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Skull Splitter | Orkney Brewery

985 Reviews
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Skull SplitterSkull Splitter

Brewed by:
Orkney Brewery
United Kingdom (Scotland) | website

Style: Scotch Ale / Wee Heavy

Alcohol by volume (ABV): 8.50%

Availability: Year-round

Notes / Commercial Description:
No notes at this time.

Added by BeerAdvocate on 10-08-1998

User Reviews
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Reviews: 985 | Ratings: 2,116
Photo of flaminghomer
3.92/5  rDev -3.4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 3.5

the appearance doesn't impress too much. seems to have a lazy head. smell is very interesting. mild sweet and a tart apple smell almost like cider. very fruity smell. o.k. time to take a drink. hmm...very complex. like nothing i've ever had. carbonation is the first thing that i feel going on. this swells into tart fruity flavors that soon vanish and a nice alcohol warmness soon follows all the down. very complex but doesn't suit my tastes. very glad that i tried it though. i'll highly recommend this but, one was enough for me.

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Photo of beergeek279
4.42/5  rDev +8.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Served in a 330 mL bottle, into a pint glass. The color is amber, with a nice bubbly white head. The smell is a nice mix of dark malt and hops. The taste is a very nice rich malt, with a nice hop backing, and the beer has a warming but not overwhelming alcohol. Mouthfeel is fairly thick and creamy. Drinkability-wise, could have a few.

A simply amazing old ale...probably one of the best in the world. A very rich and delicious malt and hop mix, and I can see why this is a favorite of Sapphire's owner. This beer is certainly one I'll have in the future.

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

This fine beer pours a beautiful reddish brown with a creamy white head that thins pretty quickly. Moderate lacing holds the glass after each sip.

My nose is greeted by a mix of chocolate, malt and caramel. The aroma is sweet like the smell of a fresh pie or cake.

There is a slight smoky flavor to the beer that seems malty and meaty and vaguely maple. This is a delicious beer.

The beer is smooth and thick in the mouth with a dry finish.

Drinkability is tough. Because it is such a rich flavorful beer, it would be hard for me to consume more than one, or two, at a time. I really enjoyed this beer and would recommend it to others.

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Photo of bighops
4.7/5  rDev +15.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

t's a beer that crosses in flavor between Scotch and Brandy if you can imagine. Sweet, but not overly so, with a touch of roasted nut flavor under the fruitiness that isn't dominated by the alcohol, which is very present with a content of 8.5% per volume. It has a nice dark amber color with a thick white head that dissolves quickly. The aroma is full of malty goodness, rich and sweet with the absence of the sharp hoppy bouquet that tends to reside in stronger beers. Mouth feel is thick and a bit warm, leaving only a hint of sweetness on your lips and a quickly fading malty after taste. The overall effect made me think of green apples with a kick. Very drinkable.

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Photo of crookedhalo
3.99/5  rDev -1.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Deep copper colored with a thick beige head. Big malty, earthy aromas with some smells of fresh dark bread, like pumpernickel mixed with a slight vegetal afterthought. Tastes sweet and malty with some earthy notes with a small dry finish. Rather complex. Very good strong scotch ale. A bit chewy and a slight bit syrupy, but that might be expected out this style of beer. Recommended.

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Photo of GCBrewingCo
4.69/5  rDev +15.5%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Amber brown beer pours with a low but persistent head. The aromas are complex. In the aroma is smoke, malt, caramel, alcohol and sherry. The flavors are sweet malt coupled with smoke, caramel, sherry, a host of complex flavors. The mouthfeel is big and thick. The finish is smoky and dry and just every so slightly nutty.

Other than the hints of alcohol in the nose, and the warming after consumption, the alcohol does not show up in the flavor.

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Photo of AtLagerHeads
4.22/5  rDev +3.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Like the Highland cattle that I use as my icon, this Scottish product is quite handsome, bold, and durable. The great looking clear bronze body was capped by huge billows of tan foam, but it receded to a quarter inch layer fairly quickly. That was sufficient to lace the glass very nicely, thank you.

The nose on this beauty is huge and gives off the most aromatic whiffs of caramel malt. This is one of the best smelling brews I've had in some time. The malts follow in the great taste along with significant hints of the alcohol that is a big part of this big beer. There is a peppery mouthfeel from the brew, but overall the feel is very smooth and creamy. Limited drinkability, but not from the lack of great taste and feel, but rather from the alcohol content.

