Skull Splitter - Orkney Brewery

Not Rated.
Skull SplitterSkull Splitter

Educational use only; do not reuse.

1,999 Ratings

(view ratings)
Ratings: 1,999
Reviews: 962
rAvg: 4.08
pDev: 12.5%
Wants: 165
Gots: 220 | FT: 2
Brewed by:
Orkney Brewery visit their website
United Kingdom (Scotland)

Style | ABV
Scotch Ale / Wee Heavy |  8.50% ABV

Availability: Year-round

Notes & Commercial Description:
Beer added by: BeerAdvocate on 10-08-1998

No notes at this time.
Beer: Ratings & Reviews
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Ratings: 1,999 | Reviews: 962
Reviews by hellhammermario:
More User Reviews:
Photo of Jason
4.75/5  rDev +16.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

Impressively strong not only in alcohol but flavour to. The only thing wrong with this beer is that the bottle is too small.

Photo of WildHighlander
5/5  rDev +22.5%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

This is by far my most favorite of Strong Scotch Ales. It has a creamy maltiness that is very appealing. A slight peat flavor comes through and the alcohol content of 8.5% ABV complements the malt sweetness nicely. I had this at the Hair of The Dog pub in Chattanooga, TN and really wish I could get this in Oklahoma.

Photo of oberon
4.15/5  rDev +1.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 3.5

Very appetizing amber colored beer with rich creamy head.Raisin-like aroma to it,kinda porty in taste to me with some dried fruit in there,alchol was prevalent ecspecially when it began to warm.Something to drink before bedtime.Really nice liked it alot.

Photo of don1481
4.54/5  rDev +11.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Serving: Pour an 11.2 oz bottle into a pint glass.

Appearance: Deep reddish-brown. Small amount of foam lingers.

Smell: Fruity, toffee, boozy. Caramel notes, too. Smells inviting.

Taste: ... different than what I was expecting from the smell. I really don't taste the booze. It's quite a bit sweeter than I would have anticipated, even after reading the bottle's flavor description. The "complex" descriptor on the bottle is very appropriate here - I definitely get some molasses here. Fruit notes. Definitely warming. Mmm.

Mouthfeel: Soft. Not an abrasive boozy or syrupy feel at all. Satiny.

Overall: Yes, I think I will be picking this up quite regularly for now on when I want to go with something that I know is going to be REALLY good yet unique. AND - as a bonus - reasonably priced for a 4 pack!

Photo of RoyalT
4.6/5  rDev +12.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

Appearance – This has the classic appearance of the Sotch Ale/Wee Heavy style. The head came up huge then went down pitting. The body is a deep, dark, ruby-brown color.

Smell – Man, does this ale wreek! The big aroma of dark, concentrated fruits soaked in rum and brandy come out in force. The malts are present underneath along with some alcohol notes as well.

Taste – The rum/raisin flavor comes out huge and overpowers the other fruits from the nose. There’s also a tartness in there. Maybe we soaked some apples in this batch? Anyway, it’s a very unique and interesting flavor, and a “must try” for any serious BA.

Mouthfeel – Flat, smooth, and full-bodied with a reminder of alcohol.

Drinkability – Everything I wrote about this ale comes together in the drinkability category. I don’t feel that any one component is perfect, but together this is as good as it gets and deserves my highest, “Drinkability,” rating.

Update – I drink this on a regular basis but thought I should re-review it with an ’04 bottle. My opinion hasn’t changed one iota from my initial rating in September of 2003.

Photo of liveandletdie
4/5  rDev -2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Bottle has changed a bit, still looks decent but I think I liked the old bottle better. Had this beer with some jalapeno chilli so it might have taken some taste away from the beer. Regardless I liked the beer, many flavors that my imprecise tongue could not put its finger on. A lot of fig/date type flavors. You don't really taste the alcohol. Color was a medium maple brown. Lacing clung to the side of the cup it was in. Little more into the beer and the alcohol makes a little bit of a presence as you might expect.
Overall good beer, and unique taste to it.

Photo of MadScientist
4.55/5  rDev +11.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

A: This is a fairly clear, medium amber beer with a long lasting tan head of less than a half finger cap on the beer.

S: This beer has a deep malty aroma with malt sweetness, some smokey and almost peaty aromas. There is a moderately-light caramel note in the background. There is the faint aroma of European hops aroma. There is some yeast derived dark fruit notes like plum with molasses and a light touch of alcohol flavor are in there as well.

T: A big malt flavor with a lot of malt sweetness followed by a dry roasted malt flavor. The hops flavor and bitterness are moderately low letting the malt and sweetness dominate the flavor. There is a very light pepper, some alcohol and some bitterness keeping the sweetness in check through the finish.

