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Skull Splitter - Orkney Brewery

Not Rated.
Skull SplitterSkull Splitter

Displayed for educational use only; do not reuse.

1,717 Ratings

(view ratings)
Ratings: 1,717
Reviews: 920
rAvg: 4.08
pDev: 12.5%
Wants: 122
Gots: 105 | 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)
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Beer: Ratings & Reviews
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Ratings: 1,717 | Reviews: 920 | Display Reviews Only:
Photo of padjo1


3.85/5  rDev -5.6%
look: 4 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Mouthfeel, appearance and taste all outdo the smell. Therefore, we have to take points off of the balance,hence not a very good one. This cripples the promise of the Orkney's, being a Iron Age Europe stronghold and all, known for its Celtic associations, nevertheless those pertaining to beer. Still, the taste has orange peel notes, as well as maple, coffee and caramel undertones and a slight hint of cinnamon. Cloves? No. That bitterness is coming from the coffee blending with the caramel, methinks.

Serving type: bottle

03-14-2005 06:43:53 | More by padjo1
Photo of Shultzerdugen


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

Reddish-brown with light colored, tight bubbled head.

Caramel is my first impression upon sniffing. And second. A definite smokiness, a little bit of dark fruit.

Again caramel takes off across the taste buds. Floral and strong citrus from hops, maybe even a little evergreen. Vinous, and again a bit of dark fruit, like very ripe blackberry. Very slick and grainy.

I've seen the 4 packs of SkullSplitter for over $11 dollars. I wouldn't pay that much for it--(a friend gave me one)--but it's pretty damned good.

Serving type: bottle

03-03-2005 02:16:43 | More by Shultzerdugen
Photo of horndecker

New Jersey

4.4/5  rDev +7.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Rich walnut color with a fine tan head. Lots of froth, capuccino colored.
A funky citric nose with notes of cocoa and burnt malt. A little walnut aroma appears after it warms a bit.
Flavors of roasted malt, chocolate and oddly, soy. Not a salty soy, just a dark roasty vegetal funk. Very delicious actually.
Wonderful rich mouthfeel, chewy and satisfying. Alcohol warms you up a bit, but there's no burning throat or numb lips.
I'm happy to get my skull split any old time.

Serving type: bottle

02-27-2005 04:02:52 | More by horndecker
Photo of BuckeyeNation


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

Dark reddish bronze with orange peel accents. The beer itself is clear, but is filled with a large number of chunky particulates that one doesn't usually see in this style (at least I don't). Atop the liquid is a moderate-sized, toasted tan head of sticky foam that is deposits a short, thick collar of lace with a few scraps higher up the glass.

The nose is nice even if it isn't quite as complex as the noses on the very best versions. Dark butterscotch, sour peat and whisky are the main components. I don't believe it's quite as dark as some Scotch ales; there's very little cocoa or molasses for instance.

There's plenty of flavor and plenty of power, but it still strikes me as a bit short on complexity. This is still very good beer however. The flavor profile is essentially a reprise of the nose. It's both sweet and sour (bitter appears on the finish), delivering a big, malty, whiskyish flood of goodness with each mouthful. Nuance is cast aside for power and strength, as it should be in a beer named SkullSplitter.

It becomes smoother and still more peaty, phenolic even, with warming. This beer is starting to remind me of Islay Scotch due to the emerging medicinal phenols (think Band-Aids, but in a good way). The finish is long and lingering, the better to savor the flavor, and the medium-full body has a pleasing, mouthcoating lubricity.

SkullSplitter is aptly named. It isn't a 'float like a butterfly, sting like a bee' kind of beer, but more of a 'rush the bastard and plant an axe between his eyes' kind of beer. That isn't entirely fair, it's more refined than that, but it is on the straightforward end of the Scotch ale spectrum. This is a beer that I'll be sure to look for again.

