Ola Dubh Special Reserve 21
Harviestoun Brewery Ltd.

Ola Dubh Special Reserve 21Ola Dubh Special Reserve 21
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Old Ale
Ranked #24
Ranked #4,350
4.13 | pDev: 9.69%
Harviestoun Brewery Ltd.
Scotland, United Kingdom
Ola Dubh Special Reserve 21Ola Dubh Special Reserve 21
Notes: This beer is 8% ABV in bottle, 10.5% in cask and keg.

We make Ola Dubh 21 by taking our Old Engine Oil (amped up to 10.5%) and aging it for up to 6 months in casks that previously held Highland Park’s phenomenal 21 Year Old single malt whisky.

Ola Dubh (pronounced ‘ola-doo’ and Gaelic for ‘black oil’) 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.

This amazing brew has been aged in selected oak casks formerly used to mature Highland Park 21 Year Old Single Malt Whisky, adding complementary whisky notes to our chocolatey, bittersweet beer.

Ola Dubh 21 pours deep brown with a burgundy flush and a head the colour of milled oatmeal. On the nose it has gently-finessed top notes of fresh heather and honey, subtly toasted malts and vanilla with balancing hints of red fruits and a distant, beguiling smoke. The flavour has elegantly-subtle developing wine-like notes; from bitter chocolate and espresso beans into to a sustained, oaked conclusion. Extended, oaky finish with pine resin, juniper, perfumed honey and traces of peat.

HOPS: Galena, East Kent Goldings, Fuggles
MALTS: Roast barley, oats
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Reviews: 45 | Ratings: 145 | Log in to view all ratings and sort
Photo of Bouleboubier
Bouleboubier from New Jersey

4.19/5  rDev +1.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4

(11.2 oz bottle, No. 03690, April 2014 ... poured into a snfiter)

L: very dark brown, almost black liquid; faded tan foam, mountain of fish eye bubbles, as if living ale... thick, bubbly collar remains, keeping till the end

S: chalk, marzipan, espresso dust; potent whisky esters, fruity, woody... toasted raisin, perhaps more prune; bold, leathery... hint of sweet black licorice, oxidized a bit... overall, lovely; as it pouring out, aromas jet forth

T: hardly sweet at all, little bit of roasty molasses and black licorice in the finish; modicum of sugars, thin caramel trail out the back... aftertaste is ashy char and, subtle hints of dark roast coffee and whisky spice... oxidized, leathery dark malts slowly creep up and linger on the palate, bit of nondescript, arguably brandy-like dark fruit filling out the flavors

F: bit of tame heat up front, whisky-like, carrying long through the finish; tight, lithe, delicately-oily, lazily-luscious viscosity... drops off quiet at the back, only a little cozy warmth remaining, lightly-sticky residual sugary film left behind... big sips easy

O: one of the more fragrant noses on an Ola Dubh, but the taste is as restrained as the others in the line (if not most of all); not sure it's worth the price or a repeat visit, though a revisit to the 12 seems in order

Apr 07, 2019
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josanguapo from Spain

3.29/5  rDev -20.3%
look: 3 | smell: 3.25 | taste: 3.25 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.25

From Saveur Biere. In Teku glass. Playing Avernum 3 and Silence. 3 months after bb. More balanced than the 12, 16 and 18 versions, with the wood less aggressive, but still nothing impressive. Boring

Aug 18, 2018
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connecticutpoet from Connecticut

4.23/5  rDev +2.4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25

Appearance - no head at all over a clear, extremely dark brown body.

Aroma - Rich molasses, a little coffee, raisins and plums, woody oak, hints of smokiness, No booziness.

Taste - Strong woodiness, faint molasses, a little smoky, light bitterness, and a hint of whiskey and vanilla at the end.

Mouthfeel - deceptively smooth and easy drinking.

Overall - trying the entire series, lowest to highest. They have been getting better and better. This one is VERY good.

Jan 14, 2018
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jrenihan from Canada (ON)

3.79/5  rDev -8.2%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.75

Perhaps this bottle is past its prime (April 2014), but this is surprisingly mild and light given what it is. There are peat flavours to be sure, as well as some vanilla and oak, but it is all a bit thin. Minimal carbonation, which contributes to the thin impression. A sticky finish.

Aug 12, 2017
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mick303 from Canada (ON)

4.11/5  rDev -0.5%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4

Lovely complex nose, very nuanced. Cherry, oak, vanilla, coffee, smoke. Pitch black appearance.

Taste has notes of dark malt, a smooth creaminess, cherry notes and whisky notes. Well constructed. Easy crisp finish, mild carbonation.

