Dark Island - Orkney Brewery

Not Rated.
Dark IslandDark Island

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BA SCORE
89
very good

370 Ratings
THE BROS
95
world-class

(view ratings)
Ratings: 370
Reviews: 239
rAvg: 3.98
pDev: 12.06%
Wants: 58
Gots: 14 | FT: 0
Brewed by:
Orkney Brewery visit their website
United Kingdom (Scotland)

Style | ABV
Scottish Ale |  4.60% ABV

Availability: Year-round

Notes/Commercial Description:
No notes at this time.

(Beer added by: BeerAdvocate on 04-02-2002)
Beer: Ratings & Reviews
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Ratings: 370 | Reviews: 239 | Display Reviews Only:
Photo of BeerFMAndy
3.85/5  rDev -3.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

500 ml bottle poured into a Nonic. No date on the bottle. Cool label though!

A - Dark as night with ruby highlights. A tan head of two fingers sits on top that's thick but gone quickly. Low foam but good lacing.

S - Rich roasted malts with a bitter dry smell. A touch of smoke and some strong fruity raisin esters. Some small aromas of coffee. Complex and foreboding.

T - Heavy on the roasted malts but the complexity changes quickly to tart raisins, cold, bitter coffee, and a touch of smoke. It finishes dry and somewhat bitter.

M - Medium to medium-full in body but not thick like syrup. Watery with a dry bitter finish. Tart too.

D - This beer's strength comes not from the mouthfeel or alcohol but rather from the flavor. It's potent and not something I could put back bottle after bottle of.

On a side note, after finishing the review of this beer I went out for a cigar thinking it would pair well. Boy was I wrong. What a terrible cigar beer. Leave the cigar alone til you're done with this one.

Photo of BretSikkink
3.95/5  rDev -0.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Dark brown with quite a bit of orange-red highlighting. Tight head with foam and some larger bubbling. Good lacing; good look in general.

The nose is a less impressive. There's some roasted malt (chocolate, etc.) while also bringing the dark fruit. No surprises, very straightforward.

The flavors are sweet with caramel mixed into the chocolate along with anise-herbal notes. Really not overly complex, even though the Orkney yeast tends to add the sour component to whatever they brew.

Finishes pretty long, pretty nice. For the most part, a middling Scottish ale. However, it is representative of the style and should be tried for anyone who tends this direction.

Photo of bcdees47
4.15/5  rDev +4.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

I had this one from the cask. It's a dark beer, but by no means opaque. Smells of chocolate, malt, and perhaps a hint of fruit. It tastes of coffee and chocolate, lots of roasted flavours, but also has some acidic, almost fruity notes mixed in there. I found this one quite drinkable.

Photo of Monsteruss
4/5  rDev +0.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

The foam was very dark wheat that dissapated quickly but still stuck to the sides of the glass. The smell was light and crisp but extremely dark and nutty feel. The taste was excellent. Hearty taste of a wheat porter with hints of carmel. The color was a very dark cola. It had a excellent smooth mouthfeel

Photo of HoppinAle
4.33/5  rDev +8.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Dark Island started off great, but ended a little thin. Upon opening, it had a pleasant aroma followed by multiple tastes that rushed through my taste buds. You can taste a subtle hint of chocolate, the roast, and it leaves a long lasting coffee/caramel after taste. I sampled 1 pint/500 ml and it became a little too carbonated and thin about half way through and started reminding me of a Stewart's Root Beer. The color is dark brown but not opaque. It has a medium thickness in pour with a light chocolate colored head that formed nicely in the beginning, however, settled by mid-beer. I did enjoy Dark Island and would recommend only drinking about two after dinner as a nice treat to end your day.

Photo of GratefulBeerGuy
4.33/5  rDev +8.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

This one pours out looking very ominous, dark ,dark brown, not exactly opaque, but close. mocha-froth style head, moderate retention with plenty of foamy goodness left-over.

The nose is mild with chunky, bitter chocolate, dark-roastie coffee with vanilla, sour, spicey hops with zesty dried fruits and Quaker Oatmeal.

The flavor has a very herbal effect right off, dark roastie malt, very hearty with a good balance of earthy notes like, wheat and grains and musty chocolate. The hops provide a a dry, herbal balance from the dank malt. a crispy, clean feel, medium bodied but very smooth at the end, very stout-like feel. The finish is slightly dry, but greasy going down.

This is a pretty rightous and robust session brew.

