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Dark Island - Orkney Brewery

Not Rated.
Dark IslandDark Island

Displayed for educational use only; do not reuse.
very good

367 Ratings

(view ratings)
Ratings: 367
Reviews: 237
rAvg: 3.97
pDev: 12.09%
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: 367 | Reviews: 237 | Display Reviews Only:
Photo of wl0307
4/5  rDev +0.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Got this bottle at the Royal Mile Whiskies Shop, nr. the Tottenham Court Road tube station, Central London. BB Nov. 06, served cool in a straight imperial pint glass.

A: very dark brown colour with ruby hues, coming with an inch-thick foamy tan head, with good retention~~
S: liquid form of very dark chocolates--so very aromatic and deeply chocolatey, almost like raw cocoa-powder; turning more and more smoky, along with a sour-sweet edge of grapes, black-berries, south American coffee beans gradually coming through; mild hints of vanilla and charred wood-chips at the back.
T: mildly sourly-bitter filtered coffee flavour prevails, slowly giving way to smoked plums and roasted nutty mid-flavour, while a dryish hoppy presence is also felt at the back; creamy malty finish with a lingering taste of roasted nuts and chewy, raw, roasted barley-ish flavour.
M&D: overall the texture is creamy smooth, almost like a smoked+milk stout for that matter~~ light on the mouthfeel but not falling thin-ish. It's rather like a smooth stout rather than a so-called Scottish Ale, and this surely is a very delicious and easy-drinking sample.

wl0307, Mar 14, 2006
Photo of russpowell
4.05/5  rDev +2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Pours ruddy red to mahagony with a 3 fingers+ tan head. Good lacing & average head retention

Smell: Slight fruitiness

Taste: Peat smokiness up front, not too overwhelming. Dryness, choclate & frutiness then surface. Frutiness and slight smokiness in the finish

MF: Rich and good carbonation level

Pretty drinkable, good smoked/scottish ale. Worth a try if you like (as I do) restrained smokiness

russpowell, Mar 01, 2006
Photo of mrasskicktastic
1.63/5  rDev -58.9%
look: 2.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 1 | feel: 1.5 | overall: 1

A - Very dark brown to auburn, almost black. A half finger tan head dissipates quickly leaving no lacing behind.

S - A smoky bourbon character over a slight sweet fruity (dates and elderberries) odor. The aroma is pleasant.

T - Smoke! This tastes like cigarettes. Ick! It is seemingly composed of entirely charred malt, they probably cooked the barley until it was just idle carbon. It is pretty damn offensive. The aftertaste is of . . . smoke! I CAN choke it down, but it really sucks. I got a brief taste of dark berries for an instant, but I might have just been imagining things (or hallucinating from toxic shock).

M - Viscous, a bit harsh and drying. Not good.

D - If you pour liquid smoke in your cereal or save your cigarette ash for seasoning, then this is the beer for you. Otherwise it should stay on the shelves. Naturally, it is too gross to session. It might go with a cigarette, but I don't smoke. Normally I am avidly against drain pours, but I don't classify this as beer - it's cigarette juice. I hope the drain finds you more pleasant then I do!

mrasskicktastic, Feb 07, 2006
Photo of BitterBrian
3.5/5  rDev -11.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

poured a very dark reddish brown into a pint glass. the tan head was about an inch thick and lasted a few minutes. It left some light lacing. It was a good looking beer.

smelled of dark roasted malts. Tasted of very dry, dark malts with a little bit of grassiness. The finish was also very dry and thin.

I enjoyed this as I am a fan of Scottish ales, I would drink it again even though it was a bit thin and unbalanced.

I'd compare it to Belhaven Scottish Ale, but darker and dryer.

BitterBrian, Dec 02, 2005
Photo of hero27
3.95/5  rDev -0.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

500ml bottle.

Looks the part. Very dense, dark brown with a creamy beige head that stays for quite a while..and leaves some nice lacing clinging to the sides of the glass. Aroma is pretty good here as well. Very malty, slightly smoky..essences of coffee and roasty bitterness. 4.6% alcohol? pretty weak for a scottish ale, if you ask me.. The flavor mimics the smell almost exactly, with a harsh finish of roasted bitterness and some dark fruit complexities thrown in the mix as well. Impressive it's so complex and stays under 5% abv. A really drinkable dark ale. I wasn't expecting too much from this one, but it surprised me..and I'd definitely give it a try again.

