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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Ratings: 830 |  Reviews: 380
Photo of cmannes
4.1/5  rDev -0.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

11.2oz Bottle poured into a Surly Stein. Bottle #24308 Sept 2007

Appearance: Beautiful dark color with hints of red. Creamy chocolate colored creamy head.

Aroma: Very chocolaty, malty, hint of whisky.

Taste: Roasted chocolate. Definite heat of alcohol. Malts, and the whisky on the finish.

Mouthfeel: A little thinner than I expected. Low carb, a little syrupy.

Overall: Good, but a little simple. I expected a little more I guess.

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Photo of AgentMunky
4.45/5  rDev +8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Poured from a 33cL bottle into a wine glass. Best before January 2013. Bottle No. 04543 (July 2009).

A: Peeling back the foil and pouring, I see a dark brown beer than grows darker the more liquid I add. A slowly rising brown head eventually attains considerable height, then fades back down into quiescence, leaving solid creamy lacing in its wake. The beer is blackish-brown now, near to the colour of motor oil, as it claims.

S: Mmm. It smells like an imperial stout. Light roasted or chocolate malts. Traces of dark, delicious coffee are met with oaken overtones carrying the unmistakable scent of whisky and the expected whiffs of vanilla. I am entranced for a few moments, trying to work out the aromas of one of my favourite whiskies (Highland Park 12). A direct comparison reveals that Ola Dubh preserves very little of the peatiness of Highland Park, but does hold on to the honey sweetness. Any fruit in the Highland Park has become less rich and more zesty in Harviestoun's beer.

T: Very, very nice. Sturdy, but sweet -- in two different ways. One is the anticipated round, malty sweetness. The other is altogether different and must be from the whisky casks -- fruity, alcoholic, almost spicy. This is the more delicious of the two. Towards the end of the taste, drier flavours begin to emerge -- hops and toasted malts. The aftertaste is clean, only light bitter, and tapers off gently, but sooner than I'd like. I wish I could taste this beer for hours.

M: Oily, with cheeky carbonation. Smooth and refreshing.

D: Absolutely no problem drinking this one -- it's a pleasure. Ola Dubh is engaging, exciting, and exceptional. Mmm; moreish. Definitely recommended.

Notes: Paired with the recommended Comté. Initially, I don't really see the appeal, but, after consideration, it does seem to bring out an enjoyable spiciness. "Leading cheese expert" Paul Thomas claims that the Gruyère should "accentuate the whisky notes on the finish," and -- I'll be darned -- it does!

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Photo of StarshipPoopers
4.28/5  rDev +3.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

A - dark black and opaque body with a creamy tan head. Excellent lacing and good retention.

S - Dark roasted chocolate malts, smooth whisky, the roasted notes give a smoky slight smoky smell too.

T - Excellent flavour. Dark roasted chocolate gives a slightly bitter edge that compliments the whusky component well. The whisky is an awesome part of the taste. It doesn't make the taste any more harsh but adds a smooth and rich foundation. There is also a toffee flavour in there too. I love how rich and complex the two primary flavours are.

M/D - Very smooth with a heavy body, the mouthfeel comes across much like a stout. Drinkability is good due to the complexity but it's a drink that you take your time with.

Great drink, can't wait to try the 16 and 40.

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

Inky black on the pour with viscous appearance as it filled the glass. Opaque with a sparse head and spotty lace, centre bubbles grouped together are large. Tree bark on the nose with leather, molasses, smoke and with a sweeter malt aroma rounding it out.

Taste of chocolate, oats, very stout-like with a nice, velvety texture and smoothness. Alcohol very well in control. Great balance with a bitter-sweet harmony and roasted malt backdrop that is well integrated. Quite nice, I'm looking forward to the rest of Ola Dubh lineup!

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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 Zimbo
4.12/5  rDev 0%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Five years ago I despaired for the Scottish brewing industry. Maclay was long gone and Belhaven and Caladonian had lost their independence. Things looked pretty grim. But now the more I drink beers like Ola Dubh the more I see just how confidently independents are picking up the slack.

