Skull Splitter - Orkney Brewery

Not Rated.
Skull SplitterSkull Splitter

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1,878 Ratings

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Ratings: 1,878
Reviews: 929
rAvg: 4.08
pDev: 12.75%
Wants: 143
Gots: 154 | FT: 0
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:
No notes at this time.

(Beer added by: BeerAdvocate on 10-08-1998)
Beer: Ratings & Reviews
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Ratings: 1,878 | Reviews: 929 | Display Reviews Only:
Photo of biboergosum
3.88/5  rDev -4.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

330ml bottle. A strange find in decidedly non-raping and pillaging suburban Portland, OR earlier this year.

This beer pours a perfectly clear, dark ruddy amber hue, with two broad fingers of puffy, foamy, and mildly creamy ecru head, which leaves a low castle ruins profile of lace around the glass as it slowly recedes.

It smells of sweet, sharp malt - caramel and hard toffee - and dark, tangy fruit, all adrift in a boozy undercurrent. The taste is more caramel malt, tinged with edgy toffee, a soft oily nuttiness, dark musty fruit, herbal earthy hops, and mildly metallic alcohol.

The carbonation is fairly sedate, barely a tic or barb about, the body a decent medium weight, and mostly smooth, the booze tugging at the trouser cuffs a tad. It finishes off-dry, the latent malt chugging along, buffered by a slight astringency, equal parts booze and herbal hops.

Pretty hard to say anything bad about this offering, lest Odin's dogs of war be set free. Still, the standard, enjoyable big malt component isn't done any favours by the kind of off-putting hop character. Booze, I can deal with, this, less so.

Photo of dansmcd
3.93/5  rDev -3.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

A - Dark red/brown translucent fizzy body. A thin head receding to a collar quickly. Spotty lace.

S - Malts and booze are very prominent. Red apple, plum and treacle.

T - Sweet molasses, golden syrup, apples, sherry and dark fruit. Spicy hops. The high profile of the alcohol has a warming effect that would suit a wintery night, but is more noticeable than I would expect from an 8.5% abv beer.

M - Quite light in body and not as syrupy as other like- styled beers Ive had. Medium to high carbonation.

O - A sweet, malty brew with a good measure of provocative complexity. A touch thin in the body for my liking however.

Photo of negroobserver
3.95/5  rDev -3.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

11.2oz bottle - 8.5% ABV

Pours a deep mahogany color, crystal clear, with about a quarter inch of cream colored head. Smells sweet with light fruit scent, like cantaloupes and figs. A bit of funk. This one might a bit past it's prime. Flat flavor on the front end. The middle has a strong fruity flavor with a light sweetness. The sweetness then turns into a back end, which is a bit bitter. The bitterness then magnifies and really shines at the far end and lingers in the mouth for a few seconds. The mouthfeel is great. The body is dense and smooth, but not too thick. There is little or no sting on the tongue from the alcohol or the carbonation. Overall a very nice beer. Very enjoyable, but I'm not very impressed. A very good beer for it's style, but not amazing.

Photo of capeannbass36
4/5  rDev -2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

11.2 ounce bottle(no date) poured into a tulip.

A- Pours a clear, coppery red, topped by a 1 finger off white head that dissapates rather quickly. Light lacing remained behind throughout.

S- Sweet malt, caramel, and dark ripe fruits. A little bit of raisins. A tiny hint of hops.

T- Sweet malt. More darkfruits. A little bit of spiciness. Toffee and burnt sugar.

M- Light to medium body and carbonation. A unique coating to mouth that I cannot put a finger on?? Somewhat dry finish.

O- Had to try this partly due to label and name...but more to "The Bros" rating of an A+(without details??!!) Decent enough. Will try again. No way, no how...can I possibly give this an "A+" though. Not even an "A".

Photo of JayS2629
3.9/5  rDev -4.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

This pours a beautiful, rich ruby/copper color with great clarity, descent white head that fades slowly and leaves ok lacing.

The aroma was very rich, full, malty and bold with honey tones, toffee, fruity hints of ripe apple and dark fig. Notes of raisin ride on top of a caramel middle.

The flavor was almost opposit up front iwth a punch of bitter hops dominating that fades on the tounge into a fruity, floral point that settles in the middle to a rich, toffee, malty background. Notes of earthiness blend in and melt into a dominant hopy finish. The hops stand strong throughout.

