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Ola Dubh Special Reserve 18 | Harviestoun Brewery Ltd.

148 Reviews
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Ola Dubh Special Reserve 18Ola Dubh Special Reserve 18

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

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: 148 | Ratings: 425
Photo of Dope
4.19/5  rDev -0.2%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Bottle 07117, Feb 2009

A: Really dark brown pour but not quite black. Good sized fluffy light brown head. Fades quickly but a really enduring minimal head sticks around. Decent fluffy swaths of lacing left behind.

S: Lots of umami and smoke in this one. A bit of peat too in fact. Seems to have a lot more barrel character than the 12 I had recently which was the same age.

T: Yes, definitely more barrel character than the 12. Notable peat and smoke up front. Decent chocolate, buried a bit under the scotch. Some caramel throughout and some vanilla in the finish, all to sweeten it up and balance out the peat and smoke.

M: Nice medium body. Very smooth and mellow.

O: Interesting. Lots of scotch in this one, really cranking it up compared to the 12 year version. The 12 was very mellow, this one is a lot more barrel-forward. Stronger flavors in this one as a result. Has the same smooth body that makes it surprisingly drinkable. Nice sweet chocolate, caramel and vanilla to balance it out too. I don't even like scotch and I enjoyed this.

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Photo of Roman5150
4.29/5  rDev +2.1%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4.5

bottle into tulip, bottled 2011

appearance: black with half finger slight off white head, not much lacing

smell: roasted malt, aged whiskey casks, oak, pepper, chocolate, espresso

taste: oak, burnt roasted malt, dark chocolate, a little more watery than expected, slight coffee taste

mouthfeel: medium carbonation, thick full bodied

overall: damn good, like an aged stout, alcohol is completely hidden and there are also some rauchbier qualities present. Very, very good beer for special occasions.

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Photo of acevenom
4.75/5  rDev +13.1%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.75

Poured into a snifter glass. The beer pours jet black with no head. There's a thin light tan ring around the edge of the glass. There are a few tiny visible bubbles along the side of the glass that are rising to the top. The aroma is so awesome on this beer. I get chocolate, toffee, oak, nuts, and maybe just a touch of smokiness and vanilla. I get some of that malt as well, but it blends so well with the other aromas. The flavor is just as awesome as the aroma, though definitely more scotch heavy than the 16. The taste does follow the nose with those chocolate, toffee, vanilla, oak, nuts, and some smokiness. The smell keeps hitting the nose during each sip, which only helps make you want to drink this more. The body on this beer is surprisingly medium and very smooth. The drinkability is very high on this beer. It's a real treat. This is an excellent beer.

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Photo of mick303
4.36/5  rDev +3.8%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

Vertical tasting of the range, from notes.
A - a dark black colour, thick, with great whispy lacing. 4.25
S - rich aged red fruit, super rich, and interesting complexities. 4.5
T - plum, raisin, shellfish, some acidic rosemary, aged vanilla taste, oak, coriander, lemon, creamy roast malt, dry smoked meat. 4.25
M - super smooth, rich caramel sweetness, very rich and tasty, dry tannic, woody finish, creamy with very full body, big and heavy. 4.25
O - smooth mineral taste, salt and green tea, salty caramel and some aged woody vanilla smoke. Very well put together, amazing beer all around, complex, dynamic and demands your attention. 4.5

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Photo of bobhits
3.75/5  rDev -10.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 2 | overall: 4

Very clean and lacking strong aromas. Light oak and sugars vanilla and butter scotch elements. Very clean through the smell.

Carbonated but bubbles eventually are only around the brim of the glass and faded. Looks high abv though all bottles are 8%.

Very clean flavor much like the aroma and even look. This is much like you’d expect an 18 year scotch. Clean and smooth flavors, but unlike an 18 year old scotch this isn’t scotch. Beer looses flavor when it is simple and smooth. Ultimately this is lacking in character from the 12 year and greatly lacking in flavor.