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Photo of SilentSabre
4.07/5  rDev +0.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 4

Poured a dark reddish brown colour, a cross between tea and a red oak coloured wood varnish. The almond coloured head was quick to dissappear and left just a hazy almond coloured film on the surface. The smell was actually quite sweet and heavy of malt. The taste as well was heavy with malt and tasted almost of chocolate, perhaps a bit of caramel with a tiny bit of an almost charred taste on the finish like the blackened, crispy edges of a steak from the grill. The mouth feel was almost "heavy" in sensation and had a bit of carbonation, but not too much. All in all, it was the taste of this brew that I was impressed with the most. And having spoke of steak, I would presume this brew would compliment a heavy red meat dish.
I'd probably buy this one again.

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Photo of granger10
4.17/5  rDev +2.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Poured a transparent ruby color with a small head and rather thick lacing on the sides. The head could've (should've) been bigger, led me to believe this was an older bottle or something like that. Anyways, the smell was of a lot of sweetness. And that was what the initial taste was also. Lots of fruit flavor and some roasted malts, main noticeable flavor being caramel. But it seemed a little odd because the flavor changed very rapidly while on the tongue. It turned more hoppy and acidic in taste and ultimately a strong alcohol flavor came through. At first it threw me off but once I got used to it I like it....a lot. Quite nice!

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Photo of marcobrau
4.05/5  rDev -0.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 4

Skullsplitter. Gotta like the name. Pours with huge, dense head and a dark amber color into my tulip-shaped tasting glass. I sense this a malty beer and the aroma this ale produces confirms my suspicions. Malt is present in the aroma, but in some peculier forms, I can detect the aroma of sweet malt but also that of leather. Very interesting. Very smooth mouthfeel. Like velvet. Tastes meaty, with a bit roasted grains and bitter towards the finish. There's a bit a wine-like finish, not so much tannin as fruit and alcohol. Very delicate tasting for strong beer, and not as thick as one would think, but still quite good. The bitter finish is a nice touch and surprising in a Scottish beer.

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Photo of bobinverted
3.27/5  rDev -19.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

SkullSplitter pours dark amber in hue with minimal head. It has a sweet malty aroma with a hint of smokiness. The tastes are of carmel and fruit, but strangely dominated by a smoked meat flavor. Mildly carbonated and a little chewy with noticable alchohol content. It's an interesting ale, but I probably wouldn't have it again.

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Photo of RockyTopHeel
3.7/5  rDev -8.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Deep, chestnut brown color with very little (if any) head. Smell is neutral (maybe because it was too cold when first poured--more notes from the flavor came out in the nose as it warmed), only a touch malty, but the sweet malts, caramel, and dark fruits dominate the flavor. Thick and syrupy at first, but gets better as you drink more of it. Strong alcohol taste in the finish, but eases up on you as you get closer to the bottom of the glass.

Skullsplitter is as devastating as a Scottish claymore. I appreciate this beer for what it is (what it is is brutal), but it ain't me. Still, I'm glad I had the experience. Yowza.

Spoils of the 10/11/03 Knoxville Raid.

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Photo of edchicma
4.2/5  rDev +3.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

This is a very interesting brew. Nice amber color..some sweetness in the taste....a hint of peat undertone? smooth, but firm and accented with alcoholic tinges. I get a sense that this is what a strong/old ale should taste like. A definite sipping brew...probably great in the winter time. Of course this is form Northern Scotland, so I'm sure they appreciate this kind of brew in the North Sea. I'll bet this beer would be great with a nice roast beef. A definite try for all.

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

Pours a dark amber, like a good caramel sauce, and paired well with the ensuing flavor of the beer. Showed great lacing and thin bits and bands of stain.

Smelled of sweetish roasted nuts, caramel, and smaller but sharp whiskey notes - altogether round and even. Opened to dark fruit notes. Taste was of an interesting malt: caramel in general, with notes of walnuts, it also had a strong grainy tone that increased in texture and strength as it slides down my tongue. Spicy and almost fruity accents lingered, quite whiskey-like in character. Grainy roast finish with a creamy last lick, and a thinner mouthfeel that seems somehow fairly appropriate, alleviating the pressure on my palette from the complex, though not heavy, flavors.

That’s all there is to it, and its tastily complex. A truly excellent handling of malt, and thus a very good scottish ale. Easy to drink despite what may seem to be too much for the palette.

