Ola Dubh Special Reserve 40 | Harviestoun Brewery Ltd.

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Ola Dubh Special Reserve 40Ola Dubh Special Reserve 40

Brewed by:
Harviestoun Brewery Ltd.
Scotland, United Kingdom

Style: Old Ale

Alcohol by volume (ABV): 8.00%

Availability: Rotating

Notes / Commercial Description:
No notes at this time.

Added by Nickls on 01-29-2009

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Reviews: 113 | Ratings: 175
Photo of billzav
5/5  rDev +17.4%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

Yet another outstanding offering from the brewery’s Special Reserve series. Jet black in color, 40 has big Scotch whiskey notes in the nose and initial taste, complimented by hints of dark chocolate and sweet malt with a vanilla oakiness at the finish. An extremely well balanced beer, 40 is as rich and smooth as it is complex, and I believe that it’s the best offering in the series.

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Photo of Spadoof
5/5  rDev +17.4%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

Name: Ola Dubh Special Reserve 40
Brewery: Harviestoun
Bottled on: January 2009
Purchasing Date: 12/22/11
Purchased From: Vintage Estate (Boardman, Ohio) [$20 a bottle]

Origin: 12 oz bottle
Serving Glass: 22oz Snifter
Serving Temp: 60F

*Tasted this one a while after the Special Reserve 16. Enough time to cleanse my palate.

Appearance: Pitch black body with a resilient mocha, caramel cap. Completely opaque. Wonderful!

Smell: As soon as my nose gets close to my glass, my mouth waters...Incredible. Its so balanced (even more so than the SR16). Deep, melted dark chocolate. Mature Scotch Whiskey. Vanilla. Oak. Slight Saltyness (Ocean mist)? Again, just incredible!

Taste: Complex, not complicated. Everything melds together beautifully. Deep, rich smokiness. The flavor from the scotch is great. Mature and full flavor. Solid malt, vanilla and chocolate.

Mouthfeel: Again Spot on. Low carbonation and viscous.

Overall: While I'm sure others won't agree, I'm giving this a perfect 5/5. This was amazing. While I have not had this brew fresh, three years of aging has done something incredible to this beer. Outstanding, one of my all time favorites, my highest recommendation. Expensive though....

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Photo of Seru1
4.92/5  rDev +15.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

I had this at a beer dinner on 7/25/09

Appearance- Perfectly black with red round the ends like a glass of old port. There's no head to really speak of

Smell- French oak aromas. Like a fine french wine or a Glenlevit 15. Vanilla, honey, and red berry. There is a ton to take in in the nostril arena. Like a very fine scotch I never had a beer this intense.

Taste- Big Flavors of cherry and vanilla swim around the tongue with hints of oak and leather. Just like sipping a fine old scotch, it's hard not to gush but this beer stole my heart.

Mouthfeel- Full bodied and wonderfully lasting, comforting. Phenomenal beer.

Drinkability- I wish it weren't only available in a cask and so rare, because I would love to drink this beer all day long.

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Photo of jczn
4.89/5  rDev +14.8%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

Poured from bottle into wine glass.

A: Black with a very small, tan, lacy head. Hard to get a great idea of the appearance because of the low light. (4.0)

S: Aroma of whiskey and oak were fairly prominent, with some vanilla. The whiskey smell was fairly sweet and reminded me of Irish whisky rather than Scotch. (5.0)

F: Chocolate and Some bitterness from dark grains on the front end as well as alcoholic warmth. The immediate aftertaste is whisky, followed a moment later by earthy peat smoke. If the aroma is Irish whisky, the flavor is definitely Scotch. (5.0)

M: Thinner than most strong ales, barleywines or stouts, yet with more carbonation than the head would lead you to expect. Very well attenuated, the mouthfeel was not what I expected, yet it was still pleasing. (4.5)

D: A fantastic beer, it has a level of complexity usually only found in a few Belgians, or a rich red wine. It's certainly worth trying, but at the price I probably won't be drinking it again for a while. (5.0)

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Photo of STEG
4.87/5  rDev +14.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

A- Mysterious, jet black, off white head

S-Nutty, Dark fruit, charcoal, vanilla, chocolate, burnt sugar, humidor smell

T-bittersweet chocolate, chestnuts, charcoal, ample sweetness and spiciness really wonderful stuff. reminds me of the highland park 12 yr.

M-Oily and slightly syrupy very low carbonation

D-One bottle is enough for me given the price and the fact that I dont think i could have another one. Although it was quite an experience.