Forms a very thick easy dark tan head and offers rich deep aromas of well baked dark chocolate cake and coffee. Thick blanket body is firm and smooth in the mouth but seemigly lighter and southing going down the hatch. A velvety dark chocolate and a very full earthiness to taste, this is very masculine but superbly balanced considering all the elements being roped in here. A beer of the soil. The whisky cask element is so well integrated playing a supportive but not a dominant role.

The wee man of the range but still pretty top notch.

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

330 ml bottle
Part of the Harviestoun brewery feature at the LCBO.

Very fine looking bottle, class label and appearance. Pours what can only be jet black with a foamy tan coloured head; thick from the aggressive pour. Fluffy head dissipates slowly and leaves plenty of lacing. The nose is of potent alcohol, the whiskey casks having left its mark. Also hints of roasted malts, toasty chocolate notes. On the sip, the taste isn't overly phenol as expected and this proves to be a well balanced beer. Theres a smooth velvety taste of the roasted chocolate and a semi-bitter aftertaste. Heavy bodied mouthfeel as expected for something named 'Black Oil'. Overall a pretty easy drinker, a great drinkable introduction to the series.

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Photo of liamt07
4.13/5  rDev +0.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Bottle from the LCBO's recent Harviestoun release. 341ml into a snifter. Bottled on February 10, 2010, bottle no. 13950.

Body is damn well near as black as can be, with a finger and change of creamy khaki head. Lacing is sticky as shit, but not a ton of head hangs around. Nose is of dark chocolate, hint of smoke. Tastes more of chocolate with some bitterness, molasses and licorice; the slightest bit of heat finishes it off. Some dark fruits here also, more subtle. Warming feeling to it, but the whiskey barrel aging isn't completely evident to me; the slightest hint of peat and whiskey comes through even around room temperature. A touch metallic in the mouthfeel, but generally slick and smooth. Again, warming feeling and the ABV ain't detectable. Great drinker and there colder months are a great time to be having it.

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Photo of Thorpe429
3.8/5  rDev -7.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Reviewed from notes.

Served in a tulip glass. Pours a very dark brown color with a thin head. A bit persistent with some carbonation bubbles throughout. Nose is light whisky plus some oak, vanilla, dark fruits, and smoke. A bit of roast. The taste has some whisky and peat smoke plus a bit of roast and oak. Good body and not too boozy. Drinkability is higher on this than the 30 and 40.

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Photo of crossovert
3.65/5  rDev -11.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

July 2009 vintage. 11.2 oz black foiled bottle with a little information tag.

IT pours a dark brown/black, the head is a greyish/brownish/tan and it is nicely foamy. It recedes pretty quickly with not much lacing.

The smell is very smooth and subtle. It isn't an over the top bourbon bomb in the nose. It has notes of chocolate, peat, scotch, and wood.

The scotch is intensified in the flavor as it almost takes center stage. It has a lot of peatiness, smoke, and barrel notes. There are also notes of tobacco and earthiness. It is a very earthy, organic tasting brew. The sweetness of the brew gets more intense as you go. It tastes very rustic.

It is pretty good, I wonder if the other editions would be better or worse, or any different.

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Photo of MattyV
4.15/5  rDev +0.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Pours a thick viscous dark-brown black with a 2 finger mocha head that laces very well. The aroma is rich with toffee, dark chocolate malt, a touch of whiskey-like smoke and spice, and maybe just a bit chalky. The taste is complex and well-balanced. Dark caramel and chocolate malt up front, leading into a light smokiness and peaty whiskey character, and finishing up with a pronounced bitterness and mild scotch-like lingering finish. Rich and full-bodied, moderately carbonated. This is a wonderfully tasty and complex beer. The ABV is well-hidden and it shows nice scotch characteristics as it warms without being too sweet/cloying. I'm interested in trying some of the others in the series, $ permitting.

