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Skull Splitter - Orkney Brewery

Not Rated.
Skull SplitterSkull Splitter

Displayed for educational use only; do not reuse.

1,764 Ratings

(view ratings)
Ratings: 1,764
Reviews: 920
rAvg: 4.08
pDev: 12.5%
Wants: 129
Gots: 122 | 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
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Ratings: 1,764 | Reviews: 920 | Display Reviews Only:
Photo of rajendra82


3.85/5  rDev -5.6%

Deep copper brown color and a good two finger sized head underlain by medium carbonation made this an attractive looking beer. The aroma was roasty and sweet chocolate malts and faintly grassy hops. The sweet fruity taste had notes of apples, melons, toffee, and pears, the hops were floral and spicy, and the yeast provided earthy accents, however the emphasis was primarily on malt here. The overall taste was very similar to a Belgian Dubbel, except the hops are a bit stronger here, and the beer lacked the dusty powdery yeast that marks the Dubbles. The mouthfeel was medium thick, and had a mouth coating stickiness. The beer was quite drinkable despite being on the big side. A very good treat for all the maltmouths out there.

08-01-2004 01:43:24 | More by rajendra82
Photo of Crotor


4.22/5  rDev +3.4%

Okay, first things first...
Orkney's Skullsplitter has THE COOLEST LABEL IN BEER HISTORY! I mean, sure, they could have used some tasteful, anglo-saxoney art, perhaps an iconic image of a "viking helmet," but no... The brave folks at Orkney dressed some dude up as a viking and took a snapshot of him. Is that picture even color graded? It's stunningly beautiful in its simplistic absurdity.

The beer contained within the bottle, however, is not at all simple... Skullsplitter is perhaps the preminant example of a Scotch ale. Thick, dark amber, with a low, lacing head. Big caramel malt with peaty, smokey, scotchey undertones. Slight bitterness only to balance the malt. A beer to be savored.

07-21-2004 06:45:33 | More by Crotor
Photo of Guinness4me


3.83/5  rDev -6.1%

Amazing that they have bottled all things savory that I love into one bottle. The deep, rich color is the first hint of the complexity and pleasure to come. The caramel maltiness is intoxicating even without the impressive 8.50% alcohol. It's everything I love in a beer...and a handsome viking on the label only adds to its attraction! I'm glad I took my Beer Guy's advice and tried it.

07-11-2004 03:17:25 | More by Guinness4me
Photo of SheepNutz


4.22/5  rDev +3.4%

12oz. bottle poured into a tulip-style glass. It pours a deep red, almost opaque color with three fingers of light tan head. There is a bit of lacing. The smell is malt, malt, and more malt. Has one of the most powerful malt aromas I've ever encountered. Sweet caramel and alcohol linger with lightly toasted barley. The taste is also very malty, but not overpowering at all. Toffee and caramel flow smoothly across the tongue, some nuttiness in there as well. Tiny touches of alcohol and hops on the finish. The mouthfeel is decently strong for a scotch ale. The drinkability is very good, it's hard to believe that this is 8.5%, even with the intimidating name! The Scots got it good.

06-27-2004 03:15:13 | More by SheepNutz
Photo of RenoZymurgist


3.65/5  rDev -10.5%

Poured a deep reddish-brown brew with a white head that subsided quickly. Aroma was of smoke and alcohol with very little else. flavor was creamy begining with rich carmelized malt flavors which segues into a slight smoky flavor to finish with a definite alcohol presence. This beer is stron and it is ment to be savored while enjoying the slower things in life as it is too strong to drink and still be able to function at too many tasks.

06-21-2004 07:13:38 | More by RenoZymurgist
Photo of tavernjef


3.85/5  rDev -5.6%

Softly glowing scab red color, a one finger high, foamy vanilla hued top adorns the top, crumbles down slowly to leave a good collar and lacing sticks in minimal strings.

Aroma of smokey malts, salty meats, caramel, and some undecipherable darker fruits. Some fusil alcohol creeps. The nature of its nose seemes suppressed and slow.

