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.

1,940 Ratings

(view ratings)
Ratings: 1,940
Reviews: 942
rAvg: 4.08
pDev: 12.5%
Wants: 151
Gots: 180 | 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:
Beer added by: BeerAdvocate on 10-08-1998

No notes at this time.
View: Beers (13) | Events
Beer: Ratings & Reviews
Sort by:  Recent | Likes | High | Low | Top Raters | Read the Alström Bros Beer Reviews and Beer Ratings of Skull Splitter Alström Bros
Ratings: 1,940 | Reviews: 942 | Display Reviews Only:
Photo of scruffwhor
3.38/5  rDev -17.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 4

Pours a sappy looking cognac amber. VSOP!!! Par head with very ambitious retention. Leaves a film on the glass. very thin and small. The aromas were that of an alcoholic biscuit elixir that would help a Skullsplitter before he goes into battle. The taste is a little syrupy with light bubbles tickling the front of my tongue. Some alcohol and hearty sweet malt bread hits in an almost gruel like fashion. The palate is a little resiny. Like tree sap sometimes.

Photo of seanyfo
4.82/5  rDev +18.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

poured into a duvel tulip glass, pours a very dark mahogany colour, holding it up to the light produces a nice ruby hue. 1 finger persistant head.

S- lots of prune, sherry, raisins and bready malt, smells like a hearty desert in itself

T- OH MY GOD! this is nectar! absolute nectar, a beautiful toffee hazelnut quality in this beer, lots of sweet sticky raisins and sherry like alcohol finish. Not at all dry, i cannot find the alchohol in the finish as i was expecting, so damn smooth, magnificent!

M- low carbonation, with thick syrupy mouthfeel, just what you want on a cold winters nite

D- not high drinkability of course for the abv, but each small sip makes me want more and more. This is my ideal winter warming firesider! well done Orkney Brewery, a true world champion!

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

Pours a thin white head over a crystal clear dark reddish-copper body. Aromas of sweet malt, caramel and a hint of chocolate. The flavor is a veritable explosion of malt. Robust caramel sweetness, light biscuit and a bit of roasted barley and peat in the finish. Respectable hop bitterness balancing things out, but little in the way of hop flavor or aroma. Smooth mouthfeel, full bodied, lightly drying finish.

A well-balanced, smooth drinking wee heavy. The clarity of the ale is quite remarkable-- filtered? No matter, the malt complexity is a lot to wrap you mind around—perhaps the origin of the ‘skull splitter’ moniker.

Photo of Beaver13
4/5  rDev -2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

11.2 oz bottle, purchased 6 months ago. Pours a cloudy tea color with some yeasties. It has an off-white head that quickly diminishes to a thin film.

The aroma is smoky and vinous with some oak, dark fruits and tobacco.

The flavor is sugary sweet with some dark fruits and smoke leading to a lightly bitter dry finish. The mouthfeel is medium and creamy with some slightly sharp carbonation.

Overall, this was a very nice brew. It's hard to classify - a little smoky, and some belgian qualities. It's definitely not a typical Scotch Ale.

Photo of Damian
3.54/5  rDev -13.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 2.5

Drank from an 11.2 fl. oz. bottle purchased from Charles Street Liquors, Boston, MA

Poured a clear, mahogany with a one-finger, bubbly, light tan head that quickly faded to a thick ring of lace. Some sporadic, drips of lacing were present.

Smell was very malty, sweet and smooth. Rich, caramel malts and candied sugar came through strong, along with hints of alcohol soaked raisins, dried fruits and a general woodiness. At times some maple sugar-like qualities were apparent.

The taste however was markedly less appealing. Some malts and fruits were noticeable up front but the alcohol soon dominated the palate. Alcohol was astringent and biting and created a substantial warming from start to finish. Through this however, caramel and smoked malts as well as raisins and dried fruits were apparent. A touch of hops was detectable on the rear of the palate and this helped to create some semblance of balance. Sweet, toffee-like resonating aftertaste.

Mouthfeel was syrupy and smooth yet a bit thin. Carbonation was minimal.

Overall, a good beer that could be far better if the alcohol was not so overwhelming.

