Dismiss Notice
Subscribe to BeerAdvocate magazine?

Learn more about beer and save over 53% with a 3-year subscription.

Subscribe now →

Skull Splitter - Orkney Brewery

Not Rated.
Skull SplitterSkull Splitter

Educational use only; do not reuse.

963 Reviews

(Read More)
Reviews: 963
Hads: 2,036
Avg: 4.06
pDev: 18.23%
Wants: 171
Gots: 240 | FT: 1
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: 963 | Hads: 2,036
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.

 702 characters

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...

 616 characters

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.

 989 characters

Photo of clvand0
3.6/5  rDev -11.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

This beer pours a dark (but clear) red color. It has a nice white head that dies off quickly and leaves almost no lacing on the glass. The aroma was different: Some sweet maltiness and caramel with some hops bringing up the back. Odd and strong flavor. Enjoyable after a few drinks, but takes a second to become used to. The flavor was pretty malty with some cherries in there somewhere. After a drink or two it was pretty smooth with an enjoyable mouthfeel. Very interesting beer.

 481 characters

Photo of SeanChouffe
3.52/5  rDev -13.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

A tan colored head that died very quickly, but maintained good lace. The color is a dark brown with reddish tones, hazy and low effervescence. The smell was of malt and caramel -- real earthy. It has a sweet toffee like flavor that was almost overwhelming (syrupy). The mouth feel was a little flat. My overall impression is that it lacks character and is somewhat one-dimensional. Cool name.

 392 characters

Photo of Fabric8r
4.13/5  rDev +1.7%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

While at the Sharp Edge in Pittsburgh, I asked if they have a Scottish Wee Heavy. I made a Wee Heavy at home and wanted to try a commercial version to see how I did. This beer was precicely what my home brew tastes like. I must have done it right! Loads of flavor, somewhat complex, but definitely a Scottish product! Slightly bitter after taste, yet creamy in the mouth, and bursting with flavor. One to settle down and enjoy. Love the bottle, took it home for my small collection.

 482 characters

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

11.2 oz. Bottle

Appearance: This was a clear, ruby beer that poured with a coarse, cream colored head. It dissipated quickly, but a thin layer stuck around for quite awhile due to a heavy bead. There wasn't any lace left on the glass.

Smell: Sweet malts, caramel, tart cherries, and a light smokiness wafted up from the glass. Right after the pour, this beer had a sour vegetal smell that was unpleasant, but it quickly went away. As I continued to drink, a light hop aroma began to emerge.

Mouthfeel: Medium to medium-full bodied and extremely smooth. The flavor was very round and mouthfilling.

Taste: This was surprisingly dry for a barley wine, especially upfront. The light flavors mirrored the aroma: it was a combination of sweet, rich malts and cherries, both of which were overlayed by an everpresent smokiness. Late in the aftertaste, a touch of hops arose to join the residual sweetness and alcohol.

A good beer. Much more delicate and drinkable compared to other barley wines. I wasn't really impressed with it at first, but the more I drank, the more I appreciated it.

 1,096 characters

Photo of Rumrunner
3.9/5  rDev -3.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

11.2 oz bottle. A kick a-- viking warrior on the lable.
It pours a dark clear brown. A small head and no lacing. The scent is malt and fruit. A plumb and prune scent permeate with a caramel back up.

The flavors are very Scotch. It is fruity and malty. A decent amount of caramel. There is some butter and some ginger bread. I do not favor Scotch ales but this one is very good.

It has a nice heavy syrup feel to the mouth. There is a slight crisp finish and the alcohol sneaks through.
A very nice slow drinking ale. Don't gulp this one.

 547 characters

Photo of hotstuff
3.47/5  rDev -14.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

This beer poured a tan head with small sized bubbles. The hue of this beer was dark brown and the nose was malty. Somewhat of a bitter aftertaste was observed with this beer. It was an okay beer, but not at the top of my favorites and not a beer that I will be drinking on a regular basis.

 289 characters

Photo of 86MonteSS
4.59/5  rDev +13.1%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

There's plenty of raisiny goodness to go 'round in this summbitch, ain't there?

My buddy and I are always talking about our rugged Viking roots, so I simply had to get this. Even if I knew it sucked, I probably still would have bought it for the Viking on the label.

