Ola Dubh Special Reserve 12 | Harviestoun Brewery Ltd.

Ola Dubh Special Reserve 12Ola Dubh Special Reserve 12
842 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

Bros Score:
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Ratings: 842 |  Reviews: 387
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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Photo of Jayli
3.94/5  rDev -4.4%
look: 3 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Acquired from dgb3 so a big THANK YOU goes out to him!
Bottle 13919/Sept 2007
Poured in to a pint glass

A: This beer pours a deep dark opaque brown, almost black. No head to speak of and the littlest of spotty lacing on the glass.

S: Nose is still hefty on whisky, prevalent amount of vanilla, dark fruits - mostly plum, minor fig hints and a bit of oak.

T: Taste starts with a light whisky flavoring, that becomes more prominent although slightly diluted by the strong vanilla presence. Almost a touch watery too. Dark plum and date flavoring comes in with a bit of fig that seems to hang on the palate through the finish. Finish also takes an oaky, woody character that is light but pleasing.

M: Medium to fuller bodied, low carbonation, clean body, clean finish.

D: Goes down easily, rather tasty, somewhat filling, decent kick and good representation of style. The whisky character cannot be denied in this. However aged a bit, the heat is almost non-existent and the full flavoring comes through. This is a solid beer that stands up with aging.

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Photo of biboergosum
4.06/5  rDev -1.5%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

330ml black foil capped bottle. We bring the Bard of Ayrshire's birthday celebration to a close with the youngest 'old' ale, in terms of whisky cask finishing expression. Ach.

This beer pours a fairly solid black, with very slight basal cherry cola edges, and two fat fingers of foamy and creamy beige head, which renders a practically unblemished paint job of lace around the glass as it slowly fades away. Aye, but she's seeexxxxy!

It smells of strongly toasted caramel malt, mild smoked peat, molasses, sweet alcohol-soaked oak, muddled dark fleshy fruit, and subtle leafy, earthy hops. The taste is big caramel/toffee malt, musty black fruit, treacle, ethereal bittersweet chocolate, and a soft, agreeable case of island barrel-itis - iodine, brine, and seaweed, with a nicely even peaty smokiness.

The carbonation is quite tame, barely a flutter to be noticed, the body a sturdy medium-full weight, smooth and surprisingly clean. It finishes on a relatively strong drying note, equally musty, woody, hoppy and boozy.

A tasty, and balanced, Scotch barrel-influenced strong old Scottish ale (whew!). Malt, hops, wood, and alcohol, all in a symbiotic orgy of restrained fury, the kind that might engender a bursting forth of some sort. What am I talking about? I dunno, this is the fourth bottle of the evening of this stuff and its kin, so I'm done writin', and ready for something else, no offense, bard-dear.

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

2009 bottling...

Pours a deep black, oily and shiny with only the thinnest cap of brown head, decent lacing on the first few sips. Scent is mild yet complex... in no particular order i detected whiskey, oak, chocolate, vanilla, smoke, charcoal, mud, molasses, beef bullion. Taste brings all of the qualities of above in a completly well blended, smooth concoction. Fuller side of medium bodied, smooth and oily, slightly heavy on the tongue but spreads itself quickly, very little lingering notes. A very nice beer that could have been overpowering in many ways, but comes out fantasticaly balanced and smooth.

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Photo of BeerNemesis
4.22/5  rDev +2.4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Ola Dubh Special Reserve 12 | 330 ml. | 8.0% ABV | 2009 vintage

Brewer: Harviestoun Brewery Ltd.
Style: Old Ale
Glass: Duvel tulip

Bottle no.: 25560

Black as oil, with a dirty, mocha head.

Whiskey, charcoal, dark chocolate, burnt toast, hint of cured beef.

Smoky and burnt. Layers of flavor: dark chocolate, cured beef, toasty malts, caramel. There's a subtle whiskey flavor hanging in the background. The maintaste is heavily smoked, and just a touch bitter.

Heavy and substantial without being sticky. It glides over the tongue like velvet, whilst pricks of carbonation stab left and right.

A nice old ale that really tastes like it was matured in whiskey casks--you get more cask then whiskey flavor, but that's alright. It's mellower than its Special Reserve 16 and SR 30 counterparts.

Would I get it again?:
Yeah, it's quite well orchestrated.