Apr 09, 2017
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KettleBellFreak from Tennessee

4.14/5  rDev +0.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

I feel like this beer is beyond epic when it is most fresh. But atm it is still a wonderful beer.

No serious head, just slight lacing at the edge. Pitch black.

The most toasty coffee and malt aroma imaginable. Whisky and wood climb through the amazing coffee and malt. A superb and complex aroma that blows many BA stouts RIGHT OUT OF THE WATER.

Taste is even better. Roasted malt, vanilla, Cacao, and PEAT. Jesus this beer embodies the peaty character of scotch. Amazing absolutely amazing. Sadly it's a weird sharp peak in flavor, not so much a smooth start and finish all the way down the gullet. .

Mouthfeel is moderate. Nothing notable. Carbonstion is subdued by age I think.

Mar 01, 2017
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mjwellman from Texas

3.76/5  rDev -9%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.25 | overall: 3.5

330 cc bottle dated April 2014, so it' almost 3 years old.
L: Pours dark brown/black with no head.
A: Wonderful whiskey aroma with a little oak and vanilla
T: Wonderful whiskey flavor and hint of coffee
F: Moderate carbonation, smooth and ez drinking. A hint of bitterness
O: Not a bad beer, but rather disappointing given the price and hype for the beer. I was expecting more. Maybe this beer doesn't age well.

Feb 16, 2017
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kitch from Hong Kong

3.94/5  rDev -4.6%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

A 330ml foiled and capped bottle, bottle no. 00214, bottled in April 2014, and best before end of May 2017. Poured into a snifter glass.

Appearance: A clear dark brown colour with pretty much no head and only very sparse spotted lacing.

Aroma: Chocolate, whisky, wood and vanilla with maybe a touch of coffee.

Taste: Dark chocolate, roasty malts and coffee bean, whisky and vanilla with a hint of sweet dark fruit, raisin, plum and prunes on the finish.

Mouthfeel: Medium bodied with low carbonation.

Overall: Nice roastiness and vanilla with subtle but clear whisky notes makes this go down easy. Definitely on the lookout for the other years now.

Dec 30, 2016
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macrosmatic from Florida

4.14/5  rDev +0.2%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

Reviewed from notes. Had on-tap at Rendezvous in St. Augustine. Served in a mini-pint glass.

A: Barely translucent dark brown, with a thin tan foamy head and just a few bubbles rising up the side of the glass.

S: Whiskey, woody barrel, vanilla, and rich malts. Mild chocolate, subtle spiciness and clove as well.

T: Follows the nose well. Whiskey up front, with sweet roasted malts and vanilla as well. There's some subtle smoky barrel char here also that I didn't pick up on the nose. Some dark fruit character - raisins and prunes - and a sweet leathery flavor as well. Sweet with mild whiskey afterburn in the hang.

M: Medium body, with relatively low carbonation but not quite flat. Not overly hot in the context of style and the listed ABV.

O: I rather enjoyed this one. My favorite beer I've had from them so far. It wouldn't be something I'd reach for every day, but I would be more than willing to drink it again.

Jul 26, 2016
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Jimmys from Pennsylvania

3.55/5  rDev -14%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

11.2 oz bottle. bottle no. 02677. April 2014.

A: a gentle brown hued fizz tops this very dark, very opaque brew.

S: dark chocolate and warm alcohol.

T: a decent amount of booze. sweet and savory. a little bit of sweet butterscotch, but I am not convinced that it is diacetyl. not sure if I am getting barrel character or just the booze from this brew. bitter earthy finish.

M: moderate amount of carb. full body.

D: overall this is pretty easy to sip on and very smooth. unfortunately I think the scotch character is a bit diminished in this one, practically invisible. definitely disappointing considering the reason this was purchased was to get some scotch in as well! independent of that, this is a smooth easy drinking old ale.

Jun 02, 2016
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bnes09 from Illinois

3.9/5  rDev -5.6%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 3.25 | overall: 3.75

Less richness in aroma although more smoke and scotch on the palate compared to 12 and 18. Maintains its gritty feel and lack of head and carbonation.

