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Peter LaFrance

Friday, March 28, 2008

A taste of… Ola Dubh, Harviestoun Brewery, Scotland

Over the last two months I’ve had the opportunity to attend to beer tastings hosted by B. United International. The first of these involve their selection of Italian craft-beers. The second tasting involved ale that was aged in oak casks that held progressively older “vintages” of Highland Park Single Malt. This event was held at the prestigious watering hole in downtown New York, called Gramercy Tavern. There, I had the chance to taste all three of the beers they presented aged in casks that contained 12-year-old, 16-year-old, and the 30-year-old Highland Park whiskey.

I was impressed enough to go out and purchase a bottle myself. Following notes of the two the one aged in oak casks formally used to mature, Highland Park’s 16-year-old single malt Scotch whiskey.

As it is a Friday, I’m going to treat myself. The following are my tasting notes…

This is an incredibly deep coffee colored opaque brew topped by a quickly dissipating head. The relatively chilly temperature that this beer was poured probably affected the head.

Unfortunately this bottle has taken on quite a chill so I let it warm up in the glass.
The initial aromatic impression is one of molasses. There is very little if any hop aroma. However, with the brew of this high alcohol content (8% alcohol by volume) it is not to be expected.

Mouth feel.
As noted earlier with the lace, and the foam, this is a very high alcohol beer. The initial mouth feel is surprisingly light, the operative word being surprisingly. By this time it’s not the mouth feel that you noticing it is the flavors…

The sensory sensation between lip and sip consists mainly of hints of molasses. The first impression with a closed mouth is of something not quite sweet. Once you swallow and open your mouth to experience the full aromas and flavors the impression is of highly roasted malt used to balance out, again with the molasses, sweet flavor. In between, there are accents of sour cherries, plums, and prune. None of these are overpowering and all are as fleeting as the next.

At the finish is actually where you find the effervescence. Despite its name, which is supposed to mean something like “old oil,” this is a surprisingly light feeling beer in the mouth. Here, also, is where you will find what essence there is of oak in the flavor.

I have had the chance to sample beers that have been aged in oak casks in the past. Those beers were brewed in the United States. Having had the chance to speak with the Head Brewer, the marketing people, the design people, and the people who imported into the United States, at the event in New York City, I find that the more I know about this beer, the more I can appreciate it. In most cases this same can be said for almost any beer. The event was a very social situation and sharing good beer is one of my passions, however, the one bottle that I have left is the Ola Dubh aged in the 32-year-old Single Malt barrels. I don’t think I’m going to share that with anybody either….


Peter LaFrance

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