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Ola Dubh Special Reserve 30 | Harviestoun Brewery Ltd.

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Ola Dubh Special Reserve 30Ola Dubh Special Reserve 30

Brewed by:
Harviestoun Brewery Ltd.
United Kingdom (Scotland)

Style: 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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Reviews: 230 | Ratings: 418
Photo of rayjay
4.97/5  rDev +16.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

Exceptional! Complexity is infinite, with delicately proportioned flavors and aromas throughout. Tons going on here, lots of deep richness, but completely mellow and tamed.

A deep transparent brown. Eloquent foam and sticky lacing. Not much sediment. Almost considered brite beer, and hardly a black beer.

Lots of pete smoked malt, mellowed alcohol, floor malts, roasted black and brown malts, noble hops, and dusty charred wood. Some pipe tobacco and cherry wood fireplace, and hints of sweet crystal malts.

Drinkability is among the slickest I've ever had. Although its exceptionally complex, it's very difficult not to gulp down. Absolutely delicious, and boarderline thirst-quenching.

Great powdery chocolate lacing. Velvety texture and carbonation.

A real treat. The smooth whiskey really shines through without being strong. The polar opposite of most US barrel-aged imperial stouts.

This is a world-class beer brewed and aged to perfection. Very traditional and proper, yet still big, bold, and rich. Worth every penny and always welcome in my cellar. One of the best beers I've had!

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Photo of drperm
4.95/5  rDev +16.5%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

Bottle purchased Fall 2008. Tasted 13 August 2009.

Appearance: Pitch black: thick, viscous, opaque, with just a hint of sand-tan head. Like a black old ale.

Aroma: The most amazing black-beer nose I've ever experienced: Tar, tobacco, sorghum molasses, raw honey, freshly cut grass, and....coconut? Incredible.

Taste: Wonderful bitterness. 70% cocoa dark chocolate, coffee, nutmeg, tobacco, sorghum, Scotch whisky, toasted malt, cardamom. Heavenly.

Palate: Finishes like a thick, beery single malt Scotch. Just a hair too sweet on the finish, keeping it from a 5.0 score for me.

Overall: If I pay $15 for a 12 oz. bottle (in a box), I want it to taste like this. SO much smoother than the 12-yr. version I had in November. Food pairings? Only the deepest, richest, multi-layer chocolate extravagance. Or a top-shelf cigar.

Stunningly highly recommended.

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Photo of nlmartin
4.92/5  rDev +15.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

This beer was served lightly chilled in a goblet.

Appearance: What can I say I am a sucker for dark beers. The body of the beer is nearly dead black. The head is a mocha brown color. The head started 3 fingers high. This resolved to about a half finger high. Rings of foam remain behind on my glass.

Smell: The beers aroma kicks my nose around with a smoked peat moss aroma. Boozey scotch tones hemmorhage around the aroma. Roasted malts produce chocolatey smells, burnt caramel, oakey vanilla, molasses and brown sugar kick about my glass and assault my nose. It keeps improving as the beer gets warmer. The beer is very mellow smelling. First rate and well done.

Taste: The initial flavors on my palate are smoked peat. Tones of vanilla and burnt caramel come out. Roasted chocolate, molasses, oakey character, very nice boozeyness about the scotch. The beer is very mellow and sublime. This is simply first rate.

Mouthfeel/ Drinkability: The carbonation is low. This works out very well. The mouthfeel of the body is silky smooth. The body is in the middle of the full bodied category. I wanted to treat this beer as a sipper. I really wanted to take my time a savior this beer. I am distressed at my lack of control. This beer is really something special.

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Photo of nriech
4.9/5  rDev +15.3%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

Oh my! This one brought me out of my reviewing duldrums just because it was so intense.

On tap at the Midlothian Capital Ale House in VA. Only 9.50 for a good goblet pour. The aromas were so intense. The aromas were strong of good scotch and coffee. The tast was almost undescribable. This is the perfect balance between beer and actual alcohol. All of the great aromas and tastes from the best scotches, with the drinkability of a beer meld together here. If you find this, get it and dont look back. The whiskey flavors stay mellow and subdued, but never leave the pallate. I dont know what else to say, Im still hyped from drinking it. Thanks CAH for getting this one on tap!