Bottled: July 2009
Served: January 16, 2010 (aged 17 months)

Price = $5.99 at Public Beer

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Photo of BBP
4.56/5  rDev +10.7%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

A- Pours a thick black. Great head, retention, and lacing.

S- Hop bitterness, and slight notes of whiskey.

T- Bittersweet. Not too overwhelming in terms of sweetness. Good character. A bit of smokiness. Some heat from the whiskey. Slight oak. A bit of chocolate taste leaning on the milky side.

M- Very full. Extremely creamy and good carbonation.

D- Extremely full and quite delicious. Looking forward to trying the others. Has great follow through with the flavors. Of the Ola series, this one has the most hop flavor and roasted malts. Much like a full, smooth RIS.

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

This Old style ale pours with a thin dark brown head and deep, rich black color.

The nose has strong dark cocoa, vanilla and brown sugar notes with some lingering heat.

The first thing to hit the pallet is a strong smokey flavor followed up with some scotch whiskey and subtle vanilla and cocoa flavors

The ale flows over the pallet with a smooth full body texture and small bubbles that hit just initially.

This is a good beer, very well done but I would not see it as one I would drink often. At $10 per 12oz, it was great to try but not great enough to buy again.

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Photo of IronDjinn
3.98/5  rDev -3.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

From a 330 ml brown bottle, best before date on back label listed as Jan 2013. Pours out a dense pitch black, creamy tan head with thick lacing that coats the glass all the way down.

Sharp smoky char and burnt malt along with some roasted malt on the nose. Sweet notes of whisky and subtle wood. Some licorice and molasses in there too.

Slick roast malt, some burnt malt and a bit of smoke up front in the flavour, sweet alcohol in the middle, with a sweet coffee finish. Some vinous and dark fruit character rises and falls throughout.

Medium-light mouthfeel, silky smooth yet thin at times, fullness builds in the finish.

A pleasant barrel-aged beer, and makes a nice easy sipper in it's own right. I would have been far more impressed with it had I tried it before sampling the Special Reserve 18 first, which is the most superior of the lot.

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

The beer is very dark brown, call it black, the small head is beige, leaves some lacing and good curtains.

The smell has burnt wood, earthy and smoky aromas. Some sweetness and licorice.

The taste has much sweet smoke, kind of barbecue sauce character, chocolate with smoked almonds on toast, slightly vinous. Some yeast tones.

Low carbonation, very soft and oily.

A good after-dinner beer, a dessert in itself.

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Photo of mellowmark
4.12/5  rDev 0%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Poured from 11.2 oz. black bottle to Leffe Chalice. Bottle number 10828, packaged September 2007. $9.49 a bottle.

Appearance: Used motor oil black with dark brown edges. No head to speak of.

Smell: Smells very woody, smokey. Strong odor of black olives. Interesting.

Taste: Oak and bittersweet chocolate. Nice roasted malt character.

Mouthfeel: Mouthfeel is medium/light, a little thinner than I was expecting. Carbonation is very low as expected.

Drinkability: High

A delight to drink. Not as complex or pungent as I thought it might be, but delicious never-the-less.

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Photo of strangemusic
3.9/5  rDev -5.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Pours very, very dark brown, just shy of totally black, with a light brown head.

Smell is of dark malts and dominant chocolate, a whiff of sea air, roastiness and wood.

The taste is a lot more pronounced than the smell, heavy on the same roasted malts, a little "hot", but also with smoke up front, the distinct flavour of toasted marshmallow, woody notes, ripe red apple and pear and of course some whisky sweetness, especially in the aftertaste. Complex!

Mouthfeel is chewy and full, but a bit grainy, with an oily feel left on the palate.

As for drinkability, it goes down with a distinct carbonated feel, almost a pucker, and a lingering alcohol burn, so you're going to want to sip it slow. I don't want to say it's harsh, but it's not really the smoothest beer.

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Photo of LanceW
3.4/5  rDev -17.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

A: Very dark. Could pass as coffee if no one was the wiser

S: Very sweet aroma

T: The taste reminded me of burnt wood. I was surprised by the charred flavor

Mouthfeel: Follows suit with the charred flavor. The burnt flavor covered your mouth and almost made me more thirsty.

D: Not a bad beer but I don't believe it was worth the 10 dollars we paid for 12oz/

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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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Ola Dubh Special Reserve 12 from Harviestoun Brewery Ltd.
Beer rating: 4.12 out of 5 with 842 ratings
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