Photo of shanem
3.88/5  rDev -2.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3 | overall: 4

A: toffee/caramel brown a little light on the edges. smallish head but appears very carbonated with serious bubbling

S: roasted, little smokey and chocolately

T: chocolate/nutty, not overpowering, pretty well balanced

M: average, not too thin or heavy

D: easily drinkable

Photo of joe1510
4.2/5  rDev +5.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

500ml Bottle

This bottle came courtesy of Redwood21 in Secret Santa '08, thanks for the massive haul Godfather! Dark Island has one of those bodies that are so dark brown they border on black. Burnt caramel highlights the sides of the glass and shoot through the body when backlit. The head grew to a finger's height of creamy beige and fell rather quickly to a skim coat with a respectable collar. Thin drink lines get left behind after each drink and slowly fall back into the body.

The nose is full of the things I enjoy so much in Scottish ales. Deep caramel and toffee kick start the aroma with a tendril of smoke rising between the two. The smoke ends up producing a mild layer over the entire smell of this beer. There is a very faint, indistinguishable fruitiness in the background. The rich dark caramel is front and center in this brew and I really like how much it steps forward.

Toffee manages to stand up to the dark caramel maltiness on the tongue. The fruitiness is a little more noticeable with figs standing out mid palate. Something I didn't pick up in the nose that's here in the flavor is an underlying layer of powdery cocoa, very nicely done. The peaty smokiness is layered above the cocoa with only a mild saturation. In my limited experience this is one of the better, easily available Scottish ales out there.

The body is medium but manages to evolve nicely as it warms. I initially thought the body was a little thin but as this beer sits in my glass it hits its stride well. After some warming and breathing the body takes on an enjoyable silkiness.

I have no problem drinking a few of these in a sitting. There is a lot of flavor jammed into this low abv package. It's unusual to find a beer this low in alcohol that can be savored such as this one.

Like I noted earlier in my review, this is one of the better Scottish ales on the market. It's very enjoyable and very approachable, the peat hits just right. The few beers that I've had from Orkney have been very good. Thanks for the brew David; I'm a huge fan of the style!

Photo of Jeffo
3.95/5  rDev -0.8%
look: 3 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3 | overall: 4

Got this at De Bierkoning in Amsterdam.

From a bottle into a pint glass.

APPEARANCE: Pours a super thin small tan head that disappears right away. Black and opaque, resembling a stout in colour. Basically no carbonation and zero lacing in any way. The colour is attractive but that's it really.

SMELL: A nice strong nose of peat and sweet dark caramel malt. A touch of smoke and a hint of vanilla lingers in the background. Quite nice and very enticing.

TASTE: A peaty smokiness up front and a bit of sweet wood at the end. Very mild but long lingering aftertaste of sweet wood and a touch of bitter coffee and vanilla again. Pretty nice combination, but not quite as strong as the nose would suggest.

PALATE: Medium body and medium to higher end carbonation. Slightly creamy on the palate, goes down relatively smooth and finishes slightly mouth coating.

OVERALL: A fine Scottish ale by any standards. Not the best looking thing I've ever drunk, but very tasty, interesting and complex. The flavors are quite bold, so I think it would be hard to drink a few of these. A couple would be very enjoyable, however. This is one I'd pick up again for sure.

Photo of Redwood21
4/5  rDev +0.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A: this beer is extremely dark with a thin little halo of head floating around the walls of the goblet

S: malty liek very doughy bread mixed with grains toasted but still chewy

T: the malt is front and center and i feel earthy peaty tones try to burst through but don't quit make it the bread like front loaded taste is supported by a weak and almost water finish that brings with it a vanilla mixed with a very faint raisin like taste. there is also a faint amount of coffee on the first taste, but this is by no means a coffee centric beer. I do not perceive the chocolate the label says i will, but this could be me.

this is a good albeit a lil light bodied beer. light in body only for the style though and it sticks around on your palate for a while which for a "thinner" beer is not a bad achievement

Photo of pokesbeerdude
4.5/5  rDev +13.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Picked up a 500ml single at Eastside Liquors in Craig, CO, about $4.

A: Dark brown, not quite black, garnet accents when held to the light. I wasn't sure if there was going to be a head on this one, and there isn't much, just a few bubbles on the edge of the class that are a light tan color. From the few bubbles that are there, there are some nice chunks of lacing.

S: I don't think I've ever smelled something like this, chocolatey, and earthy, a faint hint of smoke, peat, really heavy on the malt bill, and even some milk-like smells? There's a lot going on here. Wow.

T: Complexity follows over from the nose just as well, chocolate up front, earth, and smoke throughout, slightly sour as well, smokiness is there from the malts, a really nice addition, hints of fruits, cherries notably, tobacco as well. This is fantastic.

M: Remarkably thick for such low ABV, a lingering bit of smoke in the mouth, low carbonation, quite smooth. Spot on.

D: A little on the sweet side, but definitely a drinkable beer, this is fantastic, very complex, and a slow sipper, which is odd for something with low alcohol, excellent beer all the way around.