The lack of carbonation here is really hurting this beer. It’s almost flat and it isn’t flavorful enough for this lack of carbonation.

A good beer but it needs more barrel or more sweetness. It lacks both.

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Photo of MadScientist
4.29/5  rDev +2.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4.25

A: Very black showing a hint of deep garnet on the edges. The head is very thin but is long lasting and made of a fine medium brown bubbles.

S: Moderate whiskey and malt aromas that well balanced, the smoky and peaty scotch notes blend well with the beer although the light roast and bit of chocolate notes are more stout-like than old ale. There isn't much in the way of hops. There is a light note of stone fruit in there as well. Alcohol is evident and soft.

T: A smooth and palate coating beer with a moderate whisky flavor and a light malt sweetness. The malt has a slight raisin character along with bringing a touch of cocoa and little roast.There is a moderately-light hops bitterness. Some moderately-light oak character comes through as well. The balance is slightly bitter. The finish is medium and the aftertaste is a long lingering whisky flavor blended with a moderate alcohol.

M: Full bodied and slightly slick with moderately-light carbonation.

O: A heavy, sipping beer with layers of flavor and a great balanced whisky character.

BottleNo. 72188
& Date: July 2011

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Photo of StonedTrippin
4/5  rDev -4.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

on tap at the bull and bush cherry creek. listed at 11% abv, not 8%, it pours flat black into a 10oz. chalice with several inches of chalky off white head. the nose is really interesting, deep dark chocolate notes, really scotchy from the barrel, whiskey heavy for sure, with charcoal and peat, as well as vanilla all bombarding the nose. alcohol is well hidden, I cant pick it up too much even when this gets warm. nice woody flavor complimented by dark roasted barley and char from the barrel. tastes more like a spirit than a beer, especially in the finish. very complex, almost no sweetness, very well done brew. the carbonation is slight but its ample, and the body is a full as they come. bitter finish is interesting here, sort of contradicts the whiskey flavors, but its something new. overall a real fancy beer that I was happy to pay 9 bucks for twice. a treat to get stuff like this on tap in the usa.

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Photo of cvm4
4.22/5  rDev +0.5%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25

Bottled Feb 2012, #5043.

A - To me, the 12/16/18 all seem to look alike once poured. Deep black, not overly thick k looking with a tan head & good lacing.

S - Peaty, smokey and roastiness with a slight sweetness.

T - The taste pretty much follows the nose. Love love love this scotch in my beer.

M - Full bodied, creamy & low carbonation.

O - IMO, the 12/16/18yo are all interchangeable. Just subtle differences the older you go.

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Photo of Hoppsbabo
4.4/5  rDev +4.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.75

A: Dark brown. Looks silky and juicy. Tiny rim of bubbles, similar to a quadruple.

S: Coffee.

T: Coffee. Butterscotch. Some caramel. Tiniest hint of whisky. An espresso like smokiness, like that ashtray flavour you get in coffee sometimes, which really works well here.

M: Amazingly smooth, velvety and juicy.

O: This is the Harviestoun house style on steroids.

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Photo of Jimmys
4.31/5  rDev +2.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

11.2 fl. oz. bottle. bottle no. 10264. date Jan 2009.

A: a deep, dark brown. walnut wood finish. head is a brownish hue. retention is minimal and a bit disappointing. some sparse lacing.

S: nutty and fruity. prunes. a serious meaty-ness to this nose. woody, but definitely not as peated as I expected.

T: a really solid peated flavor. just enough to some, I could certainly use more though. some sweetness follows. a nutty sweetness. combined with the smoke, reminds me of a smoked chestnut or walnut. the finish definitely has a burnt caramel flavor and then turns to yet again more peat flavor. lingering, but not devastatingly so. there is actually more of a sweet, candied fruit in the finish after the peat is gone.

M: super mild carb. a tad over the silky point. full-bodied.

