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Skull Splitter - Orkney Brewery

Not Rated.
Skull SplitterSkull Splitter

Displayed for educational use only; do not reuse.

1,874 Ratings

(view ratings)
Ratings: 1,874
Reviews: 927
rAvg: 4.08
pDev: 12.75%
Wants: 143
Gots: 153 | 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: 1,874 | Reviews: 927 | Display Reviews Only:
Photo of aristeros
4.45/5  rDev +9.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Bought as part of a make-your-own-six-pack at Total Wine in Tucson and saved it for last. Poured into my Bodum pint glass. Pours a red amber to iced tea brown, good clarity, active carbonation. A half finger of head from a very careful pour that fades to a bit of foam, decent lacing.

Wonderful malt smells, with biscuit and caramel and a strong butterscotch presence. Some light raisins, some yeast. It 'channels' or evokes certain darker beers without straying from the stye. Subtle nose, but complex; cellar temperature helped here, I think.

Sharp because of a moderate-heavy carbonation. Slightly tart apple and mild caramel up front. A light presence of dark fruit, prunes or plums, followed by a little smokiness and a tiny nip of warming alcohol. Slightly bitter finish.

Dark fruit in the flavor and a bitter finish plus a higher ABV hinder the drinkability. Wish I had six but I'd be going to bed early if I did. A better, bigger beer than I expected. Carbonation will be a little much for some, and you miss out by a lot by having this at fridge temp, I bet.

Photo of zoso493
3.95/5  rDev -3.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Poured from an 11.2 oz bottle into a Duvel tulip

Appearance: Pours a very deep amber color, with minimal had and lacing into my tulip

Smell: A lot of butterscotch and dark fruit. Very malty in the nose.

Taste: Sweet up front, with a caramel, malty taste and finishes with a good amount of bitter. More balanced than I would have inferred from the name "Skull Splitter."

Mouthfeel: Pretty carbonated with a medium mouthfeel. Not bad, but maybe a little bit too carbonated for my taste.

Drinkability: Considering it's 8.5% ABV, it's pretty drinkable, but I'm not sure how many of these I would down in one night.

Overall, it's a solid Scottish brew with a fair amount of complexity. I would certainly drink this again.

Photo of velosuds
4.3/5  rDev +5.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Poured from a too damn small 330ml (11.2oz) bottle into a clear pint glass. No freshness date. Single purchased at Cost Plus World Market for $2.39.

A-Pours gorgeous deep amber, almost brown with nearly a three finger cream color uniform foamy head. Modest lacing. A rugged beauty, like the Highlands, in the glass.

S-Butterscotch (caramel to Brits and Americans) and fruity malts with a slight hop profile.

T-Malty with a hint of raisins and the warming taste of alcohol. I can imagine Ted Nugent, "the taste of alcohol," liking this one.

M-Very smooth and extremely well balanced, although not as complex as some. This is a straightforward brew, the only problem being the bottle is too small.

D-Very nice for the wee heavy style. So smooth for its 8.5% ABV.

I'll be reaching for this often. Going to have to get a four pack next time I go to Cost Plus World Market. Delicious beer that went down remarkably easy.

Photo of goblue3509
3.35/5  rDev -17.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

Pours a nice dark copper color with a two finger head that gives way to some decent lacing. The aroma is typical deep roasted malts, caramel, and dark fruits, raisins and plums with a hint of sweetness. The taste is similar in nature roasted malt backbone with dark fruits and caramel, however, the alcohol isn't that well hidden and 8.5 for this style isn't exceptionally high. There is also a slight sour taste. The mouthfeel is of moderate carbonation. Overall it is solid but i feel there are other beers in this class which mask the alcohol better and give a better rounding out of flavor.

Photo of coldmeat23
3.53/5  rDev -13.5%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

GLASS: Tulip
TEMP: Cellared @ approx 45 degrees

This pours up a wonderful copper color. Just over one-finger of loose, off-white colored foam sits on top. Lacing is spotty and fairly slipperey.

The nose is fairly mild. With effort you can find some rich maltiness and some mild notes of dark fruits. Mild yeast notes blend with some light caramel presence.