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Photo of kwjd
4.84/5  rDev +13.6%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

Pours an opaque black with a thin tan head that sticks around. Lacing down the glass. On the nose, lots of smokiness, peat and oak. It smells like a nice scotch. The scotch smoke and peat of the scotch flavour is very apparent in this to go along with the roasted malt. I think I get a little bit of vanilla and chocolate too. It has a nice chocolaty after taste, with definite hints of scotch. It goes down very smooth, not overly carbonated, which is nice.

I had the Ola Dubh 12 earlier today and while they are fairly similar, I prefer this one due to the extra flavour from the scotch.

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Photo of GBalbin
4.78/5  rDev +12.2%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

Beer unlike anything I've ever drank. I knew that this beer was aged in barrels used for maturation of Single Malt 40 years Whisky, however, I could not imagine that the notes of whiskey would be so present and very well placed, giving a complexity to this different and sensational beer! Color: black that seems black oil. Viscous texture, almost like a liqueur. Aroma of vanilla, oak, whiskey, something smoked, roasted malts, bitter chocolate and coffee, all that just in aroma! Flavor of roasted malt, sweet, sour, vanilla, coffee, chocolate, wine (Madeira and Porto) and especially whiskey and oak wood. Low carbonation and long aftertaste of whiskey, alcohol and coffee. I recommend to everyone!

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Photo of drabmuh
4.77/5  rDev +12%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

Cask tapped at the opening of Birch and Barley / Churchkey in Washington DC. Beer served in a snifter. Beer is dark, big bubble brown head, nearly non-existant and disappears quickly, low carbonation, no head to speak of.

Aroma is sweet and creamy. Not what I expected. No hop, no alcohol to speak of, maybe slightly. The sweetness is not the brightness of the alcohol at all, more like chocolate, almost raisin.

This beer in insanely smooth. Some woody notes in the flavor, really sweet up front, almost nothing in the back, medium body, great mouthfeel, drinkability really high. No aftertaste. Beautifully balanced beer all around.

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Photo of leonardopacu
4.75/5  rDev +11.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

drink 42178, januar 2009

smell of chocolate, caramel, coffee and whiskey.
thing very black, brown foam, and fleeting
body heavy, sticky and gummy.
and intense flavor of whiskey, oak,
sweet and bitter and the alcohol very well placed.
very balanced, great.

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Photo of Georgiabeer
4.72/5  rDev +10.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

Had this on cask, gravity poured at the Brick Store Pub. I'm a great lover of whisky or whiskey laced beers, at least via the barrel, and this one is no exception. Superb, and my favorits of the series after the 30 year cask. Pours black with no head, but no worries here. Smells of peat, the barrel, and whisky. Very smooth and balanced and not in the least bit hot- compared to say, the 18 which was quite so. The taste is beautifully balanced with lots of restrained whiskey character. Briny, smooth, peaty, malty, and simply whiskyish. Wonderful. Ultra smooth in the mouth and deliciously drinkable.

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Photo of bobsy
4.72/5  rDev +10.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

12oz bottle, shared with Shawn, with the Ola Dubh 12 on the side for comparison.

Pours a midnight black with a creamy tan head that drops to a collar, and leaves some nice spots and streaks of lace on the way down. The aroma is awesome - smooth scotch notes with smoke and earth, jiving with chocolate and caramel. Alcohol is well-hidden.

Likewise, the flavour is successfully delivered. Huge scotch notes throughout, with vanilla, oak and smoke dominating. This remarkably smooth combination is heightened by the sweet presence of the chocolate and caramel. Again the alcohol is fairly well-hidden, but does deliver a pleasant warming sensation. The body is perfectly matched, with a silky smoothness that plays of the flavours nicely. Carbonation is practically absent, but it works.

Awesome beer! I was concerned that it would be a big bust considering its hefty price tag, but after drinking the Ola Dubh 30 on tap I should have known better. Deliciously complex and sublime... I'm glad I still have another bottle!

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 30 - perfect barrel character, which blends in decadently with chocolate from the Old Engine Oil (4.75)

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Photo of DoubleSimcoe
4.7/5  rDev +10.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Harviestoun Ola Dubh 40 on cask and into a big goblet at Max's Taphouse in Baltimore, Maryland.

Appearance: A tanned brownish head, quite fluffy and carbonated, lingers. No lacing or carbonation, though. Beautiful jet-black pour, good consistency. Thinner than the draft version of at least one other Harviestoun beer I've had (18 year) but better and more enjoyable overall.

Smell: Sweet malts, creamy dark chocolate. Crystallized sugars. Like a liquid dessert. Bourbon barrel and some alcohol.

