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Skull Splitter - Orkney Brewery

Not Rated.
Skull SplitterSkull Splitter

Displayed for educational use only; do not reuse.

1,842 Ratings

(view ratings)
Ratings: 1,842
Reviews: 926
rAvg: 4.08
pDev: 12.75%
Wants: 138
Gots: 144 | 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:
No notes at this time.

(Beer added by: BeerAdvocate on 10-08-1998)
Beer: Ratings & Reviews
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Ratings: 1,842 | Reviews: 926 | Display Reviews Only:
Photo of Gaisgeil
3.8/5  rDev -6.9%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

A well balanced and smooth malty scotch ale.

Pours a hazy medium brown in color with little head to speak of. Nose is quite nice, golden raisins, burnt sugars, very malty. Taste is a bit subdued and understated, similar to what is in the nose, but the flavors meld almost seamlessly making it a bit difficult to seperate them from one another. Mouthfeel is a bit thin. Overall I'd say there are much better scotch ales but this is a solid classic offering.


Gaisgeil, Aug 30, 2005
Photo of rhoadsrage
4/5  rDev -2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

(Served in an American pint glass)

A- This beer pours a deep auburn brown with a thin creamy light tan head and a gentle carbonation.

S-The aroma of caramel and toasted malts with some fresh grain and light burnt sugar notes.

T- A rich slightly sweet toasted malt flavor if complex with a finish of faint hop bitterness that hangs on the tongue. Very smooth and no alcohol flavor.

M- This has a medium mouthfeel with a light fizziness to it. No astringency or alcohol warmth.

D-This beer lives up to its name. It has a great malt base but no notes of alcohol. It is complex but not overpowering with the malt and a nice hop finish that is faint but helps to support the malt.

rhoadsrage, Aug 28, 2005
Photo of mrasskicktastic
3.43/5  rDev -15.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 4 | feel: 1.5 | overall: 3.5

Appearance - A dark clear purplish red. Small half finger head that leaves a wee scattered ring of lace.

Smell - Syrupy sweet molassess malt, a bit of dates and diacetyl underneath. It is sugary sweet smelling to the point of being almost gross (but not quite). I just hope the taste isn't this sweet.

Taste - Not nearly as sweet as the odor lead me to believe, but sweet still.. My first thoughts are of smoke. A slightly sweet thick roasted barley malt taste dominates, chicory and dates stand out in my mind. It is extremely bitter, but not a familiar hops bitterness, not quite a coffee bitterness either - I can't pin point it. I think the smokey character meshes with a coffee bitterness to skew my view. A very slight metallic note is underneath, but with this bitter of a flavor, a faint metal taste actually helps a little. Alcohol is detectable, but not strongly.

Mouthfeel - There are two prominent aspects to the mouthfeel - one I like, one I hate. It is a thick viscous brew, I like that. Its bitter aftertaste leaves a gummy feel in my mouth, as you guessed, I don't like that at all. This gummy feeling only gets worse and turns into a powerful parching.

Drinkability - After a big glass of water I could definitely drink another, its taste is interesting and has a lot of character that makes it a brew worth examining. It is very rare that I say this about a strong and sweet beer, but 11.2 oz just isn't enough to assess it fully. Since It is so powerfully drying, I am docking it. All and all a great beer I will want to have another time.

mrasskicktastic, Aug 19, 2005
Photo of WesWes
4.45/5  rDev +9.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

The beer pours a dark ruby red color with a thick frothy offwhite head that slowly fades to lacing. The aroma is great. It has a rich and creamy malt scent that boasts of crystal and roasted malts. It's sweet and toastey and slightly warming. The taste is great also. It has a very smooth, malty flavor that boasts of crystal, roasted, and peated malts. It has a nice smokey character that mellows the elevated abv. . The mouthfeel is good. It is a full bodied beer with adequate carbonation. This is an awesome beer. I love everything about it. One of the top wee heavy beers out there.

WesWes, Aug 19, 2005
Photo of bruachan
4.1/5  rDev +0.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

at the inimitable brickskellar

deep dark amber/brown with a coating head that fizzles from the alcohol. slight diacetyl nose with brown sugar. more brown sugar and caramel with a roastednuttiness. i could taste the alcohol, but not many 8.5% brews are able to hide it; whatever heat is masked compensated by huge maltiness. virtually undetectable hops, but the malt sweetness isn't overwhelming, so they must be doing their job

another couple of these and someone's skull would have been split (exactly who no one will know)

bruachan, Aug 18, 2005
Photo of TurdFurgison
3.83/5  rDev -6.1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Presentation: Drank from an 11.2 oz bottle, poured into Watou chalice.

Appearance: Dark red, with thin white head.

