Dismiss Notice
Save $5 when you subscribe to 12 issues / year of BeerAdvocate magazine by selecting auto-renew.

Subscribe now →
Dismiss Notice
Join Our Email List →

And we'll send you the latest updates and offers from BeerAdvocate, because knowing is half the battle.
Dismiss Notice

Pre-order your Respect Beer "Hipster" Hoodie today!

Plus: Free shipping (US only) on orders of $25 or more until 12/18/15. Just select "Free Shipping" at checkout.

Shop now →

Skull Splitter - Orkney Brewery

Not Rated.
Skull SplitterSkull Splitter

Educational use only; do not reuse.

969 Reviews

(Read More)
Reviews: 969
Hads: 2,058
Avg: 4.06
pDev: 18.23%
Wants: 175
Gots: 244 | 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.
Beer: Reviews & Ratings
Sort by:  Recent | High | Low | Top Raters | Read the Alström Bros Beer Reviews and Beer Ratings of Skull Splitter Alström Bros
Reviews: 969 | Hads: 2,058
Photo of Davefleming79
3.17/5  rDev -21.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.25 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3

Had this while eating muscles in garlic sauce. First mouthful gives the impression of cough mixture, but this soon dissipates to a smooth drink. Pours lovely from the bottle with a nice colour to it. Enjoyed the experience but don't think I'll be adding it to my regular list

 279 characters

Photo of Ozzylizard
4.35/5  rDev +7.1%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25

Bottle at 40 degrees into snifter
Aroma of malt
Head small (1 cm), off white, creamy, rapidly diminishing to 2 mm ring and broken layer
Lacing virtually none
Body dark red amber
Flavor of sweet malt and caramel; no hops, no alcohol, no diacetyl, no peaty smokiness
Palate full, creamy, soft carbonation

I first had this in a restaurant in Kirkwall, before I knew what a wee heavy was. Then I didn’t particularly care for it. Now, however, I find it to be a delightful drink with the alcohol well hidden. This meets the criteria for a Scotch ale very well.

 558 characters

Photo of tillmac62
4.44/5  rDev +9.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.5

BBE April 16. Pours a clear amber with a deep dark ruby hue. Good head with limited lacing and retention. Nose of dark fruit (figs, dates), and caramel over a scotch like alcohol background. Full bodied with a rich and creamy texture. Low carbonation level. Tremendous flavor profile that is complex and balanced. It begins with a scotch like note that flows into the dark fruits. In the middle caramel is predominate as the scotch fades. The finish hints of the previous dark fruits and caramel which fade into a nice alcohol tingle that lingers. An Outstanding Wee Heavy that is alcohol focused.

 597 characters

Photo of BastardKing24
4/5  rDev -1.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

I am kinda drunk while posting this, but I think I am sober enough to review, hahaha. Anyways, I bought this without knowing it was a scotish wee heavy. Had to look it up in here.

Pours a dark amber or brown color, with a slight white head that leaves a ring.

Smell is of an authentic Wee heavy. dark malt and caramel, with that ever present yeast tone that is very unique.

Taste is the same with a good bite in terms of smokiness and maltiness. This beer gives off a prune/raisin quality that puts it up against the big boys, like Traquair house, or Kilt lifter.

Feel is right on par, nuf said.

Overall I think this is a nice example for the style, as it has zero off flavors and a nice punch in the way of flavor and alc. Worth the buy if you can find. 4.0 across the board.

 781 characters

Photo of superspak
4/5  rDev -1.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

500 ml bottle into snifter, bottled on 5/8/2012. Pours fairly cloudy deep reddish brown color with a 1-2 finger dense light khaki head with good retention, that reduces to a nice cap that lingers. Nice spotty soapy lacing clings on the glass, with a moderate amount of streaming carbonation. Aromas of big caramel, toast, brown sugar, raisin, fig, plum, dark bread, light roast, herbal, light pepper, and yeast earthiness. Very nice aromas with good complexity and balance of dark/bready malt, fruity yeast ester, and earthy hop notes; with good strength. Taste of big caramel, toast, brown sugar, raisin, plum, fig, dark bread, light roast, herbal, light pepper, and yeast earthiness. Light earthy/herbal bitterness on the finish; with lingering notes of caramel, raisin, fig, plum, toast, dark bread, light roast, herbal, light pepper, and yeast earthiness on the finish for a while. Very nice complexity and balance of dark/bready malt, fruity yeast ester, and earthy hop flavors; with a good malt/yeast flavor balance and zero cloying sweetness after the finish. Light carbonation and medium bodied; with a smooth, fairly creamy, and lightly slick/bready mouthfeel that is nice. Alcohol is well hidden with only a light warming present after the finish. Overall this is a damn nice scotch ale. All around good complexity and balance of dark/bready malt, fruity yeast ester, and earthy hop flavors; and very smooth to sip on for the ABV. A very enjoyable offering.

