeously round and easy nightcap of a beer. Could see this with cheese. A civilized sipper.

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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 Scotchboy
3.45/5  rDev -16.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3

Harvestioun Ola Dhu Bottled Sep 2007

Pours opaque with no head and only a few large bubbles. The legs are fairly good and oily, reminding me of whisky or wine.

Smell is earthy and a little sweet, not quite dark fruit sweet but almost. The earthy character is almost a garden vegetable, maybe even a ripe tomato. Beer has a little smoke (very faint) and some chocolate malt. Surprisingly I can't detect any peat moss. I swear I can pick up on the alcohol too, which surprises me with an 8.2abv beer. Maybe there was a significant fermentation in those 3+ years of bottle conditioning.

On the tongue there is some Scotch, as well as a little sweet smoke. Still can't find any peat, but this earthy/garden taste carries through from the nose. There is a woody character that almost gets covered up the other flavors. The sweetness lingers, almost like a wine.

Rich beer.

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Photo of AndyAvalanche
4.22/5  rDev +2.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 4

12 oz. bottle poured into a Sierra Nevada Snifter type glass. Dark brown in color that has a solid attempt at being black. The edging glows a brown color. Te head was lighter than I expected and stuck around for a little while, not much lacing. The liquid itself clings to the glass after each sip.

Smell is good, has some similar characteristics to Old Engine Oil. The main difference from the two is the liquor smell. It has a scotch whiskey aromas to it that immediately jump out at you. Pretty decent malt base here as well. Molasses and maybe even some slight dehydrated dark fruits. Not much going on in the sense of hops here. Think of it in a good way as a more boozy Old Engine Oil.

Taste is good, probably the best part and it picks up right where the smell leaves off. The flavor profile includes the scotch whiskey, molasses and dehydrated fruitiness. In addition there is some dark roasted coffee and even some chocolate notes here. I think the bitterness comes mostly from the coffee and chocolate flavors, but hops are still present.

Mouthfeel is quite a step down from the other features here. Not bad, but a little lacking. It expect it to be a little more full. It makes an attempt, but falls a bit short. Not much going on in the carbonation either. I'll say it's pretty drinkable though, but more of a sipper on a cool evening, convenient for tonight.

Good overall, but I'd have to say I'd probably take an The Old Engine Oil over it for the sake of value and overall beer presence.

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Photo of windypete
4.2/5  rDev +1.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

poured a loverly black,looked thick but was'nt, with a very small head almost nona at all.

aroma was malty & peaty with small hints of whisky coming through.

taste was malty & peaty like the aroma & that whisky was there in the background. had nice carbination too. a very smooth drink.

overall a very nice beer & this one is a slow sipper, its one to relax with. i'd have this one again but trying the reserve 30 next to compare them.


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Photo of sweemzander
3.93/5  rDev -4.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

11.2 oz bottle poured into a snifter. Bottle# 25223. Bottled in July 2009.

(A)- Pours a thick pitch black color. Produced a giant tan fluffy head with superb retention. Minimal lace.

(S)- A nice rich, almost smoky peat from the whiskey barrels. Hits at a rye spice. Bits of brown sugar sweetness.

(T)- Same as the smell. It has a really nice rich and malty old ale core while the scotch barrels this was in puts off a peaty saltiness with a classic dry oaky booze flavor.

(M)- A good carbonation level. Definitely shows off the scotch barrel aging minus the boozy heat. Rich and malty with some really nice peat to it.

(D)- An interesting old ale that I quite like. Rich and malty. The scotch barrels really adds a dynamic level of aroma and flavor to the beer. I look forward to trying the other years of this.

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Photo of metter98
4.25/5  rDev +3.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

A: The beer is jet black in color and poured with a thin creamy tan head that took a very long time to fade away and left lacing down the edges of the glass.
S: There are aromas of roasted malts in the nose along with hints of whiskey from the barrel aging.
T: Similar to the smell, the taste is dominated by flavors of dark roasted malts, which are a bit smoky. There are some hints of chocolate, sweetness and toffee.
M: It feels medium- to full-bodied and smooth on the palate and has a moderate amount of carbonation. There are some hints of warming from the alcohol.
D: Despite its strength, this beer is very easy to drink.

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Ola Dubh Special Reserve 12 from Harviestoun Brewery Ltd.
Beer rating: 87.9% out of 100 with 841 ratings
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