Smell: Strong scotch ale aroma, kind of old-world-ale bouquet.

Taste: This tastes on the money for a scotch ale.

Notes: Easily available from several locations in Columbus. I recommend it to scotch ale drinkers.

TurdFurgison, Aug 17, 2005
Photo of charlesw
3.43/5  rDev -15.9%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3

Well, it's beer, you know? A nice dark color, little head, huge malty nose and mouth, no hops to speak of, not much of an aftertaste. Still... I dunno, I get a big raisin flavor out of it and it seems that someone may have done at least part of the mash at a temp that was a wee bit high - in the middle of the mouth there's an interesting dry rasp across the tongue. It's a bit overpowering in general - I mean, it'd be hard for me, with this much flavor going on, to drink more than one...

charlesw, Aug 14, 2005
Photo of smcolw
3.73/5  rDev -8.6%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Dark honey/melted sugar color; light will penetrate clearly. Decent beige head leaving layered lace on the glass.

Strong sweet caramels and brown sugar show up in the smell. There's a touch of plastic present, but it's very much in the background.

An overwhelmingly sweet beer on the initial taste. There is a very surprising hop finish in the swallow. Very rich and full-bodied, it also has a high level of carbonation. It's been a while since I've had a real Scotch Ale; this one seems a wee bit heavier than most I've tried (pun intended).

This beer is growing on me with each sip. My initial reaction was, whoa, way too much residual sugar. But I like how the hop catches up with the beer. Perhaps it's the 8.5% alcohol content (which is quite muted by the flavors), but more likely, it's the nice balance in the aftertaste.

smcolw, Aug 13, 2005
Photo of JohnnyDuvel
4.05/5  rDev -0.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

For those who like an all-malt type of beer, you can't go wrong here. A terrific exaple of the Scottish ale-wee heavy style. As good as the Belhaven or the Alesmith (two beers I love). This is SO malty! Warming and smooth, good for what ails you! I had this before, but must have forgot to review it. Just arrived in a terrific local specialty store (thanks, Micro man!).

JohnnyDuvel, Aug 13, 2005
Photo of amicar
4.33/5  rDev +6.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Pours dark caramel plus brown with off- white head Smells of sweet raiseny smoky things. Tastes a little sweet with roast and smoked malts, but nicely restrained. Nicely restrained hops as well. Complex malt flavors. Really nicely well done. Feels smooth and slick in the mouth with slight alcohol burn. I have to be careful how man of these I drink, because damn... it would be easy to have more than a few....

amicar, Aug 09, 2005
Photo of JMazzic
3.83/5  rDev -6.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

This is my first review, so please forgive the lack of complexity. Great looking bottle featuring Thorfinn Hausakluif(I'm assuming). Bought from BevMo in Elk Grove.

Appearance - Poured dark amber into a Maudite Tulip glass. About a 1/2" head, light carbonation. Head quickly dissipated.

Smell - Aroma was not real strong. Picked up a sweetness, brown sugar/molasses? Slight fruity smell, maybe raisin. Very appetizing.

Taste - Nice light sweetness. Pretty smooth, considering the ABV. Malty, only slight hop to it. Raisins again, a bit of chocolate after it warmed up some. Warming to the throat, very tasty.

Mouthful - Not too thick at first. Then it fills out to a rich creaminess.

Drinkability - Very Smooth. The alcohol is well hidden. Great taste, can be downed quickly if not careful. That said, this should be sipped and enjoyed. Very good, will drink again

JMazzic, Jul 27, 2005
Photo of EPseja
4.33/5  rDev +6.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4

Hearing that I was a fan of woody beers and smoky scotches, this one was recommended to me by beer manager Jon Hartlage of Smart Buy Wines in Fort Lee, NJ. Thanks a ton, Jon!

Served in a pint glass at recommended temperature.

A - Pours a clear, deep amber color with crimson highlights and an explosive tan head made of medium sized bubbles and a pillowy, tiny bubbled top. The head subsides to 1/4'' after a minute or two, and the lacing remains intact all the way down the glass.

S - Aggressive malty nose with medium bodied hoppiness, roasted nuttiness, and light raisiny brown sugar notes. Only faint hints of the alcohol contained within.

T - Smoked, peaty malts hit you right off the bat - somewhat surprisingly since I did not get this at all in the nose. Some of the roasted malt sweetness comes through in the middle and toward the swallow. The finish is laced with spicy hops and is quite dry and vinous (in the vein of a dry sherry). There is a warm alcohol afterglow which reminds you that this beer is well fortified, despite the fact that the ABV is masterfully disguised. Very complex.

M - Initially watery, but not thin. Opens up ever so gently to become airily creamy on the palette. The swallow is fast and easy. Wonderful!