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Photo of Contagion
4.9/5  rDev +15.3%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

The coloring is a dark black, like the Gaelic name given it; it's very much reminiscent of black oil. No light passes through, but there is a slight reddish color at the edges. This beer is darker than most that I have experienced. In fact I'm going to say this is the darkest beer that I can recall seeing. A thin tan head formed and slowly faded. It left a nice ring around the edge of the beer and the glass.

The smell was a heavenly mix of rich chocolate malts enhanced with the woody and smoky peat scent of a proper Scotch in the back ground. As it warms a mild caramel scent opens up and compliments the beer even more so. The flavor is much like the scent. A rich roasted chocolate malt flavor and smoky peat flavors mix to a delightful flavor that makes one want to go back for more. There is a gentle bitterness in the finishes that rounds of each sip. Caramel and coffee malts become more noticeable as the beer reaches room temperature. The 8% ABV isn't noticed in the flavor at all.

This is a smooth, full bodied beer. A touch of a viscousness that coats the tongue and mouth locking the flavor. It is definitely a sipping beer.

This has to be the most flavorful and enticing beer I've ever drank. The flavor combinations mixed with the perfect blend of smells really makes this beer something that I could find myself craving. However, at $14.99 a bottle, I think this would be a special occasion beer and definitely not one you buy in bulk for a party. If you can get your hands on a bottle of Ola Dubh, I'd recommend giving it a try.

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Photo of zaphodchak
4.89/5  rDev +15.1%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

Normalish pour yields minimal orangey head that recedes into almost nothing, body is deep ruddy amber.

Nose is incredible, plenty of wood and peat, with some caramel. A scotch that smelled like this would be a nice one.

Taste is... amazing. Peaty, smoky, complex. This has truly absorbed the essence of the scotch casks in which it was aged. Torn between scotch and beer, why not choose both?

Mouthfeel is impossibly creamy; carbonation is imperceptible, but lends an extra substance and creaminess to the body.

Outstanding, scotchy, little more to be said. It's complex but defies adequate description in human languages. What more can I say?

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Photo of athensbeermaster
4.88/5  rDev +14.8%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

I found this on tap at Beachwod BBQ @ Seal Beach.
The bartender poured this beer the right way. A good two-three finger head dark tan in color with a dense body with huge head retention. The nose had a big aroma of a very nice bourbon. The Taste starts with a dark roasted coffee flavor that quickly fades into a big juicy dark plums and black cherry fruit mid palate. The finish ends with a smoky sweet caramel note. Wow what a great day this was thanks to the people who brewed this gem.

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Photo of aerozeppl
4.88/5  rDev +14.8%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

A: Poured an absolutely jet black with absolutely no light getting through at all. Nice tight off white bubbles. A gorgeous cask pour.

S: Just a wonderful nose. A nice mixture of the barrel and the malt. Tons of roasted malt and chocolate. The whiskey comes through so nicely. Incredibly balanced with no booziness.

T: The taste was like nothing else I have ever had. The cask and the beer were meant for each other. It was like chocolate and whiskey but not in a disgusting way. Hints of oak with a touch of vanilla thrown in. A little bit of peaty smoke thrown in for good measure.

M: Luxurious. So smooth. God I love me a good cask beer.

D: When I drank this out of the bottle I thought to myself damn I wish I could get the opportunity to try this on cask. Thanks to Mahar's I finally got the opportunity. I would say to travel through the night for the chance to try this beer on cask.

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Photo of bobsy
4.84/5  rDev +13.9%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

Apparently this cost a staggering $475 for a keg, and I'm lucky that Cole's ponied up the cash to give me the opportunity to try this on a rare tap outing.

Ola Dubh 30 pours a midnight black, and its tan head quickly dies down to the thinnest of collars. It looks like engine oil or the depths of Satan's soul. The nose is just ridiculously smooth. Strong scotch aromas of wood, vanilla, chocolate, smoked malt, peat and alcohol make love to my nose. Its a beer you could smell for a long time and never really tire of.

Wow. There's a lot of roast malt, which would otherwise have created a fantastic beer in of itself, but the overlay just elevates this to a whole new level. Vanilla and chocolate add a great smoothness. Smoke and earth bring depth, and the wood compliments every flavour from start to finish. This is how barrel-aging should be done! Its more akin to drinking a top-notch scotch than anything I've come across that isn't a top-notch scotch. All of these flavours are boosted by the creamy, smooth body, with its minimal carbonation and luxurious mouthfeel.

I'm blown away.