Medium body, smooth with malty middle and dry finish.

I wonder if they call this skull splitter because it splits the senses. Rich malty aroma and hoppy taste. Confusing but interesting.

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

A - Cloudy brown/tan w/red and amber hues towards the outside. Light head which leaves a little lace.

S - Sugar, malt, toffee, caramel, slight spice, some raisin, banana, and alcohol.

T - Cherry, big malt explosion, surprisingly bitter for the style, the bitter gives way to some clean malt character with a bit of fruity yeast character backing it up. The finish is slightly spicy and bitter, with the bitter remaining for quite some time. Alcohol is noticeable, but doesn't predominate, and the malt character really shines.

M - Pretty clean for the style, not too sticky, with a great explosive carbonation and a good bitter that sticks around.

O - One of the better scotch ales I've had. Not too keen on the sweet ones, so I usually avoid this style, but I quite like this one.

Photo of zbellino
4.38/5  rDev +7.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

A) Like earl gray tea, over-steeped. Basically non-existent head, outside of a two mm wide "spent dish-soap" ring around teh top of the pint glass.

S) Overall, pleasant. Kind of sweet and sour, like a green apple.

T) The showstopper. Very unique. Has an front of burnt sugar perhaps, with a really complex crab-apple flavor as the main event. It burrows into the back quarters of your tongue in a really interesting way.

M) Excellent as well. In between half and half and whole milk. A little crispness you might not expect from such a dark, frothless brew.

O) I would try it again and again, if not for the price. Orkney has a real winner ... and perhaps a classic .. in this Scotch Ale.

Photo of hoptualBrew
4.5/5  rDev +10.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25

Deep mahogany brown, light khaki head. Great lacing, sticky and coats the glass.

Aroma is sweet molasses, plum, toffee, bread grain, light chocolate. Very balanced and fragrant. Heavenly nose on this!

Really pleasant on the palate. Sweet toffee and light plum up front. Molasses, syrup, light bakers chocolate. No bitterness really discernible.

Full body up front, slightly drying in the finish. Carbonation is perfect, slightly under- in the fashion somewhat of cask ale.

Overall, beautiful beer. Well executed and highly drinkable, this is one of the better Scotch ales on the market in my opinion. Not overly dense and viscous like most American takes on the style, but still a really warming beer if your in cold weather.

Photo of Justin23060
5/5  rDev +22.5%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

My first A+ review and a perfect choice for the first night that required the furnace. Very dark amber with a beige head that gradually dissipated and stuck somewhat to my thistle glass. Smell is all the wonderful things you get from a fruit cake (even that little bit of alcohol you get from a brandy infused one). Taste is a pleasant sweetness that slowly fades to a clean semi sweet finish, thanks to the hops that only slightly bitter. Candied cherry is the headliner, followed by some almond nuttiness and a definite Sherry earthiness and warmth. The unmasked alcohol helps to highlight all the complexities in this warmer. Don't let the Viking theme and name lead you to believe this beer is just a novelty. This is indeed one world class brew.

Photo of cjacobsen
4.05/5  rDev -0.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

(A) Very dark ruby red that looks almost dark brown when not around light. Light head on it that leaves lacing.

(S) Dark fruits. Dark cherry. Some booze. Fig.

(T) There's a toasted malt character, not a whole on roasted but just toasty enough. Cherry hits in the middle. A lot of fig in the back of the flavor.

(M) Medium to light body. Somewhat grainy.

(O) A surprisingly lighter feeling brew than expected. Very good flavor and pretty well balanced. This is a great scotch ale.

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

My nephew picked this up in Edinburgh for me. Clear mahogany red pour with two finger off white head with great retention and lacing. The nose is totally malt dominated. Tons of caramel with hints of dark fruit, butterscotch, vanilla and bread with just a touch of booze. The taste is complex and loaded with sweet toasted malt as well, with hints of spicy hops, caramel, dark fruits, vanilla, molasses and a healthy dose of booze. Not much of an attempt to disguise the alcohol, but it doesn't hurt the drinkability. Very smooth and warming. Thanks to Kevin for hooking me up with this great example of the style!

