1. American Craft Beer Fest returns to Boston on May 29 & 30, featuring 640+ beers from 140+ brewers. Tickets are on sale now.

Skull Splitter - Orkney Brewery

Not Rated.
Skull SplitterSkull Splitter

Educational use only; do not reuse.

1,954 Ratings

(view ratings)
Ratings: 1,954
Reviews: 944
rAvg: 4.08
pDev: 12.5%
Wants: 157
Gots: 190 | 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.
View: Beers (13) | Events
Beer: Ratings & Reviews
to view all ratings, reviews and sorting options.
Ratings: 1,954 | Reviews: 944
Photo of Offa
4.3/5  rDev +5.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 3.5

This is richly malty with strong, interesting flavours, if a bit too much on the heavy side. After I drank, this, I read that Michael Jackson said that it's like "fruitcake dunked in port," which seems very accurate.

Deep, deep red, it has a medium but dense tan head that slowly shrinks to a ring and leaves a little weak lace.

The aroma is rich and pungent with dark caramel, yeasty bread, dried fruit, stewed fresh fruit, and leaves.

The taste is similar. Rich, full-bodied and pungent, it has musty, sweet red wine, port, caramel, rich malt, dark dried fruit and fruitcake or plum pudding. It's a bit meaty, very fruity, sweetish with a strong alcoholic note and warmth before a finish with toasted brown bread. The palate is full and somewhat heavy without actually being oily.

Interesting, rich, and satisfying, this is nevertheless a beer to sip and enjoy slowly, not one to drink in quantity; even a full 12 oz is pushing it.

Photo of shadow1961
4.17/5  rDev +2.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Skullsplitter Orkney Ale pours a good finger of creamy tan foam over an
opaque brown brew. Nose is typical Scotch Ale- dark fruit, coffee, peat,
and an alcohol tang. Flavor is dark toasty malts, with notes of molasses,
again, peat, and something sharp off the back, kind of like unsweetened
chocolate. Mouthfeel is remarkably light and crisp for such a flavorful
brew, but don't think about slamming it- at 8.5% alcohol by volume you
really need to slow down and savor it. Like a lot of good Scotch Ales, you
can almost taste the scotch it might have become if they distilled it. The
beer was named for a Viking name of Thorfinn Hausakluiff (Skullsplitter)
who lived in those parts about 1000AD. Tasty.

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

Pours a slightly fogged amber. Nose is leafy and nutty. Kind of a berry edge to it as well. Flavor is nice and malty sweet. Great balance here. Smooth and even. Feel has a slick feel and a low carbonation. Very easy to drink and well worth drinking. An oustandibg beer.

Photo of sevopie
4.23/5  rDev +3.7%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Appearance - A ruby mahogany with a tannish head.

Smell - Very nutty and malty, with very little bitterness.

Taste - Again, very nutty, with a caramel malt leading the way. Slight smokiness.

Mouthfeel - Slick and oily with a lot of carbonation

Drinkability - Not a hint of the 8.5% alcohol here, and very smooth. I'm impressed, I hope the government across the pond doesn't axe this one due to the stupid "connotation" of the name. Its a worthy addition to any fridge.

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

Tried this on at Mudville 9 in the financial district before the Devil's Islanders game.

A: As for the color, difficult to tell with the dark color of the bottle which was an early indication of the chaps at Orkeney's prowess.

S: The Nose gave off a dark caramel, whisky based earthen quality that was very alluring. More than likely some coca influences as well.

T: The flavor follows the nose partially, but there is no overpowering rush of any flavor. Inititially, your pallete meets the sweentess of the big boy malt, then the boozy bourbon flavor comes to town and is what i call the wallpaper of the taste. Bitterness follows to the end to wipe off and lessen the sweetness from the inception, There is nothing really sublte about the delivery of this beer, hence the namesake. As this boy warms, the overall strength and phenols are more than evident.

M: Don't expect to have a clean pallet for some time after taking in this beauty. Can you tell I like this one? A prolong finish stickey finish to all parts of your mouth, which reminds me of the line "don't move to fast you want your flavor to last". Medium to very heavy body with slick mature texture.

D: Another brew aptly named if I don't say so myself. This one makes no bones about it's intention and let's you know right quick. An excellent tasting anytime and I shall return!.

