They Brew it, I sell it, You Drink it... and so do I..

Thursday 23 May 2013


I've drunk a lot of Ola Dubh in the last few years. Whenever someone asks for a good whisky aged beer, it's the shops go-to select for the perfect example. Burns' Night is the usual night for myself to get through quite a few of them, but I'll happily have any of the range throughout the year. As we all know Ola Dubh (Black Oil) is a beer aged in Highland Park Whisky casks. The base beer used in this process is Harviestoun's Old Engine Oil, which is a beer that's forming quite a family tree these days!

As you might see, there have been a few new additions to this tree recently. It seems Harviestoun's generosity knows no bounds too, as when I asked them where I could purchase some of these new beers, they said they would like to send me some for free! I'm truly grateful for the offer, and so am going to put my thoughts down here.. maybe they'll let me to send them some of my beer some day :)

The first of these dark looking monsters to grace this part of England is Ola Dubh 1991. I don't think there was much going on in 1991, but that's because I probably don't remember as I was only 5! Apparently a man named Tim Berners-Lee launched the first ever website promising to provide links 'to all the world's information' - whatever that was.... I do know that Highland Park were filling whisky casks then as they are today, and that's what this latest addition of the Ola Dubh range is aged in, a limited edition 1991 cask. Not only that, it's been amped up in alcohol too.. most Ola's are 8% while this one is 10.5%! My only gripe with this whole concept (and it's only a minor one as I'm a whisky geek too) is that it's a shame you don't find out how old the whisky laid in the wood before the cask was used for aging the Dubh... it could have had whisky in it for four years or ten... I'd be interested to know.

Onto the beer though...

You get a lot from the aroma on this beer.. From initial swirls I get hints of oak, vanilla and possibly a little sulphur.. some costal elements amongst toffee and roasted caramel and dark chocolate malts.

The body is so thick and smooth! The flavour is rather dominating as well.. Lot's of the usual suspects are in this beer - oak, vanilla, dark chocolate, tar, more than a touch of alcohol, sweet caramels and dark burnt delights. I'm also getting a slight costal sea salt flavour too which sets this apart from Dubhs I've had previously which makes this beer taste really fresh and lively. That might be because it was bottled in April, so I reckon this would die away after a bit of time... not that it's a bad flavour mind!

This is a beautiful beer. Not only because it looks like a solid lump of jet in my glass, but because it fills all my dark beer loving criteria... Full bodied, complex yet balanced, subtle but powerful, warming and moreish.

I think it's pretty damn perfect.

Another dark daemon that Harviestoun have just rolled out from the tree is a 9% version of Old Engine Oil :- Engineer's Reserve. This beer has a very powerful nose on it. Some black strap molasses mixes with dark chocolate malts, figs and prunes, some woody toffee and a roasted earthy quality which is slightly reminiscent of it's little brother. The body and flavour is thick and rich here, burnt oak, charred caramels and chocolates. Black tar and oil, a slight tart effect from so much roasted flavour. It's not as powerful as the 1991, but it's still enough to kick your arse if you don't show it respect!

If I'm going to be honest, I think the only thing that lets Old Engine Oil down slightly, is that I find it a little thin in the body. This Engineer's Reserve hits all the bases! It's a stunner of a beer, and one I'll be seeking out again.

I'm dedicating this blogpost to Simon Johnson. A man I didn't know personally, but a man whose beer blog I loved to read... The blogosphere and the people that loved you have lost someone truly special. Rest in peace beer warrior.


  1. Fab review, swan sent me a few bottles too, may crack one open late...not much that can follow unhuman canonball

  2. Thanks GD! Very kind of you indeed!

    On the subject of Old Engine Oil, you're not the first to make that comment, nor will you be the last, I am sure. It's that sort of feedback that led us to brew the Engineers' Reserve. Hopefully between the two versions we service a wide range of palates!

    PS/. You rock! ;-)

    1. Thanks guys, It's great to see brewers listening and then giving the people an alternative

      You guys rock too ;)