Having been so blown away by Harviestoun Brewery’s Ola Dubh 18, that I created an award for it – 2015’s inaugural Beer ofthe Year, I decided to delve a little deeper into a range that includes a 12 and also a 16 – all bottled at an unashamed 8%.
You may be wondering what these numbers are, so I’ll enlighten you. This is a range of imperial double porters that have been aged in casks that had previously been used to mature Highland Park’s excellent range of whiskies – the 12, 16 and 18 year old expressions.
I’m already a massive fan of the 12 year old Highland Park, which I always laud as the best value single malt there is, while the 18 year old is an acknowledged classic – by people more knowledgeable than me. As for the 16 year old – well they don’t do a standard 16 year old expression, which suggests these casks either housed the super expensive Odin from the Valhalla collection, date back to some earlier date when there might have been one, or perhaps housed spirit that was removed to be finished in different casks.
Either way, if you’re a beer drinking whisky enthusiast, these are enough to set your mouth watering.
I don’t think I’ve related the story of how I came to try the Ola Dubh 18, but it was in Manchester’s Sand Bar at the beginning of December. They had three or four beers on cask around the corner from their normal bar, and of the four, the Ola Dubh was the one that my friend and I opted to try. We both pretty much agreed it was the best beer we’d ever tasted on the spot.
So as I said, I made it my beer of the year, and while informing the brewery of the good news, I asked where I might be able to find some in my local area. Timperley’s Corks Out turned out to be the nearest place so, taking advantage of a day off around my birthday, I headed over there and picked up two of each (amounting to £28.90 for the six) – one set for me and one for Pablo, who I was sure would appreciate them. I wasn’t wrong. He immediately scored all three the maximum five stars our of five on Untappd, and said that they were everything he always hoped a dark beer would be.
I have to admit, I couldn’t really tell any difference between them, but that’s ok because they are all pretty special. The 18 though, was better when I had it in cask in Sand Bar than it was from the bottle. That’s probably to be expected.
I actually returned to Corks Out, Timperley recently with a view to trying these again and procuring a set for my administrator’s leaving gift at the same time(with a bonus of further informing this post), but when I got there, I found they didn’t have it. They didn’t have much in the way of beer, in all honesty – it is a wine shop, after all, but there wasn’t even anywhere near as much as the last time I’d been in.
There was on display at least, another beer by Harviestoun, a 4.8% lager going by the name Schiehallion. Picking up two bottles, I asked at the counter whether they had any other Harviestoun beers. The proprietor said they had another in the fridge, but on pulling one out, found its expiry date was October 2015. However, he told me he was certain the ones I’d picked up were fresh. I took his word for it as I couldn’t see the date on the bottles – until I got home and found they were to expire the following month. Hardly a fresh order, but within acceptable bounds, I suppose. Ultimately, I drank one and it was excellent, so I added the other to my administrator’s leaving gift, which otherwise was made up of Thornbridge and Cloudwater beers.
I don’t know where else I’ll ever get Harviestoun, and specifically Ola Dubh beers from, but it doesn’t seem worth my while heading back to Corks Out, Timperley.