Ola Dubh Special Reserve 18
Harviestoun Brewery Ltd.

Ola Dubh Special Reserve 18Ola Dubh Special Reserve 18
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Old Ale
Ranked #11
Ranked #2,018
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: 179 | Ratings: 493 | Log in to view all ratings and sort
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backblast from Alaska

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

Ha a nice barrel/booze note along with dark malt and brown sugar. There is a very nice earthiness to it mixed with fig and a mild bitterness to it and a silky mouthfeel. Nice one!

Feb 26, 2021
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taxandbeerguy from Canada (ON)

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

330 ml bottle served cold-ish into a chalice. LCBO purchase for $8.40 CDN. Bottled July 2020. Bottle number 05867.

Appearance - Pours a very dark brown, near black color. Small film of light tan head rets on top and fizzles out in less than a minute. Drowns out the light even when held up against it.

Smell - Treacle and molasses some whisky and oak notes. Some subtle smoke. A light fruitiness at the back end, some combination of prunes and raisins.

Taste - Smoke and whiskey with some molasses in there. Bitter but not assertively so. Some frutiness of the aforementioned raisins and prunes (and plums). Wood throughout but just lending a helping hand to everything rather than starring. Really nice balance of flavors.

Mouthfeel - Medium-full bodied, carbonation is quite light although does finish prickly. Finish is lavish and full then turns dry in the post-swallow.

Overall - Really nice rendition of Ola Dubh, one of the better ones in the lineup. Based on my notes, it's not quite as good as the 30, but better than the 12 and the 18. A great sipper with a wonderful medley of aromas and flavors. Well worth picking a few up, some to drink fresh and these can also be aged for some time.

Jan 06, 2021
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DvdP from Netherlands

4.07/5  rDev -3.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Bottle 08122, Feb. 2017. Pours black, tiny bit of light head. Smells very whisky-like, coffee. Mouthfeel is rather light, compared to more modern stuff, but not disturbing. Taste is nicely subtly whisky first, plenty of roast, coffee. All nicely subtle.

Nov 11, 2020
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OK_Denise from Oklahoma

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

I honestly do not know a lot about this style of beer, sorry. My opinion of it is that it is very good but the finish is a bit strong and not something I really enjoy. Again, that is just my taste. I read the style notes and this beer meets those, no problem. It is not a bad ale at all, but I just can't rate it higher than I did based upon my specific tastes.

May 31, 2020
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SierraNevallagash from Maine

4.19/5  rDev -0.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4.25

11.2oz bottle - Bottled Sept. 2014 - poured into a mini stem at 48°F. Purchased locally in Portland for about $10.

Pours a motor oil brown, sitting pitch black in the glass, topped with half a finger of creamy, airy light brown head that quickly recedes to a big soapy collar. If you look closely, plenty of fine effervescence is visible.

Nose: Roasty malt that lands somewhere between imperial stout, barleywine, and black ale. There is a ton of organic chocolate, and it really truly translates as a glass of chocolate milk made with chocolate syrup. Notes of caramel, toffee, vanilla, molasses, and a ton of oak. I do get the whisky character, but I do not get any of that Highland Park smoky peat. In fact, I'm not sure I'd even peg this as malt whisky. All the sweet oak, caramel, and molasses gives it a real bourbon vibe. Still, plenty of oak and spirit. There's also a hefty dark fruit presence as well. Deep, colourful nose. No ABV. Edit: After sitting and opening up, this glass just wafts peat across the room. Bumping up the score a notch.

Palate: The ale greets the palate with roasty malt that lends plenty of cocoa, roast, a hint of fresh coffee, as well as some caramel, molasses, and plenty of vanilla notes. The roast is reminiscent of a very traditional Russian imperial stout. The whisky cask is very apparent, only this time, I am getting a really perfect amount of that Highland Park 18 peat. The oak lends plenty of additional vanilla, some leather, tobacco, and the scotch brings some additional maltiness, vanilla, subtle dark fruit, and a gentle caress of smoky Orkney peat with notes of ashy smoke, campfire, a hint of brine and a whisper of iodine. The roasty malt really helps to compliment that peat. This peat comes out much more in bigger sips. The sweeter, nuttier, maltier notes from the malt begin to fade, allowing the roast and peat to intermingle with a bit of fairly tannic oak for good measure. A slightly metallic dry stout note shows up, but it's almost not even there. The finish itself sees the roast really fade away, leaving behind some residual peat, and some seriously tannic and drying oak. No trace of hops.

Mouthfeel/Body: Not sure if this is technically a black ale, a porter, or a stout, and while it has the roast of a stout, it's definitely a smaller, thinner ale, and in terms of body and feel, fits more within the black ale or perhaps porter category. At 8% ABV, I don't expect a whole lot, and on the front end, there is a touch of viscosity, but it thins out quickly and takes on the feel of a slightly heftier porter. Effervescence is average, and considering the age, is actually somewhat impressive. Round up front, very tannic and drying finish. Minimal stickiness.

Overall: I've had this bottle a long time. I've looked forward to drinking it for a long time. Beers like this aren't good forever, and I knew a 6 year old bottle could be a gamble. I am shocked how great this is drinking right now. The smoky peat is still very much present, there is zero sign of oxidation - no cardboard, no heavy metallic flavour, no butter, and it still has a crispness about it. There's no hop influence, but it doesn't harm the ale, and the oak provides a touch of bitterness. Effervescence is still great, it's bold, roasty, peaty, and aside from a slightly thin feel, this has everything you could want it to. If you have a bottle of '14, drink it now!

Apr 07, 2020
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Mebuzzard from Colorado

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

Jul 22, 2019
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GuyFawkes from Illinois

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.

Jun 17, 2019
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LiquidAmber from Washington

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.

May 11, 2019
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josanguapo from Spain

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

Aug 17, 2018
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TreyIsWilson from Michigan

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.

Jul 17, 2018
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Holderness from Massachusetts

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


Jun 03, 2018
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connecticutpoet from Connecticut

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.

Jan 13, 2018
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brentk56 from North Carolina

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

Nov 14, 2017
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puck1225 from Texas

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!

Sep 01, 2017
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The_Kriek_Freak from Pennsylvania

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.

Jul 24, 2017
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SHODriver from North Carolina

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.

Apr 24, 2017
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VoxRationis from New York

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.

Apr 19, 2017
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EMH73 from New York

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.

Mar 30, 2017
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woodychandler from Pennsylvania

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.

Mar 26, 2017
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pkalix from California

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....

Mar 03, 2017
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Bruno74200 from France

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!

Feb 20, 2017
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mjwellman from Texas

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.

Feb 16, 2017
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qrazvan from Romania

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.

Feb 10, 2017
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Zythophile from District of Columbia

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.

Feb 07, 2017
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Thomas_Wikman from Texas

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.

Feb 06, 2017
Ola Dubh Special Reserve 18 from Harviestoun Brewery Ltd.
Beer rating: 93 out of 100 with 493 ratings