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Photo of Jarod
4.34/5  rDev +6.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Small 11.5 oz bottle

This beer poured a crystal clear mahogany color that when held to the light had ruby overtones and it seemed fairly thick as it poured. The head that was formed was minimal but present. Off white/beige in color that when settled was small amounts on the edges of the glass. Light lace was present after the last sip. The aromas were big out of this little bottle. Tons of dark currants (raisins, plums), alcohol soaked fruits, alcohol, roasted and sweet malts, caramel, spices, a medicine aroma when it warmed and some hops (faint). The tastes and flavors were just as big. Lots of dark fruits (more raisins, plums), tons of alcohol, lots of fruits that were soaked in rum, spices, dark, sweet and roasted malts, lots and lots of caramel seemed to constantly come out, and hops to finish it off. One thing I did notice, was that when warmed this beers flavors intensified, but a medicine flavor came forth. Not unpleasant but noticeable. This beer was medium-heavy in body. I like this style of beer and this one did not disappoint. Lots of flavors and aromas made it a pleasure to just sit back and sip while talking to the wife. IMO this was a better beer on the cooler side then on the warmed side, but I would take it both ways. Only thing I would have liked more was to see more foam or atleast some more time to get a better visual. I like to sit back and just look at a beer for a moment to get the full effect.
Very good example of its style.

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Photo of byrd
4.32/5  rDev +6.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

It took a fairly aggressive pour to get even a small light tan head to form. It stays for a short while, then reduces to a small lace scattered across the surface. SkullSplitter pours with a deep reddish copper hue and has a chill haze for quite a while that eventually clears as the beer warms. There is a small amount of carbonation bubbling from the bottom of the glass. The aroma is absolutely wonderful. Sweet malts with notes of caramel are quite apparent. Most noticeable, however, are the winey, vinous notes mixed with alcohol and dark fruits. The flavors parallel the aroma fairly well. The start is of sweet malts and caramel. Vinous notes quickly come forward along with a slight bitterness and hints of dark fruits – raisins and plums – lasting through the finish. Considerable carbonation adds a bit more of a bite around mid swallow and some alcohol is also noticeable. Towards the finish, there are also some slight hints of roastiness that come though. The mouthfeel is medium to maybe slightly full. The hops seem to be pretty laid back in this brew however, the vinous alcohol character really helps to balance the sweet malts.

Quite a unique brew that makes for a very interesting and drinkable Old Ale. It’s a little strong, so I don’t know that I could drink too many of these. One things for sure... one isn’t enough!

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Photo of RoyalT
4.6/5  rDev +13.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

Appearance – This has the classic appearance of the Sotch Ale/Wee Heavy style. The head came up huge then went down pitting. The body is a deep, dark, ruby-brown color.

Smell – Man, does this ale wreek! The big aroma of dark, concentrated fruits soaked in rum and brandy come out in force. The malts are present underneath along with some alcohol notes as well.

Taste – The rum/raisin flavor comes out huge and overpowers the other fruits from the nose. There’s also a tartness in there. Maybe we soaked some apples in this batch? Anyway, it’s a very unique and interesting flavor, and a “must try” for any serious BA.

Mouthfeel – Flat, smooth, and full-bodied with a reminder of alcohol.

Drinkability – Everything I wrote about this ale comes together in the drinkability category. I don’t feel that any one component is perfect, but together this is as good as it gets and deserves my highest, “Drinkability,” rating.

Update – I drink this on a regular basis but thought I should re-review it with an ’04 bottle. My opinion hasn’t changed one iota from my initial rating in September of 2003.

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Photo of woemad
4.25/5  rDev +4.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Poured a reddish brown, with a nice tan head that stuck around for a while. Not too much lacing, but the ring of foam around the edge never disappeared. Had a dark cherry, raisin and molasses scent. Very malty tasting, with notes of dark, bittersweet cherry, molasses, raisins and a bit of caramel, along with a taste of warming alcohol hovering over the whole scene. There are hops here, but very restrained. This is a very "chewy" beer, very substantial. I think it would make a great nightcap, and I certainly enjoyed drinking it tonight, but I can't see it as a session beer.

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Photo of beerguy101
3.82/5  rDev -5.9%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Deep brown color. Medium head. Aroma is very smoky. Very smoky tasting Scottish Ale. Very peaty. It also very malty and there are some hop buried under all those malts. It kind of one-dimensional towards the smoky malts, but it tastes OK. Very smooth tasting. Nice beer if you like smoky flavors. Mouthfeel is full and round. Finish is clean and smooth. Aftertaste is peaty and smoky.

