Ola Dubh Special Reserve 18
Harviestoun Brewery Ltd.

Ola Dubh Special Reserve 18Ola Dubh Special Reserve 18
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English Old Ale
Ranked #11
Ranked #1,883
4.2 | pDev: 9.76%
Harviestoun Brewery Ltd.
Scotland, United Kingdom
Ola Dubh Special Reserve 18Ola Dubh Special Reserve 18
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Reviews: 174 | Ratings: 481 | Log in to view all ratings and sort
Photo of Mebuzzard
4.38/5  rDev +4.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

Darn fine beer. Looks thick and chewy, nice tan head. Aroma of leather, molasses, chocolate, vanilla, wood and copper. Flavor is rich without being too rich. The aroma characters mingle well on the palate. Thinner feel that it portends. Drank this with ease and was sad when it was gone

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Photo of GuyFawkes
4.25/5  rDev +1.2%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Bottled July 2011; drank 5/27/14 @ the Yarchives. Brown/black hue. Dark khaki head; almost no lace. Caramel nose; hints of chocolate & ginger. Thick, sticky mouthfeel. Caramel, scotch, oak, ginger & milk chocolate up front; smoke & slight booze heat on the finish. Perhaps a touch too sweet, but this is complex & delicious.

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Photo of LiquidAmber
4.02/5  rDev -4.3%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Poured into a Fremont small snifter. Pours pitch black, opaque in the glass with a fine, two finger dark khaki head with great retention and thick lacing.Aroma of dark toasted malt, molasses, cocoa, peaty smoke, almost identical to the 12 I had last night. Flavor is extremely similar too: dark toasted malt, molasses, dark chocolate, mildly peaty whiskey and hints of nuts; less boozy character. Once again, the Scotch character is present and pleasant, but muted. I'm not sure I'd be able to detect the difference in the age of Scotch barrels at this level. I like all of these, they are some of the first barreled ales I had decades ago and still enjoyable.

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Photo of josanguapo
2/5  rDev -52.4%
look: 2 | smell: 2 | taste: 2 | feel: 2 | overall: 2

From Saveur Biere. In Teku glass. Playing Avernum 4. 2016 version. The wood notes are now masked by a slightly unpleasant sourish touch. Certainly below the 12 and 16 years versions

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Photo of TreyIsWilson
4.05/5  rDev -3.6%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4

A - Pours a very dark brown with a one finger creamy tan head. Nice amount of soapy lacing.

S - Aroma is dark chocolate, roasted malts, molasses and dark fruits.

T - The taste is plums, raisins,dark chocolate, molasses, oak and light whiskey.

M - Medium body with low carbonation. Creamy mouthfeel with a soft finish.

O - Nice beer. The flavors are rich and inviting. Alcohol is well hidden.

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Photo of Holderness
3.95/5  rDev -6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4

Of the 12, 16, and 18, this is my favorite as it combines the best aspects of the 12 (chocolate, molasses) and the 16 (smokey peat, fuller body) into a single, equivalently priced package. The mouthfeel is noticeably thicker on this one, which is also a trend in the right direction. Slightly better head retention, too


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Photo of connecticutpoet
4.12/5  rDev -1.9%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Appearance - thin layer of head on a very dark brown clear body. Nearly opaque with ruby highlights.

Aroma - strong sweet molasses and honey, raisins and plums, with oak and whiskey coming in faint at the end.

Taste - Dark fruits to the fore, followed by oak tannins. A little sweet molasses at the end. Much less bitter than the 12 and 16. Also less whiskey in the taste.

Mouthfeel - very smooth. Went down easily.

Overall - I had the 12, 16, and 18 in order and they got better as the night progressed. Can't wait to try the 21, 30, and 40 tonight.