Serving type: bottle

02-26-2005 21:33:32 | More by BuckeyeNation
Photo of ElGordo


3.65/5  rDev -10.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Poured from the 330ml bottle into my Duvel tulip glass. Body is a deep, rich reddish brown, topped by a half-inch coffee-colored head that subsides pretty quickly. Initially I thought it smelled pretty nasty, like spilt lager, but after those esthers wore off, a nice pleasant aroma emerges. Sweet notes of dark fruit (dates? prunes?), brown sugar, roasted malt, and alcohol. Palate is rich and complex. A rich malty base is accented by a molasses-like sweetness, with a significant alcohol presence on the finish. Mouthfeel is creamy, velvety, and a tad foamy, depending on how big your sip is. An interesting brew, originating from one of the most remote and mysterious locations on Earth.

Serving type: bottle

02-21-2005 06:00:36 | More by ElGordo
Photo of bark


3.1/5  rDev -24%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 2

The colour is deep wine red with a tint of brown. The foam is gigantic, pale beige, soft and built of medium-sized bubbles.

The smell is dominated by an almost wine-like touch of alcohol. There are some notes of smoked roasted malt, matured cheese, wheat flour, dark bread and a touch of leather.

The carbonation is pretty mild, but it is almost overshadowed by a liquor-like alcohol.

The taste is dominated by a generous, full-bodied taste of roasted malt and alcohol. I could also trace some notes of sweet dried fruits, nuts and a quite mild bitterness. The aftertaste is rather short with flavours like marzipan, hazel nuts and some bitter hops.

This beer is way to strong for me. I prefer the Belgian strong ales.

Serving type: bottle

02-02-2005 20:04:30 | More by bark
Photo of RootedFool


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

Poured straight down into my Maudite goblet from an 11.2 ounce bottle purchased at the North Coast Co-op in Arcata, California. I love the bright red neck foil and label graphic that depicts Thorfinn Hausakluif, the "skullsplitter" in Scottish history -- it's too tacky not to love.

A dense and mighty head rises right to the rim of my goblet, thanks in part to my nearly vertical pour, light tan and creamy in appearence. The body is a very dark brown -- deep, deep mahogany -- with crimson highlights when held to direct light.


Ah, a big waft of earthy sweetness, like brown sugar caramelizing over a grill out in the open post-rain storm air, somewhere in the middle of the woods. The finish reveals a nice, although thin, sourdough twang.


Big sweetness right out of the gate: plums, golden raisins sauteed in rum and sugar (yes, rum; the alcohol is felt), baked green apples. Toward the middle some hops appear -- sharp and sizzling, but still understated -- and prevent the sweetness from becoming overpowering. The finish is a lingering tickle of alcohol bite and meaty sweetness all around my palate, and an alcohol warmth throughout my throat and spreading around my gut. Lovely.


Plenty of carbonation, which helps hold up the thickness of this brew. Has the consistency of whole milk, if not slightly heavier in consistency.

I'm glad I finally decided to give this brew a try.

Serving type: bottle

01-17-2005 03:49:14 | More by RootedFool
Photo of GClarkage


3.85/5  rDev -5.6%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

01/02/05- Purchased at Beverages and More in Oakland, CA

Presentation- 11.2 oz bottle with a viking on the front. No expiration date. I know I've had it for at least 6 months though. Poured into my La Chouffe tulip glass.

Appearance- Dark cherry-auburn color. 1/4 inch head which didn't last long. Just the slightest of lace.

Smell- Not a very outward scent. Had to struggle to get some sweet raisins and maybe dates and prunes.

Taste- This beer has a lot going on. At first you can taste some dark cherries. Then the caramel, dates and raisins hit. Then it turns to a roasted dark flavor, almost a bit smoky.

Mouthfeel- Higher carbonation than expected. A fairly full beer. Maybe even a bit thick.

Drinkability- A very interesting beer. Many little nuances all in this little beer. At 8.5 it's pretty drinkable. To bad the lack of smell and appearance brings down the beer a bit. Pretty tasty.

