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Dark Island - Orkney Brewery

Not Rated.
Dark IslandDark Island

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

352 Ratings

(view ratings)
Ratings: 352
Reviews: 234
rAvg: 3.97
pDev: 12.09%
Wants: 57
Gots: 12 | 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: 352 | Reviews: 234 | Display Reviews Only:
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
Photo of cypressbob
4/5  rDev +0.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

On tap, cask

Pours with a dark brown body, slightly hazy body. Light, fuzzy head, thin, has little retention

Smell, malt, yeasty also. Little hop bitterness, but a burnt smokey aroma coming off

Taste, dry and smokey, almost like a thin stout. Yeasty finish

A nice ale, something a bit different

cypressbob, Jul 09, 2004
Photo of ybnorml
4.33/5  rDev +9.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Very dark brown almost black in color with ruby tints. Good creamy off white head some lace. Big malty aroma with a good heft of roasted malt in there. Delicious rich coffee note blended with a nice smooth roasted bitterness. A good robust beer that stood up well with my curry.

ybnorml, Jul 01, 2004
Photo of donnebaby
3.65/5  rDev -8.1%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 4 | feel: 2 | overall: 4.5

This beer poured a dark molassas, with a handsome, brown head, which was quick in disappearing. I found the roasted malts aroma enjoyable--but not impressive in any way.

The taste is quite good, however. For its dark color, it's surprisingly fluid in the mouth, with great big sour lemon-lime overtones, slightly sweet, which cover over the finale of tobacco-like bitterness.

The mouthfeel was an enormous let-down, flat in the mouth. This was a refreshing drink and deserves high marks for quaffability.

donnebaby, Mar 09, 2004
Photo of Doiv
4.1/5  rDev +3.3%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

This is, without a shadow of doubt, one of the finest stouts I have tasted. This succeeds where Guiness Draught goes wrong – instead of being smooth and creamy, Island is coarse and fluid. It is almost akin to drinking a pint of charcoal, and one could even call it a session stout. The closest rival I have found is probably Hopback’s Entire Stout.

Doiv, Mar 07, 2004
Photo of Kongquistador
4.28/5  rDev +7.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Poured, this is an attractive but not especially eye-catching beer. It recommends with a nice dark color, dark red, like a transparent burgandy. The head is light brown, definetely not tan, and is thin, dense, and lasting, although it disappears quicker in the bottled version, as you might expect. It can be seen through, but only when held straight up to a light. The nose is business-like malts, very complex though. Initial characterless malty sweetness gives way instantly to a variety of flavours. A nice grainy element is omnipresent, but swirling aromas of raisins and caramel also play a major role. Almost hop-like fruity elements at points, an exceptional smell.

This definetly needs to be served at warmer than refirderator temperatures. Service from the bottle risks missing the exciting flavors that lie under the surface. Although it is a dark beer, and at points I want to call it a porter, there is much more to the taste than a standard chocolate and coffee with a bit of burnt fruit. Both coffee and chocolate make a delightfully subdued appearance, not dominating the malt as you might imagine. Fruity flavours strike you from the first, mostly dark, raisin and currant aromas. Almost striking is the lack of a caramel flavour, which while puzzling, seems to work just fine in the beer, helping it assemble a non-standard flavour profile. The flavours all blend well in the cask, with no hoppy elements sneaking through to steal the show from the malts.

Many people mention peaty elements in this brew, both smell and taste, and while they are certainly present, it really seems to reinforce the other flavours, rather than creating a distinct place for itself. It is in many respects like a heather ale, nice and fruity, but with a smoky twist that is unexpected in the standard malt profile. A nice touch.

Mouthfeel is a bit thin for me, especially as this is a dark beer, with a lot of flavour. Considering it is on cask, with low carbonation and a nice slow pour, it seems like there should be something more to grip onto. It would be nice to have it sit around your mouth a little longer, and the lack of a strong finish means it never leaves those delicious tastes lingering in the mouth. Other than that, it is a fine beer, highly drinkable, and delicious on cask.

In the bottle, this is a tasty brew as well, and not very different at all from cask. Flavours stick out more individually than the more blended cask, and the mouthfeel is a bit thinner yet, but still eminetly drinkable.

Kongquistador, Mar 06, 2004
Photo of beerguy101
3.68/5  rDev -7.3%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Dark brown color. Large white foamy head. Aroma is dark fruit, brown sugar and smoke. A medium bodied Scottish ale. Malts are complex, rich and smoky. Hints of smoke and peat, vanilla and whisky. Very smooth taste that gives way to a very pleasant dry finish. Very easy drinking, example of a Scottish ale. Mouthfeel is full and round. Finish is clean and dry. Aftertaste is slightly bitter.

beerguy101, Mar 06, 2004
Photo of merlin48
3.43/5  rDev -13.6%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Pours a clear, deep chestnut brown with a luscious three finger beige head that quickly falls into patchy sheets of lace that cling to the glass. Aroma is subdued and has some toffee and peaty smokiness. Mouthfeel has medium carbonation, is rich and slightly creamy, and has a mild hops sting. Sweet toffee and caramel lead the malt dominance. There is a smoky peat taste that echoes the nose, and a hops balance that wavers between fruity and floral. Finish is somewhat bitter, and this ale is well balanced, overall. Distinctively Scottish, and nicely drinkable, but not the best offering from Orkney.

merlin48, Mar 01, 2004
Photo of nomad
4.05/5  rDev +2%
look: 5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Dark brown and transparent, but hard to tell so, this beer pours out with tons of carbonation. Has a great crown of a head, looking like a puffy Ayer's Rock with dozens of microscopic streams of carbonation underneath. Stain bits all over. Impressive show for a beer that is not bottle conditioned.

