I came upon a bottle of Harviestoun's special Ola Dubh ("black oil"), and figured I should first try Old Engine Oil. The former is based on the latter, but is matured in whisky casks for some time, mine for 12 years.
31 January 2009
Old Engine Oil: Viscous, Chocolatey, Roasty, says the label. Designated as an old ale, I wouldn't argue if they called it a stout. Roasted malts and chocolate provide an overall effect of bittersweetness. Very slightly fruity. Unfortunately not as rich and full as I would have hoped.
Ola Dubh (12 year): This comes in a much fancier bottle, with a paper cover over the cap and a necklace tag. The label says it was bottled in September 2007 and is signed by both the Head Brewer and Master of Wood. This one really is viscous -- inky black, with some purple around the edge. The body is very lightly carbonated and geared toward sipping. The aroma seems slightly asian to me: miso? mirin? Taste is stout-ish, with roasted malts and chocolate, but there's a bit of a raisiny element to it. Subtle whisky components come through, smoke/peat and warming of the ribcage. This is 8% versus 6% for Old Engine Oil. I like Ola Dubh a lot. Whether the versions aged in a whisky cask for longer would taste better or perhaps be too much, I can't say.
No surprise that Ola Dubh is the better of the two, but I also think it's better when adjusted for the price. Old Engine Oil for me isn't special enough to pay something like $4 a bottle here in the States. Old Dubh, on the other hand, is special enough to be worth the occasional $8 a bottle.