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Photo of hooliganlife
4.02/5  rDev -2.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

vintage sept 2007

pours a dark cola black with a light cocoa head leaving light retention.

lots of sweet vanilla and whiskey up front. dark fruits and toffee in the back. very rich.

a light smoky and vanilla kick in first a complex blend of fruit and candy really emerge with the vanilla. lots of fig and rich toffee meet subtle smooth whiskey. light roasted malt.

full body, slight chewiness. little to no alcohol from the whiskey barrels. bit of an oily residue on the teeth.

this was good, the smell was amazing. very well blended and smooth. i plan on trying the 16 and 30 year old barrel versions.

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Photo of Daniellobo
3.97/5  rDev -3.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Good barrel aged ale with a distinct Orkney Whisky range in a fairly balanced and not too assertive profile.

Presentation: 11.2 oz brown capped bottle with a dark foil cover on top. Simple and sober labeling with the logo of the brewery, name and main data in black white and orange touches. Label hanging from the neck offers a brief description of the brew, intent and history with Whisky notes for the several reserve releases, and a Highland Park description. Shows bottle number (15623), date (Nov 2008), and Alc. by Vol. (8%). Served in a snifter.

A - Black pour with a small frothy head, minimum retention, as expected, with a faint surface ring and no lacing.

S - Orkney nose, distinct Whisky whiff with a malty range, not too strong but rather pleasing, touch of dried fruits as the malt is woven back to the aroma of Whiskey.

T - Whisky range, Orkney in the palate, with chocolate notes, touch of caramel underneath, lightly peaty and smokey as the malt profile goes through. Touch of faint bitterness with a woody hint.

M - Medium to medium-full body, it is not that thick, and while one may long for it actually it is not necessarily a bad thing. Medium to low carbonation as the brew progresses with a smooth flow that does not quite hit too thin a note.

D - Nice sipper, accessible and maybe if one is after something a touch more intense it may feel short, but it is pretty good in any case.

Notes: Nice brew, and while it hits all the right Whisky notes with dexterity, and I sure would love to have it again, there is something that does not quite take to the next level for me. Maybe its the Orkney style that does not make it for me compared to other Scotchs. It is like it is lacking a touch to make it truly memorable. Dunno, maybe I need to try other Ola Dubh reserve offerings...

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Photo of bruachan
4.07/5  rDev -1.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

super dark...old ale? more like porter. weak head, but lacing should be decent

many similarities to the ever-so-popular bourbon stouts in the US. the lame head detracts from scent experiences, but solid roastiness and scotchy oak abound

but scotch is even more apparent in the finish, which is dry for an old ale (i suppose that could be an illusion). good sweetness to support some sharp flavors--oak is highly present (especially in the 12-year, as opposed to 30-year). i think bitterness shows up more in 12-year than 30. quite roasty-flavored: mos def more of a porter than old ale

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Photo of Jwale73
4.04/5  rDev -1.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

11.2oz. bottle served in my Old Stock snifter. Bottle# 28316/Bottled in September 2007. Pours one shade shy of black with no head - just a mocha-colored skim that quickly disperses towards the edges forming a bubbly band around the perimeter of the bowl. No lacing on this one. Exceptional nose with wonderful complexity - brown sugar, molasses, dark fruit and toffee on a malty base. A light whiskey presence is also expressed towards the back. Taste somewhat consistent with nose - molasses and brown sugar are apparent, but a light coffee character also comes out, as well as a hint of char; toffee seems to disappear. Mouthfeel is medium-light, perhaps a little watery, with an almost non-existent carbonation. A really solid Old Ale. The highlight on this one is definitely in the nose. Unfortunately, it falls a little short in terms of the mouthfeel. Well worth a try and I am intrigued as to what 5-7 years might do to this one.

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

Thanks to alpineclimber for this one. Bottle #11310. Brewed Fed 2010. Poured in to Duvel tulip.

