Ola Dubh Special Reserve 30 | Harviestoun Brewery Ltd.

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Ola Dubh Special Reserve 30Ola Dubh Special Reserve 30
425 Ratings
Ola Dubh Special Reserve 30Ola Dubh Special Reserve 30

Brewed by:
Harviestoun Brewery Ltd.
Scotland, United Kingdom

Style: English Old Ale

Alcohol by volume (ABV): 8.00%

Availability: Rotating

Notes / Commercial Description:
Every bottle of this extremely limited Ola Dubh 30th Anniversary Ale has been individually numbered. Our ale has been aged for up to six months in first fill sherry butts, formerly used to mature Highland Park's award-winning 30 Year Old Single Malt Scotch Whisky. These hand selected butts add subtle whisky notes to what is already a complex ale with its chocolatey mouthfeel and distinctive bittersweet finish. The high ABV has been deliberately created to stand up to, and blend with, the intensity of flavor created by the infused wood.

Added by rallison on 02-23-2008

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Ratings: 425 |  Reviews: 231
Reviews by brother_kenneth:
Photo of brother_kenneth
4/5  rDev -5.9%

More User Reviews:
Photo of jrenihan
3.87/5  rDev -8.9%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

BB July 2016/bottled June 2013

The beer is very dark brown in colour - close to black but with some reddish hues. Almost no head.

Nose contains peat, smoke, toffee, whisky, chocolate and some fruit notes. Very complex and quite nice.

Taste is very strong, containing peat, smoke, a leather-like flavour, wood, whisky, and a touch of dark fruit. A bit astringent. Somewhat bitter. A lot happening, but not super enjoyable.

Full bodied, low to moderate carbonation. Despite the full body, still feels a bit thin somehow.

Overall, disappointing. The nose is really good but the rest doesn't live up. I liked the younger variants more.

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Photo of superspak
4.1/5  rDev -3.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

330 ml bottle into snifter; bottle #03946, bottled in 6/2013. Pours fairly pitch black color with a small fairly dense khaki head with decent retention, that reduces to a thin spotty cap of lace that lingers. Light spotty lacing clings on the glass. Aromas of chocolate, cocoa, roasted malt, vanilla, toast, toffee, oak, raisin, fig, dark bread, light peat smoke, light leather, and roast/oak earthiness. Very nice aromas with good balance and complexity of dark/roasted malt and oak cask notes; with good strength. Taste of chocolate, cocoa, roasted malt, vanilla, toast, toffee, dark bread, oak, raisin, fig, peat smoke, leather, and roast/oak earthiness. Slight roasted bitterness on the finish; with lingering notes of chocolate, cocoa, roast, vanilla, toast, toffee, dark bread, raisin, fig, oak, peat smoke, light leather, and roasted/oak earthiness on the finish for a good bit. Very nice complexity and robustness of dark/roasted malt and oak cask flavors; with a great oak/malt flavor balance and zero cloying flavors after the finish. Light carbonation and medium bodied; with a very smooth, fairly creamy, and lightly chalky mouthfeel that is nice. Alcohol is well hidden with minimal warming present after the finish. Overall this is an excellent old ale style. All around great complexity and balance of dark/roasted malt and oak cask flavors; and very smooth to sip on. A very enjoyable offering.

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Photo of laituegonflable
3.36/5  rDev -20.9%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 2 | overall: 4

Pours a very dark brown, mostly black. Head is a nice beige, just bubbles around the surface - at its most dense have a nice crema look to it. Lace is decent at first but doesn't stick around. Not bad at all.

Smells pretty boozey. Dark, yeasty, almost vegemitey aroma with a touch of peppery spice, dark chocolate and burnt toast. But yeah, very yeast-extract kind of organic aroma all over the roasty grain. Not that impressed, to be honest.

Taste is not as boozey as I expected at all; in fact it's quite uneventful. Quite dry, with light notes of caramel, some bisscuity flavour, just grainy and slight vanilla notes. It's really quite drinkable, but primarily because there's not a whole lot going on there. Decent, though, just not very exciting. Largely sweet, but enough to balance.