D: I had the option of buying either the 12 year, 16 year, or 18 year and selected this vintage mostly due to reviews on this site. after having this, I would love to do a side-by-side-by-side with all 3 to really pick them apart. one of the most complex English Old Ales ive ever had. I think the time definitely helped...

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Photo of Converge
4.45/5  rDev +6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

330ml into a tulip. Bottled February 2012, Bottle No. 01861.

A - Pours like coffee, totally black in the glass, with a short lived head of tan foam. A thin skiff of head sticks around, leaving bits of lace clinging to the glass.

S - Lots of peat and smokey notes. Subtle roast, and a definite backbone of dark fruits; a little unexpected. It has a nice earthy roast to it that the Ola Dubh series always does, along with some woody notes and blackstrap molasses.

T - Follows suit with the nose closely. Pronounced roast throughout, with charred malt, and subtle hints of unsweetened chocolate and a mild coffee roast. The dark fruit from the nose is gone, and replaced by a more earthy, resinous character. Oak, peat and smoke all come together beautifully in the finish, giving way to a long lasting back palate of smoke. Another home run in the Ola Dubh series.

M - Thick and viscous, but the carbonation brings some life into the body. For my preference, the carbonation is a touch crisp, and I would prefer something a little more smooth.

D - I had thoroughly enjoyed all 3 other Ola Dubh offerings I had tried leading up to this, and this brew was no different. A delicious old ale, with a nice earthy profile that really appeals to me. Great beer!

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Photo of Rickythejeweler
4.45/5  rDev +6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Feb. 2012 Bottle No. 05967

A - Dark brown-black, half finger khaki head, light spotty lacing.

S - Milk chocolate, smoke, Scotch, oak, sweet caramel, roasted almond, vanilla.

T - Dark cocoa, oak, smoked malts, light char and sharpness bordering metallic on aftertaste.

M - Medium body, low carbonation.

O - Great beer, I love Scotch and beer, better than the 30 I had, probably because it is fresher.

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Photo of mwilbur
3.65/5  rDev -13.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Poured from 330 mL bottle into snifter. Brewed Jan 2009. Bottle # 9938.
A: Pours a very dark brown with faint dark tan head that quickly recedes.
S: Dark dried fruit (e.g. raisin), whiskey, dark sweet caramel, and hint of alcohol.
T: Follows aroma fairly closely, but actually a tad weaker.
M: Medium body, but much lighter than you'd expect from the taste notes. Smooth and slightly oily feel. Not much alcohol burn (I'd expect more from 8%). Very flat with essentially no carbonation.
D: A decent drinking brew, but I'll be honest it was a bit of a disappointment. I was looking for something in the ballpark of Rye-on-Rye, but it ended up being its weakling little bro. Perhaps time has taken too much of a toll on this one.

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Photo of jrenihan
4.19/5  rDev -0.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Bottled February 2012, Bottle 10664.

Beer pour black, some slight brown hints. Some tan bubbles exist upon pouring but they start dissipating immediately.

Smell is nice. Peat, smoke, molasses, toffee, chocolate, oak. Very good.

Taste is good, but not as nice as the nose. Peat and smoke, toffee, chocolate, oak. Moderately bitter, with some grassy and earthy hops. Molasses.

Full bodied, moderate to low carbonation. Somewhat sticky.

Overall, very nice. The whisky is nicely integrated into the base beer.

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Photo of Alieniloquium
3.85/5  rDev -8.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

330 mL bottle poured into a Hair of the Dog tulip. Bottled July 2011.

Appearance - Dark black with an ample khaki head in the neck of the tulip. Probably looks more impressive as a result of the glass. Sticks and laces nicely.

Smell - A vast improvement over the 12 and 16. This one has a touch of oak, but much more chocolate and a touch of sweetness. I don't know how the chocolate comes out more when it's the same base beer, but it seems to. Some smokey whiskey, but only a bit.