Photo of ronny
4.23/5  rDev +3.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

33 cl bottle poured into a tulip glass. Marlboro man on label with a beard and sword. I guess he can't find work any longer in the US. Too bad, could be some really cool art work with this name.

Poured a beautiful cola color with a hint of red. Very fine carbonation, had to coax a 1 finger tan head, which didn't stay around long. Aroma of malt and caramel, hint of alcohol. Taste is big up front, sweet and caramel notes, but finishes quite dry. Almost syrupy mouthfeel, very light on the carbonation. Sipping this beverage denies the full potential. You need a big mouthful with whatever foam is available...that's when I got a great roasted malty, smokey flavor. Alcohol is present, but works well with the other flavors. The lingering syrupy sweetness is the only minor distraction worth noting.

Would be a nice beer outdoors around a fire with friends on a cool November evening, smoke in the air, smokey, malty bev in hand....

Worthy of another purchase.

Photo of treyrab
3.76/5  rDev -7.8%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Have seen this many times but have just decided to try it. Poured it into a pint glass...

A: Great caramel red and clear with a nice dark eggshell white head that lasts the while time! The color looks very nice - a dark fire orange. Laces pretty well as well.

S: The smell is very under par. Smell like a caramelized macro with alcohol mixed in. There is also some tin/metal in the nose as well. The caramel comes through slightly but the metal is really harsh.

T: Very glad this tasted better than the smell! Has a very nice roasty caramel taste and is very sweet. Some alcohol can be noticed as well on the finish. The finish contains almost no hops. Some vanilla and cream soda characteristics coming through as well. Very flavorful.

Overall, this was a good choice tonight. Perhaps a great choice. Very flavorful with a creamy body. Alcohol comes through slightly, but is not overpowering.

Photo of sleazo
4.38/5  rDev +7.4%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

A_Pours adark ruddy chestnut with a gaggle of bubbles clingling to the bottle of the glass. The head is smallish but decent and refreshed by a nice stream of carbonation in the stange.

S_The aroma is surprisingly clean smelling. A nice does of rich caramel intermingles with some iodine in a good way.

T_The taste is much more powerful than the aroma. A sweet rich caramelised malt dominates at first. This is followed up by a decent ammount of smoke. For all of this strength there are a lot of subtle aspects that reveal themselves as it warms. Like a good merlot, hints of tobacco and leather come through. Throughout a warming quality is nice from the alcohol but is in no way harsh. There is some tart blueberry as well.

M_Definitely on the thicker side but a tad light for a wee heavy. The moderate carbonation does its job of pushing through the sweetness without being too harsh.

D_cOmpelling to say the least. I haven't had this old favourite in sometime. One of my first wow beers manages to wow yet again, years later and with an improved palate. The mild but no means bad aroma is the only thing holding it back from true greatness.

Pairing notes: Goes very well with some Newman's Salt and Pepper pretzels. I would imagine this would work very well with any dish heavy with pepper and mildly salted. The sweet and savoury characteristics of the beer comingle and contrast nicely with the salty and spicy taste of the snack.

Photo of brdc
3.82/5  rDev -6.4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Small capped bottle poured into a snifter.

Not surprisingly, it is colored very close to a scotch whisky, and clear like one, with a thin tan head that did not hold very well.
Aroma is nice, but not exactly complex, with some caramel, butterscotch, whisky.
Medium bodied, with a similarly pleasant, but not special or complex taste. It is malty, a bit hot, but in a pleasant way like high quality scotch, but it lacks complexity.
Nice, but just nice.

Photo of aubuc1
4.25/5  rDev +4.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

330 ml bottle poured in to an imperial pint glass.

Pours a clear brown with a tan clingy head.

Smell is strong biscuit and sweet malt. Jumps out.

Sweet, malty brew with great caramel flavor. Not as smokey as some American Scotch ales, but very the caramel makes up for it.

Chewy, creamy mouthfeel help each sip mask the 8.5% abv.

Great beer every time.

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

Pours a clear chestnut brown color with a nice dense tan colored head that dissipated into a solid cap. The aroma is of an old ale; brown sugar, raisins, and alcohol. The taste is of that of a rich malty old ale. A very smooth caramel malt, raisins, honey, and a bit of a roasted nut quality. The feel is moderate with semi-active carbonation; chewy and slightly slick, quite smooth. A slightly different wee heavy, more on the old ale side, not as woody or smokey. Great brew to bring on autumn.

