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Dark Island Reserve - Orkney Brewery

Not Rated.
Dark Island ReserveDark Island Reserve

Educational use only; do not reuse.

68 Reviews
no score

(Send Samples)
Reviews: 68
Hads: 128
Avg: 4.12
pDev: 14.32%
Wants: 83
Gots: 31 | FT: 3
Brewed by:
Orkney Brewery visit their website
United Kingdom (Scotland)

Style | ABV
Scottish Ale |  10.00% ABV

Availability: Rotating

Notes & Commercial Description:
Beer added by: John_M on 01-15-2008

No notes at this time.
Beer: Reviews & Ratings
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Reviews: 68 | Hads: 128
Reviews by beerdrifter:
Photo of beerdrifter
4.41/5  rDev +7%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Beautiful dark brown pour with a one finger beige head with minimal retention and crazy lacing. The nose is earthy with rich dark caramel malts dominating along with hints of mocha. As it warms, a strong vinous character emerges along with evidence of the barrel aging and hints of whiskey. The taste follows suit, dominated initially by loads of roasty cocoa, espresso, and dark chocolate. As with the nose, the taste really opens up as it warms. Unlike some big barrel aged beers, it's not in your face. The woody vinous notes are subtle but so delicious. Hints of oak, vanilla, whiskey, and dark fruit round it out nicely. The mouthfeel is thick and creamy with a subtle sweet and dry finish. Overall, this is my definition of a comfort beer. Big, but not too big, rich and bold, but not in your face. A world class beer!

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More User Reviews:
Photo of dcmchew
4.74/5  rDev +15%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.75

Bottled on 15th November 2013.
Pours black with some dark brown hues, low beige head goes away fast and really sticks to the glass.
Smells awesome. Dark roasted malts with milky chocolate, huge caramel, low coffee, lots of vanilla and dark spices, mild dry dark fruit, not very big oaky barrel notes though.
Whiskey pops up in the taste more than in the smell. Roasted malts with coffee and dark chocolate, along with charcoal notes mix nicely with the strong caramel sweetness. Really balanced malt component. The dark fruit (figs, plums, dates) aren't alone, there are red grapes (bringing a mild mustiness), red berries and some faint sour cherries. Typical whiskey barrel aged vanilla spice, along with some mild cinnamon, cocoa powder and faint licorice. Earthy feel mostly, not as barelly as expected, with some oak chips, smoked wood and peat covered up by the roast. Whiskey is felt though, really clear and nice, providing a nice excuse for the warm booze. Hops aren't the star, so they're pretty low in the finish, still helping the roast bitterness a pinch.
Mouthfeel is creamy, buttery, hence a nice butterscotch feel to the whole brew. Finish is really dry and bitter from the charcoal. As it warms up, the sweet elements (the fruitiness, the caramel) start to cover up all the roughness. Aftertaste gets bittersweet, rather than ashy.
Great beer, a perfect "Orcadian Ale" enhanced by the whisky aging. The best from the brewery and personally it surpassed some russian imperials and scotch ales that i usually hold dear.

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Photo of oberon
4.21/5  rDev +2.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

Bottled on 3rd April 2012.Pours into my Isle of Arran glass a deep dark chocolate brown with a half finger cappuccino colored head atop.Dark fruit,brown sugar,and buttery caramel in the nose,a decent amount of alcohol is detected.Brown sugar and buttery caramel on the palate with alcohol infused dark fruit as well,light to almost zero carbonation in the feel.A great CHRISTmas eve sipper,expensive but hey it's the holidays.

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Photo of ricke
3.73/5  rDev -9.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

A: Opaque, pitch black. A small brownish head settles into some lacings.

S: Plenty of roasted malts. Some coffee and dark chocolate. Dark caramel and molasses.

T: Big aromas of roasted malts, almost burnt. Coffee, dark chocolate and vinous dark fruits. Notes of oak barrel. Unfortunately, I detect an off-centered flavor of watercolor paint hovering above the other flavors, and it's quite disturbing. The finish is somewhat bitter with acidic roasty notes, salt and licorice. The alcohol is well hidden, but noticeable.

M: Medium body, gentle carbonation. Could perhaps have a little bigger body. Somewhat dry finish.

D: Not quite as good as I had hoped for. Still recommended though. Lacks some balance.

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Photo of Mora2000
4.4/5  rDev +6.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Bottle courtesy of bu11zeye.

Hand bottled in September 2008. Pours dark brown/black with basically no head. Aroma is some smokey peat as well as caramel. The flavor is slightly sweet with some caramel malt, roasted malt and some smoke and chocolate. Medium mouthfeel. Very creamy mouthfeel.