Taste - Also an improvement, but not as dramatic as the nose. Chocolatey of the milky variety. Bitter hops and some smokey notes. A vanilla character permeates without ever being strong. Oak in the finish, but a much higher quality. No ash to it. I still don't love the base beer, but the barrel seems to have made an improvement this time.

Mouthfeel - Bitter and creamy. Oaky, but better than 12 by a mile.

Overall - I thought that the ages of the barrels would be a gimmicky imperceptible difference. Maybe it is and Harviestoun is changing something besides the barrels. This one definitely seems to be a marked improvement over both the 12 and the 18. I have a 30 left and we'll see if that one is better than this.

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Photo of Rutager
3.62/5  rDev -13.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Not sure why, but I'm always suspicious about the product when I see such fancy packaging...

Appearance. Pours a dark brown, almost black with a very thin tan head.

Smell. Old peaty whiskey, sweet milk chocolate, molasses and roasty dark malts.

Taste. Smokey old wood and whiskey (not in a hot way), lightly sweet chocolate, some sour old coffee, roasty grains and molasses.

Mouthfeel. Medium-full body with medium carbonation.

Overall. Smells nice. Big smokey roasty flavours, but not especially enjoyable flavours in the base beer to compliment.

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Photo of flagmantho
4.42/5  rDev +5.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

Poured from 330mL bottle into a pint glass. Bottled February 2012.

Appearance: completely black with just a little brown around the edges when held up to the light. Head poured a finger of creamy tan foam which subsided somewhat quickly. Quite good.

Smell: dank dark malt aroma with a smoky woodiness right up front but with some wonderful depth. Beautiful, intense, profound. Love it.

Taste: rich chocolatey flavor with a nice, slightly burnt, slightly bitter edge. Smooth and tasty.

Mouthfeel: two words: Sha. Zam. This is the creamiest, silkiest, smoothest beer it has ever been my pleasure to quaff. It is truly hard to imagine anything better than this.

Overall: just a wonderful beer. The flavor is good if, honestly, unremarkable, but the aroma and that *outstanding* mouthfeel mean I have to grade this one outstandingly high.

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Photo of LampertLand
4.64/5  rDev +10.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.5

Ola Dubh's Special Reserve#18 @ 8.0% served cold from a 330 ml bottle
A-pours a dark brown almost black with a small fine tan head that dissapates leaving some spotty lacing along the pint glass
S-some smokyness more than SR#12 and SR#16 , sweet chocolate malts , roasted coffee , brown sugar , hint of cherries and a lot of whiskey from the barrel aging
T-some smokyness , booze is strong yet a creamy brown sugar/vanilla sweetness in the finish , a lot smoother than SR#12 and SR#16 , bit complex all the flavors going on here , wow
MF-low carbonation , thick and a bit syrupy , roasted bittersweet after taste
Ov-a sipping beer for sure , bit pricey , a yes for sure , if you can get the other Special Reserve give them a side by side taste test

Notes from tasting of SR#12 , SR#16 , SR#18 , & revisited since the .25 incriments

Brost LampertLand

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Photo of ComradeCanadia
4.38/5  rDev +4.3%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Snapped this up on a whim as I haven't tried this style.


Pours black as night with a teensy head that never quite goes away. This beer is ominous.


Not much nose I'm afraid. I get a little bit of malt and smoke, but not enough scent for much else.


WOW I like this. Big peaty smoke over very bitter hops with a subtle, but luxurious sweetness underneath it all. Cocoa finish. I love this stuff.


Thick and lovely with lively carbonation. Very easy to quaff.


Despite the low rating on smell I want to buy this again and show it off to my friends and then store a few bottles to try a few years from now. Fantastic find.

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Photo of vandemonian
3.63/5  rDev -13.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

I had Ola Dubh 18 on tap at ChurchKey in DC. 4 oz pour in a 9 oz snifter. Ola Dubh 18 is all malt, wood and bitterness. No subtlety. I didn't particularly like it.