Taste has a good amount of darker malts, not on a roasty level, more of a deep sweetness then anything with a subdued tang. Some wonderful smokey flavors meld within some of the darker fruity nuances. Bits of caramel show through in the middle.

Mouthfeel is mega big, thick and sweet, nearly full, creamfully chewy in a malty way. It coats the mouth like a thick fog over a cold morning lake.

A slow sipper to be sure, thick and sweet, almost vinuos in some of its character; smokey and rich, swampy and sluggish. Its like a well distinguished, well educated stripper who likes the attention and quick cash but is really working to be an high-energy space physicist.

How's that for splitting your skull?

06-21-2004 00:47:31 | More by tavernjef
Photo of WetCoaster


3.8/5  rDev -6.9%

Waaa-aaa-aaah! AAAH! We come from the land of the ice and snow... Ah yes, Orkney, that odd culture tied far more to its Viking roots than anything Anglo, where, if I remember correctly, they have an annual island-wide "game" of kill-the-man-with-the-ball in which they occasionally do. A badass culture, and this is their baddest beer. Yipes.

Appearance: Slightly mahogany, but really more of a cola brown with a bit of a gold undertone. Pours with a thick, rocky, off-white head. My 11.2 has fairly mild carbonation and leaves thick lacing and legs on the glass wall.

Smell: Sharp at first--yeast, perhaps?--but soon warms and reveals dark sugars, e.g., rum, molasses, raisins. There seems to be a slightly buttery diacetyl aroma as well. There's also something else, but neither my wife nor I could figure out what the hell it was. Good luck.

Taste/Mouthfeel: Whoa--skullsplitter indeed. A thick, malty, syrupy mouthfeel coats the tongue immediately. Full of black fruit flavors, with hints of tawny port and yeasty bread dough. There seems to be a slight saltiness as well. There's very little, if any, hop character and it finishes with a sugar sourness.

Drinkability: Unless you're a viking, not much. Waaay too big to session. Definitely a sipping brew; would pair up well with a big Stilton Blue or nice dark-wrapper cigar.

This is a rich, delicious brew. A bit like a barleywine, but it definitely reflects the unique character of the island. Enjoy it, but don't piss it off.

06-12-2004 06:20:04 | More by WetCoaster
Photo of feloniousmonk


3.83/5  rDev -6.1%

Clear, bright garnet hue,nearing auburn, with huge carbonation, bubbles all over the place, with a flush head of beige foam that goes down in a flurry of vanishing bubbles.
Aroma, deeply, darkly malty, woody, some spices float about in the nose, caramel, some fruitiness, dark ones, grapes and cherries, a wealth of complexities...
nice taste, caramel leads the flavor, just nearly definable as "rich", but not quite..nay, not quite as full in the mouth as we'd hope, and then the booze kicks in, and it tastes something like a blend of dark rum and cherry brandy. I swear I wasn't drinking officer, well, one teensy little beer, maybe...
Body's a bit medium, finish is, too, doesn't quite maintain a presence on the palate. Overall, a tasty, boozy blend of malt and fruit.
For the sake of my skull, though, I plan to visit this brew at well-spaced intervals.

06-07-2004 02:09:20 | More by feloniousmonk
Photo of Crosling


4.05/5  rDev -0.7%


Strong aroma of grapes, apples, oak and raisins.

Very intense flavor profile. Spiced rum soaked raisins, toasted malt, heavily roasted malt, caramel and juicy fruits.

The finish packs a punch and leaves the mouth with a lingering and dry cinnamon and green apple sweetness.

Not as full in the mouth as I would have liked. Alcohol is hidden very well. Just a very good beer.