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Photo of brentk56
4.41/5  rDev +5%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Appearance: Pours fudge brown with a bubble show producing a rocky, three finger head; squiggles of lacing linger

Smell: Peat, tobacco and ash, with a hint of dark chocolate

Taste: Peat and tobacco dominate the front end, with hints of ash in the mid-palate; baker's chocolate and toffee add a touch of sweetness to the finish, but the whisky tones linger into the aftertaste

Mouthfeel: Full bodied with moderate carbonation

Overall: Been a long time since I had a beer from this series but this reminds me of what the top brewers in Great Britain can achieve; nobody on this side of the pond is brewing a beer like this that I have seen

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Photo of puck1225
4.29/5  rDev +2.1%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

An other beautiful beer from this brewery. Deep black-brown color, beige head and nice lacing. Smooth and silky feel. Strong dark chocolate smell, slightly smokey. Taste is a bit boozey and warming. Flavors are smokey, earthy, dark chocolate, toffee. Very good with roast beef!

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Photo of The_Kriek_Freak
4.51/5  rDev +7.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

This is one insanely tasty beer. It pours jet black with a tan head (more than I was expecting in size) but one that goes away pretty quickly. The nose is smoky and with hints of whiskey. The taste has a string bittersweet base, with notes of whiskey, dark chocolate, peat, and some smokiness. Much more drinkable than I was expecting for a beer of this strength and style. Viscous mouthfeel and with little carbonation. Really tasty stuff and a beer I'll be looking to buy more of.

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Photo of SHODriver
4.25/5  rDev +1.2%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

A: Poured into a snifter to a deep black topped by a finger of dense light tan head that fades quickly to a collar around the edge of the glass
S: Smells of toffee, chocolate, dark fruits, and oak
T: Taste is dark fruits with a little smoke, some oak, chocolate and toffee. At times it has a flavor that reminds me of molasses. Swallow is more smoke and oak with some lingering dark fruits and roasted malts with some lingering dark chocolate.
M: The beer has a heft on the palate that is fairly full with low carbonation. The finish on the beer is fairly drying.
O: Overall this beer is delicious. It has some great flavors and complexity. It is also much different than the normal old ale. Definitely one to try but I think I like the 12 a bit better.

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Photo of VoxRationis
4.26/5  rDev +1.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Decanted from an 11.2 oz (330 ml) bottle into a conical pint glass; bottle no. 24730, date Sept 2014.
A: Pours very dark brown, essentially black. Minimal khaki head that dissipates rapidly, some lacing.
S: Dark malts, caramel, peat smoke, and bacon.
T: Dark malts, whiskey, peat smoke, coffee grounds, and ham.
M: Full bodied with low to medium persistence of effervescence.
O: Interesting. Very reminiscent of a rauchbier. Not for every day, but reasonable for special occasions.

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Photo of EMH73
4.1/5  rDev -2.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Pours a very dark brown with a very, very thin tan head that dissipated quickly and left no lacing. Smells and tastes of whiskey, oak, smoke, chocolate and coffee. Additional flavors of raisins and figs. Almost no carbonation, creamy mouth feel, medium bodied.

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Photo of woodychandler
4.04/5  rDev -3.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4

I just keep unearthing gems (I hope!) as I continue to winnow through the Bottle Backlog here at Chez Woody. I am very excited to drink & review this one.

From the bottle: "Ale matured in Whisky Casks"; "Aged in selected oak casks, formerly used to mature Highland Park's smoky sweet, perfectly balanced 18 Year Old Single Malt Scotch Whisky"; "[Undersigned:] Head Brewer: (JS Cail) Master of Wood: (George Ervine) Bottle No. & Date: 02200 March 2014".

I Pop!ped the cap, but it was with great trepidation that I began my gentle pour. I felt as though I were suddenly in the presence of royalty & I was unworthy. I performed an incredibly gentle pour & when I felt as though a sufficient amount had been decanted, I gave it a vigorous in-glass swirl to raise a brief finger of light-tan head that quickly reduced to wisps. Color was Black/Opaque (SRM = 44), allowing ZERO light penetration. Nose smelled of leather; dried, dark fruits; smoke; sweet Lebanon bologna and a vague, general woodiness. Mouthfeel was medium-to-full, but with very limited carbonation. It reminded me of J. W.Lees Harvest Ale in regard to its taste - very smoky, lightly sweet and kind of meaty, as long as that last is not off-putting. I mean it in a most complimentary way. I grew up eating sweet Lebanon bologna, both from S. Clyde Weaver, here in Lancaster County, PA as well as Seltzer's from Lebanon County & I still occasionally enjoy it. This beer was very evocative of that taste. Finish was semi-dry & quite smoky in a lingering way. I have to admit that I was not really prepared for that level of smokiness. I have no problem with it, but it was filling my sinus cavity in a way that might color other reviews today. Time for a break to refresh.

