1. Extreme Beer Fest. March 20 & 21, 2015 in Boston, Mass. Join us!
  2. The wait is over! Download the BeerAdvocate app on iTunes or Google Play now.
  3. Get 12 issues / year of BeerAdvocate magazine for only $9.99!

Skull Splitter - Orkney Brewery

Not Rated.
Skull SplitterSkull Splitter

Displayed for educational use only; do not reuse.
BA SCORE
91
outstanding

1,798 Ratings
THE BROS
100
world-class

(view ratings)
Ratings: 1,798
Reviews: 924
rAvg: 4.08
pDev: 12.75%
Wants: 131
Gots: 130 | FT: 1
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
Sort by:  Usefulness | Recent | High | Low | Top Raters | Read the Alström Bros Beer Reviews and Beer Ratings of Skull Splitter Alström Bros
Ratings: 1,798 | Reviews: 924 | Display Reviews Only:
Photo of dacrza1
4.38/5  rDev +7.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Situation: a toast: to our Quiz Bowl team (semifinalists again) and our baseball team's first practice (ever optimistic)...
Glass: Corsendonk snifter...
Appearance: creamy but thin off-white head tops a mahogany brown body --opaque; lacing draws unevenly...
Aroma: toasted malts abound; some spicy ginger hints; enough complexity to warrant a second, third, fourth slow draw...
Palate: active, warming, thick body that has a smooth quality about it (odd considering its namesake and label mascot)--like the label, a BIG presence that demands sipping...
Taste: grape and malt are hardened to a candied sweetness--hints of smoke make this a complex beer worthy of its praise...
Overall: Odd notes, actually--among the first beers I selected from a 500+ menu at Clancy's in Bloom (fond memories); among the first I revisited at the Laughing Lion; one of the few ales I shipped Shan's cousin Mark, always trying to get him to break away from his lager/pilsner dependency... a beer worth its price.

dacrza1, Jun 25, 2010
Photo of tjd112
3.55/5  rDev -13%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 3 | feel: 4 | overall: 3

Presentation - Poured into Sam Smith nonic

Appearance - Ruby red with not too well retained head and very little lacing

Smell - Very boozy with a lot of dark fruits and some malt character

Taste - Smokiness starts to come out, a good amount of booziness also

Mouthfeel - Medium

Drinkability/Overall - Could have only one of these at a time

tjd112, Jun 23, 2010
Photo of earthboundagain
3.98/5  rDev -2.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

A- Pours a mahogany brown that produces a small tan head that falls to a ring of lace that are there when the beer is gone.

S- I get a slight whiff of malt, some peat and faint fruit.

T&M- Ok if you're looking for a rich complex beer this is not it, skullsplitter is a huge punch of peat smoked malt, with some dark fruit and alcohol. The mouth feel is smooth and the carbonation is nice.

D- I'm conflicted here since this beer is not real big, but still smacks you in the teeth. The glass empties quickly, and my vision blurs.

I have had this beer several times, and it was a chance encounter with this said beer that really got me back into good beers, something that I got away from for a while. It is not a subtle beer, but a delicious kick in the face. This beer is better then the score it receives.

earthboundagain, Jun 17, 2010
Photo of laituegonflable
4.1/5  rDev +0.5%
look: 3 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4.5

Pours a dark murky red, with disappointingly little head, large bubbles form around the edge with minimal lacing. Quite clear with very slow bead. Looks thick but otherwise a bit dull.

Nose is extremely sweet and very smokey. Thick, chewy, biscuity malt with huge golden syrup character, brandy snap, ohhhh yeah it's delicious. Slight chocolate and a really strong diacetyl character but it's not overly buttery, just adds to the sweetness. I can't say this entices me to drink because it's too sweet, but it's a really delicious desserty smell. A real treat.

Taste manages to avoid the over-sweetness, while retaining the sweetness. Malty on the front with a thick molasses character, hints of licorice on there and more of that brandy snap character. A stronger boozey character comes through towards the back though, elements of actual brandy with some vinous notes, a hint of spice and a mild phenolic touch. More buttery diacetyl on the finish and start, but the earthiness balances it on the back, with nice vinous bitterness or strength.