Serving type: bottle

01-03-2005 02:22:23 | More by GClarkage
Photo of HappyHourHero


3.63/5  rDev -11%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Medium sized, dense, light brown colored head doesn't last long, but leaves some specs of lace. Deep mahogany colored beer with a caramel hue. Mildly sweet caramel aroma with a bit of malt and pinch of wine. Some chocolatte, dark fruit, and some roasted malt in the flavor. Finish is kind of cocoa bitter. Body doesn't seem very thick. There's a burst of carbonation up front, but the beer becomes watery towards the end. The carbonation seems a bit off and there's a strange vinuous aroma hiding in there, but otherwise the beer is pretty nice.

Serving type: bottle

12-22-2004 01:57:56 | More by HappyHourHero
Photo of GreenWBush


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

Ruby brown. A gigantic head that keeps going and going. Flecks of red coagulated proteins, but no apparent oxidation. Top notch lace.

The nose is indecipherably complex. Fruity esters sit amongst smoky Scotch peatiness, hints of cider and red wine, and a strangely contrasting leathery booze-bread.

Wow, that is tasty. Its been years since i've had a skull-splitter and its much better than I even remember. Major malt complexities and ample but refined hop presense make this immensely drinkable with no hint at the almost 9% ABV. I'd really like to see what this does with age.

Serving type: bottle

12-11-2004 20:41:46 | More by GreenWBush
Photo of PorterLambic


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

Pours a deep, rich brown with a hint of red. Good head, tight & firm with some scattered lace. Smell is malty sweet, smoke, peat, nutty with a hint of oak barrel to it. Taste is oakey, malty, smoky, roasty, with a peaty presence and a kind of whisky flavor to it. Alcohol becomes more noticeable as it warms but not overpowering at all. Mouthfeel is smooth, rich, creamy, full-bodied and warming the back of the mouth and throat. Drinkability is very high. The 8.5% ABV limits you but the great flavor, balance and complexity command you to drink this hearty brew like a good Viking should.

Serving type: bottle

12-08-2004 00:38:37 | More by PorterLambic
Photo of shippos

New York

3.53/5  rDev -13.5%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

popped the cap with pretty decent fizz. poured with a good amount of co2 escaping into a head that doesn't quit until the last drop and brillantly clear amber color. for the life of me i can't detect a damn thing in the aroma, not sure if it's an off day or what. I do get a faint hint of caramel with a bit of alcohol. gotta admit that the body and taste of this beer was a bit of a let down, I was hoping for a little more thicker malt character and a decent "scottish" taste/aroma. seems pretty balanced and maybe a bit on the old side. still if it isn't a very nicely balanced beer and nothing really extraordinary about it.

Serving type: bottle

12-07-2004 06:20:23 | More by shippos
Photo of brewQ


4.03/5  rDev -1.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

The name and look of the package are somewhat juvenile.
The brew, on the other hand, is close to elegant.

Dark brown color with, seriously, purple highlights.
Aroma is sweet and fruity. Unremarkable head,

The flavor fills the mouth and ends with a pleasant warmth.
Disarmingly drinkable at 8.5% abv.

Yes, I will be putting this into my rotation.

Serving type: bottle

11-26-2004 02:32:43 | More by brewQ
Photo of TheLongBeachBum


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

Presentation: Small looking 11.2 fluid ounce [330ml] brown glass wee nipper of a bottle. Label per the BA Avatar with a nice looking red metallic foil that covers the upper neck and hides a crown cap that has the Orkney Brewery Logo on it. Named after Thorfinn Hausakluif (a.k.a. Skullsplitter), the 7th Viking Earl of Orkney. Labeled at 8.5% ABV.

Appearance: Lovely turbid dark brown chestnut body with some dense ruby highlights when backlit. Creamy vanilla head leaves a film like lacing that clings to the sides of my freshly cleaned Duvel glass extremely easily. The head soon breaks in the middle leaving a thick cream colored halo ring

Nose: Tenacious dark fruity nose that has some rich plums, smoke malts, rich warm caramels and slick toffee.