Apr 17, 2016
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TonyLema1 from South Carolina

3.58/5  rDev -13.3%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

L: black, thin tight tan head
S: faint chocolate and whisky
T: light smoke, peat, malt, whisky
F: a lot lighter bodied than I expected
O: not bad, but underwhelming for a $20 bottle

Mar 27, 2016
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Skellbop from New York

4.17/5  rDev +1%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

L - very dark brown with tannish / brown head, tons of lacing
S - tons of oak and a bit of sweetness, hint of chocolate
T - oak, bitter chocolate, vanilla on the end, but nothing too overpowering. Oak is most present, very slight smokiness
F - medium carbonation and medium body
O - interesting brew

Mar 16, 2016
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biegaman from Canada (ON)

4.13/5  rDev 0%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

The area around the Highland Park distillery is littered with ancient burial sites and ruins - this beer, aged in barrels formerly containing its 21 Year Reserve, is equally dark and intriguing. The black opacity doesn't provide much to look at but its lacing sure does; it's intricate and elegant.

$6.75/ bottle probably seems steep to most people but when you consider a bottle of Highland Park 21 retails in the range of $350... well, it puts things in perspective. We're talking 56 cents/ounce versus $14.70/ounce. Granted, the beer doesn't contain all the complexities of the whiskey, but...

The peat, sea brine, honeyed oak, and wisp of smoke characteristic of the Orkney Isles are unmistakable from the first whiff. The beer's dark-roast coffee and chocolaty toffee center are wonderful compliments. It is a multi-layered aroma with various levels of intensity depending on how much you sniff.

All Old Dubh beers are smooth and approachable (arguably to a fault). The 21 Year is no exception which, like its kin, makes it a poor candidate for the cellar. Counter-intuitive though it seems, drink this barrel-aged beer fresh if you want to appreciate the influence of the Scotch. After all, it's only 8%.

A distillery often referred to as whiskey's greatest "all-rounder", Highland Park's scotches typically balance peat, oak, fruit, honey and spice. Now add to that list toasted pumpernickel bread, coffee beans, dark chocolate truffles, and vanilla beans and you've really got something special on your hands!

Highland Park's 21 Year won best single-malt whiskey in the World Whiskey Awards and it also arguably makes for the best of Harviestoun's Old Dubh expressions (certainly the best value). Peat lovers especially will find it a very casual, quaffable - dare I say 'sessionable' - dram well suited to dessert.

Mar 15, 2016
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greshdoghophead from Ohio

3.52/5  rDev -14.8%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.25 | overall: 3.25

Bottled April 2014 - Severely disappointed in this very overpriced beer. 11.2oz nearly $15 in OH. Minor, minor hints of peat, barely on the backend. No signs of heat from ABV, lots of foil packaging and fancy cardboard notes attached. Outside reveals more than the inside. Its average beer, period.

Mar 07, 2016
Photo of Roguer
Roguer from Connecticut

3.47/5  rDev -16%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

Perfectly black brew, topped with a modest tan head with decent retention.

A faint touch of whiskey mingling with roasted malt. Slight touch of toffee. If anything, the whiskey is front and center, but the aroma is overall quite subdued.

Flavor carries a ton of complexity and a mixture of flavors: charred wooden ash, overripe dark fruit and red grapes, whiskey hints of vanilla and coconut, and a ton of woody oak. The whiskey's influence is unavoidable here, coming through with a touch of sweetness and a hefty heaping of earth tones.

Fizzy mouthfeel, but fairly easy drinking.

If you're a huge whiskey fan, this is probably an amazing beer. Taken as a whole, though, I find the malts underrepresented, and the whiskey overbearing.

Feb 10, 2016
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drpimento from Wisconsin

3.82/5  rDev -7.5%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Pretty good. Small tan head. Aroma is dark malt, really good smoked ham, not much else. Flavor's like nose, plus a little carbonic tang and the same amount of malt sweetness. Not quite balanced. Decent finish. Wouldn't say it's an easy drinking beer, but you don't have to exactly worry about it either.

Dec 08, 2015
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hotsudge from Canada (ON)

3.26/5  rDev -21.1%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.25 | taste: 3.25 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.25

Maybe our bottle was a bit flat? It seemed to be a bit lack lustre compared to the fizz it could it have. If only a little fizz.

Pours dark brown or black, slight lacey head. Sweat roasted flavour.

Would like to try another bottle for comparison.

Nov 08, 2015
Photo of aquazr1
aquazr1 from California

3.98/5  rDev -3.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4

Pours black with very little head. This beer is extremely smooth with very nice whiskey notes throughout. What's makes it special is that the whiskey is not overpowering at all. Very well done.

Sep 15, 2015
Photo of bylerteck
bylerteck from Canada (ON)

3.37/5  rDev -18.4%
look: 2.75 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

A - Pour is black with one finger of beige head that faded fast. Minimal carbonation. No retention, no lace.

S - Good rich malt, dark fruit, oak, leather, whiskey.

