They say…

Des de Moor
Best beer and travel writing award 2015, 2011 -- British Guild of Beer Writers Awards
Accredited Beer Sommelier
Writer of "Probably the best book about beer in London" - Londonist
"A necessity if you're a beer geek travelling to London town" - Beer Advocate
"A joy to read" - Roger Protz
"Very authoritative" - Tim Webb.
"One of the top beer writers in the UK" - Mark Dredge.
"A beer guru" - Popbitch.
Des de Moor


Harviestoun Ola Dubh Special Reserve

ABV: 8%
Origin: Alva, Clackmannanshire, Scotland

A shorter version was originally published in BEER November 2008. For more smoky beers see previous post.

Ola Dubh Special Reserve

For a fine but mellow lightly charred experience I recommend Harviestoun Ola Dubh Special Reserve – not bottle conditioned but currently one of Britain’s most remarkable beers. It’s a version of the Clackmannanshire brewery’s Old Engine Oil (the name means “black oil” in Gaelic) matured in wooden casks previously used for Highland Park malt whisky, itself one of the top rated of world whiskies.

There are three “expressions” matured in casks previously used to hold malts of different ages, and they make for a fascinating compare and contrast. The “youngest” is from a 12 year old cask, a black beer with a creamy brown head and a woody whiskyish aroma with a hint of olives over dark malt. There’s thick chocolate and malt flavours on the soft and luscious palate, with a woody background and lightly vinous notes, toffee and woody dryness. More whisky is revealed in the swallow, and the finish is warming with more chocolate, chewy malt, a note of hops and a final impression of charred tanginess.

My favourite is the balanced yet complex example from a 16-year-old cask – a viscous black liquid with a fine deep fawn head and dark malt, wood and black cherry fruit as well as a whiff of whisky on the aroma. There’s chocolate and wood on the palate with a lightly vinous sharpish note, and tangy slightly warming alcohol on the finish with sherry, more chocolate, charred flavours and late but long hop tones.

Finally, the 30-year-old is a very dark ruby black with some fine fawn head and a vinous fruit cake aroma from which emerges big plummy malt notes and that familiar whiff of the water of life. The palate is full and malty with a gentle canided peel note and subtle whisky, perhaps more fruity and less chocolatey than the other versions. A fruity finish has woody dryness and smooth malt, with bitter green herbs and roast notes eventually emerging.

Most of the first batch has gone to the USA but if you spot one on UK shelves, grab it unhesitatingly. You could round off your quest for smoky flavours by lighting up a good cigar to accompany it – so long as you’re not in enclosed public premises, of course.

Read more about these beers (including my own tasting notes) at

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