Ola Dubh Special Reserve 18
Harviestoun Brewery Ltd.

Ola Dubh Special Reserve 18Ola Dubh Special Reserve 18
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Harviestoun Brewery Ltd.
Scotland, United Kingdom
English Stout
Ranked #6
Ranked #3,490
4.18 | pDev: 9.81%
Feb 22, 2024
Jan 29, 2009
Note: This beer is 8% ABV in bottle, 10.5% in cask and keg.

Ola Dubh 18 (pronounced ‘ola-doo’ and Gaelic for ‘black oil’) is what you get when you age Old Engine Oil in casks formerly used to mature Highland Park 18 (‘Best Spirit in the World’), which imparts a fruity, whisky character into our rich, dark beer.

Ola Dubh was conceived in 2007. It was the first ale to be matured in whisky barrels from a named distillery and, with traceable casks and numbered bottles, it is a beer with real provenance. To make Ola Dubh 18, we take our Old Engine Oil (amped up to 10.5%) and age it for up to 6 months in casks that previously held Highland Park 18 Year Old single malt. And it is ready only when our head brewer, Stuart, deems it ready!

The initial whisky hit on the nose gives way to more delicate aromas of chocolate, fruity coffee grounds and hints of woodland berries. The flavour is a very appetising blend of sweet malts, vanilla, oak and tobacco. It has undertones of raisins and other dark, dried fruits; a delicious testament to Highland Park’s bias toward sherry casks.

HOPS: Galena, East Kent Goldings, Fuggles
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Ratings by kodt:
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Rated by kodt from Illinois

4.24/5  rDev +1.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Feb 05, 2024
More User Ratings:
Rated: 5 by doctorgary from New York

Feb 22, 2024
Rated: 4.5 by bigred89 from Maryland

Jan 28, 2024
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Reviewed by kitch from Hong Kong

4.04/5  rDev -3.3%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4
A 330ml black foiled and capped bottle, bottle no. 08466, bottled in October 2021, and a best before end date of November 2024. Poured into a snifter glass.

Appearance: Dark brown to black in colour with a half finger beige head that dissipated fairly quickly to a ring around the glass, while leaving some nice lacing.

Aroma: Roasted malts, chocolate, nutty, dried dark fruit, whisky, with light notes of caramel and peat.

Taste: Roasted malts, dark chocolate, coffee bean, whisky, oak, light nutty, a touch bitter, with notes of smoke.

Mouthfeel: Medium bodied with soft carbonation.

Overall: Aroma and flavours were balanced, but I probably prefer the 16 slightly more with the extra dark fruit and sweetness.
Jan 26, 2024
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Reviewed by colts9016 from Idaho

4.25/5  rDev +1.7%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25
Name: Ola Dubh
Brewery: Harviestoun Brewery
Location: Scotland
Style: English Stout
ABV: 8%
Date: 09/2014
I am drinking Ola Dubh today using a pint glass. I served it at 48 degrees. I did not know this beer was almost ten years old and only at 8%. This has me slightly concerned. The last beer I drank this old was a high-ABV BBA Stout. Prying the cap off, I hear this delightful hiss. Carbonation still exists, which is a good sign. The pour created an airy, creamy, three-fingered, light tan head with above-average retention. The color is dark brown, nearly black, charting around SRM 38. The somewhat slow dissipation left no lacing on the glass. This style's overall appearance is above average, especially being this old.
The initial aromas are scotch, peat, char oak, and dark roasted malts. There are no off-flavors from what I can smell; this is another good sign. Swirling the glass a few times, I smell herbal, light floral esters( hard to pin down precisely what), robust coffee, light solvent(maybe alcohol), and dark chocolate. The beer smells like an Irish stout but has more depth. I am enjoying the aromas; they are intriguing.
I am surprised by this beer. The unique flavor compounds tantalize my palate. I am not tasting any of the flavors. This beer is akin to an Irish stout. I taste these huge, malty flavors that are slightly charred: chocolate, toasted grains, caramel, and bready. The beer has an earthy, herbal, and floral dry hop profile. The scotch barrel aging comes through as a complement to the beer. I taste light peat, oak barrels, scotch, and sea air.
The mouthfeel is medium, dry, and slightly astringent. The body is medium, and the carbonation is low.
These types of beers are why I have this fascination. I love this beer. The harmony and balance is ideal.
Dec 15, 2023
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Rated by robotic_being from Illinois