Good level of maltiness. Good yeast presence. Light notes of dark fruits and caramels. Mild hint of spiciness. Finishes with an alcohol bite, but at 8.5%abv it's not unexpected.

Medium bodied at best. A little heavy on the carbonation, which makes it fairly sharp around the edges. Lacking any real creaminess, which hurts it, IMO.

It's drinkable, but at 8.5%abv I think I'd rather search out some other Scotch Ale/Wee Heavy
that I enjoy more.

Photo of jlindros
3.8/5  rDev -6.9%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Poured into undersized snifter that I had to repour the last small about from the bottle into it.

A: Huge honkin head of 2 fingers from 2/3 of the beer 6that seems to hang around for a while, the dark copper brown color is very clear and pure, slight bubbles rising up helps the head retention

N: After watching the head slowly disappear, it's time to nose it. It's got some alcohol and dark fruits right out front, some roasted malts, raisin, plum, and a strange cake batter like sweet malt that makes me want to stick it in the oven, but I decided to drink it instead...

T: Starts with more dark rich fruits, plum, raisin, roasted malts, sour yeast, fruity malts, dark toffee taste, what kinda beer is this again? Its like drinking a rich fruit beer with sour malts and lots of carbonation, slight yeasty taste adds a little more depth

M: Lots of carbonation, semi thick on the tongue

F: Pretty sweet, leaves a dark fruity sweetness on the tongue and strange earthy bitter tone, that same fruity and earthy quality adds a strange sweet and savory taste that just sticks out, it dries out pretty well and leaves a thirst and almost off bitter flavor.

Final thoughts: Fruity malt bomb that hides the alcohol well, buy is a little too fruity. All the fruits are dark and heavy that come from the malts and yeast only. Interesting taste but a little too fruity for me. It's definitely worth a try for everyone.

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

Purchased in pDX.

A - Pours a deep mahogany with 2 fingers of orange-white head. It moderately dissipates down to 1 and like a bad bean burrito, it won't go away. Leaves very beautiful lacing with good head retention.

S - Very syrupy sweet caramel and toffee, with subtler notes of chocolate and plums. Very delightful, and hopefully not too sweet.

T - Oh my chocolaty goodness. Very milk chocolate in flavor, strong notes of toffee, and light plums. The bittering hops are hardly noticeable. There may be a slight to moderate amount of diacetyl flavor, but it just adds delight into this beer.

M - Medium to full-bodied, with good carbonation. There is a heavy malt dominance with the hops becoming more evident as the beer warms up and in the mouthfeel overall. The quaff is very sweet and almost cloying - similar to condensed milk.

D - Oh, it's very good. Looking for a nice cigar to pair with this beer as it may be overly sweet for the style. This beer would go well with low-salt cheeses, a hearty cigar, and/or a rich pepper steak.

Photo of ADZA
3.9/5  rDev -4.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

This beer pours a cherry,brandy colour with decent carbonation that leaves a nice one finger head with lacing everywhere,the aroma is very sweet with hints of apricot,caramel toffee,dark plums,raisins and a sweet alcohol smell lingering in the background aswell,it has a syrupy sticky sort of mouthfeel with big tastes of dried fruits,caramel and a little bit of coffee and suprisingly enough for a Wee Heavy the alcohol is well hidden,this is definately an interesting beer with alot of nice different qualities the main one being for me so far is its the best of the style that ive tried.

Photo of wahhmaster
4.05/5  rDev -0.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Poured from an 11.2 oz. bottle into an unbranded nonic pint glass.

Appearance: Pours a cola color with a thick foamy head. Has a reddish tint with a nice tan color. Head is creamy and thick. Looks sexy.

Smell: Definite caramel smell with some roasted notes. Could be better, but still smells pretty damn good.

Taste: Has a distinct alcoholic bite to it (shouldn't be surprised; it has an 8.5% abv). Malty and caramel-ly. Pretty much tastes like it smells.

Mouthfeel: Smooth and lightly carbonated.

Drinkability: A great brew. Definitely worth a try.

Photo of Mosstrooper
4.78/5  rDev +17.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Poured from 11.2oz bottle into nonic pint glass.