Taste: Smoke upfront. Then bourbon (whiskey, I guess, but I have never had a "real" British/Scottish/Irish whiskey). Oak and some distant vanilla from faraway lands. I ought to rate this as exceptional. There is almost nothing like it.

Mouthfeel: Low carbonation, medium body, full flavor. No carbonation, more like a bourbon, but fine (not like some old ales that are flat and just plain odd). Beautiful overall, smooth and creamy.

Drinkability: Good for an 8% beer with lots of whiskey and cask aromas. It hits after a while, but it drinks really good. Well balanced.

I will seek this again, despite the $8-$9 tag.


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Photo of kkipple
4.7/5  rDev +10.3%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

**from extensive notes**

On draft, out of a cask! at the world-class Brick Store Pub's 14th Anniversary party, where the hits just kept on coming. I should note that this was the second-best beer of the day for me, and we were there for over 10 hours. Allagash Little Big Beer being the winner.

A. Served in the Ola Dubh goblet, which itself is a thing of beauty. Olda Dubh 40 is a gorgeous ying / yang of inky darkness and dense, dark tan foam that provides zero lace, yet never falters over the age this took to drink. The ale is still, there are no bubbles to be seen. Imposing, for sure.

S. Magnificent. One could be forgiven for thinking otherwise, this really didn't start to get interesting till it was nearly room temperature. Once it is, the nose can stand against nearly any other barrel aged beer in existence. The aroma is heavy, sweet, complex and smoky, extremely dense and complementary. Smoked pork and a fascinating, 'sea breeze' mellow Scotch are all here, sweet and alluring, blended and lush. There is zero sharpness here, just soft layers of heavy black delight. No improvement possible.

T. The flavor on display is only slightly less impressive. To put it bluntly, this is really for people who appreciate whiskey, and Scotch in particular. It's a mature, comprehensive, contemplative beer, and one that demands attention and slow savoring. Sweet, first, and heavy; everything here is roasted. A hint of barrel-sour falls into an earthy, salty, oily well. Again, nothing here is sharp or even bold.

M / O. Earthy and damp, the finish is wonderfully long and meandering. Lower carbonation (cask, remember) emphasizes just how dense and hearty this beer is. Simply delightful, but I feel like you have to have facial hair to fully appreciate this.

Bottom line: This is the most mellow and challenging of the Ola Dubh lineup, and in my opinion the best. I'm sure the cask presentation adds to the allure. Now with two weeks left in the year, this remains as one of the very best beers I've had in 2011. I do hope to have it again, but I'm willing to wait as the beer did for me.

A quick word on price: yes, this can be silly expensive in the bottle, you may end up paying over $20 for it. Is it that much better than the 12 year (which I rated a 4.4)? For some of you, it will be. If you have a whiskey-tooth and give this one the time and attention it deserves, it's worth the cash.

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Photo of rechever
4.7/5  rDev +10.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

My girlfriend surprised me with this one.

Poured on my Ayinger Celebrator Bock glass.

Jet black, not as viscous as I expected it to be. Moderate tan head. No light seems to get through it.

The whisky barrels do such a good job on this beer. The smell is of sweet malty whisky in my opinion. Not overpowering, its actually a great combination. Im thinking of wooden dark chocolate. The more I smell, the more I like it. Hmmm Makes me want to get a steak burnt on the outside and raw on the inside. Cooked over oak.

When I have it in my mouth I feel the whisky aroma flow from my mouth to my nose, just like when you hold Scotch in your mouth. But in your tongue you feel the sweetness of the malts which are reminiscent of dark chocolate cake that has been flavored with drops of vanilla. The wood makes it feel very dry.

Im in love with it. Im so glad I had this.

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Photo of Knapp85
4.65/5  rDev +9.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

I fell in love with this beer the first time I had it a few years ago now I've had the chance of having it again and it still kicks ass. The pour is a great black color with a tan head that leaves a nice ring around the top of the glass. The smell is so awesome, it's got a magical sweet smell. The whiskey wooden smell adds to it. It's hard to really explain but it's great. The beer tastes sweet and with a whiskey back bone. There is some vanilla in there not much chocolate but a little bit and a good amount of smokiness there too. The flavors are strong and very pleasing. The mouthfeel is pretty smooth with some light carbonation. The overall take on this brew is just really good in my opinion. I could drink a lot of this but it's very pricey.

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Photo of OSUBeerStudent
4.63/5  rDev +8.7%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4.5

August 2010 bottle date into a snifter. Glad to get this one - still need a couple to try the complete collection, but I'll gladly skip the 18/30 for this.