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

This beer alone converted me to good beer from the shitty macros I used to drink.

A - Half inch of tightly packed foam. Brown with amber hues.

S - Huge malty characteristics: caramel and maple syrup. Spicy alcohol and a breadiness as well.

T - Caramel, roasted nuts, some dark fruits trying to pull through. No bitterness I can detect. Very slight alcohol.

M/D - Full bodied with no carbonation. Great beer with a meal. Very decent.

Photo of JohnGalt1
3.98/5  rDev -2.5%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

11.2 oz bottle picked up last week at Market Limone for $3.50.. poured into my shaped SA glass.

pillowy 3 finger head ... tons of lace.. brew is brown ... deep ruby highlites when held to a light.

deep malt.. quite a bit of caramel.. earthy and a significant amount of alcohol.

flavor is thick malts.. and caramel.. light roasty and mild nutty notes.. some plums and raisins.. fairly full bodied.. with smooth carbonation.. slight bit of "smoke" and earth on the finish... very nice.

It's been years since I've picked up a SkullSplitter... I've gotta get back into the Scottish program.


Photo of SargeC
4.37/5  rDev +7.1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 5

Appearance: Deep copper-brown brew with a short-lived, tan colored head.

Smell: Caramel, toffee with a slightly smoky aroma. Each element stands out well.

Taste: Very tasty brew. Caramel and toffee flavors flow well together. The beer also has a sweet, semi-fruit flavored wave that strongly backs up the bold flavors.

Mouthfeel: Hearty, full-bodied brew. Dense, with limited carbonation.

Drinkablity: Very enjoyable brew. Bold, but it maintained a good balance that increased its drinkability. It would be easy to pound a few of these down, the alcohol content may lead to burning down the village though.

Photo of ReadyFireAim
4.73/5  rDev +15.9%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

I really wish this bottle had been bigger, because I know - as I'm reviewing it, glass in hand - that I'm going to want more once this serving is through.

Served up in my Flying Dog pint glass, the high alcohol content kept the head down, but not out (I wonder if they added just a touch of wheat to the recipe to keep the head and lacing in tact). It's a fantastic burnt ruby color, and the head (the slight one that's there) has a creamy, slightly off-white color to it. Looks pillow soft.

The smell is great, too; hints of raisins, spice and alcohol mingle with the chocolate and roasted barley aromas. Very balanced aroma - not too harsh, not too mild. I can't really pick up a hop aroma anywhere, but that's alright.

Yum! Fantastic taste. The nose does not disappoint. The taste is spicy raisin cream, and the alcohol - while not unbearable - is definitely noticeable. It's very tame considering how big it is. Tingles on the way down and warms the body.

A very creamy mouthfeel, a bit sticky, and just a bit syrupy. Overall it works great with the rest of the profile. Superb.

Wonderful, wonderful beer. If you haven't tried it, do yourself a favor and pick up a couple bottles of 'em.

Photo of philipquarles
3.21/5  rDev -21.3%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Pours a dark ruby brown with a medium off-white head. Not much lacing.

Smells of dark roasted malt primarily, along with nuts and something that's almost Play-doh like?? Interesting, to say the least.

Tastes like dark malt with a real earthy/smokey quality, as well as quite a lot of caramel and some chocolate. Really a bit unbalanced, weighing on the sweet side.

Mouthfeel is ok; thick, but in a syrupy way. Overall this isn't a bad beer, but a bit to sweet for my tastes. Probably won't be buying it again.

Photo of champ103
4.37/5  rDev +7.1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

A: This pours a dark amber brown color. At first a two finger beige head forms , but recedes fast. Patchy lace is left behind.
S: Tons of malty goodness. Nuts, caramel, and a hint of chocolate. Dark fruits: plums, figs, raisins. Some rum like alcohol. Incredibly complex.
T: Very sweet and malty. Caramel, nuts, and dark fruit that follows the nose. A dry wood flavor that balances out the sweetness. Again, very complex. I love it.
M/D: A full body with a light snap of carbonation at first. Carbonation gives way to a good creamy and rich body. Plenty of warm rum like alcohol. A sipping beer, but one to sip on all night.

