Now listen... Although Andy stated in one of his reviews this week that he is trying to be a bit more on the positive side now he understands some of the intricacies and stresses of running your own business... We are not overly going out our way to only showcase big slobbering 'greatest thing since sliced bread' love-in reviews - See Andy's current rave review for Mexicake (which I also loved when I had it about 18month ago). It just so happens we are having something of a welcome revival given the abundance of top-notch beers we seem to be falling over. It has been a breath of fresh air recently as I think both Andy and I had our jaded moments of late. Very pleased to have discovered some new beers to fall in love with.
"We are not overly going out our way to only showcase big slobbering 'greatest thing since sliced bread' love-in reviews - It just so happens we are having something of a welcome revival given the abundance of top-notch beers we seem to be falling over."
I must admit on this one, that the subject of today's review isn't something that I found last week squirrelled away in some niche beer shop, but rather has been sitting languishing in my fridge for easily 6 months (I know, I almost feel sick even typing that) and was picked up in Sainsbury's, if my mind serves me right. Normally I'd not get even close to a beer surviving that long in my house. It's not like it was masterfully hidden under the empty vessels of it's consumed comrades. It was right there - in plain sight - every time I opened the fridge door. In fact, revealing even more shame, he was not alone. The reason being is I have a small collection of beers that are a bit on the strong side - which is right up my street - but aren't exactly ideal for midweek drinking due to the much stricter alcohol limits in Scotland these days. I'm not that keen in having these 8/9/10%+ beers unless it is the weekend and I get a bit of reprieve from early morning driving. But even at that, it's still a mystery that this one and others such as Farmageddon Barrel Aged Barley Wine have escaped undrank/undrunk/non-drunk'd. I may be drunk.
But, all good things come to those who wait. And wait you have - through 2 paragraphs of sheer waffle. And 6 months turned out to be far too long to be holding onto a beer. But what a beer folks. On showcase today is Harviestoun's Ola Dubh 12 Year Special Reserve. Quite a mouthful eh? Quite a lot going on - which they break down nicely on their wee blurb - Ale aged in selected oak casks, formerly used to mature Highland Park's beautifully balanced 12 Year Old Single Malt Scotch Whisky. I could probably leave the review right there to be fair - what a gorgeous collection of words. It all sounds very grand, luxurious and all in a bit special - like a slipping into a new pair of pants that have been warming on the heater. No? Just me then.
"It all sounds very grand, luxurious and all in a bit special - like a slipping into a new pair of pants that have been warming on the heater."
So, what is Ola Dubh underneath all this wordplay. Well, pouring it, you get that gorgeous silky black as night porter style ale which has that sexy caramel head to cap it off nicely. Now in terms of flavour - I am no stranger to Harviestoun Brewery beers and in fact have been big fan of Old Engine Oil for some time. I love the stuff... which is just as well as Ola Dubh for me resembles Old Engine Oil's big brother. For any of you not familiar with Old Engine Oil - this is a proper decadent, rich chocolatey porter with great layers of coffee, hints of vanilla and this wicked earthy treacle bite lurking in the background. Now, I don't know if that is exactly what goes into the barrels and gets aged -but it certainly feels and tastes like it*. I've had a few beers that have been aged in Whisky/Bourbon casks and the results are varied. I've often felt there is a harshness that neither compliments the beer or sits well on the palette. What we get in Ola Dubh though is an enhanced profile - lifting those flavours to their max potential and delivering a bigger punch. Old Engine Oil rocks in at an already ample 6% but big brother rocks in at a flexing 8% on this version (bottle) and a truly mouth-watering 10.5% in Cask and Keg. The extra strength certainly turns the heat up on this beast but keeps all the flavours in check. There is an additional whiff of the whisky - and ashamed as I am to admit it, I don't know enough about Highland Park to comment on whether this is a comparable to the Single Malt that once resided in the cask. I can't overstate this enough - I love this beer. The ageing in the whisky casks has turned this into something really special.
Now I am not saying they have re-invented the wheel or anything - but Harviestoun are delivering something incredibly refined and decadent and yet are flying a little bit under the radar. I was just about to go off on a tangent about how I see beers of far inferior quality brandishing various beer award insignia on their bottle and it is a travesty that this doesn't... however, actually doing a bit of research I see it has listed numerous including 3 SIBA awards.
- 2012 - Bronze - SIBA Champion Bottled Speciality Beer
- 2012 - Gold - SIBA Scotland Regional Speciality Bottle Beer
- 2010 - Gold - SIBA Scotland Regional Speciality Bottle Beer
If it hasn't been obvious up until now, I want to finish off by saying this goes straight into my top 3 beers of all time. Easily. I'd have more trouble trying to work out which current top contender to oust to make room but there is no doubt this beer has earned its place at the top of the pile. An absolute masterpiece. Is it as good as Wildebeest???? I don't know. But what I do know is, I'll damn sure not be letting it sit in my fridge for 6 months before drinking ever again.
*I may while I am at it point out that further back in this review I speculated on whether or not this was in fact aged Old Engine Oil and it turns out it is exactly that. Old Engine Oil aged for 6 months in the Highland Park Casks. So, there you go - I'm actually pleased that I got it right in the first place. Although, had I bothered to look at what Ola Dubh meant I'd have discovered it was Gaelic for Black Oil. Would have been a great step for a hint. So, there you go. Lesson for Scott is do your research before your writing rather than in the middle of it. Ach well. We got there in the end.