Quite syrupy on the feel, a bit harsh and drying on the back where the strength lies. Pretty good though, on par with style.

For its obvious strength, the alcohol is not burning and is quite well-hidden. Yeah, a very decent Wee Heavy ale. Pleasant, warm dessert beer.

laituegonflable, Jun 16, 2010
Photo of lacqueredmouse
3.98/5  rDev -2.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Pours a darkish red-brown colour, with a foamy but large-bubbled head of yellowish white foam, that only really sits around the edges of the glass. Foams up a little when it's swirled. Nice colour, but it looks a bit flat.

Nose is a little roasted, but with a leavened slightly sweet character like a ketchup covered corndog. Slight smokiness to it, in a very subtle way. Altogether, it's very good - all the characters actually meld together very pleasantly.

Taste is rather robust - with a very sweet and teeth-stripping toffee character on the fore, with a sharper light alcoholic bitterness coming through later. Quite pleasant, and again, it balances the characters against one another quite nicely.

Yeah - overall, surprisingly pleasant. I find it a tiny bit cloying after a while - and I'd prefer sipping it to drinking an entire bottle on my own, but it's very tasty.

lacqueredmouse, Jun 11, 2010
Photo of cbmatt
4.3/5  rDev +5.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

I have had this awhile ago, but found a bottle at the store so i picked it up since i had not had it for some time. It was in a bottle and poured a dark brown with a tan/ amber head. smelled sweet with strong alcohol notes. strong taste infused with notes of sweet notes. being as it is summer, it is great, but much harder to drink with the heat. is a fantastic winter beer, although is available year round. all and all fantastic

cbmatt, Jun 09, 2010
Photo of yeahnatenelson
3.75/5  rDev -8.1%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 3

Appearance -- Pours a deep, ruddy brown, not at all cloudy, with two fingers of light beige head that quickly dissipates into a thin layer.

Smell -- Booze, dates and raisins, caramel, molasses, spicy hops.

Taste -- Caramel, molasses, melted butter, raisins, spicy hops toward the finish.

Mouthfeel -- Slick, chewy, and moderate "creamy" carbonation. The hop spiciness present in the finish hides the abv well.

Drinkability -- Not a bad brew. Wouldn't turn one down, but wouldn't seek it out again. Your mileage may vary.

yeahnatenelson, Jun 09, 2010
Photo of damndirtyape
4.33/5  rDev +6.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Single bottle (no date) poured into a tulip glass.

Appearance: Dark orange-brown ale (but ruby red when held up to the light) with a persistent light tan head. Plenty of carbonation coming up through the beer when held up to the light. Good lacing - islands and strands.

Smell: Caramel malt sweetness. Maybe a hint of fruit in there. Smell was strongest for me first upon pouring and while cold.

Taste: Fruit and caramel flavors up front and a mild bitter finish. The fruit flavors are grape-like and bitter finish is hard to nail down due to the sweet malt flavor that also shows up towards the end. Quite tasty and fairly balanced for the malt and sweet heavy beer it is. I thought the alcohol was really only noticeable when the beer was first poured and cold, as later on I didn't notice it. As it warmed up though, it became a bit noticeable again. Definitely warming towards the end of the glass.

Mouthfeel: Just enough carbonation on the tongue, and has a thickness which is smooth and sticky at the same time.

Drinkability: Due to the higher ABV, this is a once an evening beer for me, but it is very enjoyable for sipping and savoring, and it really grew on me more and more as I drank it down. It has an unique taste for something so malty and sweet, and is well worth having from time to time.

damndirtyape, Jun 06, 2010
Photo of appenzeller
3.88/5  rDev -4.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 3.5

330 ml bottle, no freshness date. Pours a dark--almost black--amber with a deep red tint. Head is generous and frothy, off white, retention is excellent.

Nose is subdued (my fault, a bit too cold) but caramel and a smokey note comes forth.

