Beer 85 - Harviestoun Ola Dubh 18 (8%)

I dusted off my bike last week in a bid to save both money and my health. It’s a pleasant enough eight miles to the office, which I’m trying my best to enjoy. The occasional steep climb en route is enough to sap any enjoyment from it. The headwinds I’ve encountered on the return journey have also had me shaking my fist and calling Mother Nature a slag. Four days of riding and in spite of two days off and my legs still feel heavy and tired. I need something special to ease my aches and pains.

@Landells over on the fantastic Rock and Roll Beverage recently paired Harviestoun Ola Dubh 12 with the musical magnificence of Black Tempest. Whisky plus beer… the perfect combination. So I’m cracking open the 18 to see how it fairs. I’m pairing it, however, with two co-codemol and an early night.

Harviestoun is an estate in Clackmannanshire and lies at the base of the Ochil Hills. The Harviestoun Brewery was founded on the estate in 1985 by Ken Brooker in a 200 year old stone barn. In 2004 it moved to Alva Industrial Estate, before being bought by Caledonian Brewery in 2006.

It became independent again in 2008, when Caledonian was bought by Scottish & Newcastle, who weren’t too fussed in keeping on Harviestoun. Harviestoun produce cask ales and filtered bottled beers. Its most notable brands are Schiehallion, Bitter & Twisted and Old Engine Oil.

Tonight’s beer, Ola Dubh, or ‘Black Oil’ is a collaboration between Harviestoun and Orkney-based distiller Highland Park. Based on Harviestoun’s Old Engine Oil, the beer is the first ale to be aged in malt whiskey casks from a named distillery and with traceable casks and numbered bottles.

The brewery has released five versions of Ola Dubh (pronounced ‘oh-la doo’), from casks formerly used to mature Highland Park 12, 16, 18, 30 and 40 year old. The beer takes the form of the oak casks it is matured in, apparently imbibing a striking richness and a balance between smoke and sweetness, or so they say. Let’s see what it’s like.

It colours the glass pitch black; the alluring viscosity beckons you closer. Hints of vanilla rise up in a sensory explosion. The mixture of a shot of espresso and chocolate are immediately followed by a waft of whiskey and smoke. It’s as if a 60s advertising exec, clutching a Robusto between his teeth, is plying you with whiskey for nailing that big Lavazza account.

A deep, echoing baritone chocolate malt booms out, carrying with it a covering of rich dark fruit, caramel, coffee and vanilla, whilst smoke, spice and scotch swirl inside your cheeks. It has a dense, chewy feel; like whisky soaked chewing tobacco. But this pinch needs no spittoon. The elegant, complex marriage of flavours creates a beautifully boozy and bitter baby.

As the dust settles you are left with a strong peat taste and whiskey warmth. Perfect to enjoy in a corner office, over-looking the sprawling Manhattan skyline, enjoying a fine cigar.