4.02/5  rDev -3.8%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4
Bottled on Sept. 2014.
Drank on Oct. 2023.
Oct 11, 2023
Rated: 4.17 by WillieThreebiers from Connecticut

Aug 03, 2022
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Reviewed by Rug from Massachusetts

4.06/5  rDev -2.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4
No canning date

Well, I wanted to move up sequentially after trying the 12 and work my way up to the 40, but I ended up finding this one before the 14 & 16. Oh well. I found the 12 a bit strange but overall enjoyable. Let’s crack this one open and see what it’s all about

Pours completely pitch black with a finger of dark tan head that slowly fades to a ring and leaves decent lacing

The fruit really carries this in the nose, and feels like one of those beers that’s intentionally slightly oxidized. I’m picking up on aromas of raisins, dark chocolate, black cherry, light roast coffee, sherry, sweet toffee, earthy whiskey, and light molasses

Wow, this takes a pretty different approach in taste. It still has fruity notes but the roasted malt dominates. On the front end of the sip I’m tasting medium roast coffee, toasted malt, licorice, raisin, earthy whiskey, light vanilla, and toffee. The swallow brings notes of peat smoke, raisin, toasted malt, molasses, black cherry, oak, and light sherry

A medium full body pairs with gentle carbonation, resulting in a silky beer. Finishes neutral but a tad boozy

Once again, this is pretty strange, but a really fun kind of strange. I hope to keep trying the others
Jul 28, 2022
Rated: 4.38 by jmbeerdude91 from Arizona

Apr 23, 2022
Rated: 4.16 by ColForbinBC from New Jersey

Apr 11, 2022
Rated: 4.65 by igl from Russian Federation

Feb 26, 2022
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Reviewed by Snowcrash000 from Germany

4.21/5  rDev +0.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25
Pours a pitch-black coloration with a medium, frothy, lasting head. Smells of caramel, slightly roasted malt and strong dark/red fruit notes of plum, fig and red currant, as well as hints of vanilla and musty oak. Taste is an excellent balance of caramel, slightly roasted malt and strong notes of dark fruit and red berries, with notes of plum, fig, red currant and cranberry, as well as hints of honey, vanilla, licorice and musty oak. Finishes with a light sweetness and some plum, red currant and honey lingering in the aftertaste. Smooth mouthfeel with a rich body and light/medium carbonation.

I think that the Sherry casks used for Highland Park are really coming through here quite strongly with some rather distinct dark fruit and red berry notes that certainly lend a certain richness and complexity to this along with lighter honey, vanilla, licorice and oak accents. While I would have wished for a bit more thick mouthfeel here, there's still a good body to this, especially considering the ABV. I would love to try this at full cask strength, but it still makes for a rather complex and well-balanced brew that's a joy to drink.
Feb 20, 2022
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Reviewed by Treyliff from West Virginia

4.32/5  rDev +3.3%
look: 5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25
8.4oz can poured into a snifter

A- pours jet black in color with a one-finger creamy khaki head that has long retention after the pour

S- aroma is fruity initially, with notes of plums, raisins and blueberries. Undertones of chocolate, char and licorice. The scotch barrel pops through at the end, adding subtle oak, honey and just a hint of peat

T- sweet and chocolatey up front, followed by a bright fruity note that adds fresh berries and some ashy malt. The finish gives honey and chocolate, with a linger of caramel and berries, just a hint of peat sticks around on the linger with more charred malt

M- medium body with moderate carbonation leads to a creamy mouthfeel that continues into a silky, velvety finish

O- fantastic balance between the barrel and beer with a great mouthfeel
Feb 09, 2022
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Reviewed by SABERG from Massachusetts

4.16/5  rDev -0.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4
Poured from an 8.4 oz can into the test glass
A - Coal black, a thin mocha cap, recedes to create a ring during the remaining time
S - Dark malt, dark cherry, vanilla, 100% cocoa, and some char
T - Complicated like the nose, Whiskey elements include, charred malt, oak, cigar wrap tobacco. then add a lovely chocolate and dark fruit base.
M - Medium to heavy, sweet all the way through, finish is luxurious.
O - I will be purchasing more of this, a long sipper that saturates the senses.
Dec 24, 2021
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Reviewed by DokiDokiLitFam from New Jersey

3.86/5  rDev -7.7%
look: 4.25 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4 | overall: 4
Pours out a dark brown with a finger of khaki head. I thought this was a stout for a second, seeing the color of this pour.