05-07-2004 23:34:10 | More by Crosling
Photo of kbub6f

New York

3.95/5  rDev -3.2%

The head is big, densish, tan, fine, doughy. Implosions cause an uneven collapse. Very appealing. The beer is a gorgeous, clear, deep red. There are waves of nice, fine carbonation. Fine, spotty, sheety lacing. I feel like this is almost too beautiful to drink. But now I'm over it. Fresh bread! in the nose. Sweet, bready toffee. Yum. Wow: smoke in the front, with toffee and alcohol. Butter and smoke in the middle, with sweet malt underneath. Sweet, ripe fruit in the finish, with obvious alcohol. Smoky aftertaste. This is a very interesting beer: smoky, but sweet malt and acres of butter. Very fine, smooth feel. Intense. Good.

05-02-2004 20:57:15 | More by kbub6f
Photo of RedDiamond


4.43/5  rDev +8.6%

Deep ruby brown with a scant head and a very raw, wortish smell. My God that smells good. Makes for a raw fabulous perfume of a beer. Very dark tasting. There’s actually a certain mustiness to the taste which is quite appealing, like the smell of an old cottage – a bit smoky and barn-like. The charm is captivating though.

Skullsplitter reminds me that yeast is a fungus. If it tastes or smells fungus-y then so be it. The rest of it tips to the malt side.

This is a unique beer and very satisfying to drink despite the stupid label that features a guy with a sword who looks like my evil twin.

04-29-2004 03:16:41 | More by RedDiamond
Photo of oelergud


4/5  rDev -2%

Very dark ruby beer with lots of carbonation, tan head, good retention and lace.
Sweet scent up front, clover honey and overripe banana, a spiced quality to the overall smell.
Really good taste here, strong malts enforced by more spiced honey flavors, faint but clearly detectable hops underneath. Aftertaste of banana and cherry.
Good full chewable fullness and a pleasant creamy feel.
I will get this beer again, very easy to enjoy. The high alcohol % is not noticable so be careful.


04-11-2004 21:33:30 | More by oelergud
Photo of NearerMyBeerToMe


3.98/5  rDev -2.5%

An eggshell-white colored head fades quickly after the pour to a short collar around the glass which does not cling well. A good many streamers are present, but hard to see through the burnished chestnut murk, a dark "woodsy" color that, when held to light, glows bronze-approaching-garnet. Wow does this smell malty! and woodsy/smoky, like burning toffee or charred raisin skins... the smells become less bitter and more sweet with time and warmth, approaching frosted cereal grains and grape (?)--almost smells more like a doppelbock than a scottish ale... nosefeel expands in the alcoholic finish. Flavor starts out intensely smoky before being balanced out by a strong malt backbone... overall suggestions of maple syrup, charred oak, barley hulls, a touch of earth, and alcohol. Mouthfeel gets mealy with warmth (or swishing around inside of mouth) but remains a bit fizzy. Finishes dry enough to make you say "whew" after each sip. The more of this I drink, the more I enjoy it (serve warm) and the booziness it brings on. Highly recommended for fans of scotch whisky; others might want to stay clear.

04-01-2004 22:24:08 | More by NearerMyBeerToMe
Photo of Joey7F


4.33/5  rDev +6.1%

Warning, this beer is dangerously drinkable for its ABV which is extremely well concealed. I tried this at Hogan's as part of their beer around the world thing, and was highly impressed. It is a little smokey and has a dark fruit finish. Highly recommended. Anyone know if you can get this by the case or at least in a sixpack?


04-01-2004 15:45:38 | More by Joey7F
Photo of rdrummer

New Jersey

4.28/5  rDev +4.9%

I'm not sure what category this belongs in, but old, strong, and dark seem to describe it. But I usually just think of this as a Scottish Ale and leave it at that. This is impressively beautiful with a very dark, amber color. It is hazy and when held to the light a real reddish glow shines through. The head is large, beige, and long lasting. There is, of course, impressive lacing. The aroma is a little mild for this strong of an ale with a malty aroma. The taste is a real malty gem with lots of fruitiness as well. I think there is a trace of dates or figs. It is kind of grapey so it could be raisin as well. This is a good thick ale in the mouth, almost meaty. I could drink this as long as it took to reach oblivion, it is that good.