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

So I was at dinner one night, and ordered a skullsplitter. Wow. It poured a beautiful dark brown, creamy head (just enough). First sip? It was so good I literally shed a tear. Rich, deep, flavor, malty sweetness followed by just enough hops to not be overbearing. Left a delicious, sweet aftertaste in my mouth. When I start brewing, this is what I want my beer to taste like. My favorite of all time.

Photo of tcfishler
3.83/5  rDev -6.1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Dull medium brown, with a good head for a brew of this ABV.

Lots of alcohol aromas, with some yeast as well.

Broad, smooth, very barleywinelike mouthfeel, with laidback flavors of caramel and fruit.

"Dangerously drinkable" is definitely appropriate.

Photo of beveritt
4.16/5  rDev +2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Alas, I have no thistle glass, so this goes from the 12oz brown bottle into a English pint glass. Ouch, sorry William Wallace.

Appearance: Pours a clear ruby red-brown color with an inch thick off-white head. Many beers seem to be brown with a hint of red, this is more red with a hint of brown. Head falls off, but leaves a coating of foam.

Smell: A soft and nutty smell, not nearly as tied to the taste as most beers. Unusual.

Taste: Sweet, malty and tons of caramel. Full of fruity and nutty flavors. Just the slightest hint of bitterness on the finish.

Mouthfeel: Great body, really feels substantial on the tongue. Carbonation level is average, helps to mitigate the sweetness.

Drinkability: A very nice beer. At 8% ABV, not a session beer, but it hides the alcohol well.

Photo of cproioi
3.18/5  rDev -22.1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

The beer pours a nice brown body with a soft tan head sitting a top it. If held up to the light one can see carbonation. The aroma is full of sweeet malts and raisins slight hints of alcohol present also. The taste follows the aroma closely but with a more pronounced alcohol notes to it. Medium to thick body with no carbonation present and a warming alcohol to it. The beer leaves a lot of residual sweetness behind coating the tounge which isn't bad for this style. It's a good rendition of the style.

Photo of kkipple
3.56/5  rDev -12.7%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3

A: Huge 2.5 inch frothy head composed of massive bubbles, nearly meringue-like. Most impressive. The beer itself is clear and medium amber color with a few bubbles and some yeast sediment. The once-mighty head flees rather fast to just cover the beer. Oh yeah, there’s a neat Viking on the label.

S: This smells good and hearty even when cold. Sharp malts and yeast with a metallic tang.

T: Malt sweetness with a slight peaty smoke flavor. There’s that metal tang again and a bit of bit of DMS that imparts a corn flavor. Warming. Dry. Reminds me of a Dubbel for some reason. There’s a fruitness here that’s not unwelcome. Also reminiscent of heather ale.

M: Goes down smooth, slight solvent bite though. Drinkable but not a style I’m used to.

Final thoughts: Well worth a try if you’re adventuresome, or if you’ve a Viking fetish.

Photo of johnniemarg
3.84/5  rDev -5.9%
look: 3 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

11.2 oz bottle (330 ml). says 8.5% abv. Poured into a delirium tulip.

Pours a deep brown with very little head. Holding this in front of my computer screen I see that the entire beer is filled with large suspended particles. And there's still a ton of junk left in the bottom of the bottle.

Smell is rich, sweet and malty. Yet another of the beers that I can't help but notice that it smells like a thomas hardy's. One day I will figure out what that smell is so I can describe it better.

Taste is basically in line with the smell. Sweet and malty in a brittish barleywine kind of way. There is a slight acidic tatse that I think is because of the sediment in the glass. Of course, I would have tried to avoid that if I had any idea that this might be an issue. Still tasty though.

Mouthfeel is medium bodied and slick.

Decent beer. High abv wouldn't be good for sessioning. I admit I need to figure out what makes these UK-based big beers taste similar. I want to be able to understand what it is I like about them so I can explain them better.

Photo of xymyl
4.7/5  rDev +15.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Appearance: dark mahogany brown with a creamy light brown head that slowly settles. Small bubbles.

Aroma: Smoke, milk, dried fruits and spices with sweet dark malt aromas and a bit of alcohol.