hero27, Nov 05, 2005
Photo of kmpitz2
3.98/5  rDev +0.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Pours a deep deep crimson amber color...Maybe even brown with ruby hues. Very nice color. A finger of head falls to a patchy coat over top. Nose is chocolate, with a light smokeyness and a moderate caramel sweetness. Flavor is chocolate and smokeyness. I really like it. A light touch of roastyness is there too, but chocolate and smoke are most prevalent. Very nice. Feel is moderate with a light-moderate carbonation. Very drinkable brew. I really like the flavor. One of the more dark scottish ales I've had, but I like the combination.

kmpitz2, Oct 30, 2005
Photo of smcolw
3.75/5  rDev -5.5%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Excellent frothy beige head that leaves wonderful lace on the glass. Nearly mahogany in color.

The smell is disappointing: it's surprisingly muted. There is the definite presence of black patent lending a roasted coffee aroma. Beyond that there is little else.

Flavor wise, this is a full, rich beer. Although listed as a Scotch Ale, this is far closer to a dark porter, nearly stout. There is very little residual sugar (another Scotch Ale anamoly). The hop is subtle, refined but quite noticeable after the swallow. The black patent malt is back provided a roasted and dry flavoring.

OK, this is a very good beer, but it is not a Scotch Ale. If you enjoy dry stouts or robust porters, you'll likely enjoy this one.

smcolw, Sep 25, 2005
Photo of Beertracker
4.43/5  rDev +11.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

Dark Island should be served at "cellar temperatures" (50-55F) from a traditional no-nick pint glass or Scotch thistle. This Orkney bottled Scottish Ale pours up heartily with moderate carbonation. The malty aroma is slightly peaty (smoky) and mildly roasted with just a hint of ripe fruitiness. The color is very deep mahogany with a small, tannish colored head. The flavor is full and malty, just as the nose lead one to believe. This one starts off rich with some sweet bready notes and offers a defining smoky-chocolate finish. The bitterness is low and unassuming creating a fairly substantial, but smooth creamy ale. By far one of the fullest flavored Scottish Ales that I've ever had. Pick up a few bottles of Dark Island for yourself and enjoy a taste of Scotland along with some traditional Galloway cheddar & Scotch eggs. Here's to the land of blue skies and clear waters!

SLAINTE! Beertracker

Beertracker, Sep 05, 2005
Photo of WesWes
4.1/5  rDev +3.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

The beer pours a translucent brown color with a thick frothy offwhite head that slowly fades to lacing. The aroma is good. It is sweet and creamy with a roasted feel. It boasts of crystal, chocolate, and roasted malts. The taste is good. It has a smooth, malty flavor that goes down easy and finishes dry and slight bitter. It has a roasted/woody flavor with loads of sweet malts and bitter hops. It has a bitter/earthy aftertaste. The mouthfeel is fine. Some may find this to be too light, but it works for me. It's a medium/full bodied beer with good carbonation. I wish the CO2 was a little lighter, but it drinks well despite it. This is a flavorful brew. These guys don't make bad beers.

WesWes, Aug 25, 2005
Photo of Gagnonsux
4.25/5  rDev +7.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Dark Island is a deep, dark brown in color with an average-sized, light brown head. The head has a nice creamy texture and good retention. The aroma is of sweet chocolatey malts with an earthy undertone and a touch of roastiness. The taste consists of a nice combination of chocolate-flavored and earthy malts. A moderate roasted flavor adds a layer of complexity and is most potent in the finish. Light herbal hopping provides balance, bitterness, and just a bit of flavor. This is great stuff, I love the layering of tastes and subtle complexities. If this weren't so heavy I would give it a higher drinkability score. Anyway, still highly recommended.

Gagnonsux, Jun 02, 2005
Photo of Dithyramb
4.13/5  rDev +4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Presentation: Served from the cask into an imperial pint glass at Cafe Royal in Edinburgh

Appearance: Chill hazed dark reddish brown with big thick, light tan head. Beautiful lacing

Smell: Peaty complexities, mixed with a creamy coffee like aroma

Taste: Smokey peat flavors on the front end. Mellowed with a smooth chocolate and coffee malt flavors. Very light fruity hop bitterness on the tongue.

Extremely creamy and drinkable off the cask. This one was complex and very tasty. A little light on the mouthfeel for a Scottish ale, but very enjoyable and worth a few.

Dithyramb, Mar 16, 2005
Photo of Imbiber
4.15/5  rDev +4.5%
look: 5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 5

Eyecatching bottle design with black, gold, and orange used almost exclusively; no freshness date though.