As a cross-reference, here's what I've thought of the other Ola Dubh's I've had:
Ola Dubh 12 - light barrel character with the flavours from the base beer far more evident (4.1)
Ola Dubh 40 - huge scotch character, complimented by chocolate and caramel, smooth and warming (4.65)

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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 SammyDavisJrJrJr
4.82/5  rDev +13.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

Bottled in September '07. Poured @ cellar temperature into the Two Brothers Northwind snifter...

A - Solid two fingers of tight mocha head with decent retention and some lacing. Body seems to tightrope-walking between dark brown and black in color.

S - Very subtle and inviting aroma, without overwhelming my nose. Port-like oxidation, vanilla, coconut, and some peat are all well represented thanks to the Highland Park casks. Malt aroma compliments the cask aromas well, with almond like sweet nuttyness, and slightly smokey roasted malt aromas. Fruity esters are assertive enough to be noticed in the complex aroma, but give the spotlight to the barrel aging and the malt.

T - Entry is a surprising combination of sweet chocolate and lacto-like sweetness. Roasted malt and whisky sweetness flavors build shortly thereafter to help balance out the sweet entry. At the midpalate, some nice stale beer tartness creeps up to add complexity, followed by some resin-like hop presence. The swallow blends the hops, roasted malt and whisky sweetness cleanly, with only a little spice and whisky lingering.

M - Carbonation is appropriately mild, with the nice soft body one expects from a well-aged barrel beer. The bottled version is shockingly similar in mouthfeel to the cask version of the 40 year old reserve that I've sampled.

D - I think I still prefer the 16 year old version of this beer, but this whole line is full of fantastic beers. Great complexity, one of the best examples of barrel aging I've ever enjoyed and the best example of a bottled beer really making me think of cask beer. Fantastic.

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Photo of JamesS
4.8/5  rDev +12.9%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

Pours a great pitch black in color with a great tan head and nice bit of lacing. It has a wonderful scent, part coffee, part whisky, part malt, part hop, a near perfectly balanced scent that ends towards the Scotch side. Wonderful taste, the whiskey flavor is there, and unfortunately dominates, but it's still a very good old ale, nice and thick with deep malt and burnt flavors. It goes down wonderfully smooth.

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Photo of paytoplay
4.8/5  rDev +12.9%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

On tap at 2 differnet places. Aroma reminds me of a great rhone syrah if you give it about an hour or 2 in the glass. Tough as the temp tends to not be right when you enjoy the beer / wine. The most wine like beer I've ever had. Sensational aroma with complexity and debth that has to be tasted. Expensive as can be, yes. But undoubitly a great beer. I have a bottle that I'll age about 10 years. This is a killer beer.

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Photo of bonbini26
4.77/5  rDev +12.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

on tap @ the blind tiger in NYC


appearance- dark, nice creamy head that fades quickly

smell- best way to describe it, it smells like an irish car bomb, def. notes of whiskey barrels

taste- so many, sweet, roasted, vanilla, toffee, coffee, whiskey barrel

mouthfeel- o man when i had this in my mouth i didnt wanna swallow it, so nice.

drinkability- i could sip one of these all day

if you are have access to this beer this is not one to miss

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Photo of botham
4.77/5  rDev +12.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4

12 oz bottle poured into a snifter. pours an opaque and oily black with a half finger of rich brown head that reduces to a soapy rim after a few seconds.

aroma is malty and earthy, with notes of whiskey, roated and black malts, and distant chocolate with a tinge of alcohol. rich nd complex in the nose, with an inherent smoothness that is reminiscent of the 12 reserve.

taste is simultaneously rich and subtle, with a malt base and a warming whiskey character that is enhanced by an earthy oak note that envelops a light alcoholic note. incredibly smooth on the palate with supreme complexity. an absolutely exceptional brew.

mouthfeel is ultra smooth and full bodied with a silky texture and a warming finish of residual caramel, roasted malt, and oak.

drinkability is excellent. this is a rich and complex brew, with a heavy weight and 8% APV. the smoothness here is second to none with a masterfully composed profile and a lingering flavor that leaves the palate completely satisfied. this one is definitely worth twelve dollars a bottle. cheers!

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Photo of Traquairlover
4.75/5  rDev +11.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

11.2-oz bottle poured into a snifter.

A = Dark mahogany liquid, forms a medium brown head which exhibits good retention, leaves light lacing on glass and eventually settles into coat of foamy tracery on surfacce.