Appearance: Pours a cola color with a large brown head. The head sticks around for a while, and leaves a slightly heavy lace around the glass.

Smell: Smells very sweet- caramel malt, apricot hints, and touches of alcohol.

Taste: Begins very sweet, caramel malt flavor similar to a doppelbock. It finishes with a slight alcohol bite and a bit of a buttery flavor.

Mouthfeel: Heavy and thick, with a balanced carbonation.

Drinkability: A new favorite- this beer is very good all around and is well worth a drink. If it was more available to me, I would definitely buy it frequently.

Photo of BierFan
4.22/5  rDev +3.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Poured from an 11.2 ounce bottle into a cervoise.

Dark red/brown in color and sporting a tan head that is kept alive by good carbonation. The smell is mostly of caramel. Very rich and heavy aroma. Quite a bit of dark fruits in the taste. Raisins, figs, and caramel are all present. Only a little bit of bitterness at the end, just enough to help balance the sweetness.

Photo of drtth
4.35/5  rDev +6.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Lightly chilled and served in a nonic glass. Glass of cold water on the side to sip from periodically.

Appearance: The beer as served is a clear, nice rich dark reddish brown and gold color mix with a ¾" off-white creamy head recedes soon leaving a ring of foam and some light patches of foam on the liquid. Sipping often leaves a nice spider web of lacing.

Smell: The aroma is rich and soft with strong notes of brown sugar (or toffee) and caramel malt set off by a touch of earthy hops, and a hint of fruit.

Taste: The flavor is consistently and lightly sweet with rich caramel malt and toffee (or brown sugar), along with some balancing earthy undertones. There is some nice complexity here and more going on than I've described.

Mouthfeel: The mouthfeel is medium bodied and smooth with light prickly carbonation. The finish is medium long and mostly sweet until the ending when a nice touch of earthy bitterness shows up suggesting its time for another sip.

Drinkability: This is a very drinkable beer and I already would like another. No doubt this one will be finding its way into my glass again sometime soon. I'll also revisit this review as my feeling is there's compexity here that I've missed.

Photo of GordonQuid
3.65/5  rDev -10.5%
look: 3 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Pours a deep-dark mahogany slight carbonation gives way to a small quarter inch constant white head.

Smells of ripe fruit, figs, earthy tones.

Taste is warm, sweet malty dark fruit. Moderate to heavy in the mouth.

This would be a good dinner beverage w/ any heavy sauced game or lamb. I hav had w/ smoked almonds, smoked anchovies and crackers, Jalapeno jelly,cream cheese on crackers and the most impressive; pan fried hot dog on a kaiser roll w/ sliced ripe avacado and a blend of mayo and honey mustard. Wow!


Photo of PartyBear
4.2/5  rDev +2.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Poured from a chilled 330ml bottle.

A - Dark ruby red, almost black. Small head and little carbonation.

S - The smell is sweet and fruity, possibly raisins. Slight chocolatey malts.

T - Strong dark malts, with a fruity edge - definitely raisins, and dark fruits. Deceptively sweet, with a long tasting finish.

M - The texture is creamy, and it delivers a warming hit of alcohol. Heavy and sticky, with a slightly oily feel in the mouth.

D - Rightfully a classic Scotch Ale, in fact a classic overall in Britain. The flavour is complexly sweet and moreish; one is never enough.

Photo of Duhast500
4.35/5  rDev +6.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Poured from a 12oz. bottle into a stemmed glass.

The color is a dark brown or black with a dark cherry or maroon hue when held to the light. Has a slight brownish white head.

The smell is a bit heavy with caramel and some dark fruit flavor, some raspberry flavor.

The taste is of a sweet malty flavor with some raisin flavor and a bit of a spicy, smokey flavor. A hint of caramel and some slight grape flavor.

The feel has a nice medium body and is nicely carbonated. A real nice finish.

Photo of wl0307
4/5  rDev -2%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Revisiting this ale 4.5 years since my last encounter; BB NOV.09 for this bottle, served cool in Hapkin's bulb-shaped sniffer.