A - Dark black with a half finger of bubbly light brown head.

S - Sweet roasted malts hit the nose initially with hints of coffee and molasses. A faint whisky nose exists in the background but it is not prominent at all.

T - A somewhat complex palate with a lot of different flavours coming through. There is a nice whisky flavour that comes through in perfect strength (doesn't dominate but is noticeable). Other flavours that come through include sweet molasses and brown sugar, some subtle roasted malts and notes of coffee and chocolate with a hint of licorice. A very nice palate.

M - Medium body, chewy, lightly carbonated.

D - A remarkable beer.

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Photo of kingcrowing
3.83/5  rDev -7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

11.2oz bottle poured into a weiß glass. Bottled in 2007.

Pours oily black with a very small dark brown head. Nose is whisky and booze it's rich and sweet and malty.

taste is really sweet, smokey and very rich. It's got a lot of whisky flavor to it which is nice. It's really creamy and drinkable.

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Photo of msmezher
4.6/5  rDev +11.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Massive props to the BAs who recommended this to me after asking for rec's on scotch barrel aged beers, I really enjoyed this one. Ola Dubh 12 poured a thick, muddled black, reddish brown around the edges and only a little lacing, no head. Smokey, peaty aromas, a hint of chocolate, dried fruit. The mouth feel was excellent, rolled over tongue to bring out more of the subtle flavors. Oak and cedar finish, roasted coffee and malts, sweet prunes in the taste. Pricey, but well finished and great for an occasion meriting a 9$ bottle. I look forward to trying other beers from Harviestoun's lineup.

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Photo of alpineclimber
4.5/5  rDev +9.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Brew was poured from bottle # 11950 brewed on Feb 2010, into a chalice. A small tan head formed on a black brew.

A deep whiff reveals a whiskey cask sourness, dark fruit and a light smell of alcohol. The smell is awesome.

Taste has big malt flavors upfront, the whiskey comes out and a light alcohol warming, with a perfect bitter finish. Some light oxidation can be perceived but it's not at all bad, maybe it's just a taste that the whiskey cask has imparted on the ale.

Perfect mouthfeel, medium and slightly slick.

I really enjoy this beer, it's fairly complex but highly drinkable. I have drank this one quite a bit in the last few months. I can get this locally so I plan to stock up before it disappears.

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

Poured into a tulip from a bottle dated Feb 2010, bottle #10444.

Initially a nice creamy mocha head sits atop a viscous black oil-like beer. It settled slowly, but I was disappointed by the complete lack of lacing. Aromas of licorice, molasses and caramel come off the nose accompanied by strong alcoholic esters. The mouthfeel is thick, but the beer has balance, being sweet though not cloying whatsoever. Licorice is the primary flavour I get along with some burnt sugar / caramel & toffee notes. Light whiskey notes play in the background when allowed to come out, much less so than I had expected though. Quite drinkable. Pulled this one out for a cool rainy night and it matched perfectly.

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Photo of Thur123
4.47/5  rDev +8.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Bottled on Sept 2. 2007. This means the scotch has been aged 15 years right?

This brew pours a nearly opaque black color with minimal caramel colored lacing. Looks thick pouring out of the bottle. The smell is deep and mellow fruity smell, like black and blue berries and plum. Whiskey comes through subtly and under the other flavors as a smoky balanced spice that rides under the dark fruits.

Glug glug glug, or sip rather

The flavor is smoooth and really complex. Plum and a strong presence of berries are there and the smokiness of the scotch really comes through at the end of the flavor profile. Caramel, molasses and berry syrup are present as well. Raisins and dates too. The body on this is much thinner than expected but still manages to retain a lot of mellow flavors. The oak and smoke from the barrel begin to emerge as I continue drinking. Overall a great very drinkable beer with tons of complexity and subtly without any challenging or difficult aspects.

