Beer Review: Harviestoun Ola Dubh Special Reserve 18
Style: Old Ale
Brace yourself: This may be one of the most interesting beers available in Arkansas. Those are strong words, we know… But when you have a beer aged in 18 year old Highland Park single malt scotch whisky barrels, you ain’t messing around. Some folks may instantly recognizing Highland Park while most folks will not; and for those of you who haven’t heard of this magical place, here is some background:
“Highland Park is the most northernly distillery in Scotland. It is located on the Orkney islands, near the capital Kirkwall, to the north of the Scottish mainland and is one of only two distilleries on the main island (Scapa is the other). Highland Park is one of the oldest and best known whisky distilleries in Scotland and was established in 1798 by Magnus Eunson. He was an interesting local character who was known as the ‘whisky priest’ – he was a priest by day and an illegal whisky distiller and smuggler by night. The story goes that he used to store the whisky in the crypt under Kirkwall cathedral so that it would be safe from the Customs and Excise men!”
So for those of you keeping score, we have an amazing beer from the Harviestoun brewery (the base beer is their famed Old Engine Oil stout), whiskey from what is often called the best distillery in the world, a guy called the whiskey priest, and an absolutely beautiful bottle to cap it all off. Ladies and gentlemen, let’s welcome our current “most interesting beer in Arkansas” to the blog. And for those of you wondering what in tar nation Ola Dubh means…. Well, it means Black Oil, named after the remarkably black and thick stout from Harviestoun. So now that we’ve said a little about this beer’s background, let’s sip and enjoy:
Ola Dubh pours just as one would expect what with all this talk about oil and what not. It is black – dark as night – and oh boy oh boy, the viscosity seems just as thick as one would hope for. We poured this beer into a snifter at around 50 degrees, which may seem a little cooler than what you’d want, but we had a theory: the slightly cooler temperature would suppress some of the bitter hops and chocolate malt flavor, and let some of the sea and smoke barrel flavors come through. And we are happy to report that our theory proved correct in this instance. Mark that one down! Correct inebriated theories are a rare and special thing here in Arkansas. Moving on to the nose: much to our delight we had no problem picking up burnt peat, smoke, wood, sweet scotch whisky, dark roasted coffee, chocolate, and a hint of another something sweet like toffee. Good gosh, we are having a field day just sniffing away like Ozzy Osbourne in the 80s. After a horrible Scottish Catholic Priest accent attempt and a toast, we drink away. Blown away by delicate complexity, we start to taste that famous Scottish whisky you’ve been reading so much about; mainly those unique peaty, smoky characters. You will also find hints of vanilla, roasted malts, coffee, chocolate, dark fruit like raisins, and some wood/barrel notes. Believe it or not, this is a very balanced beer. The mouth feel really helps out here as well – the carbonation is spot on and it makes a very enjoyable beer to sip.
Do yourself a favor and buy this beer. If you are stuck in a lull of same-old-same-old decent craft beers, this beer will rejuvenate your taste buds. If your local beer shop does not carry this beer, slowly take the merchants hand, look them in the eyes, put on your best gravelly Spanish accent and say “Listen here. Some folks call me an interesting man (or woman). Some will say I’m well known around the world. I require an interesting beer. You, my friend, can get me this beer. Now stop looking at me at get me this beer.” Then feel free to walk backwards out of the store while keeping eye contact the whole time, get in your car, burn a couple of doughnuts in the parking lot, and hightail it home. They should have the beer in by next week.
You can find this beer at the following beer-loving locations:
Colonial Wine & Spirits – Little Rock
Liquor Mart & Wine Shoppe – Fayetteville
The Bottle – Fayetteville
Macadoodles – Springdale
Shaker Beverage Shoppe – Harrison
Cheers – Fort Smith
….and don’t forget – if you area does not have this beer, ask your local beer shop to order now! Help our local beer geeks.
We gave this beer 5 diamonds.