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Photo of dedalus
3.65/5  rDev -10.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

skullsplitter has a beautiful appearance in the glass: very dark brown with hints of ruby red showing through where the light hits, and a custard-colored head that dissipates rather quickly, but leaves a good lace coating the glass.

the aromas were undeniably rummy, just like the frosting on my wife's rum cake, actually, with dates, raisins, and figs in the background.

the flavors began with brown sugar, butter, rum, and hot cream of wheat on the palate. the slightest detectable hops joined in at the midpoint, and the rather abrupt finish consisted of lingering rum flavors mingled with wet cigar (not actually unpleasant) and a slight alcohol burn on the tip of the tongue.

the carbonation was stinging, perhaps a bit too much so. it subtracted a bit from the beer's drinkability. it clashed with the appropriately medium-thick mouthfeel.

this beer is a scottish wee heavy, so malt and lots of it is what you should expect, because that is just what this beer delivers. there is no lack of complexity here; the malt flavors are varied. my only complaint is that the malt crosses the line and becomes cloying, especially as the glass approaches emptiness. combined with the cigar-like flavors in the aftertaste, this cloying sweetness can leave the beer tasting like the chewed end of one of those cheap, vanilla-flavored cigars you can get at any corner store. but that's only when there are only three or four sips left in the bottom of the snifter (or thistle glass, if you can find one). an interesting brew that should not be missed, but i don't think it has earned a permanent place in my fridge.

one last comment: don't drink this after an esb or an ipa. you'll smell and taste much more hops than malt, which kind of defeats the purpose of drinking a wee heavy. i learned this lesson the hard way.



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Photo of jtw5877
4.35/5  rDev +7.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Pours a brownish reddish color with a thin tan head. A very nice very malty flavor. A real nice caramel, toffee aftertaste. This is an excellent beer. I would recommend this one to beer lovers in general. In a day and age when hops run the show, this is a nice break.

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Photo of mickeymac
4.37/5  rDev +7.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Everything from the label to the color, the smell, and the taste warns you that this is not Bud Light. A deep garnet, it puts off a nice head that fades but leaves a bit of lace on the glass. The smell is raisins, some molasses, and just a hint of peat. A nice chunky mouthfeel carries flavors of ripe fruit-raisin and a bit of cherry-along with sweet candy-like flavors and just a bit of hop bite. This would be the beer with which to brace yourself before heading off to battle on a Scottish plain.

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Photo of Mustard
3.84/5  rDev -5.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4.5

Presentation: 11.2oz. brown bottle with no "bottled on" or "best before" warning; purchased for $2.49 as a stray single from the West LA Whole Foods down on National and Barrington.

Appearance: Pours a clear, ruddy brown; fine, beige, one-fingered head; intricate lacing; adequate head retention.

Smell: Fairly mild aroma of sweet malt and dark fruit.

Taste: Moderately sweet; predominant flavors are of toffee, nuts, caramel and fig-like/prune-like fruits; a light, woody, earthy hop bitterness is detectable in the finish; somewhat vinous; hints of butter and butterscotch; medium to full bodied.

Comments: Delicious, albeit a tad subdued. Would drink this regularly if not for the price.

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Photo of mzwolinski
3.8/5  rDev -6.4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

For some reason, I had a bad impression of this beer from some time back. Maybe it's the label. Or the name. Just seemed to be trying too hard, ya know? But anyway, on revisiting, the beer actually turns out to be fairly decent. Nice malty aroma -- a bit nutty in character, as is the flavor, which develops a very satisfying, full, roasty character to complement the beer's sweetness. Hops kick in at the end and make for a really pleasant finish. Satisfying, indeed, but still not extraordinary, and one gets the impression of a barley wine that's just going through the motions. And that viking looked so tough...

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Photo of GreenCard
3.77/5  rDev -7.1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3

Bottle purchased on 12/23/2002 and carefully aged since then (bottling date unknown)...

Appearance: thin, creamy cap of tan head with some impressive staying power; copper brown, very slight haze

Aroma: heady, tantalizing nose of caramel and rum-raisins; alcohol; orange (Grand Marnier); peaty smokiness, some diacetyl

Flavor: full dark-caramelly malt flavor, raisins, toasted nuts, molasses; starts of slightly sweet, then an oakiness moves it towards the finish where a subtle, peppery hop bitterness closes the taste; finishes semi-sweet, but balanced; some smokiness and a zesty alcohol bloom; a touch of sherry notes

Mouthfeel: full body, substantial carbonation (especially for an Old Ale); creamy and warming

Overall Impression: Though the label on the bottle is pretty cheesy/kitchy, this beer is quite a pleaser. A full-flavored, complex ale. Great example of a Scottish Old Ale. Definitely worth a try and great for stocking a few bottles to taste at a later date.

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Skull Splitter from Orkney Brewery
91 out of 100 based on 985 ratings.