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Photo of bylerteck
3.77/5  rDev -8.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Really surprised to see this has been retired. Glad I hung onto a few when I had access. Bottled July 2009.

A - Pours pure opaque black. One finger tan head that dissipates slowly but leaves a nice cap. I can see some carbonation streaming up the side of the glass also.

S - Huge dark fruit aromas. A little booze. Maybe some licorice. Smokey. Oaky.

T - Sweet to start and then some dark fruit then it's full on oaky, smoke taste. Really interesting. I can't tell if I like it but I admire the effort and complexity alot. Sweetness is there too. There's a some burn, woodiness and dryness in the aftertaste. You can taste the scotch too.

M - Medium mouthfeel. Minimal carbonation. Nice and soft in the mouth.

D - Sipper for sure. Just like a whiskey/whisky. Nice to try but I couldn't have more than one in an evening b/c of the strength of the flavours.

Definately a complex and tasty beer but the oak and smokiness hold it back. I like it for its complexity but less for its flavour. Given all those factors, it's still a top notch beer.

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Photo of milkbaby9
3.85/5  rDev -6.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

330ml bottle (#15335 bottled Nov 2008, drank 9-5-2010) into Duvel tulip. Black brown color. About 1 finger light cocoa head reducing quickly to thin layer of bubbles then almost to nothing.

Aroma initially scotch whisky and soy sauce, but the soy sauce disappears after a little bit (only smelt early after the pour). Undercurrent of the roasted malt. Taste of sweet and roasted malts, touch of scotch and a vanilla note. Ultra-smooth dark roasted coffee with touch of nuttiness on the finish. Shortbread cookie in the aftertaste.

Very low carbonation, medium bodied mouthfeel, not as viscous as its parent brew, Old Engine Oil. Light bitterness doesn't linger. Finishes very smooth similar to the Ola Dubh Special Reserve 16.

Scotch whisky is lower in the taste of this 12 versus the 16. This one shows more of the beery malts. Strangely though, it feels a little "hollow" though overall it is good. But in my opinion this pales in comparison to the Special Reserve 16. Maybe it's just that is was an older bottle and age didn't do it any favors?

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

Poured into a nice Schlafly tulip. Bottle 16024 from Nov 2008.

A - Pours a very nice and delicious looking dark brown color with a great .5 inch head. The color is nice and tan with some nice dense bubbles and some slight medium bubbles. The head recedes fairly quickly.

S - Very sweet malty tones are present up front with some dark fruits. Raisins, caramel some toffee and nice boozy sweetness as well. Slight citrusy aroma from the hops. There is some mild chocolate and roasted malt aroma.

T & M - Wow! Woody, smokey and earthy. Very barrel aged flavors some burnt wood as is expected from Scotch barrels. There is a nice whiskey flavor mixed in with some good barley grain flavors. Some slight chocolate as well as some nice spice. The brew is well carbonated and doesn't feel as viscous as it pours. Nice and smooth.

D - Good beer but very complex and flavorful. Definitely for sipping.

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Photo of wordemupg
4.45/5  rDev +8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

330ml bottle poured into tulip sept4 2010

A pours near jet black right out of the bottle with a massive half a glass of tan head that slowly falls to a thin film that leaves several large rings of lace with patches in between

S some chocolate, smoke, molasses and some raisin mix well together with a little booze and faint coffee

T now the barrel aging is a little easier to notice, much more earthiness, wood and smoke but not at all overbearing. all I smell is in the mouth and all together they create a great balance of flavors with just a little sweetness

M a little thin for the color but not thin, good carbonation and the flavors linger after you swallow it

D no problems with this one at all, a great beer and for 8% I could get in trouble with this one

I can't wait to try the other beers from this line up because if this is the starting point I'm in for a good time. I only have the 18 to try after this one but I'll be on the look out for the others.

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Ola Dubh Special Reserve 12 from Harviestoun Brewery Ltd.
4.12 out of 5 based on 830 ratings.
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