Ontario beer aficionados were left seething this week when two-thirds of the province-wide allocation of the rare Ola Dubh Special Reserve 40 wound up by mistake at a single store and sold out in a day! But there is much more to the story than just that.
First, some background. Ola Dubh – pronounced “Ola Due,” not “Ola Dub” – arrived this winter in Ontario in two versions, the 12 and the 40. The first, which is now out in stores in reasonable quantities, was aged in barrels that had previously held Highland Park 12 Year Old Single Malt, while the second is the same beer aged in barrels that previously aged the much rarer Highland Park 40 Year Old. I sampled both a couple of weeks ago and found that the 12 has a wonderfully constructed character featuring raisiny notes of dried fruit and obvious notes of whisky, all in a luxuriously creamy texture, while the 40 has greater complexity with well-integrated but more apparent whisky notes and bigger spiciness.
Here’s the kicker: At $5.45 a bottle, the 12 is not cheap, but it pales in comparison to what is the most expensive beer ever sold at the LCBO, the $18.40 per 12 ounce bottle Ola Dubh 40.
It is the 40 which sold out 20 cases in a single day, prompting the beer category manager to send an email to the press apologizing for the mistake and assuring us that a further 100 cases have been put on expedited order, arriving too late for the holidays, of course, but arriving nonetheless.
So let’s do the math here. The 20 cases that sold out from a single store in a single day – with no advance press, I might add – represent close to $9000 in retail sales, or the equivalent of almost 900 six-packs of mainstream beer! That is, by almost any definition, remarkable, and bodes very well for the future of high-end, eclectic beer in Ontario.