Robbie Burns Day Beer Review #4

As long as we’re talking about Scottish ales, may we take a moment to discuss Ola Dubh, that line of Harviestoun beers aged in various Highland Park barrels? We can? Thank you.

Bottle of Ola Dubh 18Because, you know, Ola Dubh deserves mention, and for multiple reasons. First off, the pronunciation. It’s not “Ola Dub,” folks, more like “Ola Due,” but with an exhaling at the end. It’s kind of hard to explain, and no doubt a Scot who reads this will be thinking “what the hell is he on about,” but the important thing is that the “b” is not pronounced.

Next, its expressions. There were five when I sampled my way through the line-up a couple of years back, each named for the age of the Highland Park whisky that had previously occupied the barrel used for conditioning: 12, 16, 18, 30 and 40. The Harviestoun website, however, now lists only three: 12, 16 and 18. Whether that’s because of a lack of barrels to keep the 30 and 40 coming or just not bothering to list the more rare and expensive ones, I don’t know.

And the taste. Yes, the different expressions do have quite different characters, which should come as no surprise if you have any experience with whisky. (Barrels go a long way towards defining the character of any whisky.) The 40, to my experience, has a depth and intensity that the 12 and 16 simply lack, even though those two latter beers are themselves significantly complex. Is the 40 worth the cost, which when it was in Ontario was $19 for a 330 ml bottle? Personally, I would say no, although I did buy several at that price. (And look! There are six remaining in the province, purportedly at a store in London, Ontario.)

Price and perceived value aside, however, Ola Dubh is a sumptuous marriage of ale and whisky in even its lowest numbered guise, and a beer I have no difficulty recommending most heartily. Which to try, and how much to pay for it, I will leave up to you.

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