Ola Dubh Special Reserve 18 | Harviestoun Brewery Ltd.

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Ola Dubh Special Reserve 18Ola Dubh Special Reserve 18

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: 164 | Ratings: 453
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
4.18/5  rDev -0.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Bottle no. 24730, date Sept 2014.
A: Very dark brown, essentially black. Minimal khaki head that dissipates rapidly, some lacing.
S: Dark malts, caramel, peat smoke, and bacon.
T: Dark malts, 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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Photo of ccg
4.01/5  rDev -4.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4

It has about a finger of light tan head on top of its black oil body. Amazingly thick legs and sticky lacing. Head retention is excellent. The smell is dominated by those scotch whisky casks -- it's all smoky peat and oak. There's some subtle malt and hops underneath trying to get out, but the peat is stronger. That's not to say that it's a peat bomb. It's fairly smooth on the nose. Flavor is fairly similar. There's plenty of smoky peat on top of a solid base of that comes across much more like a stout than an old ale -- it tastes like roasted malt with some coffee notes. I could be wrong, but I feel like hops are mingling with the peat in a way that creates a mildly unpleasant metallic note, but overall it's still tasty and unique. The mouthfeel is the only real disappointment. It's not bad, especially considering that this is sold as an Old Ale, but that pitch black beer, its name (Black Oil) and knowing that it's aged in Highland Park casks all lead me to expect the dense chewiness of a barrel-aged stout. Maybe it's unfair to judge it based on a different style, but I think this beer is setting that expectation. Regardless, it's quite good, and the smokiness from the scotch sets it apart.

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Photo of Rockjocknroll
4.34/5  rDev +3.3%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25

Vintage 2012. Oxidation on the nose..metallic... But tons of woody peat. Lacing on the beer stays forever. Malt has backed off a lot. More peat and chocolate roast flavor. A delicious and wonderful whiskey lovers beer.

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Photo of Slatetank
4.34/5  rDev +3.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

This is a fantastic dark strong ale from Scotland -enjoyed in a snifter chilled from the bottle
this particular bottle is the 2012 version.

The color is almost black with head that comes and goes leaving lace in spots. The smell is luxurious with cocoa, caramel and deep whisky spice-like aroma with a subtle dark fruit smell. The feel is very good with subtle sweetness moderate carbonation and mild alcohol influence on the palate with a dry finish.

The taste is great with so much malt and barrel complexity from the Scotch whisky with a nice earthy almost spiced brownie type taste with mild cocoa and a gentle yeast accent adding to the complexity with stone fruit in the back and drying whisky woodiness. This is a complex beer with great drinkability for an 8% abv scotch ale you get a smoothness that is not rivaled in other beers of this style.

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

This one smells at first like a wee heavy scotch ale. That means caramel-like dessert (a flan or something) backed by dark fruits (raisin mostly). But there's some strong notes in there, that tobacco/leather smells from strong stouts that aren't on the sweet side. The taste is like a wee heavy scotch ale again, but with the malty backbone of the whisky cask. It's not too bitter, unlike some American stouts that can feel too strong. The smokiness at the end is very interesting, it really reminds you of the Highland Park whisky casks it's been aged in, it's not the same smokiness as the roasted malt flavor which is definitely there as well, but on the taste, not the finish. It's subtle though. Overall, it's very balanced, very british. I wished the smell were stronger, it tends to fade too quickly, especially since the foam disappears in seconds. Don't listen to people who keep talking about chocolate and coffee for this beer. This definitely is not the main aroma there. Think of an English porter mixed with a Scotch ale, with smoky whisky flavors. A long way from the classic chocolate/coffee stouts...

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Photo of Hat_Fulla_Beer
4.27/5  rDev +1.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

330ml bottle poured into tulip. 2015 vintage.

Pours almost totally black with a thin cap of mocha head that leaves distant storm system lace as it recedes.

Smells of melted black chocolate, coffee, cigar box, new leather, burnt brown sugar, smoked caramel, scotch whiskey, dried dark fruit, boozy barrel wood and faint leafy hops.

Tastes of semi-sweet cocoa powder, roasted nuts, more fine scotch, vanilla pods, mild smoky char, cold coffee, oak barrel staves and more faint green hops.

Feels suprisingly light. Medium-full bodied with velvety carbonation. Finishes mildly dry.

Verdict: Vigorously recommended. Alcohol is sneaky on this one, so watch out.

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Photo of MacMalt
4.34/5  rDev +3.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Poured into tulip glass. It pours jet black with a thin, khaki-colored head and lacing. It has a very pleasant smell of caramel, coffee, raisin, fig, peat, tobacco, and whisky. The taste is interesting and really good: earthy peat, tobacco, raisin, fig, nuts, coffee, caramel and, of course, the whisky. There is also some oakiness, spice, and smoke. What's really impressive is that these disparate tastes blend so smoothly. I really like the feel of this ale: it's heavy in body for an ale (which I like) and light in carbonation. You can feel the alcohol at 8% ABV but it isn't overpowering. This ale would pare well with a hearty meal but you could also drink it in a pub before a fire on a cold day. Slàinte Mhath!