Taste: A big mouthful of complex fruity sugars, starts out full and fruity with a slightly acidic note and quickly moves to richer sweetness and nice smoke leaving the acidity behind, although it dries out toward the end there is a long lingering interwoven, toasty sweetness mingled with some slight spice/herbal notes.

If you drink it by itself you may not notice the strength of the smoke, but drink it after any other beer or while eating and the smoke can seem huge. Personally, I like this level of smoke in a Scotch ale. It is similar to the feeling I get when drinking a great island Scotch Whisky (like Lagavulin or Ardbeg) where the smoke masks the more subtile and complex flavors beneath and you need to learn to find your way through by slow and methodical exploration.

It is on the high end of medium in body. Every sip of this beer explains why there are so many Belgian Scotch ales. What great brewer wouldn't want to adopt such a beer and let it become part of the family?

Photo of Zorro
4.65/5  rDev +14%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

In the glass this is a clear brown colored ale with a disappointing amount of tan head formed.

Smell is sweet and smoky with a faint sour edge to it. Heaps of malty aroma give this a scent of molasses. Slight metallic aroma possibly from the smoke. After this warms a bit more the fruity aromas come out. Fig and raisin mostly with a little grape.

Taste is VERY smoky at the start and I really like that. You can't really under describe the smokiness of this beer it is definitely in Rauchbier territory. A great amount of maltiness lingers and it fairly sweet which I did not notice at the beginning. No real fruity flavors develop. Decent amount of hop bitterness with a faint tobacco after taste. An excellent example of the style for the BJCP guide and surprise this is listed as an official reference beer.

Mouthfeel is great.

An exceptionally pleasant ale with the provision you had better like the taste of smoky Scotch. To me this is a VERY pleasant beer but I like smoky scotch. Probably the same reason that I love DFH Immort ale.

Photo of edskirk3
4.42/5  rDev +8.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4

I've never been to Scotland, but when/if I do, I'd definitely check out the Orkney Islands. It is the region of Scotland that has intrigued me the most, because of its Viking heritage. Plus, they arugably make the world's best scotch.

I have here a 12 oz bottle with a Viking warrior pictured on the front label (presumably Thorfinn Hausakluif, the Skullsplitter, who is mentioned on the back) and no freshness information. I am not worried about freshness though, as this ale weighs in at 8.5% abv.

Great stuff. Big and sweet. Caramel. Toasted malt. Twinge of tea? Very comforting. My skull feels massaged rather than split. I wish I bought more than one bottle. I can always go back...

Photo of Byeast
4.47/5  rDev +9.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Poured a deep, darker brown/auburn , with a frothy off-white head. Sweet and roasty malt aromas , light smoke , very slight dark fruit , burnt caramel. The taste is exellent. Rich, malty and complex , some slight burnt flavor ,caramel, sweet maltiness , bit of earthy hop bitterness , slight scotch, raisin, and a nice smokey finish. The mouthfeel is slick , creamy, and full. An exellent brew.

Photo of Sammy
3.77/5  rDev -7.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A smooth drinking scotch ale, smooth medium plus mouthfeel. Muted smoke and fruit flavour. Appropriately average carbonation. Sweet malty finish. More drinkable than the style, more muted flavour. Good lacing. Alcohol spice aroma. Alcohol sledgehammer afterwards.

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

A - Pours a dark brown color, some carbonation, nice tan foamy head, nice lacing afterwards.

S - Scents of sweet malts, slight toffee, and yeast.

T - The taste of kinda sweet and slightly tangy, nice dry finish which also has a slight warming feel.

M - Medium body.

D - Drinkable. This is a nice brew from Orkney, glad I had a chance to check one out.

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

11.2oz brown bottle

Skullsplitter was brown in color with a tan head. The aroma was of sweet malt and alcohol. The taste was on the sweet side, rich and malty, with noticable alcohol and a dry, warming finish. It is a full bodied beer with fairly low carbonation. This is a great beer. I will be sure to seek it out again.

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

Aroma: Smoky wet grains, hints of fruity esters, chardonnay grapes, and maybe a little yeast.

Appearance: Ruby colored and clear with an off-white head.