Taste: Mildly warming entrance that allows the nose to transform its aromas directly into tangible flavors. Caramel malts, toffee, dark fruits, some raisin character, mushed dates and a little Single Malt alcohol burn in the back end. Smooth but very lush and rich at times, this one is a winner.

Mouthfeel: Sticky Toffee Pudding with a malted appreciation for the finely attenuated carbonation that supports the chewy body. Nice!!

Drinkability: Easily partaken for an 8.5% Wee Heavy. Damn drinkable.

Overall: I have had this Cask on many times, but this is one of those rare UK beers that is just as good from the Bottle as it is Cask. And it cost only $2.29, worth every feckinÂ’ pennie.


Serving type: bottle

11-24-2004 07:14:20 | More by TheLongBeachBum
Photo of ViveLaChouffe


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

Pours a deep mahogany with hints of cherry red around the edges. 1/4 in light tan head that thins but is lacy as hell. Smells of rich sweet malt and sour cherry fruitiness.

Tastes of sweet fruity malt. Sour cherry flavors underneath and a light but persistent hoppy bitterness in the finish. When cold, it is a bit thinner than you would expect and seem sa bit too fizzy. As it warms however the sweet malt asserts itself and the beer actually seems to thicken in your mouth. Seems not so fizzy too. Nicely balanced and REALLY smooth for a bigger beer. It's strength is subtle and really sneaks up on you. Warming sensations and a sticky sweet aftertaste. Dangerously drinkable.

Literally, one of the first craft brews I ever had and haven't had it in years. While initially disappointed, the Skullsplitter did not forsake me and still can deliver the goods.

Serving type: bottle

10-27-2004 02:43:21 | More by ViveLaChouffe
Photo of Billolick

New York

4.1/5  rDev +0.5%
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.

Serving type: bottle

10-17-2004 21:59:34 | More by Billolick
Photo of steinlifter


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

This beer poured a caramel color, with a tan head that quickly dissipated, but left mild lacing throughout
smell: sweet smelling malts,fruit
taste: molasses, sweet malt, but I detect some hops as well, alcohol bite and warmth.
mouthfeel: medium carbonation, light and creamy
drinkability: very good! maybe not a session beer, but this beer had a complex fruity, malty, taste, that was fairly balanced, I thought it was delicious, and would DEFINITELY warm you on a cold night, good stuff!

Serving type: bottle

10-16-2004 18:45:25 | More by steinlifter
Photo of dgallina


3.88/5  rDev -4.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Attractive clear dark red & brown in color. Tan head with good body and peaks which dissipate fairly quickly. Light lacing on the glass.

Strong roasted aromas with powerful undercurrents of alcohol

Sweet roasted malt flavor with some hop bitterness for balance. Strong alcohol undertones. A dry, toasty finish.

Smooth mouth-feel with fairly strong carbonation. Very drinkable for a beer with 8.5% ABV, though I wouldn't want to drink too many or too quickly.

Serving type: bottle

10-13-2004 01:07:13 | More by dgallina
Photo of RBorsato


4.63/5  rDev +13.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Mahogany colored with a decent creamy tan/lt. brown head that's constantly low lying. DEEP caramel malt flavors with aroma similar but a bit more subdued. Malt flavors are intense with dark fruit characteristics present but subdued. Light spicy heather/smokiness (?) in aroma and taste. Full bodied and rich with a toasty dry finish and an alcohol presence.

Very nice very strong Wee Heavy !

Per Beer Club notes: "Heather instead of hops"

(11.2 oz / 330ml)

Serving type: bottle

09-29-2004 17:17:37 | More by RBorsato
Photo of 99bottles


4.5/5  rDev +10.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

I was somewhat surprised at this beer, only because of it's wacky label. I was expecting something like Bezelbuth (shudder) and instead got something like St Bernardus. This beer poured into a wine glass had a rich reddish brown color and a soft head of yellow tan that had average retention. Smell was of carmelized sugar, plum, and raisin, faint breath of alcohol. The taste is immeadiately smooth and satisfying with a massive dose of malt. Not as spicy as some Scotch ales, this had exceptional depth in its fruit flavors, the esters tasting mostly of raisin, fig, plum with a heavy sweetness of carmel. Alcohol is noticeable, but nicely suited to the beer. This is a great after dinner sipper, and a surprisingly tasty beer despite the cheesy Viking.