Oh ya, this shows of what Wee Heavies have to offer. Tons of malty stuff going on that I love. The flavors and aromas really come out as this beer warms up. Not as smokey as some examples can be, more fruity. Which is a nice change of pace. Highly recommended.

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

this lives up to it's reviews pretty nicely. It pours a nice dark amber with light head. Smell is a bit restrained but nice. Aroma is a bit sweet, malty, a little like brown liquor but isn't overpowering. Taste has, again, a really nice amount of sweetness without being too syrupy or artificial. It's a soft, complex sweetness with caramel, malt, maybe a bit of vanilla too. Mouth is moderate on the lighter side for a malty, sweet beer. This is one of it's highlights. Medium carbonation as well. It finished with a slight boozey warmth and delicious, dry, sweet aftertaste. Is VERY drinkable. All around great.

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

Pours a deep caramel with lots of tan small bubbles a nice textured appearance in a snifter glass.

Smells of roasted malts and molasses.

Taste well balanced with a healthy dose of caramel flavored roasted malts.

Surprising light on the palate for a beer this potent. I will definitely seek this out again.

Photo of dstc
4.8/5  rDev +17.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

Pours a deep rosy brown with an off-white head that falls to a minimal head.

Smells of roasted malt, caramel and chocolate.

Big malt flavor with a burnt chocolate sweetness. Also hints of raisins.

Full bodied and very smooth. Lightly carbonated.

Awesome wee heavy. Love it.

Photo of johnd513
4.5/5  rDev +10.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

This beer pours a dark ruby red color with a thick frothy off white head that quickly disappears and leaves some decent lacing on the glass. Smell is fruits, raisins and slight alcohol. The mouthfeel is of medium body with moderate carbination. Taste is of fruit, malt and alcohol that is a little upfront. Drinkability is dangerously high. A little pricey but damn good.

Photo of SimplySinister
2.26/5  rDev -44.6%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 2 | feel: 2 | overall: 1.5

A - Great looking beer. A beautiful red with quite of bit of carbonation. Plenty of lacing.

S - Smokey and woody. The malts came through far too strong for me.

T - I can relate somewhat to other reviewers when they say that this brew has some of the qualities of an English Brown ale. Initialy the taste does have some of the characteristics of an English brown, but soon after other notes begin to emerge. For me, it started out a little nutty and soon developed into a sickly sweet, overly smokey, malt-coated nightmare.

M - Thick and syrupy. Terrifying.

D - Its price severely limits its drinkability, not to mention its taste. Far too thick and far too sweet for my taste buds. Atrocious.

After reading all the reviews for this one I had really high hopes for it. That was a mistake; this beer was a monumental disappointment. I like to give every beer out there a fair chance. Sometimes I will even give a beer a few dozen chances before I make my decision. As far as this beer is concerned I just don't like it. I could go on and on about certain things I dislike, but I'd rather just leave it there.

Photo of Cresant
3.55/5  rDev -13%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Poured this 11.2 oz. brown bottle into a Westmalle glass. No date. The body was cola colored and clear of sediment. The meager head reduced to a filmy island.

Smell was prune sweetness. Grain. Syrup.

Taste was tangy sweet. Stewed prunes and a light metallic flavor.

Mouthfeel was medium in body and somewhat velvety.

Photo of jwinship83
4.5/5  rDev +10.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

A- dark dark red with one finger of sticky beige head.

S- caramel, smoky earthy peat, and maybe some toffee

T- loads of sweet caramely malts and a peaty taste. an ideal wee heavy.

M- medium and creamy feel with a strong upfront taste with little or no aftertaste. very clean feeling.

D- this was probably the best example of this style i have ever tried. something id love to have several of. if you like this style this is a must try.

Photo of Brad007
4.85/5  rDev +18.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

Pours a dark red color with a one-finger head and decent carbonation.

Aroma is strong with hints of smoked peat and a bit of caramel. Definitely seems like it has a decent malt bite.

Taste is very strong with definite flavors of smoked peat and a bit of caramel/brown sugar at the back. Rich and chewy.

Mouthfeel is smoked peat and caramel. Very thick. Beer goes down smooth.

Definitely a skull-splitter! A decent sipping beer that would go well with a cold night. Probably the best example I've had of this style.

to view all ratings, reviews and sorting options.
Skull Splitter from Orkney Brewery
91 out of 100 based on 1,954 ratings.