Flavor: Smoky, charcoal, burnt grains, and a hint of sweetness that helps to balance the char flavors. Becomes a bit more balanced as it warms up.

Mouthfeel: Medium bodied, firm carbonation, and a touch astringent.

Overall impression: The smoke presence is appropriate given the style but I just don't dig it. Certainly won't knock off any points for personal tastes but if you don't like smokiness in your beer, you may not enjoy this. Still, a rock solid example of the style. Well crafted and perfect for a cloudy fall day. Probably would score better for me with some age. Recommended.

Photo of Doomcifer
3.42/5  rDev -16.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 2.5

I have seen this brew many times in the past years but never picked it up, so I included it in my mix-a-six pack this evening. Pours semi-dark, ruddy, brown color with not much of a head that vanishes quickly, but leaving behind decent lacing. Smells of oak, caramel, some sweet maltiness. Taste is of oakiness, much like the aroma...maybe even go as far as saying tobacco flavors. Caramel tones, sweet malts, some cherries hidden in the mix as well. Ends very dry and a major alcohol punch. This beer doesn't do a very good job masking the ABV. Alcohol warming lingers with you for a bit. Mouthfeel is mildy heavy bodied, slippery until the finish comes in and slaps you with dryness. Carbonation feels pretty low, small bubbles that tingle the tongue a tad...has that pilsner carbonation quality to it. I dont know if I could have more than one of these per session as it not really my style.

Photo of cjgator3
3.95/5  rDev -3.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 3.5

Pours a dark reddish brown with a nice sticky white head. A rum like alcohol smell is the first thing that comes to mind when it is first held up to your nose. Looking past that, there is also a lot of malt with some caramel. Mouthfeel is smooth and chewy. Taste is sweet and malty with a bit of caramel and a long warming sensation from the alcohol. Overall, this was really a pleasure to drink. I will purchase this again and would recommend anybody to try it.

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

Pours a dark amber with a white head. Good looking, indeed.

Smells of alcohol, roasted malts, caramel, nuts, and smoke. Very inviting.

Taste is sweet and warming due to the alcohol. Smokiness is prominent, but hints of toasted bread, nuts, toffee, and caramel make up a good portion of the body. All around delicious.

Photo of DogFood11
3.58/5  rDev -12.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 3

Poured into a snifter it forms a reputable eggshell white head that is fairly loose. Dark brown color and lacing is scattered.

Whoa baby this is an alcohol biaaaatch. You get every bit of the 8.5% in the nose and taste. Prunes come through and a slight candied presence mostly from caramel but there is some chocolate as well. Wild spices, and even some tabasco spiceyness towards the finish.

Notes: Stone chipotle smoked porter comes to mind. I'm not trying to say they are identical in the slightest bit. It does draw some similarities in the spices and mouthfeel but the skullsplitter is not as rich. A nice brew.

Photo of snilsen13
4.5/5  rDev +10.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

A quick one. Basically you'll enjoy this beer if you enjoy warming, thick, malty brewa with a solid structure (not too sweet) that is balanced by a firm presence of alcohol. Just the right amount of carbonation and minimal aftertaste results makes this an outlandishly drinkable brew. I like this style quite a bit, so it's hard for me to rate these poorly, but I am sure this was one of the better Wee Heavies I've had so far.

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

Pours a dark ruby red color with very few tiny bubbles evident. Head is thick and foamy, receding slowly to a thin sheet and leaving good lacing. Nose of yeast, moderately sweet malt, and maybe a hint of dark fruit like plums. Tastes a lot sweeter than it smells, but the sweetness quickly gives way to rich malts, a hoppy bite, followed by a distinct alcohol presence, a coffee-like flavor, finally culminating a lightly bitter malt finish. Very good, complex flavor--highly enjoyable. Mouth is very good, slick and semi-creamy; quite satisfying. Drinkability is very good—watch the 8.5% ABV.

Overall, this is an outstanding beer. I’ve only tried one other Scotch ale or wee heavy (McEwan’s), and this one is much better. Highly recommended.

Skull Splitter from Orkney Brewery
91 out of 100 based on 1,940 ratings.