D - The well disguised alcohol coupled with the very wide taste profile on this one makes it disturbingly easy to quaff (and ponder) despite the big ABV. Delicious!

EPseja, Jul 15, 2005
Photo of karst
4.2/5  rDev +2.9%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Pours a dark brown chestnut with ruby highlights and a creamy 1-2 finger head lacing the sides of a New Belgium glass. The head evolves into a thick cream colored halo ring.

Smoke/ peat malts, caramel and toffee.

Taste is similar to aroma - Caramel malts, toffee, dark fruits and alcohol for a slight dry finish.

Mouthfeel is slick.

Has well hidden 8.5% ABV Wee Heavy. Most drinkable.

karst, Jul 02, 2005
Photo of abcsofbeer
3.88/5  rDev -4.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

This one was poured from an 11.2 ounce greenish brown bottle. The nordic dude on the label is pretty cool. Pours a clear, bubbly, Coca Cola color with light amber shades on the fringes. The head is tan colored, bubbly, but not thick. There is no lace until you get to the bottom of the glass even though the head sticks around nicely.

The nose is buttery, fruity and semi-sweet smelling.

The taste is fruity and malty with breaks of alcohohic flavor. I think the aftertaste was somewhat hoppy, and, mildly salty (a new one). It finishes with more alcohol in the bottom of the glass. I like the scotch ale. It's good.

abcsofbeer, Jun 21, 2005
Photo of Sigmund
4.47/5  rDev +9.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Cask conditioned at the 32nd Cambridge Beer Festival, gravity dispense. Dark reddish brown colour. Complex aroma of dark fruits, spices and oak, various woodwork, some chocolate. Flavour is spicy, oaky, malty, chocolate, there’s vinous qualities (old sherry, marsala). Nutty / dusty hops finish. A great beer!

Sigmund, Jun 08, 2005
Photo of Fish113d
4.05/5  rDev -0.7%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

served into a pint glass, from a refrigerated bottle, it pours a chestnut brown color, a bit hazy, with a rather huge head, due to a pretty aggressive pour. The head is a milky off-white color that begins to settle a bit with some slow, nice cascading. Some slight yeast remains at the bottom of the bottle as well.

Aroma is mostly of some caramel malts, maybe some oak (dryness), and some nice hops. Nothing overpowering, but decent overall.

Taste is of some smoke flavors off the start along with the nut brown malts and sweetened with caramel a bit, with some decent alcohol burn, and a hit of hops then yeast to finish it. Reminds me a lot of drinking somethign aged in bourbon barrels maybe. Nice overall flavor.

Feel is nice and smooth. Carbonation is not ridiculous, and the alcohol helps to balance out the smootness of it. Rather easy to drink for a medium-bodied brew.

Overall, one i had tried a few years back due to the bottle being cool looking, but one I have tried again due to remembering that I rather enjoyed it!

Fish113d, Jun 07, 2005
Photo of bigbubba
3.33/5  rDev -18.4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

This is a clear, brown beer with a slight redness. The head is a very light tan, about 1/2" tall. It smells very good. There is a sweet malty aroma with a little vanilla. The taste is good but nothing special. I expected more flavor, it seems a little watered down. There is an odd flavor, this might be an old bottle. The mouthfel is a bit too thin.

bigbubba, May 23, 2005
Photo of Chadbrew
4.72/5  rDev +15.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

This ale doesn't pour so much as ooze out of the bottle a deep red color with a half inch of fluffy dirty colored head. There is beautiful lacing left along the sides of the goblet as I swirl it around.

The first thing I smell is alcohol and butterscotch, maybe some raisins soaked in rum. Very powerful malt smell with light hops not what I expected considering the head brewer at Orkney calls this a barleywine, a style I am used to being highly hopped at all levels.

Taste - There's the hops! Bitter up-front that makes the tip of my tongue kind of numb-like. There are subtleties of banana and figs and much like the smell there is some butterscotch and alcohol. There is a lot of malt in the finish which I'm not really used to in a beer this big.

Mouth - Big full body and a blast of really fine carbonation followed by an ultra clean finish.

Drinkability - A very rich beer that like its namesake is not to be reckoned with lightly. It's as high in flavor and character as it is in alcohol. Loved it and will be purchasing more.

Chadbrew, Apr 25, 2005
Photo of deejaydan
4.7/5  rDev +15.2%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Pours a beautiful deep ruby with tiny bubbles running through it. Nice compact sustaining head with good lacing. Toffee-molasses aroma which is lovely. Flavor is rich carmel-chocolate malt. Slightly sweet, hop presence is restrained if not nil. Mouthfeel could be a touch thicker. Perhaps a tad less carbonation too.
A good beer, but at $13 a 4 pack, not an everyday drinker. A great special occasion beer.

deejaydan, Apr 20, 2005
Photo of cncbofh
4.68/5  rDev +14.7%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

Pours a swamp-like brown.