S = First smells are of semisweet chocolate, cream that has been frothed, next come soft notes of oak and peat from the Scotch barrels.

T = This has an excellent blend of various flavors, from dark semi-sweet chocolate, to peat to bitter coffee to cafe americano. Its long, deep finish blends the bitterness with some sweet chocolate and cinnamon flavors and also covers the entire mouth. Superior beer and I definitely need to put some down for cellaring.

M = Heavy bodied, exceptional mouthcoating, perfect level of frothy but light carbonation.

D = This is an ultimate after dinner drink or an evening substitute for something harder like a Scotch or a Cognac. Only thing I thing it is lacking is that I think the flavors will be even better blended with some more age on the bottle.

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Photo of WilliamD
4.75/5  rDev +11.8%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

This is my first serious review of a good beer and what a good beer to start a serious review with. I read in a couple of the other reviews about how attractive this beer is and I must say I absolutely agree. This is a damn nice looking beer. Pours smooth and quietly with no head. Jet-black and serenely still.
Utterly delicious, complex taste, with an obvious smokey flavor from the scotch. Also very discernable is the oak from the barrels. Again, downright delicious. Just delicious, dammit.
Two small objections. The first was that the delicious, complex taste seemed to diminish as I got closer to the bottom of the pint glass. I poured this at approximately 55 degrees, and it seemed to lose its great taste as it warmed up to room temp. The second being I believe a beer such as this would do better with some alcohol bite--in other words, a higher ABV.
Still, the two-thirds of the glass that were delectable make up for the lackluster finish, and the 8% ABV is sufficient. I got a decent buzz and warmed up a bit.
That said, I have another bottle of this beauty and am looking forward to enjoying it after a bit of aging.

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Photo of geexploitation
4.72/5  rDev +11.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

Deep brown color, practically black, with a big-bubbled collar. Rich aroma of chocolate malts and big-time vanillas -- the wood influence here is pronounced. Rich coffee notes in the background as well, along with some peat and a touch of band-aid. On the palate, the beer surprisingly light, with nutty malts coming through first alongside a winey, almost sherried note. Mild acidity acts on the tongue throughout, along with some firm hop bitterness during the second half. A fruity and yeasty element pops up toward the end. Great length on the finish. Mouthfeel is medium-full, with less body than the 12 year old, but some gentler wood effects. Overall, this is fantastic stuff. Great wood integration, a bit more subtle than the 12 year old. Excellent.

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Photo of Georgiabeer
4.72/5  rDev +11.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

Had this on cask, gravity poured, at the Brick Store Pub. I've had this on-tap and in the bottle as well, but the cask version is far and away the best version. Pours black with little head other than a thin ring. The aroma has some nice whisky in it, and smells pure and balanced with subtantial rounded malt, but dry and roasty with a pleasant grainy smell. Slightly oaky and peaty, but these underscore the rest rather than dominate. Tastes extremely smooth and silky, like chocolate milk laced with whisky. Woody, treacly, dry, peaty, and rounded in parts. Sublimely balanced, and the whisky is at just the right degree of mellowness. Super smooth and a wonderful, wonderful sipper.

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Photo of ChrisCage
4.7/5  rDev +10.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.5

A- Definitely a "Black Oil" so to speak! As black as midnight sans moon, this doesn't let any light through, and certainly does have a caramel colored head that is creamy, but not very thick.....just stagnating to a layer over the liquid. Lacing is impressive as well....a sheet of densely packed bubbles hang on to my glass!

S- A medley of aromas are happening, with dark/burnt toasty malts upfront. I also detect very dark chocolates, slight booziness, coffee, sweet dark rum, woodsy smells, and Maderia like raisins/prune. Very heavy smelling overall, as it should be!

T- This one hits your palate with a wallop! At first taste, there is an alcoholic punch, but this goes away after knowing what to expect. Everything is very rich and dark.....definite whisky and wood overtones from start to finish, and these are balanced out rather well with dark chocolate, burnt toffee, dried grains, black licorice (as a previous reviewer suggested), dark dried fruits and charred coffee beans....perhaps a leathery note as well. Flavor notes that aren't prominent, but make themselves known at some point during the taste are vanilla, fruitcake, Earth/root astringency and an herbal leafy bitterness on the finish.