My second visit with this beer doesn't change my rating but it did add a very strong smoky flavor that was muted on my first taste, probably due to the barbecue that I was eating. It is a very nice malty smokiness that I should have been aware of.

03-27-2004 00:52:40 | More by rdrummer
Photo of soper2000


3.85/5  rDev -5.6%

Poured a nice brown with a decent sized off white head. This beer just smells malty. Huge notes of malt with a small hint of alcohol. There isn't really much alcohol evident in the taste. This was a lot sweeter than I expected but the sweetness was balanced well buy hints of nut. This isn't the thinnest of beers and I enjoy having it on occasion, It's just not something that I need every week.

03-26-2004 00:18:50 | More by soper2000
Photo of NJpadreFan

New Jersey

3.4/5  rDev -16.7%

Re-reviewed on 7/2/09

Orkney- Skullsplitter

A- Deep clear amber red with a small light lacing head.
S- Sweet light fruits with a good brown sugary malt.
T- Very sweet fruity sugary malt. Nice hints of raisin, plum, and grape. Brown sugar and molasses with a slight charcoal earthy hop twang.
M- Very sweet and thick. Thick fruitiness with a touch of hot/ boozy alcohol in the throat. Finishes off with thick sweet malt, quite smooth for its high alc content.

Overall- Much better 2nd time around. 1st time my palatte was still too young. Although this is a tad thick and sweet for me. Its worthy.

03-14-2004 22:07:20 | More by NJpadreFan
Photo of Sixpack595


3.7/5  rDev -9.3%

A stern pour resulted in a huge chunky almost white head over a slightly ruddy brown body. The aroma was strong and featured toffee, caramel, and a bit buttery at times. Powerfull malts, butterscotch and toffee with a touch of hops to mellow out the sweetness. Very drinkable despite the high ABV and almost syrupy mouthfeel.

03-10-2004 09:54:38 | More by Sixpack595
Photo of FormatKid


4.5/5  rDev +10.3%

Purchased a 12oz bottle at Bacchus in Chattanooga. This pours out a dark but translucent brown with a meager head that quickly disappears. Lacing is light to non-existant.

Smell is heavy in a sweet alcohol smell (remarkably like whiskey), and the malts are there too. No bitterness evident in the smell at all.Taste is BIG on malts up front sweet, round, and smokey. In the middle there is a pungently bitter-sweet combination I've never experienced in a beer before. Reminds me of chewing tobacco (and I'm talking about the stuff in the big bag Grandpa used to chew). Musty around the edges and the finish, with a slightly dry hoppy bitterness to round it off at the end. It leaves a warm trail down your esophagus and into your belly.

SkullSplitter really grows on me as it opens up. Mouthfeel is pretty light, which works for this one. I like this beer alot and I could imagine it going great with some game bird and flat bread to complete my viking delusion.

03-08-2004 03:50:01 | More by FormatKid
Photo of ppoitras


4.3/5  rDev +5.4%

12ozer, purchased at Main St. Liquors, Monson, MA, as part of do-it-yourself mixed 6 pack. Red foiled cap.

Poured into an imperial pint glass, hearty inch+ tall tan colored head formed on top of a clear copper hued brew. Excellent lacing, after swirling it justs hangs on the sides of the glass. Malty, malty aroma, with slight tinge of alcohol. A surprise of smokiness jumps out at my taste buds from the get-go. A bit maltier in the taste than the color and clarity and aroma were indicating. Can taste the higher alcohol in there, but it's not like it hits you over the head. Rather, it just slips on by, the only real indication being the warming trend after swallowing. What I expected from a Scottish brew, and more.

03-06-2004 01:29:58 | More by ppoitras
Photo of Mangus


4.22/5  rDev +3.4%

Pours a really nice deep amber reddish brown with a thin lacey head which quickly settles away.

Smells caramel, malty with a strong hint of alcohol. Very earthy and damp, much like the Scottish Highlands.

