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 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 Thorpe429
4.14/5  rDev -2.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Reviewed from notes.

Served in a tulip glass. Pours black with no head or lacing. Nice pitch black color. The nose is really complex and intriguing with whiskey, oak, light vanilla, dark chocolate, roasted malt, and a bit of alcohol. The taste is a bit overly boozy but still quite nice with a lot of whisky and chocolate. The booze fits well in the feel as it's interspersed throughout and finishes nicely. Drinks well; nice sipper.

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Photo of ratedz
4.44/5  rDev +4.2%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Poured a deep black into a Boulevard chalice. A very thin head faded quickly and left behind very little lacing.

A quick sniff reveals the scotch whisky, oak, vanilla, and maybe a little chocolate. I was expecting the whisky smell to be really strong on this one, but it seems to be blended very well.

Initial tastes are a little smokiness and some bitter chocolates. As you swallow, the warmth of the whisky starts to take over. As with the smell, the taste isn't nearly as strong on the whisky as I was expecting.

Very smooth mouth feel. Medium bodied and lightly carbonated and the whisky flavor takes over as you let it sit in your mouth.

Since the alcohol wasn't as overpowering as it is in some other barrel aged beers, I thought this was fairly drinkable. It is slightly hot and therefore a sipping beer...I enjoyed the bottle over about a 45 minute time frame. The price obviously limits this from being a beer you'd want to consume multiple bottles of in one sitting, but it is a fantastic beer to sit down with on a cool fall evening!

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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 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 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 JamesS
4.31/5  rDev +1.2%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | 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, with just a bit too much of the scent tending towards the Scotch side. Wonderful taste, the whiskey flavor is very much there, and unfortunately dominates, even more so than the other aged versions; still has some nice dark roasted malt attributes, though, and it shouldn't be a surprise that it's so whisky flavored. It goes down fairly smooth -- exceptionally for an aged beer.

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Photo of BARFLYB
3.33/5  rDev -21.8%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

12oz expensive ass bottle into a snifter with oglmcdgl, bottle number 56028.

A- Ola Dubh 40 is black, it's not jet black, but it's pretty dark. Just a small whispy small tannish cap on top with some very light lacing. The liquid does not look as thick as other versions.

S- Whiskey, and alot of it. All I can smell is the Kentucky elixer for a while before some warming brings out some smoke/peat with minimal chocolate. A good amount of roasted malt. A whiskey bomb in it's own right.

T- Yep, pretty much a whiskey bomb. It takes up about 80% of the taste while the remaining 20% is made up of all the other smells that I mentioned above. Tastes like it smells.

M- The 40 year old version seems to have a thinner body than other versions, or maybe it's just the 40 year whiskey barrel that just comes out with vigor. Either way this feels a few steps above medium bodied with a light and almost non existant carbonation. It's a bit hot on the mouth and not all to coating.

D- Im glad I split this bottle because I did not dig the huge whiskey tastes. No way I could enjoy a whole bottle of this to the head. I really enjoyed the lighter versions of this (12, 16) but this is a bit too much for me. Perhaps a few years of aging will tone down the whisk, but that's what this beer is all about, so I'll just pass this one on the shelves forever now, no need for a redo.

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Photo of Long813
4.35/5  rDev +2.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Bottle #: 39132
Date: JAN 2009
Best before: April 2012
From: Liamt07

A: Pitch black body pouring the tinniest about of mocha head. Leaves good lacing also.

S: Huge front of whiskey, oak, some coffee notes, chocolate and caramel. Very pleasing.

T: Much like the aroma, loads of whiskey notes mixed in with oak and vanilla. Sweet mixture of chocolate and chewy caramel and some alcohol comes through.

M: medium bodied and medium-low carbonation. The texture is quite thin and leaves a strong whiskey finish. Alcohol comes through, but isn't displeasing.

D: Thanks again liam, this beer is fantastic. It would be interesting to compare the other years against it, but that would require a good liver.

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Photo of oglmcdgl
4.02/5  rDev -5.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Bottle # 56028 split with onix1agr on the late and poured into snifters.

A- a small cap of mocha colored head from a stiff pour that settles quickly to a few gossamer wisps and a faint ring. Black in color with a mahogany glow at the edges.

S- whiskey out front with espresso and cocoa powder. Smoke and chared wood. A hint of tobacco.

T- whiskey and smokey wood with dark roasted almost burnt coffee. Dark chocolate and molasses. Earth and peat.

M- somewhere between medium and full bodied with a light carb. Dry tannic finish.

D- this is a whiskey bomb but if you like deep complex whiskey flavor this is a brew for you. I find its depth a bit of a handful and I love my spirits.

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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 darklordlager
4.22/5  rDev -0.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Had at Happy Gnome's Firkin Fest 2010

A: Pours a dark brown/black with no head. Looks to be clear if it weren't so dark.