 291 characters

Photo of olradetbalder
4.25/5  rDev +3.2%

Photo of striker2160
4.25/5  rDev +3.2%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Photo of mrbigpappa
5/5  rDev +21.4%

Photo of biboergosum
4.01/5  rDev -2.7%
look: 4.25 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

750ml, very attractive bottle and label. I've been sitting on this one for over a year, as it's from the Nov 2011 hand bottling, which apparently numbered at 2933. Seems to me the fitting start to a Robert Burns' night, especially one that falls on a Friday. To quote the man himself: 'Critics! Those cut-throat bandits in the paths of fame'. I'll keep that in mind here, dear auld Rabbie.

This beer pours a solid, unrelenting black, with nothing in the way of even the slightest highlight, and two fingers of bubbly, fairly creamy brown mocha head, which settles away at a lazy, but steady pace, leaving some broad swaths of limestone formation lace around the glass.

It smells of musty black fruit - duly soused by strong dark red wine - mildly roasted bready caramel malt, thin vanilla, some dampened woody astringency, watery orange juice, and a further spiced rum/whisky alcohol tint. Yup, this one's gonna be a boozer. The taste is bittersweet chocolate-dipped cherries, injected with a shot of brandy for good measure and grandmas everywhere, more softly acrid, pulpy orange, a middling caramel/toffee malt backbone, edgy oak barrel wood tannins, diluted vanilla, and a musty, earthy wet leafy dryness, where the wetness is alcohol, albeit on its best behavior.

The carbonation is pretty sedate, but does well enough to offer support to the whole deal, the body a sturdy, stout (more on that later) medium-full weight, and smooth at most measurable junctures, the flat woodiness a sometime offender. It finishes on the sweet side, with the caramel malt finally coming around, the dark vinous fruit holding fast, and the warm vanilla oakiness completing the lulling circle.

It is a bit strange that I get more wine barrel than whisky cask in terms of woody adjuncts, given the proclaimed Orkney-local production methods. Oh well, esters are a funny thing, they can act as the chimera, rendering things in a slightly different manner from what they truly are. Anyhow, this is a splendid Scottish ale, with strong dry stout predilections, well integrated barrel notes, and a much more subtle alcohol profile than I was led to believe up until quite recently. Worth the wait, indeed, and I feel that I have not let today's celebratory poet down, at least not yet.

 2,270 characters

Photo of Sammy
3.95/5  rDev -4.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

750 ml from Bruisin' Ales. Pours dark grey with bubbly head, looks caskish. Scotch whiskey in the nose. The tasting begins with scotch whiskey, nuttiness, and ends with some roast malt, chocolate and smoked peat in a long finish. Very good, it must be shared.

 259 characters

Photo of Oboogie
4.5/5  rDev +9.2%

Photo of zaphodchak
4.56/5  rDev +10.7%
look: 3 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Some light lacing coffee opaque brown, some brown highlights.

Smell portends greatness. Faint booze, port, smokiness. Truly magnificent.

Taste does the nose justice. Port, a trace of soy sauce and leather, finishing on plum, black currant, and a trace of spice. This is amazing.

Oily, not too too thick, but pretty thick.

This is a great beer. The price point suggests it and the beer delivers. At the price, I probably wouldn't buy it, but if you have a chance to try it (or go in halvsies), I highly recommend it.

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Photo of Ciocanelu
4.34/5  rDev +5.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Photo of cjgator3
4.33/5  rDev +5.1%
look: 3 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 4.5

750ml bottle

A- Pours a dark brownish black color. Not much carbonation in the bottle so this doesn't produce much of a head.

S- The aroma is dark malts, plums, figs, vanilla, whiskey and wood from the barrel aging. 

T- The taste has a malty sweetness up front with molasses, chocolate, whiskey and woody flavors as well. Very smooth for a 10% ABV beer.

M- The mouthfeel is medium bodies with a low amount of carbonation.

O- Overall, I really enjoyed this beer.  It is a really nice barrel aged beer that is recommended!

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Photo of Alieniloquium
3.8/5  rDev -7.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

750 mL bottle poured into a Kuhnhenn snifter. April 2012 bottle.

Appearance - Deep brown. Completely opaque. Small khaki head. Big bubbles as it settles. Very leggy upon swirling.

Smell - Buckets of butterscotch, whoah. Peaty whiskey permeates behind it, but butterscotch all over. Deep caramel malts, verging on chocolate malts.

Taste - Much more whiskey presence here, but still a ton of butterscotch. The whiskey is smokey and peaty and, in the aftertaste, almost salty. The finish is a little bitter, perhaps exacerbated by the briny flavor.

Mouthfeel - Not terribly heavy, but also no alcohol. I'm looking for a bit more chewiness to it for all the barrel it has. The finish is whiskey dominant.

Overall - Obviously a far cry from Dark Island, but that isn't a bad thing. Hell of an expensive bottle, but that doesn't surprise me so much these days. Good beer and very different from normal stuff I drink.