But, I was more than pleasantly surprised. I've had ales that are sweet and fruity but end up being WAY too sweet and fruity, but this one doesn't make you question your manhood like the others. Definitely a great beer, and something I'd buy again if I didn't have 10 bazillion other beers to try on a college budget. Skoal!

 597 characters

Photo of Brian700
4.12/5  rDev +1.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Aroma: I like the aroma a lot. It's fruity for sure. Hints of plumb.

Appearance: It has a copper/brown appearance with a little red tint.
Keeps a nice creamy head but not that thick of one. This is a strong beer mind you. The head is a cream color (off-white/tan)

Taste: Nice flavor. Caramel, and very malty. The smell helps you to pick up on the fruity esters. It gets sweeter and sweeter as you consume the beer, or in this beers case, as the beer consumes you.

Mouthfeel: Creamy, not overwhelming. Good carbonation. It is very drinkable for a stronger beer which can make for an interesting night.

Overall: I like this beer a lot. I'd drink it a lot more if my paychecks were a little bigger. Kind of pricey in my neck of the woods. I recomend keeping one or two in the back of your refrigerator for a rainy, skullsplitting, type of day. What a treat.

 868 characters

Photo of TheDM
3.92/5  rDev -3.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

This brew has a very nice malty aroma. It poured a nice light brown head with small light brown bubbles. Its dark brown somewhat transparent body looked very tempting. It had a slightly carbonated taste with a slight after bite and a hoppy flavor. It is a nice beer but falls a little short of my favorite range.

 312 characters

Photo of far333
4/5  rDev -1.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Opaque mahogany/dark copper colored. The head is low and frothy, but really sticks around and leaves nice foamy specs on the inside of the glass. Aroma is unique - some malt and also some fruit, like apple or pear. Flavor is rich and round, warming alcohol mixes with a caramelized flavor, and I detect some smoke. Some sweet malt comes through. Teeny bit of hop in the finish, or is that the alcohol stinging my throat? Smooth and creamy mouthfeel. Surprisingly drinkable for a beer with such a punch. First one I've had, but I would like more.

 545 characters

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

Skullsplitter, a beer with a story behind it, and how intimidating it sounds. Pours a deep crimson brown with a minimal white head. Smells sweet and the alcohol is noticeable. Sweet, with a mild hoppiness and citrusy undertones--I'd say grapefruit. Mouthfeel is creamy and smooth and helps hide the alcohol content nicely. Note: I recommend this beer to be in the neighborhood of 55-65 degrees for optimum consumption (I raised several of my scores after the beer warmed up a bit). This one was a nice treat--very warming with every sip. My favorite scottish ale to date (probably because it reminds me of a Belgian...)

 619 characters

Photo of philipt
4.44/5  rDev +9.4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Skullsplitter is among my favorites. But, I'm puzzled: is it a barley wine or a strong scottish ale? Either way it wouldn't stop me from drinking it.

Quite dark copper in color with a ruby tint. When poured, an average sized cream-tan head emerges. The smell is dominated by malt, particularly by a smoked malt aroma. The taste is initially quite sweet with a smoke-like, earthy tone. Hop bitterness is apparent, but not the focus of this beer. There is a definite alcohol burn as the beer runs down the throat, but not overbearing. A wonderful, creamy and thick mouthfeel. A pleasure to drink.

 597 characters

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

First, you have to love the label and the name. It pours light with little head that even dies down more to a light foam ring around the cup. The color is auburn-brown with a typical fruity aroma of a barley wine. The first part of the taste is slightly bitter with a bit of spiciness that quickly mellows to a fruity taste. Eventually the fruitiness and sweetness dies down and you are left with a light bitter flavor in your mouth.
Bottom line: if you want a good sipping beer with a full flavor and a large kick, this is your beer.

 536 characters

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

Fruity sweet aroma come out of the glass. Red, almost cherry wood, in color. A cheesy aroma and flavor were also present as the beer warmed up a little. Alchohol was quite noticable in both mouth and nose, but did not detract. Beer became pleasantly more creamy as it warmed up. Quite nice and enjoyable.

