Review #6 Harviestoun Ola Dubh 21 (Highland Park 21 Cask) 89/100
I’m about to put my head down so I’m going to make this a swift review. After sitting down for an hour or so with some Thin Lizzy playing in the background, sipping on this decedent, almost desert like liquid, I now feel qualified to present my opinion.
For those who aren’t aware, Harviestoun is a brewery based in Clackmannanshire, Scotland, they also happen to make a quality stout called Old Engine Oil. In the spirit of continuous improvement, the good people at Harviestoun decided to put their OEO in Highland Park whisky casks, and God damn, what an improvement.
For the non-whisky drinkers out their, Highland Park is Scotland’s most northern distillery, established on Orkney. Highland Park whisky relies mainly on sherry casks to impart a sweet, dried fruit, spicy and burned sugar flavour to their whisky, as flavours of the sherry soaked oak leech out into their spirit.
Now, what happens when you put a beer into a cask that has previously held a Highland Park whisky in it for a whopping 21 years? You get bombarded with some serious flavour. There is no messing around with this brew, you do not need to explore it with excessive amounts of concentration, all aromas and flavours are there in gargantuan proportions waiting to jump out of the glass and punch you in the face.
Out of the glass and into the bottle, this beer pours thick, almost like treacle, the appearance is described in the name of its baby brother ‘Old Engine Oil’, it’s black, viscous and tantalisingly alluring. With a quick swirl of the glass, a very visible necklace appears and thick viscous legs drip slowly down the side of the glass. Pretty much no head on this one, anything that is visible upon pouring quickly disappears in a matter of seconds.
On the nose, massive aromas coming from the cask. Burnt Demerara sugar, brandy soaked flaming Christmas pudding, stewed fruits, delicate spice of cinnamon and cloves. Soft aromas of coffee and chocolate coming from the OEO.
On the palate, an initial treacle, malty sweetness, blanketed by a very subtle cherrywood smoke followed by stewed fruits, candied peel, Medjoul dates, raisens, dark chocolate and very subtle notes of Arabica coffee.
Take your time with this beer, it’s worth taking an hour with it. The Ola Dubh 21 is bottled at a relatively high 8%, not only that, but it’s rich, treat it as a dessert. This is a beer packed full of flavour, it should be savoured and appreciated. One thing I will say, I don’t think it’s as good as the 18 year old version, which is also quite a bit cheaper. If you’re going to get a Harviestoun beer to try, I recommend first trying the Old Engine Oil, then follow it up with the 18 year old Ola Dubh, this will allow you to really appreciate what the cask has done for the beer.