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Photo of thagr81us
3.01/5  rDev -26.9%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 2.5

Bottled March 27, 2010. Served from swing-top bottle into a Stone nonic. Poured pitch black with a minimal light tan head. Maintained decent lacing throughout the glass. The aroma was comprised of sweet malt, caramel, alcohol, wood, and chocolate. The flavor was of sweet malt, caramel, alcohol, and slight mothballs (oxidation perhaps?). It had a medium feel on the palate with low carbonation. Overall I was not really a massive fan of this one. The slight mothball flavor coupled with the alcohol made this one tough to get through. The mothball flavor wasn't very strong at all as it was quite muted, but still present nonetheless. Upon opening this thing I was concerned I would take a sip and drain pour it, but I was actually able to finish the full bottle. Just took quite awhile...

 790 characters

Photo of KYGunner
3.94/5  rDev -4.4%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

This had a very dark and viscous pour of, what appeared to be, a very lightly carbonated stout.

The nose gave off a vinous date, licorice, chocolate, sherry and then a vinous alcohol.

I get a lot of chocolate on the palate with a backdrop of dry roasted coffee and some smoky qualities and malty grain.

The feel is mostly smooth and thick but had a slightly dry and tangy finish.

Very interesting and tasty ale but I prefer a touch more complexity on the tongue for the style.

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Photo of TheSamKuehn
3.5/5  rDev -15%

Photo of dvmin98
4.5/5  rDev +9.2%

Photo of akorsak
3.9/5  rDev -5.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Thanks to Foofaa for sharing this bottle, which was dated September 3, 2008.

A: The ale is pitch black, like a big imperial stout. No head to speak of. Very mysterious looking.

S: The nose is sweet initially, with dark fruits (currants, blackberries and grapes), followed by roasted malts that are nearly charred. The booziness is never really an issue.

T: The dark fruits and roasted malts continue into the taste, all dark and strong. The ale has a vinous presence, at least up front. The aforementioned fruits continue to add sweetness although there is a tart twist running through the ale. The Orkney barrels don't add the a traditional Scotch peatiness, instead they focus the fruits. My only complaint is that the ale drops off after the first wave of the barrel. The dark, roasted fruits come and, as quickly as they come, go with very little to fill the void.

M: The mouthfeel is rich early on, often vacant at the end. The dark fruits, roasted malts and barrel all work while they stick around.

D: At 10%, this is a beer to share. A nice treat that I don't think I'd normally seek out.

 1,100 characters

Photo of CrazyDavros
3.84/5  rDev -6.8%
look: 3 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3 | overall: 4

Pours dark brown with an almost non-existent head.
Nose shows caramel, peat, charred oak, roasted malt, smoke, bready malt and heavy sweet burnt figs.
Sweet flavours at first too, before some roasted malt and charred oak roll thorugh. A fair bit of booze too.
Body feels a bit light.

 283 characters

Photo of bluejacket74
4.26/5  rDev +3.4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4.25

750 ml swing top bottle, bottled on November 15, 2013, Gyle 682. Served in a snifter, the beer pours dark brown/black with maybe a half inch tan head. Head retention is decent, and there isn't much lacing. Aroma is nice, the brew smells like dark fruit (figs, dates), whisky, chocolate, caramel and vanilla. The taste is similar to the aroma, but with the addition of burnt/charred malt, coffee, red grapes, woodiness, and sweet spices. Mouthfeel/body is medium/full, it's a bit creamy and slick with low carbonation. Overall I thought this was a pretty good brew. The whisky barrel character is certainly noticeable, but not overpowering. Definitely worth a try if you've never had it before.

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Photo of proctah
4/5  rDev -2.9%

Photo of thekanna
4.37/5  rDev +6.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4.5

Picked this beauty up at Village Pump Liquors in College Park, MD.

Presentation: Beautiful, like a fine bottle of wine. The seal over the cap states that this is one of only 1568 bottles, and the signature of the brewer confirms its quality.

A: Pours a pitch black which turns slightly purplish when held to light. Almost no head to speak of.

S: Extremely complex and slightly chewy, with strong notes of roasted malts, dark fruits, leather, prunes, and aged wood. Slightly musty, like an attic, with a characteristic wood smell that you get from being in old barns or old wood shops, as if this brew was there since the beginning of the earth.

T: Burnt malts and sour dark fruits, predominately (somewhat unripe) dates and figs. Beautiful roasted flavor, like a campfire or an old dusty chimney. Also, strong notes of port; somewhat heavy red wine-like. Or is it whiskey? Oak-aged barrel flavor pulls through in the end, complemented by faint chocolate and espresso notes.

M: Not much carbonation, a bit thin. But this seems characteristic of most Orkney brews.

D: Nice sipper. Seeing as this is a pretty rare beer, and at $25 a bottle, I don't expect to have it again. But I'm glad I picked it up and tried it.

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Photo of Liquoric3
3.75/5  rDev -9%

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Dark Island Reserve from Orkney Brewery
91 out of 100 based on 68 ratings.