Serving type: bottle

09-29-2004 14:59:57 | More by 99bottles
Photo of diamonddave


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

The label features some dork dressed up like a Viking, which should appeal to anyone who still has those Frank Frazetta posters on the wall in their bedroom (a.k.a. Mom's basement).

I bought a 4-pack thinking it would be one of those super-strong pale Euro things. I don't know what the hell made me think that. This is dark brown with a thick frothy head. Smells very sweet and caramely (if that's a word) with a hint of rotting fruit (in a good way). I'm pleasantly surprised by how wrong my expectations were for this beer.

The taste is very thick and rich; again, lots of caramel. Malty with a hint of raisins or something. But what do I know? Until today, I wasn't even aware that "Wee Heavy" was a beer category. (I thought it was the title of the upcoming R. Kelly album.) Whatever it is, it's pretty damn satisfying and filling. Makes me wanna burn down some thatched-roof cottages whilst ravishing yon maidens.

I can't imagine drinking more than one or two of these in a sitting, because 1. it's so strong and heavy and 2. it's freakin' expensive. I paid $8.99 for four 11.2 oz. bottles. What's up with that, anyway? You don't think we deserve the extra .8 ounces? I shalt dispatch thee to Valhalla! Er, wait, isn't Valhalla like heaven for Vikings? Whatever... good beer, drink sparingly, etc.

Serving type: bottle

09-29-2004 01:17:52 | More by diamonddave
Photo of Shaw


4.5/5  rDev +10.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

This is a beautiful deep clear ruby beer with a massive head of foam. It leaves a light lace down my glass.

Its smell is unique. Kinda musty, like it's been aged in barrels. I think I smell a bit of sourness and even wine-like notes? Wild.

The biggest flavor I note is a smokey, peaty taste. This taste gets hidden after a few sips by toasted and roasted malt flavors. The smoke flavors come back to play in the aftertaste. There's all kinds of complex flavor wars going on in this ale. My poor words don't do it justice. Try it for yourself.

This is a very good beer, with a price that matches. Seek it out. I'd love to visit this brewery, too. They look like they're in a fabulous location.

Serving type: bottle

09-18-2004 06:45:41 | More by Shaw
Photo of skybluewater


3.8/5  rDev -6.9%
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.

Serving type: bottle

09-07-2004 03:43:43 | More by skybluewater
Photo of TastyTaste


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

Pours deep, deep brown, near black, not much head, 1/4" at most. Smells very woody, mostly piney, like sawdust almost. Taste is very strong and complex. A strong raisin/berry flavor combines with piney hops, slightly sweet malt, that finishes with an alcohol burn. Definitely a different kind of beer. Worth $2.99 for an 11.2 oz bottle? n Not quite, but still good.

Serving type: bottle

09-05-2004 17:48:10 | More by TastyTaste
Photo of trancefishy


4.28/5  rDev +4.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

in the glass, this is the colour of new motor oil, minus the viscosity. head is a think off white creature with very small bubbles.
nose is unique, in that i pick up yeast of some sort, what i can imagine is malt, and an unknown binder between the two.
when this hits your mouth, there is a dancing carbonation with flavours of sweet stickiness that leaves the palatte with the sensation of having sucked on a caramel chew. long, lingering, sweet aftertaste that leaves you wanting another swig. there are also flavours of black licorice, lactic acid, and sherry in there.
i like this beer, and i get it a couple times a year to remind me how unique and tasty of a brew it is.

Serving type: bottle

08-27-2004 01:58:20 | More by trancefishy
Skull Splitter from Orkney Brewery
91 out of 100 based on 1,717 ratings.