S: Molasses, vanilla/oak, dark fruit, chocolate, whisky, caramel, with some booziness.

T: Peat, dark fruit, molasses, vanilla/oak. Definitely a sipper, but something to behold.

M: Very spirit-esque. Starts off medium-thin bodied and moves into a dry spirity finish.

D: A sipper for sure--something to sit back with for a couple hours (much more like a Scotch).

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Photo of biboergosum
4.38/5  rDev +2.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Packaged in a nice whisky-esque faux-wood grain box, with a small heavy medallion affixed to the neck of the bottle by a string, which announced my arrival wherever I carried this bad boy. Since I obtained this from the Summerhill LCBO in Toronto, that has been no small number of places...

This beer pours the (not 'a') black void, full stop. No edges, no tints, nada. It gives up two fingers of creamy mocha head, which melts away quickly, rendering a pencil-thin circumference of lace around the glass. It smells of non-Islay island whisky - very mild peat smoke, soft seaside iodine, oaky caramel, a bit of chocolate, a bit of oily nuttiness. The taste is lighted roasted caramel malt, Highland Park whisky barrel - mild, balanced smoke, peat, iodine, chocolate, and vanilla. The expected alcohol is notable only by its perceived absence. The carbonation is practically non-existent, the body full, creamy, oily ('Dubhish'?), and thick, and it finishes fairly sweet, offset a fair bit by the briny barrel attributes.

A lovely union of ale and whisky making expertise. Eminently enjoyable and drinkable for every reason but the price - 18 Canuckbucks, and in Ontario only, for that matter. That said, it was difficult to ignore this offering, given that I recently finished the 12 and 18 year old Highland Park malt whiskies, and trying the 40 year old, by proxy, I just couldn't say no. Like the fine whiskies, worth trying once for the extravagance alone.

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Photo of Derek
4.32/5  rDev +1.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Bottle number: 39593
Date: Jan 2009

LCBO relabelled to 9%.

A: Black, light tan head, ring of retention, light leg.

S: Over-the-top whisky barrel... a little one-dimensional, but seriously enticing.

T: Mmmm... whisky, wood, peat smoke, espresso, bakers chocolate, rye bread, a little spice, balanced bitterness, warming alcohol.

M: Well-attenuated, moderate body, modest carbonation, some roasted acidity, drying alcohol finish. Definitely dried out and a little lighter than the 12 (or the standard dubh).

D: A wonderfully pleasant sipper.

I absolutely loved the 12, this one is a little over-the-top & not as balanced. It's more of an American Extreme brew than an English old ale.

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Photo of DrJay
4.29/5  rDev +0.7%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Very dark, nearly black, with not much in the way of visible edges. It had a thick tan/brown cap of very fine bubbles, good head retention with sticky, spotty lacing. Great aroma. Lots of whisky character when the bottle was opened, more of a refined alcohol that you get from a good scotch rather than a boozy nose. Notes of caramel and vanilla, lots of malt, a hints of chocolate and smoke, plus a bit of oak. Mild to moderate bitterness, toffee and caramel sweetness, whisky, light vanilla and woodiness. There was a bit of wood tannin dryness and booze, but it stayed refined and pleasant throughout. Full bodied with low carbonation made of up fine bubbles. Mild warmth and a tingle of alcohol on the tongue. Nice texture. I quite enjoyed this. The marriage of beer and whisky really worked.

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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 cratez
3.97/5  rDev -6.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

330ml bottle from the LCBO. Pours pitch black with a thin cap of tan head and dots of lacing on the snifter. Aroma is oak barrel, whisky, almonds, sweet dark fruit, and herbal English hops. A bit creamy. Taste is chocolate and roasted malts, woody and bitter, some liquor, raisins, a little hop spice, and a toasted, flaked oat finish, very dry and chalky. As the beer warms it becomes more vinous and fruity, but its not as bold, flavourful, or complex as I expected. I let it sit for 45 minutes before drinking, so the temperature can't be a problem. Mouthfeel is velvety, slick, oily, parched and oaky aftertaste, a tad boozy. Overall, this is a damn fine ale, with most of the technical elements that define the style, yet the taste underwhelms, and I don't love it like I thought I would.

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Photo of ritzkiss
4.38/5  rDev +2.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

12oz bottle from the recent LCBO release, nice packaging. Tasting next to the Ola Dubh 12.

Pours a jet black almost opaque, just a glimmer of brown around the rim when held to the light. A finger of khaki head builds up on the pour and settles to a collar with a few swirling patches of bubbles.

Nose is much more subdued than the 12, earthier with a hint of peat and muchsmokier. Roasty malt, a hint of dark baker's chocolate, wood, a good dose of scotch.

