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Skull Splitter - Orkney Brewery

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Skull SplitterSkull Splitter

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1,954 Ratings

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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.
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Beer: Ratings & Reviews
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Ratings: 1,954 | Reviews: 944
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.

Photo of UberWasser
4.6/5  rDev +12.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

11.2oz bottle served in a snifter.

Pours a great dark ruby red color with a quick building and quick fading head. It does leave a nice halo and haze of bubbles across the top of the beer, though, that is fed by a subtle shower of bubbles rising through the beer from below.

Taking a whif I find the smell to be a bit shallow. It had a nice ripe fruit smell with some peppery alcohol hanging out in the background. Nice, but not very deep.

The taste, on the other hand...it's just plain great. You get a hit of that sweet ripe fruit on the front of the tongue with a grapey, vinous taste rising up as it moves to the middle. As it nears the back a noticeable molasses flavor comes up that finishes with a pleasent balancing dark chocolate bitterness after the swallow. A warm and peppery alcohol again lurks in the background of the entire experience. As for the mouthfeel, it's just as great...absolutely velvety and suprisingly light and pleasing for a beer of this strength (both alcohol and flavor wise).

This is the best Scotch Ale that I've laid my hands on, so far. Really, really good and frighteningly easy to drink. I will definitely be drinking more of this, I'm only upset that I put off buying it for so long.

Photo of HurricaneMo
4.26/5  rDev +4.4%
look: 3 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

This was an excellent end to a long Monday.

Poured a nice brown with rich creamy head. However, the head quickly left and lacing was minimal. Smell was absolutely great. Caramel, alcohol, and a rich grape dominated the nose. Taste consisted mainly of caramel, amazing malt flavors, and some spices. Very little in the way of hops, but this seemed to work well with the complexity of the malts. Moutfeel was somewhat full-bodied, but almost syrupy. Definitely enjoyable.

Photo of aquatonex
3.38/5  rDev -17.2%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Was excited about this one at Effin...

Pours dark red with a slight creamy head, decent carbonation. Smells are dominated by alcohol, slight sweet malts, and almost feet. Taste follows with strong malts, but the alcohol is way too prominent, almost reminiscent of vomit actually. Was expecting a much more balanced brew. Ah well, it did its job.

Photo of gonzo138
4.1/5  rDev +0.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

A-reddish brown, white head good lacing
S- sweet caramel smell
T- Complements the smell, could of used just a dash more hops
M- not very carbonated, drank smoothely, kind of light for my taste
D- very drinkable for a beer with 8.5 ABV

Ive heard a lot of people rave about this beer but it was anything I particularly cared for
Edit: Perhaps foolish of me to review this beer considering this was really the first time I tried the style, since then I've tried the style more In depth and have come to appreciate it more and this brew is examplary

Photo of ndekke39
3.68/5  rDev -9.8%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Ordered this from a bottle at pub in Georgia. Didn't catch the freshness date on the bottle. 8.5% ABV. Poured a beautiful, dark reddish-brown color. Initial aromas and flavors of sweet grain, rounded out nicely with a touch of hops. Fairly strong flavors (as expected) from the alcohol. Light carbonation leads to a medium thickness. I prefer my Scotch Ales a little stronger, but this one won't disappoint. Excellent cold at the end of a long work day.

Photo of haz77
4/5  rDev -2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A - Pours a deep reddish-brown with a couple of inches of creamy light tan head. Looks to have moderate carbonation.

S - Caramel, nuttiness, alcohol spice, dark/sweet fruit.

T - Starts sweet with the dark fruits. Caramel comes through and builds into the aftertaste, which is sweet/bitter/dry.

M - Light to medium body with low carbonation.

D - A fine brew which is dangerously drinkable.

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

Clear, dark ruby colour with almost a purple hue. Thin, beige head of small bubbles that left a smattering of fine, streaky lacing behind at each sip. Mild malty aroma (some caramel and toffee) with a dominant peaty, smokey character and some fruit. Low bitterness with a big, malty flavour - again with the caramel and toffee combination. Raisin and prune fruitiness comes through at the midpoint. Delicate peat and smoke linger in the finish. Medium/full bodied, low carbonation, smooth. This is a satisfying beer with decent complexity. A friend spoke highly of this beer after his trip to Scotland and now I know why.

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

Pours hazy auburn with a creamy white head.

Smell is roasted malt, smoked peat, and dark fruit. Definite alcohol and mild spice aroma.

Taste is similiar to the nose, but the smokiness is much stronger. It now has a charred oak flavor. Caramel malt sweetness brings balance. Dark fruit has a brandylike quality due to the high ABV. Hints of vanilla and spice. Earthy nuttyness. Quite unusual. Finish has a mild hop presence and lingering brandylike fruitiness.

Mouthfeel is medium-full and slightly chewy.

A very tasty Wee heavy. A little bigger and more aggressive than other beers I have had in this style.

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

Poured a red/brown color, slighlty hazed with a decent tan head that had good retention and good lacing.

Smell is very peaty and smoky with a slight sweet fruit odor as well.

Taste is full of strong peat and smoke flavors with hints of caramel malts, alcohol, and a bit of oak. A slight bit of earthy hops is also present.

Mouthfeel is full and chewy, slightly warming.

Very tasty and drinkable.

Photo of acrawf6
3.88/5  rDev -4.9%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Pours out a clear dark ruby brown with a tan head.

Smell. a sweet tea malt smell, slightly spiced. small raison aroma comes out. a dark aroma this is.

Taste. Starts with a yeasty taste, full of raison and prune flavors. Spiced with a peppery taste, some small fruity flavors, cooked apples. Aftertaste is warming with alcohol and a dry fruit flavor.

Mouthfeel is good. fuller body with the alcohol. good balance and nice carbonation.

Overall a good beer to enjoy now and then. Not one i would stock up on, but a nice change of pace. Has a very good malt character.

Photo of aforbes10
2.99/5  rDev -26.7%
look: 4 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

from old notes....

looks heavy. red with a small head. heavy lacing contributes to its heavy alcohol appearance. Smells sweet and smoky and a little unwelcoming. Wow, very smoky flavor with alcohol on the finish. hickory and other wood tastes are the most dominant flavors.. some fruity flavors but i can't place them exactly. I want to say figs, but that seems strange for a beer and isn't quite right. Taste isn't too bad, although everyone else i was drinking with thought the whole thing was terrible. must be my scots blood. syrupy mouthfeel. ok drinkability but too alcoholic.

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Skull Splitter from Orkney Brewery
91 out of 100 based on 1,954 ratings.