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Photo of superspak
4.2/5  rDev 0%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

330 ml bottle into snifter, bottled in 10/2014. Pours opaque dark brown/black color with a 1 finger dense khaki head with good retention, that reduces to a thin cap that lingers. Light spotty lacing clings around the glass, with a fair amount of streaming carbonation. Aromas of big chocolate, cocoa, molasses, toffee, raisin, plum, fig, toasted dark bread, whiskey, oak, peat smoke, leather, tobacco, light nuttiness/char, light vanilla, and oak/toasted earthiness. Damn nice aromas with great balance and complexity of dark/roast/bready malt and scotch barrel notes; with great strength. Taste of big chocolate, cocoa, molasses, toffee, raisin, plum, fig, toasted dark bread, whiskey, oak, peat smoke, leather, tobacco, light nuttiness/char, light vanilla, and oak/toasted earthiness. Light-medium roasted bitterness and whiskey/oak spiciness on the finish; with lingering notes of chocolate, cocoa, molasses, toffee, raisin, plum, fig, toasted dark bread, whiskey, oak, peat smoke, leather, tobacco, light nuttiness/char, light vanilla, and oak/toasted earthiness on the finish for a while. Fantastic complexity, robustness, and balance of dark/roast/bready malt and scotch barrel flavors with a great malt/bitter/oak spiciness balance and zero cloying flavors after the finish. Light-moderate dryness from roast bitterness and oak spiciness as well. Light-medium carbonation and medium-full bodied; with a very smooth, creamy/bready, and fairly sticky/chalky balanced mouthfeel that is great. Alcohol is very well hidden with only a slight warmth lingering after the finish. Overall this is an outstanding old ale style. All around awesome complexity, robustness, and balance of dark/roast/bready malt and soctch barrel flavors; and very smooth and easy to sip on for the ABV. A highly enjoyable offering.

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Photo of bnes09
3.8/5  rDev -9.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.75

First of all, I love the idea of aging in scotch barrels. Pours a dense black liquid with peanut butter brown head. Leaves a ring around the liquid and forms some nice lacing.

Rich, smoky, sausage-like aroma. Almost like a mild rauchbier. Subtle toasty notes of burnt wheat and corn. Hint of wood.

Palate imparts delicate roasted tones of toasted bread grains, roasted peanuts and burnt molasses. Smoked meat adds a kick to the senses. Earthy hops fail to assert themselves as their flavor resembles that of the malt. Just the slightest touch of wood and scotch flavor without a strong bite. Finishes on the dry side and fairly clean. Slightly off-balanced. It seems to need a little more sweetness (and possibly a balancing hop character.)

Sturdy body. Slightly under-carbonated. Leaves a gritty texture on the tongue well after drinking.

Overall, an A for effort and originality but it doesn't succeed in all areas for me. I would prefer more pronounced flavors, a better balance and no gritty after texture.

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Photo of MrDell
4.14/5  rDev -1.4%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 5 | overall: 4


Harviestoun Brewery Ltd. - Ola Dubh Special Reserve 18
Old Ale - 8% - 330ml bottle – Bottled September 2014 - Best before 09.17

This beer apparently originates as a porter named Old Engine Oil only its brewed at a higher strength than usual, and is then aged is Highland Park whisky casks. This particular variation having been left to do its thing in a cask that previously contained their "smoky, sweet and perfectly balanced" 18 year old single malt. First impressions: a very nicely presented beer in a black bottle with a very detailed label and tag around the neck of the bottle. Bottled in September 2014 (15 months ago).

Appearance: Black, small tan head. Medium levels of carbonation.

Aroma: Reminds of Thornbridge Hall's Double Scotch ale. Can smell the whisky as well as earthy tones, coffee and caramel.

Taste: Upfront you get the burnt toast, coffee and roasted malt flavours as you'd expect with the base beer being a porter. You then get the whisky influence in the middle followed some sweetness, like toffee and then a very long, ever so slightly bitter, roasted, smoky finish.

Mouth feel: The first thing that strikes you, even before the taste, is just how smooth and soft this beer is on the palate - like velvet.

Overall: Very enjoyable, if you like big stouts and porters this is a must try. 10 / 10 for mouth feel, as it's the smoothest beer I've ever had and 8.5 / 10 for the overall experience. Certainly one to savour.

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Photo of 1Nrwyscotch
3.81/5  rDev -9.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.75

Look: It is almost black with a maybe a 1/4 light brown head with what I thought was an aggressive pour.
Smell: I'm dealing with some sinus issues so all I get is malt and alcohol.
Taste: Malt dominates and the whiskey barrel is definitely there but just accenting the flavor, subtle whiskey flavor.
Feel: Its light bodied.
Overall: It is interesting but I personally would like more barrel flavor. I find it very easy drinking with some solid malt flavor with a touch of the whiskey barrel.

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Ola Dubh Special Reserve 18 from Harviestoun Brewery Ltd.
4.2 out of 5 based on 453 ratings.
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