Such a smooth sipper. Silky presence of the barrel - oaky wood with a hint of ash, vanilla, a touch of peat, smoke. All beside a nice roasty malt base, a touch of bready malt, raisins, light dark fruits, just a hint of alcohol and a light warming in the finish. Silky smooth creamy mouthfeel; not overly full or robust but perfect for 8%, scary drinkable.

While the price on this beer is exceptional and I am not entirely convinced it warrants it, this is a truly remarkable beer. Very complex yet simply drinkable.

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Photo of grub
4.12/5  rDev -3.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Viggo brought this one over. thanks eric!

11.2oz bottle topped with black foil and a metal medallion around it. presented in a matching black box. bottle #01129, bottled aug 2009. sampled april 4/2010.

pours deep dark brown with a thin layer of dark tan head. the head drops quickly to a ring around the glass and leaves only a few spots of lace.

aroma is great. big whiskey and barrel character. vanilla. whiskey. dark chocolate. bit of coffee. caramel and toffee. bit of butterscotch. lightly toasted white bread. bit of coconut. alcohol.

taste is nice. dark and bittersweet chocolate. espresso. bourbon and whiskey. vanilla. anise. touch of coconut. toasted multi-grain bread. cracker. bit of biscuit. faint smoke. medium-low bitterness level. the caramel and malt doesn't seem quite as nice as in the aroma, like it's lost a little.

mouthfeel is good. fairly big body. medium-low carbonation level works well.

drinkability is good. nice balance, hiding its alcohol well. the barrel is very dominant, but seems to work pretty well. not sure it's my favourite of the ola dubhs, but it's a tasty beer.

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Photo of Viggo
4.37/5  rDev +2.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

12 oz bottle, picked up the LCBO. The bottles look great, nicely presented.

Pours an opaque dark brownish black, some dark red highlights in the corners, medium sized light brown head forms and quickly settles to a very thick ring around the glass, decent layer, some lace spots stick.

Smell is neat, nice and smokey, some peat, caramel, biscuit, a bit of alcohol and some plastic, some chocolate, really neat scotch character in the nose, vanilla, lots of oak, different aroma, almost like cake or muffin batter.

Taste is similar, some raisin, chocolate wafer, a touch of roast, less smoke than the aroma but a touch of peat, whiskey, vanilla, oak, alcohol is well hidden, biscuit, toasty, caramel and brown sugar sweetness in the finish, nice and nutty, well balanced.

Mouthfeel is medium bodied, slightly oily, low to medium carbonation. Alcohol is well hidden, really nice scotch flavours in this one.

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Photo of mondegreen
4.32/5  rDev +1.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

11.2 oz bottle into an oversized sniffer.

Bottled January 2009, poured at 14 months old.

A: Pitch black with no head. Very dark brown highlights when held to the light.
S: Dominated by whiskey. Smokey, supported by a nice underlying sweetness.
T: Thick whiskey flavor. Subtle bitterness in the aftertaste. More smoke here, but it isn't overbearing. Very nice flavor. As it warms, the sweetness opens up and the alcohol bite becomes pronounced in the aftertaste.
M: Medium bodied with adequate carbonation. Carries the flavor well.
D: Seeing as this is meant to be a one and done, it is incredible. I am only getting into it, but I will want more when I am done. Too bad it is so expensive. I might still pick up a couple more for the cellar.

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Photo of mothman
4.32/5  rDev +1.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Had this at Firkin Fest 2010 a little after the Ola Dubh 18

Pours a 1/4 finger of fizzy tan head. Color is oil black. Very thick.

Aroma: Identical to the 18 year but more rounded it. Huge whiskey/bourbon and oak flavors. Roasted malts and chocolate. Fairly rich.

Taste: More whiskey flavors than the 18. Doesn't taste like beer really. Bigger oak flavors as well. Very interesting.

Mouthfeel: Hot, warming, and smooth. Well done. Low carbonation with a full body. Ends warm.

Overall., better than the 18 year. However it is not like beer, but more of a whiskey. Fairly drinkable for what it is.

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Photo of Phyl21ca
4.5/5  rDev +5.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Bottle: Poured a deep black color ale with a large dark brown foamy head with good retention and some lacing. Aroma of sweet roasted malt with dominating notes of warming scotch is quite enjoyable. Taste is also dominated by loads of scotch notes with some light vanilla and oak with marries very well with the base sweetness form the malt. Body is quite full with a creamy texture and some good carbonation with no apparent alcohol. Very well done and would buy some again even with the steep price tag.

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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 jdhilt
4.36/5  rDev +2.3%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Pours a three finger light tan head that fades very slowly to a thin layer, leaving a good lace. Black color, no highlights. Strong whiskey nose. Medium carbonation and heavy bodied. Flavor is sweet burnt coffee and whiskey. Nice old ale but so is Harviestoun's 12 year that is $9 cheaper. Ages well, bottled 1/2009. Beyond expensive at $18.00 for ONE 330ml bottle from Tully's Beer & Wine Wells, Me.

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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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