 304 characters

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

Pour a dark, very dark amber with about 1/4 inch dark tan head that doesn't last to long. Noses of chocolate, malt, and grains. Smells like Whoppers candies. The taste of this ale is very robust and forward. Tastes of malt, leather, and slightly bitter chocolate dominate this beer. There is also a fair amout of hops that give it a very pleasing bitterness. Very low carbonation, but either the alcohol or the acidity gives a slight tingle on the tounge with the finish. SkullSplitter finishes long and very smooth with an enjoyable bitterness. Great beer. Maybe my new favorite scottish ale.

 593 characters

Photo of BigHead
3.93/5  rDev -3.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

The label of reminds me of a guy dressing up as a viking for a viking party, and as he arrives, he realizes he's the only one dressed up...I don't know, it's just the look on his face. The color of this beer in a dark clear amber with a 1/4 inch head. You can smell the sweetness of the malts with a hint of fruit. The beer comes across smokey immediately which fades into the sweet taste of the malts. The beer remains slightly smokey in flavor, but it slowly gives way to the malt and hops. At 8.5% ABV, the beer does not taste all that strong. A drinkable beer and I'll definitely get it again.

 597 characters

Photo of Scooter77
4.3/5  rDev +5.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

I picked this up mainly because of the picture on the label. It had a classic looking Viking on it, with the horned helmet and all! It poured a nice dark ruby color with a sticky tan head, which slowly faded down leaving a web-like lace. Aromas were of sweet malts and alcohol. Taste was equally sweet with hints of hops and malts. There was a bit of a syrupy texture left of my tongue. This is a very well balanced and enjoyable beer.

 435 characters

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

After rating a couple of nice session ales from Shipyard tonight, I felt like something a little different. Something a little more harsh. I felt like I needed to have my head bashed in with a sledgehammer. Thus I chose the Skull Splitter.

The color? You guessed it....blood red. A thin light brown head cannot hold the bloody hues within. My nose is slaughtered with a thick, heavy, suffocating malt. Aromas of sweet caramel try to reduce the insanity of it all, but do not succeed. My palete is butchered by assassins named Malt, Molasses and Raisin. Just as my palate begs for mercy the alcohol comes knifing through to clean up what's not yet been slayed. Ironically, there's a bloodthirsty hunger inside me that pleads for more against my better judgement. So against a backdrop of spattered blood, I venture in for more. As I mistakingly re-enter this massacre, I think I start enjoying some fruit cake tones, but they get annihilated by a blood drenched rum cake flavor. The finish is gory and serum like.

Warning: Mere mortals cannot take this suicidal journey.

 1,077 characters

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

I was excited to try this and I wasn't disapointed...almost a scottish style barley wine or old ale...I get a lot of peat on the nose along with some chewy caramel....pours a dark orange with little head...body is rich and firm...very malty beer...with that peat flavor adding a nice twist...also has a nice herbal hop note on the long finish...high quality beer...alcohol is hidden pretty well except for the warming effect in my "tummy"....ah make that "gut"..A nice "big" beer...very sweet flavor with a smokey hint

A nice find...thanks to Stubbob for directing me to the only liqour store in Minnesota that has it probably..

 631 characters

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

Wonderful thick Scottish brew. Pours dark, short-lived but dense tan head. Aroma is plummy, raisiny, sweet, and the taste is about ten miles beyond that. Thick, juicy and sweet. Dense. The kind of beer that makes you want to sit in front of the fire.

 250 characters

Photo of oberon
4.15/5  rDev +2.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 3.5

Very appetizing amber colored beer with rich creamy head.Raisin-like aroma to it,kinda porty in taste to me with some dried fruit in there,alchol was prevalent ecspecially when it began to warm.Something to drink before bedtime.Really nice liked it alot.

 254 characters

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

Got this at Hollingshead Deli in Orange, CA (although it turns out it is available in Ohio). Pours a rich orangish-brown with a medium and lasting head. Nice lacing throughout. Aroma is malty with some fruit and alcohol tones. Flavor packs a punch, mostly malt, caramel and alcohol with a rather fruity finish. Interesting brew.

 328 characters

Skull Splitter from Orkney Brewery
91 out of 100 based on 963 ratings.