A: pours a dark mahogany hue with perfect clarity, fine and constant streams of carbonation and a 1cm thick beige froth lasting throughout the drink.
S: lightly metallic notes skirt the main theme of overripe dark fruits, quality dark malts that has a fine and aromatic edge as of gristy crystal malts, as well as an unexpected note of apple-ly+earthy hop aroma (ringing a bell of Fuggles); in the background, more settled aroma consists of liquidy brown sugar, jammy longan-fruits, overripe gooseberries or musky grapes, and an noticeable touch of warming alc. Not bad, but not quite complex and a tad too sweet as I remembered from my previous encounters.
T: better than the aroma, the flavour is more complex and full of aromatic fruit-malty elements; the initial entry of robust yet not-thick dark malts and overripe-fruit+raisiny elements, with an edge of lightly spicy hops (as of Styrian Goldings), precedes a more jammy fruity middle that somehow lifts up the weight by a good margin. The aftertaste, besides a faintly toffee-ish undertone and slick sweet prunes, goes slightly sweet-herbal, denoting a touch of licorice root and sweet olives at times, while hops also make a belated performance by lending a light bitter touch. Also lingering is the lovely "woody-yeasty" edge that many well-aged pale/amber ales and fortified wines have in common, which I simply fail to describe in detail.
M&D: different from my first encounter of this ale 4.5 years ago that was also my first encounter with a Wee Heavy ale, I've tried more samples of this beer style ever sine, and this filtered bottle version is neither up to the standard of the cask version (tasted at the NWAF in Manchester last year - slick and heavenly) nor able to overwhelm me with inspirations. That said, this Scottish equivalence to an English Old Ale is still highly sip-p-able, with a quietly carbonated texture and a really light body (against the 8.5%abv. strength). Seriously, throughout the drink I haven't picked up a drop of alcohol, despite its random appearance on the nose.

* Tasting Date: 04/10/05
BB date: Sept. 06.
3.5 A: served in a tulip-shaped wine glass, it pours a murky, ruby hue, with a fast-retreating head, leaving just sparse bubbles on the neck against a static body.
4.5 S: wow... the most distinctive aroma fiercely knocks my nose with a heavy, richly-buttery as well as peated dark-malty aroma, deep-running "black-sugar" syrup (note: NOT brown sugar), mixed well with yeast-extract (like Marmite), and, well, "manure"-like slightly stinky note, and lots of very ripe, even lightly fermented dark-fruits... Ju...st exceptional!!
4.5 T: extremely creamy-rich texture of sweetish dark-malts upfront, coming with a touch of warmish alcohol; at the back a rounded palate of dried dark-fruits, bits of raisins and bits of longan-fruits, along with a rich but slightly stinky nutty flavour gradually developing, leaving a smoothly fruity, rounded, and mildly bitter-sweet aftertaste.
5 M&4 D: creamy and smoothly sugary, without divine intervention of too much alcohol as its 8.5%abv. implies. Full-bodied and richly-flavoured, on palate it somehow feels so light, approachable and relaxing... My first Wee Heavy, and it triggers my interest to try many more of this style! Fantastic beer.

Photo of BeerFMAndy
4.33/5  rDev +6.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

11.2 oz bottle poured into a Unibroue Tulip. No date on the bottle. Unavoidable yeast sediment poured into the beer.

A - Delicious dark candy apple red color that's clear aside from the yeast. Poured with a good creamy light tan head. Little retention left a thin layer and spots of lacing but definitely legs.

S - Fruity esters of raisins and yeast aromas shining through the earthy heavy caramel malt aromas. Very rich smelling with small raspberry hints.

T - Rich malts swarm the mouth with a touch of raisins and a mild spiciness from the alcohol level. The malts have an earthy, slightly smokey undertone. A caramel flavor lingers on the finish.

M - It's a smooth and medium bodied beer that has a low level carbonation bite to the finish but is velvety on the palate. Alcohol warming ensues.

D - I love rich malty beers and this one covers all the bases well for me. The alcohol is evident but rounds out the sweet malts well. I could have a few!