Taste is rich and sweet. Nice strong but smooth mats, the high alcohol is barely evident in the taste. Very rich in the mouth, goes down like silk. Despite the corny labeling this is a beautiful and sophisticated brew. Pleasant surprise.

appenzeller, Jun 06, 2010
Photo of papaloukas
4.1/5  rDev +0.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Immediately noticed a strong butterscotch nose on this one. Not as dark as other Scotch Ales but still a beautiful, amber/copper color. Nice head of tanish foam. Moderate lacing on the glass.

A very full bodied beer. Thick but not too thick. Definitely not watery or light. Pretty sweet but spicy too. I like the amount of alcohol.

This is one of my favorite beers.

papaloukas, Jun 03, 2010
Photo of Cylinsier
4.2/5  rDev +2.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Bottle.

Pours a deep copper brown, clear, with small head. Retains as minimal lacing.

Smells of rich malts, spiced, and a bit boozy.

Tastes rich, dark sugar malts, mild scotch notes, buttery.

The feel is moderate with small but sharp carbonation throughout.

Delicious, very easy to like. Goes down easy. The alcohol is pronounced but in a good way. I would love to have more of this.

Cylinsier, May 30, 2010
Photo of Bung
4.22/5  rDev +3.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Been a long time since I've visited this beer, but first time puting it to a review.

A solid amber pour with a thin layer of white head that receded to a ring. Some sticking to the glass. What one would expect.

Malty bread and fruitcake aroma. Caramel covered apple, and a hint of woody peat.

A nice balance of the malt and rye bread. There is more caramel covered apple than I would expect, but it is pleasant. Finishes with some of that slight tartness to subdue the sweetness. Caramel, peat/earthy tones come out much better as it warms a bit.

Medium bodied and a good stickiness to it, but not overdone. A real pleasant brew and drinkable. Very little abv present.

A good version of the style, about how I remember it as the first Scotch ale I had a chance to try way back when.

Bung, May 23, 2010
Photo of Zebus0
4.08/5  rDev 0%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 5

Haven't done this for awhile! Drank this beer quite a bit but never reviewed it. Down to business:

A: Pretty good. I like the nice copper color it pours, head isn't anything to write home about, but it was from a bottle.

S: Aroma on this is very inviting. Hints of caramel and malt.

T: Tastes great. Not too sharp, but it does pack a kick if you're not used to more bitter beers. Lives up to it's name with the 8.5% alc level. Bit of a tea-like aftertaste to it. Pretty good.

M- Like any other scot ale I would reckon. Nice carbonation to it, fairly smooth but with a tad of texture to it. Nice mix I think.

D- Exceptional. Really refreshing, and one of my favorite imports. You don't see a lot of Wee Heavys around here. And other than the Wine Center in Springfield and a couple bars you can't get it anywhere else. Tad on the expensive side, but every once in awhile it's a real treat to drink.

Zebus0, May 17, 2010
Photo of MbpBugeye
4.22/5  rDev +3.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A- Super dark. More dark that I expected. Its a deep, clear red. The color has hints of brown and purple. The head that is coaxed out is not massive not does it stick around long but it is very dense and leaves nice lacing.

S- Big nose. This is something that I feel a lot of beers lack. I like to be able to smell the beer as it sits in the glass, before I raise it to my nose. This is one that does that. Upon closer investigation, the aroma holds loads of raisin. Its nearly like a box of raisins. There is lots of fruity yeast stuff going on that is similar to dubels. Lots of spicy alcohol and some buttery maltiness.

T- Rich and sweet. Very good. Lots more raisin, plum, a touch of butteriness towards the end as well as plenty of alcohol.

M- Low carbonation but it is still quite prickly. The body is thick and smooth. The feel is slick and buttery. Decent amount of alcohol warmth.

D- This is one huge beer but I could have another one. The alcohol makes no attempt to hide but this beer goes down easy for what it is.

MbpBugeye, May 09, 2010
Photo of Beerandraiderfan
3.63/5  rDev -11%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.75

So this is Wee Heavy? Pleasant surprise, drinks like a tough barleywine. Good amber & ruby appearance, immense head.