A - Opaque, creamy brown/black. Fairly dense mocha head on pouring that sticks around a good bit. This gets the extra score over the others because it's persistent.

S - A very clean, woody, dark fruit and malt. The peat is definitely in the background here, letting the malt and wood itself take over. This is more on the roasty side than sweet for sure - the whisky is very much on the back, binding it all together.

T - molasses and dark fruit lead off with a bit of the wood from the barrel. The fruit feeds directly into the wood and whisky, which has a delightful but fairly subtle peat flavor. The finish is surprisingly dry and woody given the rest of it. Just excellent flavor here. I feel like this version shows off the base beer more than the others I've had, which is a definite positive in my mind. Really delicious beer.

M - Here's the real problem with this one. The carbonation is very (too) high. It's fizzy. The feel on the others was great, but this one is not. Very sad - makes it a bit harder to drink it, while the other components make it really good.

Overall this one was great. Not good, but great. The taste was fantastic, smell was great, appearance was fantastic, but the mouthfeel was a noticeable flaw. Besides that, though, this was definitely a beer to seek out. Even with the very high price (think I paid around $18 for an 11.2oz) I would definitely buy this beer again. Yet more incentive to finish the available ones.

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Photo of Patrick999
4.61/5  rDev +8.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 3 | overall: 4.5

Looks nice and dark in the snifter. Some foam but nothing major.

Lots of whiskey and chocolate in the aroma, more whiskey than chocolate. And not just any whiskey, good whiskey, nice hints of smoky peat.

That's tasty. Not as thick as I seem to remember this the first time I had it....minor weakness. Feels like a lightish Bock on the palate rather than a big whiskey barrel aged beer. You really taste the whiskey, along with some coffee and chocolate.

For what it is, extremely drinkable, but you'd better like Scotch. If not this could be tough sledding.

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Photo of BDTyre
4.6/5  rDev +8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Immediately preceded by Ola Dubh 12. Same dark ruby colour and tan head.

The taste and nose is of plums, scotch, wine, chocolate and coffee. Very rich and complex - as it warms, you can detect different dominant flavours.

Thick, substantial mouthfeel. Very rich and smooth, and a nice, dry finish to it. Drinkable, even with the 8% ABV.

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Photo of aerozeppl
4.58/5  rDev +7.5%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

On cask at Mahar's.

A: Jet black with coffee colored head. Glorious cask head with each bubble clearly defined. No visible carbonation through the darkness. A slight touch of lacing but not much at all.

S: Whiskey and oak. Just a massive nose. Beyond that a little bit of chocolate and roast. The more it warmed up the more the chocolate and oak came out.

T: Whiskey. Not just whiskey but really good whiskey. Plenty of oak and just enough chocolate to balance it out. More of an intense dark chocolate. Good whiskey really downplays how good this was.

M: Perfect cask mouthfeel. Heavy and light. Creamy. Perfect.

D: I liked the 30 on cask a little more. This beer is a whiskey lover's dream. A really awesome beer that I was lucky to be able to try on cask.

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Photo of dauss
4.57/5  rDev +7.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

Presentation: Comes in a box, much like a single malt would be packaged. 12oz. bottle with a black foil top over a Harviestoun Brewery imprinted metal disc hanging by a string. I haven't seen this beer before at a liquor store I frequent. Bottled No. & Date: 50409 JAN2009

Appearance: A tan head struggles to form even with a hard pour. This beer is black, jet black. Even when held up to the light, it is difficult to gauge a color for this beer. Definitely very brown, with a touch of ruby.

Aroma: Upfront hints of oak, caramel, toasted malt, then opens up with a nice alcohol warmth of chocolate, a touch of cardboard and light malt sweetness.

Taste: Upfront malt sweetness. Any sort of hops that might have been in this beer are long gone. Extremely smooth chocolate toffee body with a touch of figs, honey, and peat. Finishes with a oak wood note and hints of whisky.

Mouthfeel: Medium full body with a sweet residual mouthfeel that lingers of more chocolate and peat.

Notes: Carbonation is a little low, I would have liked a touch more effervescence. A sweet desert like beer that would be great as a digestif. No hop characters are left and the beer is full of whisky notes. It was difficult to spend the price they were asking for. This is probably the most expensive bottle of beer(in terms of $/oz.) that I bought at retail, but it is worth trying. It's not as amazing as I thought it would be, but still a very solid beer that I will remember for a long time. Now that the bottle is empty, there is no sediment, indicating that this beer was filtered. I doubt that this beer would improve any more with age.

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Photo of woosterbill
4.56/5  rDev +7%
look: 3 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

On cask at Lazy Boy Saloon into an Old Engine Oil snifter.