M: This is a thick, full bodied beer with moderate carbonation and a light alcohol warmth.

O: This malty, sweet and slightly smokey beer would make for a fine after dinner cordial. It's a fairly sweet beer but not cloyingly sweet with the alcohol and light bitterness keeping it in check.

Photo of wesbrownyeah
4.15/5  rDev +1.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

SkullSpiltter Wee Heavy Scotch Ale. 8.5% alcohol
Poured into a pint glass. I was talking to someone at the store i was at and they recomended this beer so i tried it.

A- Pours a medium amber- brown fluid that produces a small tan head that falls to a ring around the glass and froth.

S- I getting some very light scents of dark fruits... plum, raisins and maybe dates. Very light I must repeat.

T-M- There it is the flavor says everything in one sip. The alcohol fuzes with rich burnt malts danky plums and massive raisin backbone.
Taste is simple but for what a Wee Heavy is in Scotland "get drunk and have it taste good". Perfect. Mouthfeel is warm with alcohol tingling with every carbonated bubble but in a good way... smooth.

D- Hell yeah its drinkable and it a Wee bit heavier than any sessionable beers... but hey session drinking can be done with this one be careful.

Photo of SIRIUS2
4.06/5  rDev -0.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Poured from an 11.2 oz. bottle into a pint glass.

A careful pour yields a clear ruddy brown brew with a very nice foamy white head of 2-3 fingers in width. Head settles down but stays with the brew and leaves lacing all the way down the glass.

Aromas are of earthy malts with a touch of grassy hops. Aromas seem solid with good balance.

Sweet caramel malts were forward, fading slightly to allow something like dried cherries or similar fruitiness to come through. Hops aren't necessarily coming forward with flavor but you get the sense they are there simply because of the balance. The weight is nice too, and the carbonation is allows for an almost creaminess that all comes together well. nice.

Goes down easy and is highly enjoyable. Awesome beer!

Photo of skybluewater
3.78/5  rDev -7.4%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Pours a deep rust color, no lacing. Tastes malty, with a nice raisin undertone, with a bit of dried fruit as well. Warming alcohol present. It really tastes almost like a thin barleywine. Not a bad beer, one I'd return to every once in a while, if it was't $2.50 for such a small bottle.

Photo of orbitalr0x
4.29/5  rDev +5.1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

11.2oz bottle pours into my glass a deep garnet hue without much head, just some bubbles that quickly fade and some chunkers that I accidentally let fall into my glass. Aromas start with big sweet malt tones dominated by caramel, sweetbread, dried fruits, leather, tobacco and a mix of spicy tones. There's a vinous quality in the background as well. Really rich and inviting, it pulls me in for a sip.

First sip brings smooth sweet malts upfront that spiral into a vortex of deep fruits, caramel, sweetbread and spice. Earthy tones of tobacco and leather veer in midway though the sip. Just a touch of alcohol in the finish, this is one malty beast with a great depth of flavor. It does teeter on the line of being too sweet for me, but overall is very enjoyable.

Mouthfeel is lush and satiny smooth as the beer effortlessly flows down. Mellow carbonation adds to the ease of drinkability here. I can see how this would be dangerous as the alcohol is totally hidden. Overall, this is just a damn fine drink right here. Will be revisiting this and maybe getting some to age as well.

Photo of chOAKbarrell
3.98/5  rDev -2.5%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

I can't say I know all that much about scotch ales, seeing as I've tried relatively few of them, but I was certainly fond of this one.

This beer is on the darker side, nicely attractive to look at. The alcohol is very present in the scent. I dont know if this is a good thing or not. It didnt bother me, but I guess that issue is just a matter of preference.

The taste - wow. There is a lot going on in this beer. It is rather hard to believe that this beer is only 8.5%. It seems a good bit stronger. I noticed too that it has that slightly-syrupy quality to it much like a barleywine. Very complex.

I dont think your average drinker could handle too many of these in a single session, but it is definitely worth your $$$ to pick up a six pack or
4 pack or however these are sold (I got mine at a bar - $4).

Photo of lordofthewiens
4.2/5  rDev +2.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Thank you to Todd the beer guy at McKean and Charles in Waldoboro for getting me to try this. Other than the cool name, I'm not sure I would have bought this without his suggestion. A 330ml bottle poured into a pint glass, it was brown with red highlights, and had a small head. It had a peaty aroma, as well as a little bit of malt. Loved the taste. Bread, peat, alternatingly sweet and smoky. A really nice mouthful. Try this beer.

Photo of mbrandon2w
3.83/5  rDev -6.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3

Beautiful ruby colored brew, with a surprisingly fruity aroma. Lots of plums, raisins and tropical fruit in the nose. Sweet malt flavor, with caramel and fruit flavors coming through. Some alcohol.
Gets a bit heavy and a bit too sweet after a while though, otherwise nice brew.