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Photo of pkalix
4.43/5  rDev +5.5%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Woody. chocolate-y. peat-y. smooth. very well balanced and super-easy to drink. this is a 2013 version and unfortunately i dont remember how it tasted three years ago, but this one sure is nice....

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Photo of Bruno74200
4.49/5  rDev +6.9%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

It's the first one from the series I taste but I think this beer it's quite unique. It's definitely a first for me on many points. In particular it's the first time I taste umami in a beer. It's incredible how this beer tickles all the part of your tong.
The smell is a lot on the fruitcake with boozy raisins and a bit of chocolate and caramel.
In the taste the peated whisky is much more presence with oak, tobacco, nuttiness and sweet raisins. Perfect balance.
The carbonation is fine but vivid and this beer has definitely a bite.
This is not an in-your-face but it's a very delicate and balanced one. I definitely want to try that highland park whiskey!

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Photo of mjwellman
4.29/5  rDev +2.1%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

330cc bottle dated April 2013 so it's almost 4 years old
L: Pours dark brown/almost black with no head
A: whiskey aroma with sweetness like figs.
T: nice whiskey oak flavor with a hint of sweetness like figs and caramel. Smooth and very nice drinking beer.
F: moderate carbonation with a hint of bitterness
O: Much better than the 21. Wonderful complex flavors with the strong whiskey flavor. Very nice.

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Photo of qrazvan
4.16/5  rDev -1%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

It comes in a nicely designed bottled, with an elegant label on and a cool mouse cap.
Dark red-brown colour, with little head and carbonation.
Smells like whiskey, sour cherries, coffee, caramel.
The taste is driven by the smoky aromas, like the prunes, then cherries, almonds. Sweet-sour feel, becoming salty towards the end. Smoked fish/meat aftertaste and in the end the old oak whiskey casks are making their aging influence felt.
A complex beer, not so easy to drink and understand.

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Photo of Zythophile
3.78/5  rDev -10%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.75

Bottle Date: April 2013
Palate Contaminants: other beer

The look is very dark brown with minimal head. There's a slight amount of light around the edges.

The smell is rich olive oil. I'm having trouble getting anything else, but it is good for olive oil. After a few minutes I can pick out some rye bread, but it's rye bread soaked in olive oil. I just don't know that it's what I want in a brew.

Taste comes most of the way back to the beer realm. In addition to rye, there are charred figs and prunes. In the back end, the barrel makes an appearance, but fortunately it's relatively minor. Mexican-characteristic cocoa powder, too. It could be a bit more dynamic, but I'm not super disappointed, just a little let down. (And how long is this supposed to age? The label says it's been 45 months, and most of that time has not been in my fridge.)

The feel is a little thinner than I expected, and I would wish for a little more carbonation, but it's not far off being pretty good.

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Photo of Thomas_Wikman
4.2/5  rDev 0%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

I bought a few Ola Dubh Special Reserve at Jester King, Brewery in Austin a few days ago. I thought it was a very good, complex, and stout-like Old Ale.

Look: very dark brown, almost black, with a thin mocca colored head.

Aroma: Sweet, chocolate and coffee, and the whiskey

Taste: There's caramel, chocolate, coffee, stout like flavors as well as some smoke and some whiskey, but there’s more whiskey in the aroma.
Feel: I would say medium body, it is smooth and rich, yet easy drinking.

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Photo of StoneTSR
4.48/5  rDev +6.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.5

APPEARANCE: The head has remarkable longevity, still hanging in there, with it’s tiny bubbles, about half way through the glass. At its peak, the head gets about a half inch of elevation. As it falls, the tiny bubbles provide a Nitro-like head, covering most of the back of the glass in an off-white/very light brown, which contrasts the black beer underneath beautifully.

SMELL: Smoky with a touch of peat. There are hints of some “stoutier” aromas, but the whiskey is coming through extremely strong on the nose.

