I have been waiting for a good excuse to drink this beer since I bought it a few months ago at Lukas Liquors. Sitting here on March 28 watching tons of snow and listening to the sirens of emergency vehicles flying down I-35 in the midst of a horrible snowstorm, I thought, “When better?” I hope whoever those sirens are for is OK.
Ola Dubh is a series of beers that are a collaboration between Harviestoun Brewery and Highland Park, an award-winning distiller of Scotch whisky. Ola Dubh means “Black Oil” so of course, it is a stout. The Special Reserve 12 is matured in the casks that Highland Park uses for its 12 Year Old Single Malt Scotch Whisky, known for its smooth flavors and notes of smoke.
The beer pours a lot thinner than, say, Goose Island’s Bourbon County Stout, with lots of red highlights, but once in the glass it is like a black hole, with no light getting through or even a hint of a highlight of color at the edge of the glass. My sample was bottled in 2007 and poured with almost no head, and I noted virtually no carbonation on the mouthfeel, making this beer a sipper rather than a gulper.
I waited for the beer to come close to room temperature (low 60′s) before drinking, as I feel this complements the aromas and flavors of this style of beer quite well. The aroma has lots of whisky character… smoky wood, that peaty bite, and a bit of malt, maybe.
The flavor is has a lot of smoke and oak and peaty scotch up front that tapers to slight hop and roasted malts bitterness toward the middle. The finish on this beer is dry and has some cocoa and some notes that remind me of good cigars. This would be great with a Padron 2000!
The Ola Dubh 12 year is a nice, complex sipper. The 8% ABV is well-hidden. I might detect some alcohol on the aroma, but it really doesn’t come through on its own in the flavor. For a barrel-aged stout this has a really nice, dry finish that isn’t sweet or cloying at all. The mouthfeel is a little on the thin side, but otherwise I have no real criticism of this beer.
This would make an excellent dessert beer or something that would complement a nice cigar after dinner. Because of it’s dry finish, it may even pair well with something like a really good vanilla ice cream, although I’m not sure how the cream and sugar would play off the smoky wood flavors. It would either be REALLY great or really awful!
This is the first beer I’ve had from Harviestoun and I am impressed. I think this is the perfect amount of smoke in the beer, not overwhelming, but not so subtle it makes you work for it. The scotch character is very forward and aggressive, but it is well-balanced and works great in this beer. Not overdone whatsoever. Harviestoun makes a 16 and 30 year version of Ola Dubh, too. I almost sprang for the last bottle of 30 year that Lukas had, but it was about two or three times the price of this 12 year. In retrospect, I wish I had bought it and the 16 year and could compare the three Ola Dubhs as a flight. Oh well, live and learn. If you get a chance to buy Ola Dubh, do so. You won’t be disappointed.