Nose is a roasty, acrid, spicy maltiness. Underneath is some toffee and very faint whiffs of dark fruit. Sometimes I get a hint of sweetness on the nose, but in other instances I get nothing but the burnt smelling malt. Almost like burnt toast.

Taste is a little more inviting. That dark bitter malt shows up immediately, but then gives way to the whiskey and mild hints of butterscotch. The roasty bitterness more or less persists throughout the entirety of the tasting. There is some bakers chocolate as well but that burnt toast flavor dominates.

Mouthfeel is standard. Medium bodied with low carbonation. Smooth and easy drinking.

Overall this is not what I expected. This is a very different Old Ale. I'm not sure where all that bitterness comes from but it feels like I'm drinking an RIS. It honestly feels like it has as much bitterness as an Old Rasputin, but without the stout character. Strange.
Dec 18, 2021
Rated: 4.25 by shigg85 from Japan

Nov 16, 2021
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Reviewed by MikeWard from Pennsylvania

3.76/5  rDev -10%
look: 4.25 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.75
8.4oz can into a 12oz glass. No freshness dating could be found.

Looks pretty good in the glass. Nasty looking jet black body with a persistent tan head which produces a little lacing.

Smells a bit like a well liquored up Olde Englishe fruit cake.

On tasting, the whisky aspect dominates, making it seem farm stronger than the 8abv listed on the can. Quite rich, very warming.

Mouth above medium, finish whisky.

Overall, way too boozy for this palate. I let it warm to see if any other flavors would appear. They did not.
Sep 19, 2021
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Reviewed by thehyperduck from Canada (ON)

4.4/5  rDev +5.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4.5
330 mL bottle from the LCBO; best before Sept 2023 and served barely chilled. I've enjoyed the 12y several times, and the 21y once (half a decade ago), so I was immediately pumped when I stumbled across this variant.

Pours an opaque brownish-black colour, with nearly an inch of foamy, frothy tan-coloured head gathering atop. It rises and falls within a matter of minutes, swiftly reduced to a sudsy collar and some bubbly patches on the surface - lookin' good, with sticky spots of lacing left behind as you swirl and/or sip it. Smells rich and luxurious - I'm getting fudge, molasses and caramel blended together with whisky, raisin, oak and vanilla; subtle hints of peat smoke and coffee, too. I could've easily kept sniffing this for ten minutes - it's just that mouth-watering.

So good. Rich dark chocolate, overripe plum and fudge flavours, with toffee, molasses and dark, dried fruit flavours reminiscent of raisin and date. The whisky comes through more on the back end, lending a touch of peat smokiness, oak, vanilla and sherry before a mildly warming aftertaste, with fudge, molasses and raisin lingering on. Medium-full in body, with low carbonation that weakly nudges the surface of the palate; feels silky-smooth, but perhaps a touch thinner than I'd prefer from this sort of beer. Even still, I enjoyed it so much that I almost forgot I was reviewing it at times, and nearly ran out liquid before I'd finished - a sure sign of an impressive ale.

Final Grade: 4.4, a fantastic A grade. Ola Dubh Special Reserve 18 might just be my favourite edition so far, though I suppose I'd need to try the 12, 18 and 21 side-by-side to know for sure. It'd certainly be an expensive comparative ranking... but oh man, would my taste buds be overloaded by the end of the night. Satisfied, too - these remain some of my absolutely favourite Scottish beers, and I will continue to encourage BAs to purchase them on sight. Don't let the price tags deter you, they're worth it.
Jun 27, 2021
Rated: 4.75 by Long813 from Canada (ON)

Apr 12, 2021
Rated: 4.5 by msscott1973 from North Carolina

Mar 21, 2021