Very dark ruby red, not quite black but nearly there. There's a good tan head and great lacing. Aroma is mildly roasty, not very strong; carbonation is at a good level. Smooth on the palate (Orkney's trademark as such), roast flavours are predominate with a little peatyness. Some hop flavour comes out to balance after a second or two, but I wasn't expecting much in that department from a Scottish beer. So smooth - very drinkable.

Imbiber, Mar 13, 2005
Photo of deejaydan
3.48/5  rDev -12.3%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Deep brown and ruby highlights, good sticky lacing. Not a ton in aroma on this beer. Taste is predominatly malty. I expect some level of smoke flavor in a scottish ale, but I did not pick any up in this one. Kind of blah. A bit overcarbonated as well. Not a horrible beer, but there are better representations of the style out there.

deejaydan, Feb 19, 2005
Photo of inebrius
4.05/5  rDev +2%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Foremost press of roasted barley
slurs its way upsides a pint,
soil and leaves and toffee trees
will clinch the tongue with all their might.
Whoa. Heady stuff this. Drinks like a comet struck old oak, charred and metallic, green but dead. I think they got the ABV% backwards. Enjoyable for it's oddity. I'd have to consume a couple more to know if it's worth buying again?

inebrius, Jan 29, 2005
Photo of stcules
3.8/5  rDev -4.3%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3 | overall: 4

Dark appearance, with reddish-dark ruby reflexes. The head is beige, very creamy, with an average compactness.
The smell is roasted, dusty, but delicate and smooth. Nuts, pistachio. Vanilla. Anise, maybe?
Beh, in any case, very fresh. Sweet and creamy roasted. Good and inviting.
The taste is also good. Roasted again, roasted coffee, burned malt, slightly. Very very soft and creamy and smooth. Vanilla again. White chocolate. Good!
Chocolate notes, a lot of vanilla, and some light smoked (peated) notes in the aftertaste.
Medium-light in body.
Very good, like all the other beers of this brewery.

stcules, Jan 16, 2005
Photo of Scorn
4.1/5  rDev +3.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Purchased at Somerville Supersaver, conveniently located in Somerville, NJ, Dark Island comes in a British-style 500ml bottle. I took a risk with a 4.6abv import and no freshness date.

I open the bottle, and smell red wine for a second, then a blast of smoke. It dawns on me that those crazy Orcadians must've peated the bugger. Nice. The smoke is pretty intense, but not so much that it masks the creaminess, fruitiness, and the dark, dark maltiness I crave this time of the year. A tiny little bit of sour wine stays in the background, keeping the smell short of perfection. Did I get a old bottle? There's no way to know.

Now that I know what peaty sort of Scottish ale this is, I expect the acrid smoky flavor when I taste it. The malt flavors run the gamut from dry to nutty to sticky. The peat makes it seem roasty at times. There's also a slab of slick hoppiness. After the first taste, I realize I had smelled fruity hops without realizing it.

Dark Island is smokier than necessary, not that I'm complaining. I dig rauchbier, and I love Scotch big time. Actually, I'm fond of the Orkney distilleries, Scapa and Highland Park. The funny thing is, Dark Island Ale is peatier than Orkney Island whisky.

Scorn, Jan 11, 2005
Photo of francisweizen
4/5  rDev +0.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

On-Cask at some shady bar in Edinburgh :-)

A dark red/brown/near black brew with a thick head of creamy foam, especially for a hand-pulled pint o' goodness. Aromas are of rich smoky malts, caramel, and other sweet-ish malt esters. There are also some faint floral hops detectable within the sweet roasty mess of this brews aroma. The taste is quite intriguing. I taste molasses, and other sweet/sugary flavors as well as those faint hops and a nice roasty/smoky flavor in the finish as well. Mouthfeel is creamy and thick, without being too thick, and scotch-ale like. Drinkability is very good, this is a very 'quaffable' dark ale, if I do say so myself. I agree that this is like a dark mild as well. Almost like a dark mild, light scotch ale hybrid. Very nice regardless. I never liked the skullsplitter, it may be time to try it again. Perhaps I should track it down on cask?

francisweizen, Nov 18, 2004
Photo of brewdlyhooked13
4.08/5  rDev +2.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Appearance - good-looking garnet color. Average tan head holds at a solid cap.

Aroma - caramel malts, smoked peat. Becomes a bit light but still good.

Taste - smoky peat prevails, providing lots of whiskey notes. Roasted malts, a tasty blend. Full-bodied, finishes with a roasted peat flavor.