Very thin and empty on the feel. Definitely lets it down here, because some more presence on the tongue would make up for some of the palate's shortcomings. Amazingly not hot for 8%, but there's just nothing really to it.

Drinkable, fairly unexciting beer. Sessionable as hell for a dark 8% beer though.

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Photo of dcmchew
4.6/5  rDev +8.2%

Pitch black, no head whatsoever, but very sticky as you tilt and move it around, really looks like "black oil".
Smell isn't too strong from afar, but it's really nice as you stick your nose in there. Roasted salted toffee, dark roasted malts, nice coffee notes, nice whisky with a mild peaty note, lots of woodiness, faint dark grape and dark chocolate.
Whisky up front from the first sip, with a clearer peat note. There's a small alcoholic pinch, but not boozy. Dark fruity zing also helps balancing things in the start, with nice plum, dark grape, juicy fig. Some caramel, toffee, licorice and vanilla right before the malts peak, with a bit of chocolate, but mostly roast and some nice mild coffee. Finishes with a deeper roast (not huge), some wood (a bit smoked), faint cigar and a surprising herbal hoppy bitterness that manages to bring just a bit more.
Almost flat, but not that thick and sticky. Oily, coating all the palate, but really really easy to drink, and this time it's not a problem, considering the low abv (when confronting other whisky barreled beers, that is). Aftertaste retains some whiskey, some coffee bean, faint peat and a bit of plum.
Really great, a nice complex tasting experience that ends too soon. Expected it to be a bit stronger in aroma and flavor, especially after trying the Old Engine Oils, but what it lacks in strength compensates in complexity.

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Photo of mick303
4.63/5  rDev +8.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

Vertical tasting of the range, from notes.
A - pitch black with no head at all. 4
S - VANILLA! maple syrup, waffles, sweet creaminess, so amazing and complex, intoxicating. 4.75
T - chocolate, slight alcohol heat, just amazing, rich whisky notes, dry caramel, leafy, cherries but not sweet, restrained lactose, black pepper just so complex and nuanced. 4.5
M - smooth, no carbonation, just sticks on the palate and so rich. 4.5
O - dances on the palate, just awesome, this was a really mind-blowing whisky-aged beer. 5

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Photo of SLeffler27
4.4/5  rDev +3.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

A fine, thin blanket of chestnut mousse leaves a delicate veil of lace while a viscous, black (SRM 40) liquor coats the Glencairn snifter. The short-lived head becomes a thin ring after a few minutes.

Rich chocolate malt and whiskey is omnipresent, but beneficent. A syrupy and roasted character develops with warmth as smoky peat and molasses loiter in the background.

Rich flavors closely follow the aromas of dark fruit such as fig and prune, while molasses is exposed by warmth. All mix well with earthy peat flavors as it teeters from sweet to bitter. Molasses and brown sugar are evident in the ever-so-subtle, but lingering, finish.

This variant of Ola Dubh is extremely smooth, with a full, almost dense, body. The alcohol is lightly warming and much higher than anticipated, especially given 5.5 years in the bottle. Carbonation is like fine pin pricks amidst a velvety texture.

This is a prime example of what a contemplative beer can be. It would easily stand up to cigars or brownie bottom sundaes. It brings to mind memories of long conversations with my grandfather in leather chairs surrounded by old books in a cigar-smoke filled room.

Bottle number 6001, dated September 2007. This could also fit a rich porter style.

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Photo of DanGeo
3.75/5  rDev -11.8%

Photo of t2grogan
4.5/5  rDev +5.9%

Photo of tbryan5
5/5  rDev +17.6%

Photo of DaftPatrick
4.25/5  rDev 0%

Photo of R_Kole
5/5  rDev +17.6%

Photo of merlin48
4.5/5  rDev +5.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Bottle number 07576. Pours an opaque dark brown body with a surprisingly sturdy tan head that leaves some delicate sheet lacing on the snifter.