 1,467 characters

Photo of bluedognever
4.73/5  rDev +16.5%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.75

Named after the Viking 7th Earl of Orkney

I realize it's sounds melodramatic, but this may be the best beer I have ever had (and judging from the scores this has gotten I can't be that far off). However, because perfection isn't attainable, the logical part of me says that even though my heart wants to, I can't give this a perfect 5.

Poured from a bottle into a frosted mug. Pours a nice dark clear chestnut brown with a mocha colored head. The head didn't last long but a slight amount stayed on top thru the finish.

Scents of grain and fruits - hard to say which ones as everything melds very well.

Slightly Bready in taste with hints of fruit - maybe plums or banana?. I can taste some malt but it's subtle. At 8.5% ABV you can taste the alcohol a bit but it isn't overwhelming - much like in a glass of wine - it's there but it's just part of the overall flavor palette. Sorry for the lack of specific flavors - everything blends together perfectly so it was very difficult to pin specific flavors down. No bitterness at all - even at the end. The only bad thing about the finish was that it was the finish - only have the one bottle as part of a build your own six pack from Total Wine - a situation I intend to remedy tomorrow since they had 6 packs of it as well.

Soft but not creamy mouthfeel - good carbonation without being too fizzy

Like many Scottish/Wee Heavies this is a very full flavored beer but it doesn't sit heavy in the stomach. Very tasty - I can definitely see why this got such high reviews from members and The Brothers. This has moved to the top of my "will buy again" list. It's cliche to say it, but this defines the whole Scottish / Wee Heavy genre and sets the bar rather high in my less than humble opinion.

To simplify, this is one of those beers that of you ever have the chance it is a MUST HAVE.

 1,844 characters

Photo of fscottkey
3.76/5  rDev -7.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.75

A: Crystal clear ruby red. Slightly lighter in color than a nice red wine. After it is poured there is a 1 finger white head that recedes into just a hint of white overlaying the beer.

S: Really bready with a banana smell and some sweetness.

T: Nice sweetness up front and a slight breadiness in the midpalate. No lingering tastes.

M: Medium bodied - slightly coating. A nice mouthfeel with no tingle of carbonation.

O: This is a decent Scotch Ale - I would drink it again. The flavors come together well and the ABV is hidden well.

 536 characters

Photo of Deatherage
5/5  rDev +23.2%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

Just tried this beer last night at really cool bar that had a "twin peeks" look (velvet wallpaper, red curtains, animal heads on the wall and very dark) With a name like Skull Splitter I just had to try it. Amazing taste and almost instant buzz. So good I ordered 3 more. If you like dark beer but don't like how it sets heavy in the gut. This beer will impress you, because it has the rich dark flavor but without the bloat. I am giving this beer a perfect 5 because so far it is the best dark beer I have ever had.

 516 characters

Photo of KYGunner
3.79/5  rDev -6.7%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.75

The color is light ruby, chestnut perhaps, with an off white head that looked like a wisp of cream.

The nose is malty, grainy, with a nutty pecan and some roasted elements. You can detect some dark fruit but it ebbs away to an alcohol aroma.

The taste and feel are smooth and thick. There's a strong dark fruit influence, mainly dates, with some possible fig. At colder temperatures this has a strong medicinal alcohol finish but as it warms you get a barley grain and prune sweetness. 8.5 ABV is pretty high and pretty noticeable in taste but not necessarily in feel.

Certainly the name and history sell this beer but it stands on its own as a colorful and interesting character.

 683 characters

Photo of Conserving_water_Aaron
4.45/5  rDev +9.6%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Has a very good taste. You can taste the molasses and dried fruits in it. With a smooth aftertaste of spices. It Smells rich in figs and spices but blends together nicely with the hops and maltiness. Looks dark brown, clean, and has a nice head to it.

 251 characters

Photo of pjkelley82
4.17/5  rDev +2.7%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.25

Poured from bottle into mini snifter...

Amber red, dark honey in color. Can see right through it like looking thru plain glass. 3/4 tan mocha colored head that went away fairly quickly. Left a ring around the edge for most of the consumption. Nice carbonation. Would of gotten stellar praise from me if the head stuck around a tad longer.

