HARVIESTOUN OLA DUBH—ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh
My Fellow Inebriates,
I was shattered when Christine left our house this morning. By which I mean, when I woke up hours after she’d gone and realized the fact, I felt betrayed. Not by Christine, who can do no wrong. (Christine arrived at our house yesterday afternoon with her special canvas bag containing two fine whiskies, two unique craft beers, and an outstanding Shiraz she’d been cellaring since 2003.) Christine is beyond reproach.
But I felt sort of let down by my parents, who didn’t bother to shake me awake to say good-bye. I actually meant to stow away with Christine this morning in the canvas bag. Although it was still occupied by two bottles of Scotch, it had a compartment I could have slipped into if I weren’t comatose at the time of her departure. Evidently my parents couldn’t entertain Christine until I finished sleeping off last night’s alcohol; I didn’t even get a chance to pant after her booze or press my nose against the window.
Why are my parents so boring? I can’t imagine why anyone visits them at all. What a testament to their dullness that any visitors they do get must bring alcohol to make the visit tolerable. (Come to think of it…well, it’s kind of a wash. If my parents were more interesting they would get more visitors, but the visitors wouldn’t need to get hammered to endure their company.) But still, last night was pretty cool.
First out of the canvas bag was HARVIESTOUN OLA DUBH SPECIAL RESERVE (18). Translated as “black oil,” OLA DUBH is so named for its “gloopy and viscous” mouthfeel. It is “the first ale to be aged in malt whisky casks from a named distillery and, with traceable casks and numbered bottles, the first with genuine provenance.” Christine found this 8% brew at a specialty liquor store in Olympic Village where it commanded $8 for its Highland Park–cask aging. Short glasses seemed fitting, so the humans poured it three ways (I gadded about between the three glasses, ending up with the lion’s share).
“Black oil” is not a misnomer. In the glass OLA DUBH is thick, oily, and darker than Coca Cola. Harviestoun compares its appearance to that of “used motor oil,” but I don’t know of any automotive waste that exudes such symphonic waves of dark chocolate, espresso, sherry, and peat. This breathtaking aroma is but a prelude to an exquisite cascade of malty, smoky, leathery toffee-tinged gloriousness—enveloping the palate and winding up with a soulfully bitter cocoa finish. Prickling the tongue with gentle carbonation, OLA DUBH is a rhapsodic hybrid of whisky and beer, warming and mellow yet curiously tingly on the palate. Sweeter than a stout and infinitely more complex, OLA DUBH wrenches a forbidden word from even the most hardened and obdurate taster—the taster who has sworn never to utter the word—yes, against his will and without resistance, my dad said it: OLA DUBH is sessionable.
Because if you could—if you possibly could—you would want to draw your experience with OLA DUBH out over several hours. With its glass-clinging, massive body and absolutely subjugating intensity, this beer takes over your mind; it controls you; it OWNS you.
After everyone drank their two fingers of OLA DUBH, there was no way we could immediately sample another beer. It wouldn’t have been fair. So everyone sipped Carmenere while my mother concocted one of her meals seemingly designed to bother and disconcert everyone’s palate, and together those incongruous new tastes helped arrest everyone’s pining for the OLA DUBH.
In all honesty—although this may be the sort of creeping determinism my furry head cooked up to cope with the emptiness of the OLA DUBH bottle—I doubt you could drink such a viscous beer all evening. At least humans probably wouldn’t want to. But we bears have some crazy stomach enzymes. 😉