Took a little while for the smells to really come out... when they did they were rich with figs, burning wood, some fruit and no noticable hops.

Taste was thick with caramel malts. Sweet and fruity with a deep earthy and leafy background. Where is that alcohol hiding? Amazing! Very complex and gets better as it warms.

Due to the amazing taste, no noticeable alcohol and creamy smooth carbonation, this beer gets a 5 for mouthfeel and drinkability. Incredible.

Goes well with some aged Irish cheddar and rye crackers.

cncbofh, Apr 14, 2005
Photo of whynot44
4.2/5  rDev +2.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Full bodied, nice clear dark garnet color with a moderate creamy off-white head. Without the head, this would look a lot like 10w/20 motor oil.

The aroma is sweet caramel malt, slightly vinous.

The taste is also overwhelmingly malty with a rich caramel, spicy, raisin/fig tone. The finish is sticky sweet with a piney, peaty aftertaste that lingers with a hint of smoke. A beer for serious malt lovers and cool weather.

Try this as an after dinner drink during the holidays.

whynot44, Apr 12, 2005
Photo of ken3c
3.9/5  rDev -4.4%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Reddish brown with a good one finger head. Many bubbles rise continuously to feed a solid layer of foam throughout the beer.

Dark malt smell with a strong sense of smoke. Some hops as well.

Sweet and smoky. A little carmel and melon. A slightly bitter hops aftertaste.

Medium-heavy body with a foamy feel.

The aroma put me off a little but I love a good BBQ and this beer is like a good BBQ.

ken3c, Apr 10, 2005
Photo of canucklehead
4.35/5  rDev +6.6%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

It poured with a surprisingly big head and had that nice mid dark dense body. The nose was pure malt and peat and was a thing of beauty. This beer is a big bad Scottish ale with an inherent smoothness that makes you want to slow down and think about each sip. Excellent and very original.

canucklehead, Apr 06, 2005
Photo of SupaCelt
4/5  rDev -2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Beautiful dark ruby ale. Two results off the pour ( from two seperate samplings ). Once a massive head, once a small head. Both samplings demand a look at the colour. This is a most attractive glass any way you slice it. Rich and hearty colour and plus or minus headage. Heads are fine and dandy, but the flavours are what we come for. Heavy headed pour yielded lace while the tame pour gave just a few random islands that evolved from the foam ring around the rim. Carbonation is evident although not riotous in both samples.

The smell is similar to an ESB with the dark malt sweatness and roasty goodness omly less hop characteristics. Caramels jump out as well as an old ale molasses sweetness. Slight dark fruitiness pairs with the caramel to give a sugar cane feel that says sweet all the way. Crystal sugars. Quite pleasing to the nose.

The taste is yet again reminiscent of an ESB. Me brethren and I were feeling ESB impressions. The two styles may be yet too undifferentiated for my fledgling palate. Guesswork during the tasting told me: old ale/ ESB / wee heavy. Wee heavy seems to be the official, so I can advocate that nomination. As far as imported brew, this one has the best taste I have encountered thus far in my travels. Massive caramel malts punch in at the first shift. Their sweet tones lend heavily to the overall components. This crystal coated sugar flavor is the most dominant of all. Very clandestine hop flavors creep in to add accents, but never proclaim any authority. The finish remains smooth and sweet, non-bitter. I must say this old boy is quite tasty. Delightful toasty accents. No alcoholic overtones, just a sweet sipper with capabilities to split ones skull the f*ck open. Very robust and overpowering sweetness makes this a good drinker, but less than superb. A very good rep of the wee heavy style. No import off flavors which is the ultimate wink and nod for this old boy. A nice Celtic love juice to get loose. Cheese infested label and all. Arrrr!!! I'll slop up to this mofo again.

SupaCelt, Apr 05, 2005
Photo of arizcards
3.95/5  rDev -3.2%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Picked up a 330ml bottle for $2.59 at AJ's back in January.

This is a dark red brownish colored brew that is leaving a nice lacing down my glass. Nose is of caramel malts and somewhat peaty. Taste is very smooth and complex. A heavy dose of malts greets you with some hints of dark fruits in the background with a nicely slight dry hopped finish. Mouthfeel is creamy and wonderfully smooth. High ABV is well masked. This is a finely crafted brew!

arizcards, Apr 03, 2005
Skull Splitter from Orkney Brewery
92 out of 100 based on 1,842 ratings.