A: Practically still black body - just a tiny scattering of bubbles around the rim. Only the slightest glint of orange-brown at the extremities when held up to light. No lace, but nice legs.

S: Beautiful, wonderful Scotch: robust caramel malts, lightly peaty smoke, and strong woodiness. I'm looking forward to this more and more.

T: Like the smell, this seems far more like fine Scotch whisky than beer. Delicately sweet malt stars things off, with profound woodiness and balanced smoke coming through as things develop. Smoke on the finish. It's amazing - the only feature of delicious Scotch that doesn't come through here is the booze; this is extremely smooth throughout. I couldn't have hoped for anything more.

M: It even feels like an old Scotch - silky medium-full body with no carbonation at all. Normal I insist on at least some effervescence in a beer, but this one on cask is an exception.

D: More of a sipper, but only because only small sips are needed to enjoy the intricacies of flavor. Amazing beer.

Notes: I don't know what more to say about this breathtakingly delicious beer. I feel so lucky to have stumbled upon the 40 on cask (and for only $8!). As great as it was, though, I don't know if I can bring myself to shell out for a bottle of this any time soon. I certainly wouldn't blame anyone for doing so, though. If you like Scotch, you'll love this beer.


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Photo of jbonapar
4.55/5  rDev +6.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

Purchased in Halfiax NS, Canada.

Never knew this existed!

Poured a BLACK creamy thickness with a Thick coal colored head. Wow.

SMell is Oak. Whiskey. Vanilla. Slightly smokey and peaty.

Taste is dam fine. An oaky-sweetness hits the palate but quickly the sweetness fades and a strong spiciness takes over. The oak stays but then the bitterness comes in and is strong at the end...As the bitterness fades, the oak comes back.

What a fantastic beer. Complex, different and unique.

Worth trying for sure if you can find it.

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Photo of champ103
4.54/5  rDev +6.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

A huge thanks to Gram for bringing this to a tasting. My all time favorite series.

A: Pour a nearly dark black with some light ruby highlights around the edges. A small bubbly tan head forms on first pour, but recedes to nothing in a second. Not much lace is left behind.
S: Just an awesome aroma of peat, smoke, wood, chocolate, and light coffee. A toffee and vanilla sweetness intermingles with the wood/barrel aromas. Excellent.
T: Again, excellent. Everything is in impeccable balance. Smoke, peat, wood with chocolate, toffee, and vanilla. I can not get enough of this.
M/D: A full body that is low on the carbonation. Though not under carbonated at all. Velvety smooth and just decadent. So enjoyable and easy to drink. I wish the bottle would never end.

There should be no surprise that this is just a world class beer. The barrel aging, texture, and flavors are all perfectly balanced. Which makes for an incredibly enjoyable drink. I don't know if I like this or the 30 better. Both amazing and highly recommended.

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Photo of mintjellie
4.52/5  rDev +6.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 5

Ola Dubh 40 is near-opaque black with ruby highlights and a fast dissipating wisp of tan head. Aged in barrels that previously contained 40 year old Highland Park single malt, it has the peaty, smokey aroma of whisky married with rich ripe plum, molasses, fig, and just a hint of chocolate. The booze-soaked oak gives the beers aroma a mild buttery character, also contributing notes of vanilla, alcohol, and wood to its complex and inviting nose.

There's a black coffee component to its flavour that you wouldn't expect from the way the it smells. Dried fruit and caramelized sugar give it some sweetness; alcohol gives it some warmth. A very noticeable whisky flavour grows in intensity as the beer warms. Strong buttery oak character. Finishes with a long-lingering aftertaste of roasted malt.

Medium-full bodied with low carbonation. It has a slick, viscuous mouthfeel appropriate for something whose name means Black Oil. With it's dense, layered flavour and 9% ABV, this one is definately a sipper. It's also a sipper that leaves you in anticipation of each mouthful right down to the bottom of your glass. It's almost too easy to sip on it faster than would be sensible. Fantastic beer.

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Photo of danadeny
4.52/5  rDev +6.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 5

Pours a dark stout body dark brown not yet black. Head is nice and bubble and light brown. Smells of smooth oak and raisens and coco. Taste smooth buttery front with not much in the middle then a oak barrel and alcohol finish. Very very smooth. At times it seems almost flavorless. Great balance. Moth feel is oily slick a little foamy. The drinkability is insane so smooth so balanced. Amazing.

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Ola Dubh Special Reserve 40 from Harviestoun Brewery Ltd.
4.26 out of 5 based on 175 ratings.
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