Photo of Todd
4.32/5  rDev +5.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Presentation: 11.2oz brown bottle with a red foil neck. Thorfinn Hausakluif ("SkullSplitter"), the 7th Viking Earl of Orkney pears hauntingly from the label, shield and weapon in hand.

Appearance: Deep murky brown in colour with a cream lace; powder like.

Smell: Alcohol, rich caramel, ripe fruit and the slightest note of hop are all present in the nose.

Taste: Beneath a smooth, creamy, almost chewy mouthfeel lies an 8.5% alcohol that has an aged Scotch profile. This ale screams "caramel!" This dominates the brew with a sweetness that mingles well with a touch of buttery diacetyl, but, is impressively balanced with hints of raisin, alcohol spice and a mild hop leaf flavour. Warming.

Notes: The unique malt profile truly lends itself to the brew. This is an awesome strong ale to be enjoyed slowly, and in relaxation, after a large meal or a cold night.

Photo of sponberg
4.47/5  rDev +9.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Deep garnet/brown with a thinnish tan head.

Has a nose akin to a smoky Scotch or Port - hints of toffee and raisin. Beautifully smooth - the slightly smoky, slightly roasty edges of the caramel/toffee maltiness are just SO satisfying. Enough hop bitterness to balance, but this brew is a malt maven's delight. Finishes with some raisiny notes along with a slight but notable warming surge o' alcohol. Skullsplitter is the one beer to have when you're having more than one while sitting by the fire roasting your enemies on a spit - or a leg of lamb, for that matter. One of my all time favorite cold weather sipping brews.

While quaffing the last of my pint, the publican offered up some smoked herring. It went perfectly with this brew.

Photo of Beaver13
4/5  rDev -2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

11.2 oz bottle, purchased 6 months ago. Pours a cloudy tea color with some yeasties. It has an off-white head that quickly diminishes to a thin film.

The aroma is smoky and vinous with some oak, dark fruits and tobacco.

The flavor is sugary sweet with some dark fruits and smoke leading to a lightly bitter dry finish. The mouthfeel is medium and creamy with some slightly sharp carbonation.

Overall, this was a very nice brew. It's hard to classify - a little smoky, and some belgian qualities. It's definitely not a typical Scotch Ale.

Photo of Doomcifer
3.42/5  rDev -16.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 2.5

I have seen this brew many times in the past years but never picked it up, so I included it in my mix-a-six pack this evening. Pours semi-dark, ruddy, brown color with not much of a head that vanishes quickly, but leaving behind decent lacing. Smells of oak, caramel, some sweet maltiness. Taste is of oakiness, much like the aroma...maybe even go as far as saying tobacco flavors. Caramel tones, sweet malts, some cherries hidden in the mix as well. Ends very dry and a major alcohol punch. This beer doesn't do a very good job masking the ABV. Alcohol warming lingers with you for a bit. Mouthfeel is mildy heavy bodied, slippery until the finish comes in and slaps you with dryness. Carbonation feels pretty low, small bubbles that tingle the tongue a tad...has that pilsner carbonation quality to it. I dont know if I could have more than one of these per session as it not really my style.

Photo of Guden
3.67/5  rDev -10%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Tasted at the Quarry House in MD.

A- Light chocolatey brown with a nearly non-existent white head.

S- Chocolate, alcohol, toffee and tobacco all fill the nose in an interesting bouquet. Not overly strong but what's there is good.

T- Heavy alcohol warmth with moderate caramel sweetness, light chocolate and a touch of black currants to balance the heat. Not so hot as to feel like a liquor but certainly the dominating characteristic.

M- Highly carbonated and full bodied giving a creamy mouth filling feeling which spreads the warmth and sweetness to all the taste buds.

D- A good beer but lacking in any real complexity or thrill. Something I would certainly enjoy again but not that I would go back to often.

Photo of ThisLadyLovesBeer
3.68/5  rDev -9.8%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

I like this for my first foray into a Scotch Ale / Wee heavies. I found it to be flavorful and boozy, but the head doesn't last as long as I'd have liked and it's by no means creamy as some reviewers stated, but perhaps it's because it's from a bottle? A nice cold-weather sipping ale, would be wonderful with a bowl of chili and cornbread or a Sunday roast beef dinner. I could see this at table replacing a bottle of Merlot, as it has a depth and character that would carry quite well with a hearty and seasoned meal. By itself it's also fine, but I think it'd be better with food. The label graphics and where it's brewed drew me to try it. I would definitely buy it again as I enjoy a rich, low-hops, flavorful ale.

Photo of BuckeyeSlim
4.12/5  rDev +1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

11.2 oz bottle poured into a New Belgium snifter.