Smell was dark fruit, plum, raisin dates. Caremel, toasted malt. A nice fruity smell to it. Quite honestly dead on for the style but this one smells a lot better than most in the style that I've had.

Taste followed the nose and was also dead on with the style. Perfect example of the wee heavy style. I personally loved this one cause it was a tad fruity with a nice spice in the hop.

Mouthfeel was just fantastic. Velvety smooth but light. Im not a fan of light m outhfeel but this one paired well with what they put together. Still felt kind of full but well rounded. Nice carbonation.

Overall nothing is overdone or outshines the other. A staple to what the wee heavy style is. This ones a keeper and one ill recommend to people interested in the style

 1,099 characters

Photo of dbrauneis
4.14/5  rDev +2%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

A: Pours a relatively clear dark copper in color with light amounts of active visible carbonation rising from the bottom of the glass and some amber + garnet red highlights. The beer has a quarter finger tall foamy beige head that quickly reduces to a medium sized patch of very thin film and a thing ring at the edges of the glass. Light amounts of lacing are observed.

S: Moderate aromas of malty sweetness with some hints of toffee and dark fruits (plum and fig).

T: Upfront there is a moderate flavor of toasted and caramel malts with a light to moderate amount of sweetness with notes of toffee and molasses. There are light notes of dark fruits (plum and fig) though not as strong as the smell. Hints of earthy + spicy hops which impart just a touch of bitterness which does not linger.

M: Medium bodied with light to moderate amounts of carbonation. Smooth.

O: Easier to drink than a lot of other beers in this style because of the lighter mouthfeel and not so cloying sweetness. This is a very nice example of the style and one I really enjoy with exceptionally well hidden alcohol.

 1,094 characters

Photo of JWU
4.09/5  rDev +0.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

11.2oz. bottle poured into curved porter glass.

A- murky brown, a very thing cream colored head. Nothing spectacular.

S- Big dark fruit and dark sugar notes. Slight earthy hop is there but you have to search for it.

T- Dark Fruits, dark sugar, earthy hops, a nice balancing bitterness and a hint of smoke.

M- Heavier side of medium, slightly dry finish.

O- The benchmark of the style, and I can see why.

 409 characters

Photo of 57md
3.84/5  rDev -5.4%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Appearance is a brownish-copper color with a finger of off-white head that lingers for quite some time. The nose had malty notes and also the scent of sour candy. The flavor profile is also centered on maltiness. Near the finish, the flavor of candied sugar pokes through and the offering becomes more reminiscent of a Belgian Dark Ale than a Wee Heavy. The finish also had a floral note that was a bit difficult to place.

This beer is definitely a sipper – a few of these and one would likely understand where this beer gets its name.

 538 characters

Photo of Extrajoker00
4.22/5  rDev +3.9%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

reviewed: 4/15/14

Skull Splitter by Orkney
poured from a bottle into a pint glass

P-new style label smaller Viking. nice label 4.0

A- rich mahogany with a less than impressive head leaving almost no lacing 3.75

S- roasted malt caramel and alcohol 4.25

T-yeasty bread, caramel, currants and alcohol 4.25

M- smooth full bodied and dry on the pallet, excellent 4.25

D- heavy with flavor, alcohol and e.z. drinking, dangerous 3.5

O-overall: very, very good, loving this style and this brew 4.25

Another much anticipated beer and this did not disappoint. Nod to Fat Heads Pitt. for having this one several years back. have missed it, and is on my re-buy list.

Highly recommend ---- J

 690 characters

Photo of NoHorsePiss
4.94/5  rDev +21.7%
look: 5 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

Compared to my Top 2 favorite ales, the price of this fine product makes it my clear go-to option for a case. You're sure to make friends at a party if you share this.

A - Poured into a pint glass with a little less than my small fingers of light tan head. The glass was nearly clean when finished.

S - It smells of fruit and syrup. Caramel comes into the picture, also. Very pleasing on approach to drink. Would make a nice cologne.

T - Instant fruity taste that finishes into a sweet molasses aftertaste. I'm a chip eater with certain beers that leave a bitter aftertaste, but this whole glass went down with lip-smacking and no food chasers. I could easily have opened a second or third to keep enjoying it, but at 8.5%, that'd be a bit overkill for my 120lb body.

M - Almost no carbonation. I'd have to say it feels like a pleasant coating that lingers and prompts another sip. I might be offended if I saw someone chug it. No, I would be. It would be amazing with a good steak and will try that soon.