Aroma is baked chocolate, smokey peated malt, Scotch whiskey, vanilla, and old oak logs.

Exquisitely smooth on the palate with a subtle carbonation and nearly full body.

Taste is complex, as expected. Chocolate, vanilla, and Scotch whiskey notes open the door to nuances of anise, raisins, and walnuts. Dark roasty bitterness adds complexity. A fireplace smokiness seals the deal.

The Scotch whiskey is a bit more prominent in this one than in the 16 year edition and this one is a bit more complex, as well. A real pleasure to sip.

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Photo of olradetbalder
4/5  rDev -5.9%

Photo of JohnnyBarman
4.04/5  rDev -4.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Part of a double boxed set I got for Christmas, along with the 40 Reserve. A handsome bottle and box combo; both remind me a great deal of those 'mini' sampler scotch bottles. I also love the mouse medallion as well.

Poured into a Duvel chalice. A dark chestnut colour, almost black, but with a touch of lighter tones around the edges. Initially formed a thick, 1/2 inch tan head, but this fizzled out of existence fairly quickly. A thin ring was all that remained. A few flecks of lacing here and there.

Although the nose on the brew could have been more mind-blowingly powerful, it certainly was the highlight of the experience. The scotch notes were unmistakably Orkney, its peaty/leather/iodine character reminding me of the whiskies produced by the nearby Scapa distillery (nearby to Highland Park, anyways) Bourbon, chocolate, cream, dark coffee, dark fruit also made an appearance.

The 30 held its own well, with a strong malty chocolate hit on the front of the tongue and the peaty musky burn towards the back, as is typical of northern scotches. Now the beer doesn't taste like a scotch; it just boasts some strong scotch-like notes. There's still a good Scottish ale background that keeps everything in place. I certainly enjoyed the brew, but again, for something barrel-aged, I was expecting more.

Aggressive, spritzy carbonation at first, but towards the end of the bottle, it almost became flat. I'm going to chock that up to aggressive swirling on my part to induce the nose, as well as the fact that I drank this over the course of about an hour. Thinner bodied, silky.

Like many a high-priced brew, it's good to try this one once, especially if one is comparing it to the 12, 16, 18 and 40, but probably not more than once (unless it's gifted to me, then by all means!). I've had the 12 before, not enough to warrant a review, but enough to find it as drinkable and complex as the 30, so I'm not sure the older barrels are doing as much as the price point says they are. For about 14 bucks a bottle, a beer better be 'damned fantastic'. The 30 was merely 'very good'. till, I have to admit the peaty scotch notes were nice, and the brew itself was worth savoring over the course of an evening, just like I would with a dram of single malt whisky.

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Photo of bsp77
3.9/5  rDev -8.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Serving glass: Poured from bottle into Snifter.

Appearance: Nearly black with very thin head and some spotty lacing.

Smell: Sweet, salty and barely smoky, like a combination of soy sauce, molasses and peat.

Taste: Peat, molasses and chocolate are the stars of the show here. Some nice oak nuances. Scotch-like finish, with some bitter roasted notes as well. Leaves an odd aftertaste in my mouth.

Feel: Very think, syrupy body with low carbonation. Somewhat chalky, but very smooth.

Overall: Very interesting, unique beer. Doesn't really fit any style. This was actually a birthday present from my barber! Glad I tried it (and glad I didn't pay for it), but not something I would return to.

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Photo of magictrokini
4.47/5  rDev +5.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

I love beer and I love scotch. Most of the time, the combination is awesome (except for that BrewDog Storm, yikes). This is representative of the former. Pours black with brown edges. Short-lived brown head, slight lacing. Peat and chocolate fill the nose, but don't overtake the caramel and cream. Coffee-and-chocolate flavor hits you first, but the slow burn of the scotch is right there. Lovely centered, sweet cream and toffee finds its way through. Smoky, peaty, oaky, but avoids the oily/soy-sauce tang that some of the younger brews had. A welcome salty-sweet finish as well. Expensive, but worth it.