Smell begins with notes of peat malt moving to licorice and rooty fruits like dates. Opens to a broad sweetness.

Taste is smooth yet roasty, drinking like a schwarzbier. Has notes of earthy grapeskines, soapy hops, a thin bark dryness, and a spare sweetness. Has a short rooty-dry finish building to a mocha-like calm roughness. I wish more strong ales would taste like this one.

Screams session brew as it is full of flavor but interminably drinkable. This beer, on cask, in Scotland? Brilliance. More quality from the makers of the vaunted Skullsplitter.

nomad, Feb 19, 2004
Photo of kwalters
2.8/5  rDev -29.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Dark Island comes in a uniquely shaped bottle with an intriguing label. It was hard to pass up, sitting there all alone on the shelf.

It poured a dark ruby color with almost no head. What little head there was disappeared almost immediately. The smell was of malt and light smoke. The taste was on the malty side (as a Scotch ale generally is) but was too dominated by the burnt-wood/smokey flavor to be truly enjoyable. I can see where one might think of chocolate flavors when sipping this brew, but I couldn't get past the smokiness.

Scotch ales are typically among my favorite brews, but this one seemed a bit off. It's worth a try just because of its unique flavors, but it's not something I'd come back for. The 4.6%abv makes it highly drinkable if you like the flavors.

kwalters, Feb 02, 2004
Photo of Gusler
4.1/5  rDev +3.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

The beer disembarks the bottle a very deep mahogany color with the head prodigious in size and semi-creamy in size and a light tan in color, the lace a thick and clinging sheet to obscure the glass. Nose is sweet malt, fresh and crisp with a hint of caramel, earthy aroma also present, the start is sweet, nicely malted, the top is middling in feel, Finish is benignly acidic, the hops pleasant and mild to the palate, very dry and long lasting aftertaste, quite quaffable this “Scottish Ale”, “Good Golly Miss Molly”, two new Scottish Ales in one week, ah the beer “Gods” have smiled upon “Olde Gusler”, and my Thanks to “steview” for this bottle.

Gusler, Jan 22, 2004
Photo of GCBrewingCo
3.93/5  rDev -1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

The beer poured dark brown with ruby highlights and a head which rose over three fingers and fell slowly leaving lacing on the glass before the first sip was even sampled. Aroma is low with slight smoky note and slight caramel. Flavor is smoky with caramel and the finish is smoky chocolate. The balance between the smoke and the sweet is well done. The body is medium and the drinkability is good.

This beer came in a 16.9 ounce bottle.

GCBrewingCo, Dec 13, 2003
Photo of Naerhu
3.78/5  rDev -4.8%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

This red is so dark it looks black. The head which is barely there is tan. Was there. Lacing prominent, but not outstanding.

Very low aromatics, kinda like something burnt.

Tastes of a really dry molases and the faintest prunes. Hops are hard to find. Quite tasty, but nothing exciting. Nice and malty.

Mouthfeel is light, but creamy. This stuff goes down fast.

Presented in a pint glass, but went down faster than a shot of tequilla.

Naerhu, Dec 03, 2003
Photo of mschofield
4.35/5  rDev +9.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Dark ruby-brown, with a 4 finger tall coffee colored head. The head does not last long, but it laces well.
Plum aroma with peat.
Smoky and Peaty flavor with a little bit of chocolate. The chocolate becomes more flavorful as it warms, and overall a roasted malt comes out.
Called a dark Ale - but I think it's more of a porter. I liked this a lot and could easily drink a few.

mschofield, Nov 26, 2003
Photo of SetarconeX
4.1/5  rDev +3.3%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 5

Having sample's Orkney's Dragonhead stout not too long ago, and being suitably impressed by it, I decided to give one of their other beers a whirl. Dark Island, I must admit, isn't half bad. Pours a nice dark red color, with a lovely brown head. I know I can't take it into account with my rating, but Orkney has the absolute coolest looking labels ever. Nice black standing stones on this one.

The taste is at heart a fairly standard flavor, with subtle little hints of something more complicated underneath. Lightly malty. Perhaps lightly toffee flavored. Ever so slightly toasted, but still much lighter than a Porter or Stout. Exactly the sort of beer I'd want in massive quantities to go with a nice hearty meaty dinner. Alas, it doesn't seem to get sold in the quantities I'd like. Better out there? Sure. But this one's still plenty fun.

SetarconeX, Oct 23, 2003
Photo of jdhilt
2.95/5  rDev -25.7%
look: 4 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Pours with a three-fingered very light, brown head that fades slowly and leaves good lace. A nice deep, ruby color. Nose has just a hint of roasted coffee. Starts hoppy/malty and finishes with a hint of malt/hops and just a hint of bitterness. Very good carbonation. $3.99 for 500ml.

jdhilt, Oct 17, 2003
Dark Island from Orkney Brewery
89 out of 100 based on 352 ratings.