O - Overall, when being budget conscious, I'd choose this over my favorites: Palo Santo Marron and Kentucky Bourbon Barrel Ale. PSM clearly kicks in with 12% ABV but is the most expensive of the three by more than a dollar per bottle in Tampa, FL. KBB is over $14/4pk here, too, but is a special treat, so I've found a new "it's not a stout" tasty option to grab when we have a get-together.

Serving type: bottle

 1,424 characters

Photo of BuckyBeerBeaver
4.01/5  rDev -1.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4

The Orkney Brewery is housed in the former schoolhouse in Quoyloo, located in the Orkney Islands, Scotland. In June 2004, the Orkney Brewery was acquired from its retiring founder by Atlas Brewery to form Highlands and Islands Breweries. Neill Cotton, founder of Atlas Brewery, was Managing Director of Highlands and Islands and drove a series of changes at The Orkney Brewery, including a rebranding. In the summer of 2006, the company was bought by Sinclair Breweries Ltd.

Intrigued by the thought of a brewery located in the Orkney Isles, Bucky bought a 330 ml bottle (despite his aversion to such tiny bottles) of Orkney's "Skull Splitter" Rich Ale, marked with a best before date of September 2013. Skull Splitter is a type of beer known as a wee heavy, and is 8.5% alcohol by volume. The beer takes its name from Torfinn Hausakjuv, the 7th Viking Earl of Orkney sometime around 950 AD, who was nicknamed "Skullsplitter". Apparently this beer won the Supreme Champion Winter Beer of Britain Award 2001 at CAMRA's national winter celebration of beer.

Skull Splitter poured a clear, dark red-hued copper colour, with distinct ruby highlights and some orange around the edges when backlit. Pouring produced a thin, off-white head that quickly faded to an even thinner ring of foam around the glass, leaving almost no spotting or lacing behind it. Its aroma was primarily of dark fruits and alcohol, with the taste dominated by sweet malts, dark cherries and alcohol. The alcohol gives off some slight heat in the taste, but not enough to overpower the other flavours. Skull Splitter had a moderate bitterness in the finish that countered the initial sweetness of the malts and dark cherries well. I would describe the beer as surprisingly light bodied given its alcohol content, with a distinctly low level of carbonation. Overall, Skull Splitter is flavourful, quite well balanced, and well suited to consumption on a -10C night. At $3.30 per 330 ml bottle, Skull Splitter is perhaps a bit on the pricey side, but not outrageously so. I would certainly drink this beer again.

 2,080 characters

Photo of SLeffler27
4.37/5  rDev +7.6%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

Brilliantly clear, shinny, dark copper, with occasional carbonation in a pint-like glass. The slight head is rocky and white, leaving surprisingly much lacing.

Toasted malts with butterscotch and light fruit. Light peat, yet sweet in the nose.

Very sweet, but far from cloying. Think amaretto. More of the peat, and lots of earthy grain. This one progresses dramatically with warmth, leaving the sweetness behind and focusing on the grain and earth, then becoming herbal. No real finish.

While it has a medium body, the texture is syrupy and pallet coating. Alcohol is present, and lightly warming with light carbonation.

Definitely a sipping beer that would hold up to some deep conversation. What a pleasant surprise! I have seen this in bottles many times, and dismissed it due to it's name. An excellent example of why we should always keep an open mind.

This was worthy of this spectacular Spring day, enjoyed canal side and followed by a long walk in the crisp air while the sun warmed our faces.

 1,007 characters

Photo of TempeBeerMan
3.82/5  rDev -5.9%
look: 3.25 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

Poured from a bottle into a chalice.

A - Pours a semi-opaque dark copper color, with a one-finger, off-white, sea foam like head. Minimal lacing.

S - Moderate strength aroma of smoke, peat, molasses, caramel, dark fruits and fusel alcohols.

T - Matches the nose, with smoky dark fruits (purple grape and fig) leading the way. Peaty flavor hits in the mid palate. Finishes with molasses and buttery diacetyl, along with a slight coppery mineral ester. ABV clearly noticeable throughout. Complex enough, but mostly with solely sweet flavors.

M - Medium bodied, with low carbonation. Slick, wet, finish.

O - A few flaws, (slightly too sweet and boozy) but overall an excellent example of the style.

 702 characters

Photo of GOBLIN
4.05/5  rDev -0.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

Orkney Skull Splitter

A Viking of a beer . . . 5000 years in the making

Poured into 10oz snifter

A: A beautiful dark ruby

S: Pleasant, cherries, honey, figs, dates.

T: A solid rendition of the style . . . Cherries and honey. Finishes with warming spices

M: Slightly thin but not bad . . . Smooth for the 8.5 abv

O: A favorite of mine. Always enjoy this beer. If you see this on tap get it ! It really shines and has a barrel aged flavor to it as well.

