Dismiss Notice
We're celebrating 10 years of BeerAdvocate magazine with $10 print subscriptions for US residents.

Subscribe now!

Ola Dubh Special Reserve 18 | Harviestoun Brewery Ltd.

Log in or Sign up to start rating.
149 Reviews
no score
Send samples
Ola Dubh Special Reserve 18Ola Dubh Special Reserve 18

Brewed by:
Harviestoun Brewery Ltd.
United Kingdom (Scotland)

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

For Trade:
View: Beers | Events
User Reviews
Sort by:  Recent | High | Low | Top Raters
first ← prev | 1-25 | 26-50 | 51-75  | nextlast
Reviews: 149 | Ratings: 428
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.

 686 characters

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.

 1,210 characters

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.

 218 characters

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.

 855 characters

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...

 1,119 characters

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.

 660 characters

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!

 730 characters

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.

 1,809 characters

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.

 1,030 characters

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.

 1,466 characters

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.

 492 characters

Photo of hman43
4.1/5  rDev -2.4%
look: 5 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Look: It pours black with a dark brown head which is tightly packed and small.

Smell: It has aromas of whiskey, nutty, dried fruit, and vinous,

Taste: It has a smokey malt flavor with whiskey and nut flavors. There are also flavors of dried fruit and a vinous characteristic. The roasted malts are the most prominent in the beginning rounding out with whiskey and dried fruit in the middle with the vinous coming towards the end. The whiskey flavors compliment the malts without being overly dominate.

Feel: It has a moderately high feel to it with a bitter finish. The finish does provide alcohol warming as well.

Overall: It is a roasty malt brew with sweeten flavors and whiskey elements from the barrel aging. It is well balanced in that the whiskey and malts compliment and blend well together.

 806 characters

Photo of brycemc
3.73/5  rDev -11.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4.25

July 2011, bottle number 71190, cellar temp (~55 F). Drank from a goblet. Mostly aged at cellar temp, but it probably spent 6 months or so in a box in the office at some point.

Look: Poured deep black into a goblet. Small 1" head after a vigorous pour dissipated very quickly, leaving a sticky lacing ring of head around the edges.

Smell: Surprisingly mild. I get definite woody notes, burnt sugar, maybe a bit of coffee. Something a bit spicy too.

Taste: Wow. Lots going on here. Burnt sugar dominates, with a carbon character (not bad though). Front pallet has a very slightly vinous character, as does the mid, like most old ales. Get wood and whiskey slightly on the back end, with just a hint of the alcohol. LONG finish, developing into vanilla/brown sugar, with the burnt character remaining.

Mouthfeel: Typical of an old ale, thinner, but with enough body to carry the big flavors. Not unpleasant, would personally prefer a bit bigger, but this feels right for the ale. As it warms, it's getting bigger.

This is a unique one, and I'm enjoying it. I need to get a current vintage soon to compare, as it seems this one still has tons of potential left; I feel like I could have aged it another couple years at least, but without something recent to compare, not sure.

 1,296 characters

Photo of captaincoffee
3.99/5  rDev -5%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4

Deep and dark with a smallish but dense tan head, no lacing. Nose is syrupy with coffee, burnt toffee, and slight woody notes. Flavor is not as sweet as nose suggested. Coffee is there along with a touch of peat. Short finish. Just gone within seconds of drinking. Honestly, the scotch (which I'm a fan of) just doesnt work in this beer. Nice mouthfeel. Overall, prettygood, but did not meet expectations on the flavor at all. The base beer (Old Engine Oil) is a much better beer IMHO.

 491 characters

Photo of ChrisP802
4.22/5  rDev +0.5%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25

Pour - partially transparent black pour, small tan head, receding fast with leftover lacing
Smell - chocolate and whiskey
Taste - lighter than expected, but not lacking in flavor. very well balanced
Overall - somewhat chewy feel to it, but still drinkable

 255 characters

Photo of Marius
3.93/5  rDev -6.4%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.75

Pitch black pour with a very nice head and visible carbonation. Heavy smell of peat, with some cocoa and dark chocolate. Peat and smoke in the taste, on top of a very sweet malty backbone - too sweet for my taste. Not much complexion aside from that. Drinkable beer, but the taste is a let down, but I have never liked peated beers too much.

 341 characters

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

look: Nearly opaque brown, almost jet black. Come cola highlights. Smattering of a tan head.
smell: charred and roasty. Some sweetness and vanilla. Some smoky peat and whisky.
taste: sweet malt balanced by a bitter , smoky char.

 228 characters

Photo of SportsandJorts
4.04/5  rDev -3.8%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Appearance: pours a deep mahogany verging on black. a strong handed pour gives a 2 finger light tan head, that fades fairly quickly but leaves behind a small lacing. dark and opaque.

Smell: a mix of sweet toffee and earthy slightly smoky peat. scotch soaked dark fruits. strong wooden and earthy qualities.