Photo of erz316
4.53/5  rDev +11%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

11.2 oz bottle into duvel tulip

A - a dark brown-red translucent colour describes the body; light only serves to highlight the red tones in the body. not much of a head, as I had to give it a strong angled pour to get much to begin with; the head then settles very fast leaving only a dot in the middle where the scoring at the bottom of the glass gives off bubbles--minimal lacing either.

S - primarily is the vinous alcohol, with some fruiter notes in the back. the malts come out in a subtle caramalized notes, though I smell more of a simple sugary scent than anything distinct.

T - a dominant sweetness restrains the booming alcohol presence. initial taste is the booze and sweet notes mixing, the sweetness is refined and has a distinctive fruity character. a little astringency hits the tongue at first, but quickly subsides to the other flavours. alcohol during finish is not dissimilar to the character of a cask strength scotch, really bold, and perhaps a bit dry. there is also a moment during the finish where it seems a bit phenolic, when the brew hits somewhere near my nasal passage at the top of my throat.

MF&D - a very warming beer; the alcohol is quite spicy going down and it really gets one cozy--perhaps a bad idea on such a hot day. the consistency is smooth and unassuming, not heavy at all, which makes it very easy to drink. moderate carbonation. I think I'll go watch braveheart now.

Photo of yesyouam
3.85/5  rDev -5.6%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Skullsplitter is a solid brown ale with a thin, dense khaki head that leaves nice lacing. It has a grassy aroma with hints of sweet malt and paper. It's pretty full bodied and reasonably smooth. It's a little sticky at the finish. It tastes a little sweet and a little bitter, with notes of grass and wood resin. It's pretty bold and warming and well balanced. It's quite enjoyable.

Photo of BretSikkink
3.85/5  rDev -5.6%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 3.5

Brown color with plenty of red and copper highlights - mostly clear but this bottle spit out some sediment at the end that clouded up the glass. Head isn't much, but a tanned color that sticks pretty nicely.

Aromas are pretty straightforward with malt sweetness: toffee, butterscotch, caramel, hints toward classic Scotch notes.

The flavor is still pretty on the level - clean, you might say. Mostly sweet, with a hint of sour, Islay Scotch-peatiness. Big and bad, plenty of skullsplitting if enough beer is drunk. Big alcohol notes in the finish.

Long finish, no surprise with the big alcohol, low carbonation, and overall maltiness. A little lacking on complexity but more than making up for it in being badass.

Photo of Briarscratch
4.1/5  rDev +0.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Pours a deep copper with a reddish tint. Very small head but lingers throughout with a little lacing. Smells sweet and syrupy with a hint of raisins. Tastes super malty and very fruit concentrated, completely masking the high alcohol content. It has a medium body, kinda hangs in the throat when i swallow. The skullsplitter is pretty easy to drink, a little heavy but very delicious.

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

Pours a deep copper with a tan/off white head with decent retention. Head is small, slightly rocky. Leaves a layer of foam at the top of the beer

Aroma: Sweet and fruity, caramel malts. Maybe some darker fruits as well

Taste: The caramel malts dominate on this one, sweetish. A little hop bitterness at the finish

Mouthfeel: Creamy medium body. Coats mouth well

Drinkability: 8.5%? Really? Doesn't taste like it. Not my go to style, though. I could probably have a couple, but its not my particular type of beer.


Photo of jeffjeff1
4.1/5  rDev +0.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

one of the finer scottish ales

Appearance- dark brown, good head

Smell- earthy, very nice

Taste- caramel, malty

Mouthfeel- dry, medium body

Drinkability- very drinkable, one of the better scottish ales, I have had a few and this one was definitely very nice.

Photo of kaseydad
4/5  rDev -2%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Snifter pour.

Comes out dirt brown with a HUGE head that stays consistent throughout the drink. Sediment is present and flowing freely.

Aroma of figs, dates and booze.

A tangy taste at first which also contains a smokey finish. Pretty tasty Scotch!

At 8.5% the alcohol is masked well and the price is not bad.

One of the better Scotch Ale's out there and recommended.

Photo of orbitalr0x
4.28/5  rDev +4.9%
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.

Skull Splitter from Orkney Brewery
92 out of 100 based on 1,874 ratings.