Photo of hoopermcbeal
3.4/5  rDev -16.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Nice ruby colour, small amount of head. Very strong smell of molasses and alcohol. It is quite smooth with a strong finish, I got a abit of hops and a sweetness as well. I was happy with this beer considering I bought it on it's name alone.It's a very powerful beer with strong flavour, definitely not for the weak of heart.

Photo of Paincane
3.95/5  rDev -3.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

A: Chocolate dark brown with tan head that fades quickly and leaving small amount of lacing. 330ml bottle poured into snifter.
S: Malts, sweet dark fruits, figs, alcohol and tobacco all emerge. Definitely smells like more booze than it contains at 8.5%abv.
T: Roasted malt, tobacco, figs, dates, and alcohol.
M: Full-bodied, sticky, warming alcohol presence. Lightly carbonated.
O: A manly brew, not for the wife and kids. Seems a bit harsh and in need of mellowing. Will cellar it for a while and re-taste it later. Nonetheless, I did enjoy it and will have my skull split again by Orkney.

Photo of Guden
3.68/5  rDev -9.8%
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 HopsYeast
2.8/5  rDev -31.4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 2.5

a-clear dark amber body with a no head.
s-yeast and an abundance of fruit. plums, grapes, sweet apples, raspberries, cherries, and figs. to be honest, it almost smells like concentrated fruit syrup.
t-slight beginning of hops gives way to fruits again. some maltiness but dominated by yeast and fruit flavors. its too much. almost like drinking grenadine. there is a nice warmth from the high abv% but thats it.
m-thick. goes along with the syrup theme im picking up on. low level carbonation.
o-maybe i got a bad one since the review are in tital contrast to what im experiencing but this doesnt do it for me. i will try again to see if my palate develops more but right now, this isnt for me.

Photo of secondtooth
4.25/5  rDev +4.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Opaque and dark caramel out of the bottle. Sizeable head of foam. Only minor lacing.

Nose says dried fruit, prunes, fig, dark berries. Sweet.

Taste is heavy on the malts, with hints of the aforementioned fruits and some spice. The alcohol presence is masked well. This is a tasty and enjoyable ale. Well-done!

Photo of DoctorDog
4.25/5  rDev +4.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Presentation: 11.2 oz bottle into a nonic.

A- Pours a clear coppery/brown. Massive, creamy, tan head, which necessitates a multi-stage pour & fades very slowly. Excellent retention and tons of sticky lacing.

S- Caramel-sweet maltiness, raisin/fig/dark fruits, and a small hint of booze.

T- Big toffee/caramel sweetness, dark fruits, and a nice earthy peat/smoky undertone that balances things out.

M- Moderate to slightly light carbonation with a medium feel. A bit of alcohol warming.

O- Good. Great flavor, nice drinking...nice beer.

Future outlook: Another beer that I have inexplicably passed over hundreds of times...

Photo of Sensaray
3.9/5  rDev -4.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3 | overall: 4

Pours a deep brown red with half inch light sand head which is pretty fluffy.

Smells like dark fruit, raisiny, spice, alcohol

Spice note leads to sweet dark resinous fruit and caramel which closes decently bitter, leaving dark fruit and alcohol on the palate. Kinda one dimensional, but tasty.

Lighter bodied, thinner carbonation. Was expecting more here.

I've had better examples of the style, but its pretty good.

Photo of silentjay
4.25/5  rDev +4.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

pours a mahogany amber with a huge light tan head with orange hues that settles quickly and laces well.

aroma of molasses on toast like my grandfather would have every sunday afternoon after church. maybe some dark fruits, caramel, and butterscotch in there as well.

molasses and dark fruits dominate the flavor profile which is complemented by some booziness, a touch of peat smoke, and a caramel smoothness.

silky texture with a nice soft carbonation and a slight stickiness on the back-end.

wonderful example. one that i can't understand why I haven't had before. won't be my last. not my favorite style, but a great beer.

Photo of donteatpoop
4.13/5  rDev +1.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Pours a clear brown color that becomes ruby red when held up to the light. A thin line of foam sits atop the brew but dissipates rather quickly.

Heavy earthy malts dominate the nose accompanied by dark fruits and an almost chocolate scent. Very inviting, mouth is watering.

Earth malts dominate the mouth as well, some oak or maple notes, the alcohol is present but masked up front to finish with a nice warm sensation.