Photo of ccrida
3.68/5  rDev -7.5%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

500ml bottle poured into my Samuel Smith imperial pint, Dark Island is cola colored, with a creamy eggshell head that leaves nice lace.

Smell is rich, fruity and sweet, but nutty, with dark caramel crystals. The sweetness here seems a little out of wack with the nutty, astringent bite.

Taste is also pretty rich but not as sweet, the maltiness has a more brown porter like quality with the coffee and chocolate, but not real roast, just some light smoky esters. Like the nose, there's something about the malt profile I'm not loving, almost lactose like, but I really think it's just the particular balance of crystal and chocolate malts...perhaps some damp herbal hops as well, touch of spice on the finish. Improved as I let it warm to almost room temp, more chocolate opened up, and coffee on the nose.

Mouthfeel is pretty smooth and light-bodied.

Drinkability is pretty good, and interesting beer, defiantly has the Scottish ale profile but with a more porter like malt base. Worth trying but I'm not particularly wowed.

Photo of BMoney575
3.58/5  rDev -10.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

Sampled on 1-13-09

Pours a deep brown color with just a hint of red. A thin, off-white head sits on top, leaving craggy lacing.

Smell is very sweet and peaty, now this is a scotch ale. Quite complex, with a strong aroma of smoke.

Taste is very smooth, not as sweet as expected. Very roasty and a little earthy, but not much going on.

Mouthfeel is good, but a little too carbonated.

Drinkability is good, just a little on the boring side.

Overall, nothing different here.

Photo of Gmann
3.58/5  rDev -10.1%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Pours a dark brown color with honey brown highlights, the head has a nice milkshake quality to it, which settled into a sudsy cap. The aroma has a lactose sweetness to it with some light coffee and chocoate notes. The taste is of a lightly roasted malt, some sort of milky quality, and a metallic twang. Not really what I was expecting here, maybe it is the full body. The feel is very smooth and chewy, quite balanced. The drinkability is fine. No off flavors and good feel. If I didn't know any better I would think this was a stout. Really big body on this one.

Photo of DoubleJ
4.15/5  rDev +4.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Half-liter bottle poured into an imperial pint glass, on to the beer:

Dark ruby brown color, the head is slihtly tan and retains itself decently. Not a bad sight to see. The aroma greets the nose with a brush of banbna, then following its trail is bitter chocolate and bourbon barrel. Well, some kind of wooden vessel. The taste is where this beer is at. There are many different flavors to choose from. It has a buttery smooth feel, although a bit flimsy....tastes like toffee, butter, figs, wooden barrel (bourbon?), and a dash of coffee bean. Easy to drink without the buzz effect, but please....slow yourself down and enjoy the ride Dark Island has to offer.

Photo of darklordlager
3.63/5  rDev -8.8%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3

Pours a very dark brown, with a good 1/2 light brown head that sits there like a crown on a king. Great.

Smell is very layered and balanced. Sweet bready malts, a bit of acidic smell from dark grains, a definitive smoky element.

Taste has a sweet breadiness about it. A bit of dark chocolate perhaps. Much smokier than I remember it. After it warms up a bit, the peat blends nicely with the chocolate flavour.

Mouthfeel is very creamy, and is medium-to-full bodied.

Drinkablity- I think this smoky peat would get to me after a while...in fact, it's getting to me during just this one.

I don't remember this one being so peaty...still a good brew none-the-less.

Photo of livingregret
2.85/5  rDev -28.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 2 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 3

Serving type was a 1pt .9fl oz bottle. Fairly nice looking bottle and label

Pours a dark dark brown, almost black, w/ little to no head but plenty of lacing w/ nice retention. Not to shabby so far

Smell is a very soft toffee mixed w/ a earthy oat smell. Very pleasing smell that invites you in to sample it

Taste is a touch disappointing to be honest. A light earthy taste(almost semi-sweet) which is not in any way bad but than you get a Dried Chocolate taste that ends w/ almost a prune like ending. I was hoping for more of the toffee to come out but no such luck. Smooth taste..that ends w/ chalk

Mouthfeel is very smooth at the beginning but ends w/ a slight chalky taste. Once again...I was really hoping for the smoothness to follow all throughout the taste but it does not

Drinkability is averageish. It's not terrible and I would enjoy one again...but would I keep a few extra on hand?...honestly I would not. The odd pick up from my local store sure but nothing to go out of my way to keep in stock

Photo of LumpyGuitar
4.22/5  rDev +6%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

I had been wanting one of these forever, thankfully Beers of the World just started carrying this.

Poured a beautiful dark brown, almost looks like root beer. A light tan bubbly head with decent retention.

Smells like rich chocolate, oat, and dark roasted malts.