Taste, puckering sweetness paired with alcohol. Really expected this thing to sit heavy on the palate, but it really subsides in a flash, hits your tongue, whoosh, relatively gone in a partial dry finish. Not what I would call on the strong end malt nor hop wise, but high sweet and dry. Has a wood and whiskey feel.

Really one of those beers you have to be in the mood for.

Beerandraiderfan, May 05, 2010
Photo of stakem
4/5  rDev -2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Pours a fairly clear amber color with 2 fingers of creamy tan head. Very good retension and lots of lacing about the glassware. Aroma is very malty sweet with scents of dark fruit and citrus hops on the backend. Little bit of mineral qualities come through the nose as well with a touch of caramel and molasses. Taste is malty sweet and well rounded with a pleasant smooth medium/heavy mouthfeel and low level of carbonation. Alcohol is noticeable only in the finish along with some citrusy hops. Lingering taste of the malty sweetness is left in the mouth. Overall very enjoyable.

stakem, May 05, 2010
Photo of bigdeuce
4.5/5  rDev +10.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

Pours a craggy white head, tons of lacing on the glass. Scents of peat, caramel, nuts, and bready esthers shine through. Very appealing. Tastes the same. Very caramelly, not much bitterness, at all. Dangerously drinkable, very smooth not much aftertaste, either. Incredible beer, one of the best on this planet!

bigdeuce, May 03, 2010
Photo of obywan59
4.13/5  rDev +1.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

330ml/11.2 oz. bottle. The Viking on the label represents Thorfinn Hausakliuf who reigned around 1000 AD as the 7th Earl of Orkney. He was nicknamed "Skullsplitter".

Pours a rich amber into my pint glass giving a 2 finger head. I got no lacing. My 2nd bottle went into my Duvel tulip. Color was mahogany, and when held up to the light, showed some nice ruby colors.

Rich aroma of dried fruits. Very fruity and sweet. In the Duvel, the aroma seemed more smooth. It reminded me a bit of baby powder, only better.

Rather sweet. Dried fruits again, with a touch of burnt malts. Slightly bitter as well.

Body is full, but it's not really sticky. Nice burn in the throat.

Very drinkable for the thick body, but the ABV should slow you down.

obywan59, May 02, 2010
Photo of Metalmonk
4.35/5  rDev +6.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Pours a gorgeous color somewhere between mahogany and burgundy, glassy and jeweled-looking, with a foamy, creamy head that holds strongly and leaves thick lace striations as it lessens. Head stays put forever, never thinning out to a skim.

Nose is mostly darker fruits (plum, fig, raisin, cherry), and something like spiced cider, along with a subtle woody character.

This is one incredibly juicy beer. Flavor is full and round and rich and fruity, kind of candy-like but not super-sweet. Mulled cider, cinnamon, other dessert-type spices, raisin, caramel, cherry taffy, musty wood, and just a whisper of whisky. The alcohol brings in a bit of subtle warmth, but you don't really even notice it's there.

Quite carbonated, this thing tingles the tongue with a vengeance, yet slickness and stickiness adds some depth; surely has a unique textural vibe, especially considering the style.

The last time I had this I was naive to the international world of craft beer outside of a few Belgian favorites...I didn't even know what I was drinking, but I remember liking whatever it was. Now that I have more familiarity with Scotch Ales/Wee Heavys, I kick myself for not visiting this sooner, as it's one of the best in its class, and a completely unique, memorable experience, period.

Metalmonk, Apr 29, 2010
Photo of emsroth
3.63/5  rDev -11%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

12oz bottle

App: Huge frothy head that stays thick for ages. Chestnut brown with great clarity.

Smell: Strong caramel. An earthy wood aroma is rather prevalent. Herbal hops. A slight hint of sweet alcohol.

Taste: Slight caramel start, bud the dominant flavor is earthy like the aroma: woody and herbal. Ends dry and rather bitter, equal parts burnt and hops.

Thick, creamy mouthfeel.

emsroth, Apr 25, 2010
Photo of rootbeerman
4.33/5  rDev +6.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

poured into duvel tulip

A: pours brown but is deep dark red when held to the light, head is finger and a half thick that settled to a finger and is slowly falling, with small amounts of lace.