Photo of socon67
3.73/5  rDev -8.6%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Poured into an Ommegang snifter.

A - Amber to brown color, translucent. Nice lacing and a thin eggshell colored head.

S - Scents of plum and prunes. Has a boozy scent. As it settled there was a distinct smell of caramel that wasn't present before.

T - Tastes molasses sweet. Has a caramel flavor with a backdrop of dried cranberries. Ends with a boozy bite.

M - Very smooth for the style, heavy bodied, and low carbonation. Makes for a great post meal beer.

O - I Enjoyed this one, and think that in the colder months this would be even better.

Photo of bpw28
4.88/5  rDev +19.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

Look: Two finger white head, great retention, dark oaky brown (about a 23 SRM), beautiful lacing.

Smell: Big roasted malt, big dark fruits: prunes, figs, and cherry come to mind, floral, boozy, sweet, slight woody, caramel, nougat, nutty/chestnut.

Taste: Wow. Sweet but not overly, nice medium roasted malt, big prune and fig, boozy (not offensive, it tastes like a well aged liqour), warming, biscuity, caramelized sugar, spicy, light liquorice. Great full and chewy body.

Final Thoughts: This screams "enjoy on a cold, snowy day by a fire". This could be my favorite scotch. Even if it is summer, I can see the good in this brew. The warming full ale is amazing. Great brew.

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

dark brown color, clear, and a tan head.

smells big time of malts and caramelization.

tastes the same way it smells, big. big malt flavors with caramelization, and esters into the finish like plums. very sweet. no smokiness. the flavor of the malts lingers after the finish. not very much bitterness.

a medium body with moderate carbonation. very warming.

this is a good beer. it makes being a viking(or even scottish) very attractive if this is what i get to drink all day every day.

Photo of rvdoorn
4.18/5  rDev +2.5%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Look: the beer pours a dark orange-copper color with almost no head.
Smell: Caramel, toffee, butterscots, earthy and grains.Very light
Taste: Butter, caramel, malts, grass and some spicy hops. Sweet malt finish.
Mouthfeel: creamy texture, medium carbonation
Overall: Nice brew

Photo of eclaycamp
4.43/5  rDev +8.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

I have to say that the bottle redesign on Skull Splitter is among the best I’ve ever seen. Ornkney really amped it up, going from a somewhat lame stock photo to a menacing looking comic character brandishing a huge axe. Nice work and hats off to whoever had a hand in the redesign.

Popping the cap on this I’m immediately concerned. The bottle opens with nary a hiss, so we could be dealing with something spoiled or even a possible infection. Luckily the nose smells okay. I don’t get any kind of sour or off flavors, instead I get a lot of fruity notes followed by dark malt. Peat is there somewhere as well.

In the purposes of full disclosure, this is a purposely aged bottle, as I’ve had it since a trip to KC in January. I’ve treated it well; storing it in my fridge at around 38 to 40 degrees F. The beer shows it’s age somewhat, as there is a slightly oxidized, almost sherry like quality to my first sip of beer. Having had this fresh (or at least as fresh as we can get here in the states), I notice that the peat character in this aged version is very subdued. This is unusual. Fresh this beer is almost a peat bomb, a heavy toffee and syrupy affair tinged with wonderful smoky malt character. That said, I like this too. There still a beautiful caramel toffee background, but it’s augmented by this amazing dark fruit character. It’s almost like a Belgian Dubbel or something similar. I love the finish. Sweet and smoky peat malt comes through first, before giving way to a light sense of alcohol; there’s an ester character going on that leads to a pleasantly warming finish.
The body of the beer is thin and less syrupy than what I’ve had in the past. This could and likely probably is a byproduct of the nearly still state this beer is in. There is almost no carbonation, which isn’t really surprising considering that the lid came off so easily. The beer has a nice residual malt sweetness throughout.

Overall this is a deep beer, more well-rounded and complex than versions I recall having in the past. This aged version has developed a wonderful dark fruit character that has helped to smooth out the rough peat edges of the fresh version. I have another bottle of this in the fridge so I may try it a second time to do a comparison. Either way Skullsplitter remains one of my favorite versions of the Wee Heavy style, and a beer that continually surprises me every time that I have it.

Skull Splitter from Orkney Brewery
91 out of 100 based on 1,878 ratings.