A: Black with big 15 mm head. Great looking beer! 4.5

S: Smells like smoke and whiskey. 4

T: Malty with bitterness and woodiness. Malt. Bitter. Wood. Not much else. I don't particularly like it. 3.5

M: A llittle flat. 3

O: 3.5

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Photo of DaftCaskBC
4.5/5  rDev +7.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

A: 1/8" tan head that dissipated quickly over black liquid.

S: Toffee, vanilla, scotch, oak, toasted malt and yeast.

T: Oak, scotch, earth, toasted malt, and a bitter hop presence.

M: Medium to thick viscosity and a low level of fine carbonation. Slight drying from the alcohol, but barely noticeable.

O: Very drinkable and tasty, the Scotch compliments the beer so well it is really a remarkable treat. The relatively high level of hops in this series is reminiscent of American stouts like Great Divide Yeti Imperial Stout.

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Photo of Jamesthebrit
4.71/5  rDev +12.1%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

A: Bottle numbered and dated with a signature of the head brewer and cask master. Comes with a tag that explains some of the beer. The beer it's self looks very nice when poured into a snifter. The very dark red brown really shows through.

S: Sweet oak roasty,. Sourness of the alcohol cuts through a little.

T: Sweet, oaky, roasty, as the smell. The alchohol comes through a little in the end but it blends with the other flavors making it a nice accent. One of the most controlled aged beers I've had in some time if ever.

M: Mouthfeel is very nice although I dare say a little light.

Overall just a wonderful beer. Much better than their reserve and adds something more to the non aged version. At $11 a bottle it's still worth checking out. A world class beer.

Goes great with steak! :)

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Photo of eriktoyra
4.04/5  rDev -3.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Bottle bought in 2009. Aged for 3.5 years.

A: Pours a dark Coca-Cola colored liquid into the glass. Slight tones of red. No head whatsoever. No sign of carbonation.

S: Smells sweet liquorice, seaweed, some oak casks and burnt peat. Smoked charcuteries comes through nicely at the end.

T: Tastes dried fruits, raisins and a lot of alcohol. It has a lot less oak barrel than the Special Reserve 12 but it is definitely there.

M: The alcohol is very present in the mouth. Almost no carbonation. I'm finding that this is a beer that takes its time to go down.

O: I tried this one in pair with a Ola Dubh Special Reserve 12 which had been aged for the same length of time. I must say that the 12 year version is far better than this one after aging. This one is still a very nice beer. But maybe it doesn't win on aging?

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Photo of danieelol
4/5  rDev -4.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Pours black with good head and lacing.

Smell is ash, seaweed, some fruitiness from the base beer; also maltiness and marshmallows. Carob and chocolate.

Taste has a fairly big dose of seaweed up front with a very subtle chocolate syrup. No alcohol here, well balanced.

I cannot complain about the mouthfeel- dry with lots of smoky and fruity flavours coming through.

No complaints here, does exactly what it says on the label. A lot of whisky character in this with none of the alcohol burn; melded with a fruity base beer.

One thing I gotta comment on is the Belgian marshmallows and apple from Old Engine Oil still coming through a bit in the nose.

Good beer, but made me crave an RIS proper.

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Photo of DersOne
4.57/5  rDev +8.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Poured from a 12 oz bottle into a snifter.

A-Dark black, thick, half finger of nice-looking caramel colored head, some lacing on the side of the glass.

S-Smoky whiskey, hints of chocolate and coffee aromas. Very pleasant.

T-Whiskey notes throughout, slightly boozy finish with a hint of peaty smoke. A fair bit of sugar at first, mild bitter coffee flavors in the middle, with a touch of vanilla. It's like drinking a mild glass of quality whiskey with a sidecar of stout, which is just wonderful in my book.

M-A bit light and smooth, some effervescence, slightly dry at the end.

O-Spectacular for whiskey fans, but easy enough to drink by someone who may not have a whiskey palette.

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Ola Dubh Special Reserve 18 from Harviestoun Brewery Ltd.
93 out of 100 based on 148 ratings.
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