M/O- This is probably the fullest bodied a beer I've had to date and very possibly will remain in that position for a long time. The carbonation is smooth and velvety, allowing the flavors to eloquently flow around the palate. Surprisingly, this isn't cloying at all and the dryness leaves me craving the next sip....I'm very impressed by this characteristic! Overall this is a stunning brew that is on another level than most others....I very highly recommend this! It is complex, very easy drinking, and becomes a shame when its done. I will seek this out again and feel it is worth the price of admission!

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Photo of lowendfrequency
4.7/5  rDev +10.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

*Disclaimer! I like scotch and my brand of coice is Highland Park. I might be a wee bit biased.

Ola Dubh Special 30 - Vintage February 2009

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

Pours a shadowy black with mahogany edges where the liquid is thin. A quarter inch chestnut colored head with moderate lacing quickly recedes to the edges of the glass.

The nose is big on chocolate, peat and a subdued smoke. Burnt sugars and a medicinal note are there as well with a slightly oxidized scent that the scotch lover in me has learned to appreciate.

Scotch, scotch, scotch. I love scotch... and this beer delivers. There are hints of roasted coffee, dark chocolate and a malty sweetness but they all play second fiddle to the scotch. This isn't just any scotch either, this is Highland Park 30 year and it's apparent. There is a distinct sherry-like oxidation that I prefer in barrel aged beers as well as a complimentary alcohol note. The peated scotch character hangs on the tongue for what seems like forever.

While the mouth feel isn't huge, it's certainly adequate for this beer. Typically, I expect a big finish on roasty/smoky beers of this type but Ola Dubh 30 crosses the line into single malt territory and has a satisfying finish. One of the most complex and well-balanced barrel aged beers I've had to date.

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Photo of BeerDetective
4.7/5  rDev +10.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

All I can really say, is just Wow, The whisky aroma when you open the bottle and pour into a snifter is just great, and the color is a wonderful dark black, it shocked all the non beer drinkers at my table with the color. The taste ran the gamut as it warmed, from a really good Impy Stout to a licoricy barleywine to a good port at the end.

A fantastic beer, and one I will be seeking out again.

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Photo of FreightTrain
4.7/5  rDev +10.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

Other people have written very nice detailed descriptions of the smell and appearance, so I'm not going to bother.

Basically, this beer tastes amazing. It has soft notes of scotch, a beverage I don't particularly enjoy, but I found it to be so mellow and woodsy and refined that it was completely delicious. Old Engine Oil was a good choice for this recipe: it's not a complex and/or aggressive stout and it thus serves as a great canvas for the scotch cask flavors. Stout flavors are still very much present but they're there for the synergy, which might surprise people looking for beer complimented by whisky rather than the two on approximately equal footing. The flavor lingered a long time on the palate, opening and changing as time went by. Ultimately I was left with the flavor of velvety roast chocolate all over the inside of my mouth. Absolutely phenomenal.

Yup, it's expensive, but it's pushing the boundaries of beer and it's really, really good.

Recommended as an after dinner drink, probably in the 5-6 oz. range.

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Photo of eduardolinhalis
4.7/5  rDev +10.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

330ml bottle served in a ordinary glass.

Bottled in September 2007.

A: Pours a completely black color forming a small and thin beige head. Medium retention and some few lacings formed and left in the glass

S: Great nose. Strong notes of roasted malts, oak, dark chocolate and toffee. Some notes of whiskey

T: Strong notes of oak, roasted malts, dark chocolate, dark fruits. Slightly sweet upfront followed by a perfect roasted bitter end

M: Quite creamy body. Low carbonation. Roasted bittersweet aftertaste

O: Masterpiece

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Photo of sleazo
4.7/5  rDev +10.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

A_very dark brown and slightly cloudy. Small very foamy head has some staying power and leaves a nice halo of beer

S_slightly raisiny with a good bit of funk

T_alcohol presence really hidden here. Nice ammount of raisins and fig notes to go with a slight cocoa flavour. No alcohol is really noticeable. On the sweeter side for the most part but not overly so. There is a good ammount of dryness which gives a good counterbalacne to the sweet side. I dont really get too much out and out whiskey, there is a nice mellow peat and a bit of smoke lurking in the background.

M_smooth creamy and rich. Perfect mouthfeel. This goes down unbelievably easy for an 8% beer.

D_wow. Top notch beer. Absolutely delicious.

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Ola Dubh Special Reserve 30 from Harviestoun Brewery Ltd.
4.25 out of 5 based on 418 ratings.
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