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Photo of ImFlyerThanYou
4.5/5  rDev +5.9%

Photo of SurpriseTruck
4.75/5  rDev +11.8%

Photo of Mantooth
3.81/5  rDev -10.4%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

Photo of beerexplorer1973
3/5  rDev -29.4%

Photo of rhoadsrage
4.5/5  rDev +5.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

(Served in a snifter)
bottle 04773/sept.2007
A- This beer pours a jet black body with a creamy mocha colored head that is thick and last for about 1/2 of the beer. There are some micro-bubbles that can only be seen up close.

S- The smell of dark black malt is soft and a full smell of wet peat moss comes through with some green peppercorn notes and a graham note to follow. There is a woody oak note that comes through and a cocoa note as the beer warms.

T- This beer has a dry black malt flavor with some taste of green apples, peat moss and whiskey with a soft caramel malt note. There is a softer note of black licorice that is not sweet and a dry cinnamon bark note with some black-strap molasses hints as the beer warms. The finish has a nice soft whiskey note that lingers just a second.

M- This beer has a medium mouthfeel with a slightly full texture and no real alcohol heat.

D- This beer has a good depth of flavor and they are very rich flavors. The barrel compliments the beer and I was looking for a bit of heat to really finish the tasting. Still a wonderful beer.

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Photo of FlyingRabbit
4.83/5  rDev +13.6%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

Appearance: Exactly as the name translates to: "Black Oil"

Aroma: You can smell that this was a cask beer, with hints of chocolate, and scotch.

Taste: Absolutely smooth dark chocolately taste that tones down the undercurrent of scotch and black licorice.

Overall: One of the best beers I've had the luck of stumbling upon. Absolutely incredible. Was it worth the $14 I paid per bottle? No doubt. This was drank as an "end-of-vacation" beer, and man, did I wish I had bought a few more. Also, you can feel the alcohol content on this one. Its thick and drinks like it.

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Photo of IntriqKen
4.18/5  rDev -1.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Ok...now the 30.
Reviews put this higher than the others, but I don't quite agree.

Pour is a little darker mahogany with a creamy off white head that leaves sticky lacing and a solid ring. Better than the 16.

Aroma is even milder than the others...no smoke...soft caramel malts and a hint of alcohol.

Taste is milder as well. No smoke at all to my palette...sweet dark amber malts with some candied sugars....a little vanilla and some bitter chocolate that doesn't exist in the 'younger' versions of this brew. Scotch whiskey is very faint and very smooth in this one.

Drying aftertaste with a bit of bitter chocolate. Mouthfeel is creamy, rich and smooth.

Final evaluation of all three and my vote goes to #16

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Photo of biboergosum
4.17/5  rDev -1.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

'Tis Burns' Night, and I've nae a wee dram in my cupboard - however - I do have a nice selection of Ola Dubh...best I start with the 'oldest' (read: dearest), methinks...

This beer pours a very dark, dense chocolate brown colour, with cola highlights at the edges, and one finger of creamy mocha head, which settles quickly, leaving little in the way of lace around the glass. Upon jamming my nose into the glass, I'm immediately accosted by that Orkney essence - mild peat smoke, salty fish oil, and iodine - all atop a pretty hefty roasted chocolate caramel malt. The flavour follows suit almost to a tee, but with a tilt towards the chocolate toffee malt, as the barrel characteristics are somewhat consumed, and with an afterthought involving a minor coffee liqueur insurrection. Very little in the way of carbonation, as any resident bubbles were last seen back in the short-lived days of the head. This makes for one smooth tipple, and well, not quite creamy, as the alcohol's astringency tugs at the palate just a tad too much. Last rites are given over to a softening seaside fervour, abutting the persistently loyal Scotch maltiness.

I suppose the 'auld' in this ale comes from the time spent in the Highland casks. And it's a good thing - the nip of the northern islands provide a nice edge to this big malty bastard, which hides its booze like a real miser...

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Ola Dubh Special Reserve 30 from Harviestoun Brewery Ltd.
Beer rating: 4.25 out of 5 with 425 ratings