A - Pours caramel colored into the glass and sets up a one-finger head that's fluffy and ecru, which disappears quickly and leaves a very thin sheen of lace and tiny bubbles around the edge. Beer is deep amber sunset orange and slightly opaque. Thin, constant stream of carbonation rises up the middle, leaving an island in the center of the surface.

S - Wonderful, full caramel malts. Rich and dark dried fruits, like figs or moist raisins. A suggestion of booze in the background. Breadiness almost suggests a light, coarse rye.

T - Rich, medium toasted malts mixed with brown, dark sugars, dark fruits, and spices, like muted cinnamon and white pepper. Hints of moderately dark roasted grains. Alcohol and bittering hops snap the sweetness off in the finish.

M - Good carbonation makes it somewhat fizzy. Complex structure with substance and good body. Finish is drier than nose and initial taste would suggest, and doesn't linger, although an echo of the toasted malts shows up later on the palate.

O - Very well put together. Boozy, but delicious. Malts, sugars, spices, and fruits are nicely balanced together as well as against the hops, which clearly exist to create a clean finish, but are not in the nose. A great alternative to a shot of single malt at the end of the day. More of a sipping beer, although two or three across a relaxing evening wouldn't be out of the question. Definitely worth having a four-pak in the fridge for appreciative guests. A sophisticated, amped version of the style.

Photo of merlin48
4/5  rDev -2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

11.2oz/330ml bottle here. Label says Skullsplitter was the 7th Laird of Orkney. Pours a clear cherrywood brown with an ample tan head that eventually fades to some patchy and sheet lace. Aroma is big caramel malt in the foreground, with fireplace ash and a hint of alcohol behind. Mouthfeel is thick and chewy and has minimal carbonation. Taste is caramel and smoke, with a moderate hop bitterness. Alcohol is well concealed in the taste until it sneaks in near room temperature. The smokiness lasts all the way through and is quite pleasant. There are also notes of pipe tobacco. Finishes mildly sweet with a smoky aftertaste. An excellent Scottish style Strong Old Ale that is a pleasure to sip.

Photo of Billolick
4.12/5  rDev +1%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

11.2 ouncer, nice red foil and Viking photo on label. This fine brew pours dark caramel/almond, with a white head and leaves a bit of loose lacing. Nose is peat, must, and wiskey. Full bodied, sticky,tasty, warming and rich. This brew has alot of character, flavor and complexity. Alcohol notes. Caramel,vanilla, wiskey, leather, anise all noted. Alot of brew personality in a small package. Enjoyable strong ale from Scotland.

Photo of Weizenmensch
5/5  rDev +22.5%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

First of all, this is like no other wee heavy I've ever had. I was just going to enjoy this ale quietly, musing on its merits without reviewing it, because I thought I knew what I was in for.

There are flavours in this beer I've seldom had before, and never all at once: the brewer who created this combination is truly skilled. There are elements of Kelpie Seaweed Ale, and other herbal ales I've tried, but also understated and richly satisfying christmas pudding, pepper and cinnamon flavours.

I'm not one for English nut-brown ales with these flavours normally, as they are usually too overstated. It's easy to make a brown ale with rich raisin, plum and spice notes, but very hard to have them balanced to such an extent that the overall impact isn't astringent and generally unpleasant in the mouth.

Skull Splitter works. It tastes like a seaside brewery - you can taste the bitter herbs, seaweed, sharp hops, and also the rich, flavoursome characteristics of the malts. I will remember this beer, not only for its awesome name and bottle, but for reminding me that ALL styles of beer can truly be made excellently, even the ones I personally am not so naturally attuned to.

Bravo, Norman Sinclair!

P.S. I'm giving this a straight five, but only because it's the best ale of this style I can possibly imagine. I've never had anything close to this in this style. However, I've had other excellent beers in other styles that have approached and sometimes merited a five. When it comes to the Scottish beer world, this is the leader of the pack.

Photo of Homebrew35
2.38/5  rDev -41.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 1.5 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 2.5

Pours a nice off white creamy one finger head. Deep reddish body fairly clear. Some retention with no lacing.

Smells like pencil erasers, some sweetness, fruityness and some light alcohol.

Sweet and carmely, slight dark and white fruity notes, medium to light peat. Slight alcohol warmth. The eraser/rubbery smell comes through in the taste as well. I'm not sure if this is an old or infected bottle but this is what I get.

Medium bodied, medium carbonation. Fairly coating and sticky sweet on the finish.

Overall this beer was a big letdown. I'll try it again someday to see if this was a limited occurrence. The rubber/eraser smell and taste did me in, down the drain this goes.
$3 a single

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Skull Splitter from Orkney Brewery
91 out of 100 based on 1,999 ratings.