T - More whiskey in the mouth, especially to finish. Less richness and fruit in the malt department as the whiskey really takes over in this. Could be some chocolate notes in there.

M - Finish is lot's of whiskey with a smokey bit of burn. Carbonation light, with a medium body that is too thin.

O/D - Decent attempt here, although other versions of the whiskey barrel Ola Dubhs have been much better. The whiskey character on this guy dominates quite a bit more with malt not being allowed to shine equally. Decent, but a bit weak, and a thin body.

Aug 21, 2015
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manfromanotherplace from New York

4.18/5  rDev +1.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Ive tried the 12,16, 18 and now the 21 and in my opinion they have got better as i have moved through them. The difference between each is pretty impressive, the 21 just seemed to have that stronger whiskey presence, the price of these beers is pretty steep though so i dont know if they will be purchased again.still a good beer though.

Jul 20, 2015
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metter98 from New York

3.99/5  rDev -3.4%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

A: The beer is black when viewed from afar; upon closer inspection the corners of the glass are very dark red in color. It poured with a short off white head that died down, leaving a small patch of bubbles on in the center of the glass, a collar around the edge, and some lacing down the sides.
S: Light aromas of whiskey are present in the nose, these become a little stronger as the beer beings to warm up.
T: Similar to the smell, the taste has light to moderate flavors of whiskey with some hints of smoked peat.
M: It feels medium-bodied on the palate and has a moderate amount of carbonation. There is a bit of smoothness.
O: This beer grows upon you as it warms up, you really need to sip and savor it. It does a good job at masking the strength as you only gets some hints of alcohol from the whiskey barrel aging.

Note: Bottle #02748, April 2014

Serving type: bottle

Jul 19, 2015
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taxandbeerguy from Canada (ON)

4.03/5  rDev -2.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4

330 ml bottle served cool into an Innis & Gunn glass. Purchased for a steep $9 CDN. Bottle # 14736 and brewed in April 2014. Best before May 2017.

Appearance - Squid ink black. Tiny white head, delicate lacing left behind. Overall, ominous and very rich looking.

Smell - Whiskey and wood dominate, with some of the sharpness coming through in sharp manner. A little earthy makes this a huge nose, although less complex than expected.

taste - Wood and whiskey dominate again. Some fresh coffee in the middle which forms a strong but restrained bitterness. peat through and dark bitter chocolate on what seemed like every even numbered sip.

Mouthfeel - Super smooth, oily and slick, sticking to the mouth like gum on a shoe. Full bodied, yet carbonation is light giving this strange thinner than expected feel.

Overall - Worth a shot and in my opinion a touch better than the 12 year (although not worth the $2 price difference.) Not that close to the 30 year which was amazing (which was worth the extra $2). If you feel compelled to try this and like the big whiskey flavor, give it a shot, but I have a sneaking suspicion that money might be better served by paying an extra $2 and getting the 30 year. Even despite all this, it is still a masterfully crafted beer than any aficionado would enjoy with wonderful flavors and smells.

Jul 17, 2015
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Jeffo from Netherlands

3.65/5  rDev -11.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

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
April 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 other two..

SMELL: Some decent peated whisky, aromas of leather and some dark chocolate on the nose. Medium strength. Nice, but not overly impressive. Same as the 18 yr with a touch more peat and smoke than the 16.

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. Same as the 18 yr but with even a bit more smoke, perhaps.

PALATE: Slightly thinner body with medium levels of carbonation. Semi-creamy on the palate, perhaps the creamiest of the three, goes down fine and finishes rather dry.

OVERALL: Nice stuff. Probably the best of the three we tried today, as it had the best combination of flavor and feel. That said, none of these can hold a candle to that mythical creature that was the 2010 Ola Dubh 12 that floored me about a year ago. That was the batch that made it to the LCBO and it ended up sitting in my basement for four years. Man, how I'd love to that that one again... Anyways, as for this batch of the 16, 18 and 21, they are certainly nice brews if you're a peat fan, but in my view, are nothing worth getting all worked up about.

Jul 04, 2015
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Bugs318 from Canada (QC)

4.07/5  rDev -1.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4

Pours a pretty dark brown to black with a slight tan head that cups the glass and remains after the majority dissipates. Nose wafts some chocolate, mild peat, traces of mild smoke, some wood character. Taste is similar but also has some brown sugar or molasses sweetness up from, while the linger blends some licorice and chocolate with peaty smokiness. A bit light and watery, with moderately low carbonation. Good.

Jun 25, 2015
Ola Dubh Special Reserve 21 from Harviestoun Brewery Ltd.
Beer rating: 91 out of 100 with 145 ratings