TASTE: Whoa! There’s that stout underneath all this scotch! Deep, dark chocolate and roasty coffee flavors dance with a touch of toffee right up to the bitter (deliciously bitter) end of each sip. The tail end is rounded out with the same smoke and peat from the nose, and while bitter, it ends on a softer note. Wow.

MOUTHFEEL: Big and rich in body. A little sweet early on, but drying throughout the sip.

OVERALL: It took me far too long to get to this beer and I’m glad I finally did. It has two personalities, one as a big, bold stout, the other as a lovely, Highlands scotch. The contrast is wonderful and I’d recommend this beer to any lover of beer or fine spirits.

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Photo of Radcpa
4.35/5  rDev +3.6%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Nice dark appearance. This is a sofisticated beer with a great taste without any hint of alcohol and very appealing aroma. Pours with a small head. Highly recommended.

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Photo of stevoj
4.3/5  rDev +2.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Bottle from Brewers Haven. Looking like, and smelling like, an imperial stout. Aroma is woody, boozy, earthy. Beautiful heady smells. Taste comes in mildly sweet, roasty, molasses, pit fruit, woody. Chewy mouth feel, warmth from the alcohol. An already great brew made better with the right choice of barrel aging.

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Photo of JonCorbett
4.3/5  rDev +2.4%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

Appearance: Nice stout black, with slight orange touches of light at the edges. A quick to recede light tan head the ends up looking like Sherman Hemsley's pate (i.e. George Jefferson) - has a slight ring of foam residual, no lace, and a nearly clean crown.

Aromatics: Lots of dark fruit raisin, date, fig, and hits of toffee and coffee with a kiss or two of vanilla, scotch, and oak. Simple but complexly combined.

Taste: My first sip had was an nice smokey malted rye - diving headfirst into a smoother and creamier but bold coffee that has been strained through a small shred of undried tabacco leaf. My aftertaste had an almost molasses flavour linger, earthy and woody but nice.

Palate: Heavier side of medium that's for sure. And the carbonation has its show, but makes way for the creamy and smooth almost syrup like liquid. Has a juicy and maybe even a bit sticky like quality. And a great light whiskey warming, and maybe a bit of a cat tongue abrasion in the linger.

Overall: A really nice whiskey ale. Not sure what else to say other than I enjoyed it immensely. It has a lot of fantastic attributes, sure it could use a little extra pizazz here and there, but I still feel like Randolph and Mortimer Duke from Trading Places (w/ Akroyd and Murphy). All hoity toity with my fancy drink in hand discussing stock trades with potential clients at some swanky art gallery opening, that has an exhibit of some up-and-coming artist whose work is complete rubbish but the socialites and people with more money than brains have exalted into a shower of obscene stardom. That's how this ale makes me feel - and that is awesome (in a fictional world of course, because if it were in the real world I would be really ashamed of myself) BAHAHA.

Pairing: This is an interesting one because it already has a great husky and smokey voice - like Janis Joplin. Normally in a scotch/whiskey I'd go for "the uussjj" - things like cheese, smoked fish, or dark chocolate rich desserts. But here I think it really deserves some good hearty smoked beef ribs. The sauce needs to be kept to a minimum you really want the "smoked" element to be as high as possible. And add a side of chilled (and lightly dressed) coleslaw just to introduce some acidity.

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Photo of Bitterbill
3.48/5  rDev -17.1%
look: 4.25 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.25 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.25

Bottled September 2014.

Great looking pitch black brew with an ample amount of tannish foam.

Big caramel malt smell bordering on notes of butterscotch. .in other words, oxidation. Some dark fruit.

Tastes of caramel and oxidation. Butterscotch is there and will probably grow as time goes by. Some dark fruit hints. Whiskey seems to be playing second fiddle. Some, most English Old Ales/Barleywines with a heaping helping of oxidation, I dig. In this one, not so much.

High end of medium bodied, low carbonation.

It is not as bad as I may have portrayed it in what I said above. I will say that I have no desire to drink it again. I appreciate the smaller bottle presentation.

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Ola Dubh Special Reserve 18 from Harviestoun Brewery Ltd.
Beer rating: 93 out of 100 with 481 ratings