 459 characters

Photo of SawDog505
3.24/5  rDev -20.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.25 | taste: 3.25 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.25

Poured into my 16 oz wide Flying Dog tulip glass. Pours light brown, with a two inch white head that settles very quickly into a film of bubbles.

Smell is fig, brown sugar, vanilla, molasses, and rum soaked raisins.

Taste fallows the nose very well, fig stands out most to me, fairly sweet.

Body is less than medium, wish it had more life, a little dry, and goes down easy enough for its abv.

I was a little underwhelmed, especially with the rave reviews.

 461 characters

Photo of scotorum
4.51/5  rDev +11.1%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

Poured from the 16.9 oz. bottle into a Samuel Smith English tulip pint.

a: Clear copper with an inch and a half tall offwhite head which receded slowly to even surface foam and dense lacing.

s: Caramel malt with a tinge of ripe fruit. Later a definite mustiness adds some sense of venerable age to the aroma.

t: Caramel malt forward followed by some bite and ripe apple. Bitterness lingers at the sides of the tongue. Later what seems like a slight mustiness adds more appealing flavor.

m: Moderate. Good body,

o; Can easily imagine myself sitting in a Scottish pub along the north coast and sipping this with a meat pie while the sun refuses to set at 10 P.M. Not so skull splitting so far, but 17 ounces at 8.5 ABV will kick in soon enough I'm sure. In the meantime I'm soberly enjoying this sweet treat. It would surely be one of my favorite regulars if it was not $6 a bottle.

 886 characters

Photo of artoolemomo
3.45/5  rDev -15%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.25 | feel: 3.25 | overall: 3.25

Appearance- Pours up a decent amount of head that seems to have okay retention. The head is a light beige with hints of tan while the body is a murky chestnut brown that appears as a dark amber with hints of maroon when held up to the light. Some lacing here and there.

Nose- This definitely has some presence. Big brown bread with lots of raisins. So much malty sweetness that it easily turns to notions of fruitcake, even rum cake. Slight suggestions of cough syrup but in a good way. Some burnt caramel. Some banana and a nice, warming tickle from the slight booze. The nose from the glass seems to concentrate more on the fruity flavors (it's a bit fleshier- think plums) than on the malt characters. Much smoother but less complex than from the bottle. Lots of candy notes from the glass.

Taste- Lots of malt sweetness on the front which can be candy-like at times. Some woodiness from the hops on the finish along with the burnt caramel and slight booze give this beer a somewhat astringent taste on the back end. Some currants. Some cherry but also light licorice. I really wish that it expressed more of the nose and perhaps, with some time, it will. Some vinosity and generic grape flavors (more like soda than actual grapes). Slight woodiness, a touch of oak. Slight spice of cinnamon and nutmeg. Some harsh berry notes. Slight bubblegum. Slight earthy and herbal qualities to the linger. The sweetness tends toward cloying and really makes it hard for me to think of this beer as anything more than just above average. This is very unfortunate for a Scotch ale, especially a highly regarded one. Reminds me somewhat of a quadrupel. Some brown sugar and molasses but nothing that provides it a backbone.

Mouthfeel- A little less than medium bodied with a good amount of syrup to the texture. Good amount of carbonation with a good, healthy zing. Adequate.

Drinkability- It's a little sweet. That might be a great thing for some but honestly I'm glad this is only 330 mL. Not sure on the price but I don't think it matters (at least to me). Not a repurchase.

Overall- I can see how this could be enjoyable to some but it just doesn't work for me, especially compared to the many good Scotch ales out there. Just above average. Worth a try if you understand that it has a lot of candy notes to it. But if you are expecting a more traditional Scotch ale, I would pass.

 2,385 characters

Photo of Bodega95
4.83/5  rDev +19%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.75

Excellent Wee Heavy.

It pour in perfectly on the glass, with a nice copper brown colour and a good head.

it had complexity and a mouthful of Malt.

Strong but smooth.

Sweet on the after-taste.

I could drink this all day, sitting and enjoying a Scottish style view

 272 characters

Photo of morti
4.55/5  rDev +12.1%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

Bottle poured into a snifter.

Poured a dark tea color, allowing some light

Smells of malt and alcohol

Heavily malty. Slightly hoppy.

Feels oily and thick. I joked to my wife that I need a knife and fork.

Overall this was a pleasant beer. The high alcohol content should be noted. Don't plan on drinking more than one!

 323 characters

Skull Splitter from Orkney Brewery
91 out of 100 based on 969 ratings.