Taste is very smooth. Starts with a bit of sweet chocolate that leads to a sweet prune like middle, ending on a mildly bitter hop. Aftertaste ranges from overly sweet to a bit sour from the hop.

Mouthfeel is nice. smooth and crisp, very refreshing.

Drinkability is great. Very easy to drink, nice flavor, amazingly smooth.

Photo of Proteus93
3.58/5  rDev -10.1%
look: 3 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

A: Pours a very deep brown, nearly opaque - but not so much because it's viscous, rather just a very deep chestnut brown. Head is a little on the shorter side, about a finger high, forming quickly with a lot of fizz and becoming rather foamy.

S: Soft and subtle toffee scents along with a rather deep earthy aroma. Quite nice in this sense.

T: A modest flavour... soft peat, earthiness. A powdery chocolate comes out fairly late on the finish, to add a finishing touch. Rather pleasant, though perhaps a little bit muted all around.

M: The 'powdery taste' of the chocolate is somewhat perceived with a body that is somewhat suggestive of that. Moderate prickle of carbonation, though body is a little light... then finishes with a dry, powdery feel.

D: Easy enough to drink with that lower alcohol content, though it might not be so alluring as to tempt me into buying more of it. Nonetheless, a fairly decent brew that I was happy to try.

Photo of mterrence5
3.38/5  rDev -15.1%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Dark brown color with avg head. Smells a little like wine but more of like citrus fruit and coffee. Light in the mouth with semi sweet acidic taste and a deep deep coffee grinds / dark chocoalte finish. Very smooth drinking. Good beer but wouldnt drink frequently. Maybe with desert (yeah I said it) cause of its coffee flavor.

Photo of nickynick
3.68/5  rDev -7.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3

Dark Island poured a nice dark brown, with a nice tan head. Smell was very strong of super sweet malt. Taste had slight hints of chocolate, roasted malts, mild sweetness. Mouthfeel was good. Drinkability seemed ok, it was a bit filling. Overall I found this to be an interesting beer. Seemed very stout like to me. I was a good ale, but a little pricey. Something like 5.29 for a 500ml bottle. Not a bad beer, I would not turn one down. But this beer confused me. I do intent to try more Scottish Ales.

Photo of Brad007
4.22/5  rDev +6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Pours a darkish-red color with a one-finger head. As dark as a stout.

Aroma is both sweet and smoky upfront with a distinctive woodiness to it.

Taste is smoky upfront with a bit of sweetness from the malt. Chewy and goes down well. Somewhat thin in the middle though.

The smokiness of the malt lingers at the back of the throat and dominates the palate.

A very good example of the style. Drinkable and possibly more spot-on than American versions of this style.

Photo of dnichols
3.93/5  rDev -1.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

I was served from a 500 ml. bottle into a short glass.

A: It poured a reddish Dr Pepper hued body with a frothy, sticky tan head. The head dissipated to a cover over the liquid and supported leggy lacing.

S: It was chalk full of fruity esters, roasted nuts, caramel and chocolate malts and hints of peat moss.

T: It is a pleasant ale with a smokey and nutty flavor that complements the sweet chocolate malts and earthy flavors.

M: It was a light to medium bodied brew with moderate carbonation and a smooth mouth feel with a lingering sweet aftertaste.

D: It is a smooth and easy brew to drink but it is a bit too sweet for a session beer. It makes for a nice after dinner treat.

Photo of Kallessin
4.05/5  rDev +1.8%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Pours very dark brown with ruby highlights throughout. Fairly moderate head that dissipated to thin coating.

It has a very mild malty aroma with a little chocolate. The aroma improved as it warmed up.

Very malty taste. Some roasted chocolate and a little coffee. Some dark fruity flavors mixed in that make it taste like it has more alcohol than it does. Some woody flavors likes in been in a cask.

Fairly smooth and creamy, but thin. Slight warming sensation. It makes the tongue tingle a little bit - might be the carbonation.

Very drinkable. I could easily drink a number of these. Overall a great beer.

Photo of thekevlarkid
4/5  rDev +0.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Poured out of the 500ml bottle a deep, dark brown like root beer with a two finger tan head. Dissipated after about two minutes to a skim of medium sized bubbles. Intermittent lacing. Big nose of roasted malts and chocolate malts. The flavors were quite enjoyable, roasted malt again up front followed by peat smoke and then a long, distinct milk chocolate finish that coats the tongue. Medium to full bodied and medium carbonation. Though technically a Scottish Ale it drinks more like a Porter and as such is not varietally correct but all the more enjoyable for those like myself who prefer darker brews. Either way this is a very good beer and worth picking up.

Dark Island from Orkney Brewery
89 out of 100 based on 370 ratings.