The taste is quite exquisite with beautiful strong caramel and malt flavors. The alcohol taste is robust and hearty. If this is what the vikings drank, well then I wana be a viking! AAAARRRGGGHHH

02-25-2004 22:51:15 | More by Mangus
Photo of blitheringidiot


3.8/5  rDev -6.9%

Turn off the smoke alarm if you dare sample this palate punch. Smokey all the way. First, I noticed the low carbonation clear orange & ruby jewel-like pour. Then I was drawn into an appearance that says “Drink me.” Remind me to pay my Alice in Wonderland royalties later. Small head. Legs and lace ooze down the sides of this easy goin’ mature sipper.

Sweet was the first overwhelming scent, but then out from the complex fireworks, pears, spices, little nutmeg & cinnamon. Heck there’s even fresh pepper in thar!

Rich, smoked punch. Full taste is explosive. This one shows up to the party without an invite. Bold. With so many beers out there, props must be awarded to an original concoction like Skull Splitter. No need to ruff this one up like a wine tasting, although red wine hints peeks out. Smoked salmon or beef jerkey? ( I am a huge beef jerkey fan) This one found the gas peddle. Robust, scotch ale all the way. Caveat emptor. Not for the faint of taste. Scotch drinkers could become addicted to this one.

Kicked in despite visually hidden carbonation. Almost tastes like a stoudt but with a more smokey, lighter feel. No one in a sane state of mind would dare drink these all night long. Worth a try, tho'.

Wallet splitter? Not at $8 for four 11.2 oz / 330 mL bottles, oh with the red foil on top. BA brownie points for Red foil. Last swigs: Recommended for fellow Barleywine Style Ale fans or just for the Indiana Jones adventure in you. This is a hidden treasure of lasting flavors that are good 'til the last drop. Now I must pay my Maxwell house royalties. Pardon me.

*** Updated review alert*** Had another bottle to compare and update my review. Not too many changes. Tweaks only.

Beer is good. Happy beering.

02-12-2004 05:24:02 | More by blitheringidiot
Photo of merlin48


4/5  rDev -2%

11.2oz/330ml bottle here. Label says Skullsplitter was the 7th Laird of Orkney. Pours a clear cherrywood brown with an ample tan head that eventually fades to some patchy and sheet lace. Aroma is big caramel malt in the foreground, with fireplace ash and a hint of alcohol behind. Mouthfeel is thick and chewy and has minimal carbonation. Taste is caramel and smoke, with a moderate hop bitterness. Alcohol is well concealed in the taste until it sneaks in near room temperature. The smokiness lasts all the way through and is quite pleasant. There are also notes of pipe tobacco. Finishes mildly sweet with a smoky aftertaste. An excellent Scottish style Strong Old Ale that is a pleasure to sip.

02-03-2004 01:31:28 | More by merlin48
Photo of beerman599


4.1/5  rDev +0.5%

Poured ruby color with a small head and rather thick lacing on the sides. the smell was of a lot of sweetness with hints of peet. And that was what the initial taste was also. Lots of fruit flavor and some roasted malts, But as it wormed up it upened like a flower and got fuller on the tongue. It turned more hoppy and alittle woody and ultimately a strong alcohol flavor came through. I like it....a lot. go thor

01-27-2004 00:09:09 | More by beerman599
Photo of PSUDREW


3.58/5  rDev -12.3%

Pours a nice bit of head. Not alot, but a nice bit. It has some head. Not much, but some. Pours a very dark copper colr, with a bit of head, not much, but it is def. there. The lacing goes through and through to the end, and it is a ncie bit a astetic compltement. It really has no reall hop profile, but the alchohol/ malt balance makes this a nice little brew, it has a good representation of the wee heavy variety, ad, should be drank ona regular basis for a good rep of the stley.

01-24-2004 05:28:55 | More by PSUDREW
Skull Splitter from Orkney Brewery
91 out of 100 based on 1,764 ratings.