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Skull Splitter - Orkney Brewery

Not Rated.
Skull SplitterSkull Splitter

Displayed for educational use only; do not reuse.

1,876 Ratings

(view ratings)
Ratings: 1,876
Reviews: 928
rAvg: 4.08
pDev: 12.75%
Wants: 143
Gots: 153 | 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: 1,876 | Reviews: 928 | Display Reviews Only:
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!

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.

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)

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Photo of HiroProtagonist
4.18/5  rDev +2.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Skullspitter was served from a 330ml bottle. In a Duvel tulip, the beer was a gorgeous deep ruby color, and was topped by a thin off-white head. The nose presented a rich set of aromas, including late-harvest grape, rye bread, Worcestershire sauce, raisin, sharp molasses, and a nice musty woodiness that held it together. Tasting the beer revealed a figgy-raisin roasted malt profile that pleased the tastebuds with accents of nutty-scotch and a subtle peat smokiness. The finish was lightly bittered with woody dry flavor. The flavors were well balanced and satisfying, and the alcohol remained completely hidden throughout. This rich ale was exceptionally smooth, with an appropriately full body. Skullspitter is a solid, well-crafted beer that was a delight to drink. I think Thorfinn Hausakluif would approve of his namesake brew.

Photo of oracle
4.72/5  rDev +15.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4

This bottle was purchased during my birthday celebration, where I was determined to try at least 5 new beers. This by far-and-away was the highlight of the night. Consumed at room temperature.

Smelled richly of malt with strong alcohol presence.

Tasted delightful. Complex malt character with just enough hops and other flavor to keep it interesting. Has 8.5% ABV and tastes it. I can easily see this beer living up to its name if consumed by the careless.

Overall, an excellent beer.

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

Picked this up in a four pack at a downtown market. Why? It looked cool. C'mon, the name, the label, it's a fr33kin' Viking for f0cks sake!
It poured thick, thick coating on the glass insinuates some stickiness. No head to cap off the top.
Smell is complex. Raisons, dates, sugar, floral hints with some spice.
At first drink all the dark fruits came on strong surrounded by alcohol and toffee with a bit of caramel. Good, complex, not for virgins.
Thick feel, chewy and leaves a lacing behind in the gullet that only requests more.

Photo of rajendra82
3.85/5  rDev -5.6%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

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.

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

Photo of Guinness4me
3.83/5  rDev -6.1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

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.

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

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.

Photo of RenoZymurgist
3.65/5  rDev -10.5%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

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.

Photo of tavernjef
3.85/5  rDev -5.6%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 3.5

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?

Photo of WetCoaster
3.8/5  rDev -6.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3

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.

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

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.

Photo of Crosling
4.05/5  rDev -0.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4


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.

Photo of kbub6f
3.95/5  rDev -3.2%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3

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.

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

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.

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

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.


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

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.

Skull Splitter from Orkney Brewery
92 out of 100 based on 1,876 ratings.