S: sweet fruit, plum/prune, earthy roast sweet malt.
T: sweet malt, lighter plum/prune, earthy malt and hop. a long sweet and slightly smoky aftertaste.
M: slightly thick and smooth carbonation is more to the medium light.
D: im slightly impartial to the style, it just the malty sweet thick goodness that makes is easy to put away.

rootbeerman, Apr 17, 2010
Photo of BricksandPorter
3.7/5  rDev -9.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

Poured cold into an American Pint glass.

Pour - satisfying in its pour, I could smell the aromas when I popped the cap off. Good lacing, nice creaminess with medium sized bubbles and the color - WOW! This is something special. I have never seen such a bold, ruby red like this in a beer. Took a little bit to settle, but a damn good start.

Nose - HOLY S**T!! This baby can only be described as PUNGEANT. Hits you right away with a combo of peat and salt water mixed with hoppiness. This beer is not for the faint of heart.

Taste - very strong alcohol flavor, masked by a carmel primary and heavy notes of peat moss, salt water and smokeyness (see Laphroag Scotch for simliarities). Has a great mineral base after the first couple of sips and its smootheness is kind of decieving.

Mouthfeel - as I said above, its smootheness is decieving and unfortunately fleeting after 3/4 of a pint. Becomes a task to go back to.

Drinkability - A good beer for entertaining eight to ten beer drinkers (per case) of descriminating taste.

BricksandPorter, Apr 02, 2010
Photo of FreshHawk
3.9/5  rDev -4.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

A - Light amber bronze with a good number of bubbles. Good sized, thick, creamy, foamy off-white head. Average retention with a good lacing left over.

S - Caramel malt. A good amount of peat and fruity smells and a bit of alcohol smell. Almost like a bit of whisky was put in a malty beer.

T - Initially there is a caramel and toffee malt taste that quickly gives way to a more spiced peat flavor. Also some alcohol taste. Some apple and raisin flavors come into play with a sweet flavors interplaying with the peat taste. It then finishes with more caramel, apple/raisin, and a hint of bread taste. Somewhat sweet and some tang.

M - Medium body with a bit above average carbonation. Fairly smooth and a bit sticky feel. Warming feel.

D - A little sweet and strong to be a beer that I would drink with frequency but it is a decent beer to have every once in awhile. Mouthfeel makes it easy to drink.

Notes: A good amount of sweetness and caramel/malt flavors. Has a fair amount of whisky flavors (peat and some fruitiness) as well.

FreshHawk, Mar 17, 2010
Photo of HeroJH
4.18/5  rDev +2.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

One of the best commercial examples of a Strong Scotch Ale I have found so far. The smell has some wonderful fruit and malty notes.

A - Dark brown, head thin but remains.

S - probably the best part. sweet smell, bread, toasty background, dark brown sugar, gingerbread cookie. Some ripe plum and current flavors. Really appetizing. Malt brings it all together.

T - Full rich start, sweet end. Has some dryness at the end just before the sweetness gets too much for me. Mouth coating brown sugar flavor with some bitter. Nice touch of alcohol at the end.

M - Pretty clean for how heavy it is. Not sticky. But real nice lasting flavor that's coating.

D - After the first few gulps, you're well acclimated to have as many as you can handle really. It's really warming in the belly, so it's great for a fall or winter evening.

HeroJH, Mar 04, 2010
Photo of MikeGill
3.98/5  rDev -2.5%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 3.5

11.2 oz. bottle poured into a Leffe chalice which actually worked nicely.

Deep ruby brown with a small tan head and powdery lacing. Fruitcake aromas along with butterscotch and some earthiness.

Malty with a chewy texture and whiskey-like flavors. Not overly alcoholic as the nose may have suggested. Some mild sweetness in the form of a brambley jam. The creamy texture reminds me of an irish coffee. The alcohol also produces a warm vintage port quality. Finishes clean and grainy with quite a bit of dryness. I feel like Skull Splitter can fool people into thinking it's a session beer.

MikeGill, Feb 26, 2010
Skull Splitter from Orkney Brewery
91 out of 100 based on 1,798 ratings.