Mouthfeel - bubbly beer, solid body, smooth.

Drinkability - a fine brew, one of the better examples of the style I've had.

brewdlyhooked13, Nov 11, 2004
Photo of Tballz420
3.95/5  rDev -0.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 3.5

Black body that turns dark purple with the light. Small, tan foam head. Scent is mainly chocolatly malts. Nice tasty chocolate malt front, bitter hop backbone, subtle, yet effective. Nice creamy mouthfeel. This is a nice tasty treat for any malthead.

Tballz420, Nov 09, 2004
Photo of clvand0
2.95/5  rDev -25.7%
look: 4 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

This one pours a brown color with a small head that dies off quickly and leaves very little lacing on the glass. The aroma is really weak - nothing much here. Maybe a little malts. The flavor has asmokiness to it and a slight malt character. It finishes smooth and bitter. This is an interestingly good taste, but it's hard to describe. I'm not sure that I enjoyed this brew much.

clvand0, Oct 26, 2004
Photo of Guinness4me
3.7/5  rDev -6.8%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3

What looks like a red porter pours lightly with little head or lace from this bottle.

The smell is earthy and prunish with only a slight hoppiness.

Smokiness seemed almost overpowering to me at first, but after more sips, it grew on me. After the smoke I noticed the taste of rich soil, peat? The next stage in the taste was a twinge of bitter and a smooth sweet finish.

The mouthfeel was a nice ride! The carbonation lingered with almost a bite then cascaded down my throat. I found it very refreshing.

Guinness4me, Oct 11, 2004
Photo of gbontrag
3.13/5  rDev -21.2%
look: 3 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Looks like raisin water; water that's had raisins soaking in it for a few hours. (I do this for breads.)

Not much of a nose to it. Dark toast... a little tobaccy. Maybe this is an old bottle. There's not a lot of sniffy power.

Tastes like burnt toast with butter. Old socks--? I don't much care for this. It's not very interesting. Maybe I'm looking at something that's lost a step due to age. There's a little charred wood, a bit of dark malt sweetness like just a hint of prune. A hop kiss along the sides of my palate. That funky shoe yeast keeps popping up. Negligible carbonation.


gbontrag, Sep 27, 2004
Photo of ChrisBowers
4.4/5  rDev +10.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4.5

I may be reviewing this beer a little past its prime, but it still is quite excellent. I forgot I had this in my cellar, no idea why I cellared it for almost a year. Pours a dark dark brown/black with very little head. Aroma is rich, malty, almost like a toned down JW Lees with a hint of conac. Taste is much of the same... ripe fruits, roasted malt, and a pleasant sweetness. Mouthfeel was a bit thin, but I think that is a result of holding on to this one a bit too long.

ChrisBowers, Sep 08, 2004
Photo of BuckeyeNation
4.35/5  rDev +9.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

A beautiful shade of dusky reddish chestnut which reveals itself to be closer to dark crimson when held to my sunlit front window. The head is frothydense, light toasty brown and is clinging for all it's worth--in chunky pocked sheets--to the upper portion of the glass. If you have sunlight handy, this one is impressive to look at.

The nose strikes me as cross between a Scottish ale and a porter. It smells of lightly roasted dark malt with plenty of chocolate, sweet dark caramel and peat. It tastes pretty porter-like too with flavors of chocolate-covered caramels and sweet black licorice. It's deeper than that though.

There's also a mildly sour, earthy, peaty smokiness that is some kind of satisfying. It finishes mildly bitter, a friendly reminder that hops are present as well. The mouthfeel is medium-full and creamy without a trace of heaviness. (With regards to body/mouthfeel, keep in mind that this isn't a Scotch Ale; the differences between the two styles aren't trivial).

I've had a number of good Scottish ales recently and Dark Island is the best of the lot. The pint bottle was a little on the expensive side ($4), but well worth it. I'll be sure to pick up a few more of these beauties whenever and wherever I find them. Anyone looking to dip a toe into the 'Scottish ale loch' would be hard-pressed to find a better place to start than Dark Island.

BuckeyeNation, Aug 29, 2004
Photo of oberon
4/5  rDev +0.8%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Pours a deep brown with some ruby highlights thru out with more head than expected,aroma was suprisingly light a little brown sugar and touch of smokiness.Taste of dark fruit and mildly sweet with a touch of peat in the finish that lingers.A solid ale pretty easy to drink.

oberon, Jul 11, 2004
Dark Island from Orkney Brewery
89 out of 100 based on 367 ratings.