Taste: opens with dark fruits. mostly figs and dried fruits. oak filters in with an amazingly smooth whisky taste. sweet toffee mixes with peat for a sweet and slightly smoky taste.

Mouthfeel: incredibly balanced and smooth. fairly light bodied but the depth of flavors and strength keep it from coming off as overly thin.

Overall: not a big barrel aged beers that are all the rage but if you can get passed that you are in for a great beer. incredibly smooth and balanced. lots of great character crammed into this beer. the alcohol will never come off as strong or astringent but it is enough to warm you slowly.

 927 characters

Photo of Jeffo
3.25/5  rDev -22.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 2 | overall: 3

Got this one in Bodegraven. Drank the 16, then the 18 and then the 21 yr. Some notes for comparison.

From a 33cl bottle into a snifter
March 2014

APPEARANCE: A clear dark brown pour yields a 1 finger, medium looking, creamy and bubbly light tan head with good retention. Head fades to a full swirly wisp. Bistre brown body with no carbonation evident. A swirly wisp remains until the end leaving touches of lacing down the glass. Same as the 16 yr.

SMELL: Some decent peated whisky, aromas of leather and some dark chocolate on the nose. Medium strength. Nice, but not overly impressive. Similary to the 16 with a touch more peat.

TASTE: More peated whisky, leather and smoky flavors up front. More earthy notes at the swallow with a medium strength but lingering finish of peat, earthy hops, leather, some dark chocolate, toffee and raisins. Flavorful with some well balanced peat and smoky notes. Just as the 16 but with more peat and smoky character.

PALATE: Thinner and foamier body with medium-high levels of carbonation. A bit lighter on the palate, goes down fine and finishes slightly drier.

OVERALL: Same as the 16 but just a touch more peat and smoke here. The body is a little foamier, which is unfortunate, but otherwise, it's a solid brew and worth checking out. Still doesn't hold a candle to that 2010 12 yr I had last year, but maybe nothing will...

 1,383 characters

Photo of manfromanotherplace
4.21/5  rDev +0.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

Incredible how much these ola dubhs Differ.....12 was good,16 was very good,18 was excellentl but not quite as good as the 21....each one more refined.cant wait for the 30.

 172 characters

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

Black and blacker.
Prunes and figs.
Hint of chocolate. Some oak with a touch of Scotch. Light peat. Subtle.
Mild and long. Sweet but not sticky.

 155 characters

Photo of pat61
4.66/5  rDev +11%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

L: Pours nearly black with a quickly receding thin tan foam cap.
S: Rich malt and moderate scotch aromas, some fruit.
T: The Highland Park Scotch shows up stronger on the palate than on the nose supported by complex malt flavors, a light sweetness, hints of fruit and rich vanilla flavors.
F: Chewy with medium low carbonation, very smooth.
O: A wonderful old ale provides a rich base for fine whiskey flavors.

 414 characters

Photo of brewskifan55
4.15/5  rDev -1.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

Poured into a tulip glass. Thanks, Alan.

A: Tar black with a tan half finger head that lingered. Nice lacing.

S: Currants, port wine, dark fruit. Nutty

T: Ancient goodness. The port wine decadence shines in with peat, vanilla, bready malts, dark chocolate and perhaps a bit of Scotch. Sip slowly, my friends.

M: Thick and viscous. Chewy, robust, dry with medium carbonation.

O: I feel honored to get to try one of these beauties. A definite "share" beer.

 475 characters

Photo of MacGyver88
4.91/5  rDev +16.9%
look: 4.75 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.75

According to the label, it was bottled in 2011. Poured a nice inky black, but with very little head. The taste was exceptional and smooth, with the scotch present the whole time but never overpowering. Though the head was slight, it did lace the glass nicely as I drank it. Overall, a wonderful experience.

 310 characters

Photo of Ciocanelu
4.4/5  rDev +4.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Black color with brown head. Aroma has peated scotch and dried plums. Taste starts very balanced with peat, dark roasted malts, smoked ham, dried plums and figs. Not sweet but not too bitter either. Medium to full bodied with soft carbonation. Overall it's a really complex yet easy drinking ale.

 296 characters

first ← prev | 1-25 | 26-50 | 51-75  | nextlast
Ola Dubh Special Reserve 18 from Harviestoun Brewery Ltd.
4.2 out of 5 based on 428 ratings.
  • About Us

    Your go-to website for beer (since 1996), publishers of BeerAdvocate magazine (since 2006) and hosts of world-class beer events (since 2003). Respect Beer.
  • Extreme Beer Fest® Cometh

    February 3-4, 2017. Boston, Mass. Limited tickets available. Prepare for epicness.

    Learn More
  • Free Trial Subscription

    Reside in the US? Interested in a free 1-month trial subscription to the print edition of BeerAdvocate magazine?

    Yes! Sign Me Up!