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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
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.

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Photo of UCLABrewN84
4.23/5  rDev +2.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 3.25 | overall: 4.25

Bottle pour for New Brew Thursday's 3rd Anniversary event held at Beachwood BBQ & Brewing in Long Beach, CA.

Thanks to Wowcoolman for sharing this one.

Pours an opaque black with a foamy dark khaki head that settles to wisps of film on top of the beer. Small dots of lace form around the glass on the drink down. Smell is of dark roasted malt, cocoa, dark fruits, port, whisky, and wood. Taste is much the same with a slightly sour fruity flavor on the finish. There is a mild amount of roasty bitterness on the palate with each sip. This beer has a lower level of carbonation with a slightly crisp and medium bodied mouthfeel. Overall, this is a very good beer that is tasty and rich.

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Photo of kylehay2004
4.1/5  rDev -0.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Two finger head that dissipates rapidly on a jet black body. Aroma is stronglyof whiskey and scotch, mint, molasses, cinnamon. Flavors are very dull, with the whiskey understated in sharpness but still providing flavor. Supporting notes include dark chocolate, citrus, earthy hops, rye breads and licorice. The aroma is great, the flavor is a little mild but still keeps the whiskey flavor while staying very drinkable. Very nice whiskey aged brew

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Photo of Knapp85
4.67/5  rDev +13.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Opened this and shared a bottle with my cousins at my grandmothers 80th birthday party over the weekend. I had been super excited to try this one since I got it a few months ago. The Beer poured out black, and thick looking. There was a thin brownish colored head on top that hung around for a good while but since I was sipping this for over an hour but the time I finished it was gone. The smell of this beer is awesome, the aromas of whiskey, wood, apple, cherry, roasted malts and chocolate all spew from the glass into the nose. The taste of this beer is really really nice, the aromas that are on the nose come full force onto the tongue for a really crazy joyride of flavors from start to finish. The apples and cherries come in a little tart up front but the roast malts keep it sweet and then in the aftertaste the chocolate dominates without and doubt. The mouthfeel of this beer has a really nice semi-thick body to it with some light carbonation. Overall this beer is very impressive. Hands down it has to be Orkney's best and I really enjoy Skullsplitter. This one just has so much to offer, it's not cheap by any means but I could see myself having this one again someday.

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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.

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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 nickfl
4.13/5  rDev +0.2%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4

Orkney dark island reserve

A - Pours with one finger of light tan foam on top of an opaque, black body. The head settles at a moderate pace and leaves light foam.

S - Chocolate, vanilla, cinnamon, and lots of smooth whiskey and smoke,.

T - Dark caramel and toffee up front with a touch of molasses. Some vanilla and chocolate with nutmeg in the middle. Finishes with more dark sugar, spice and whiskey as well as vanilla and cinnamon.

M - Medium-thick body, moderately low carbonation, and a balanced finish.

D - nicely done, the aroma is much better than the flavor, but everything works well in the end.

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Photo of ChainGangGuy
4.05/5  rDev -1.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Appearance: Pours a oily-looking, black body with a scant, brown head.

Smell: Rather peaty aroma with notes of molasses-coated grains, anise, chocolate.

Taste: Chewy, sweet dark maltiness. Smokey peat character throughout. Hint of aniseed. A few drops of Maggi seasoning. A jigger worth of scotch. Only a very slight underlying bitterness. A touch of vanilla, dark chocolate, and molasses. Sugary, smokey, warming finish.

Mouthfeel: Medium-bodied. Rather mild carbonation.

Drinkability: A fine, reasonably complex beer packaged in a classy-looking bottle.

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Photo of Slatetank
3.82/5  rDev -7.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

many thanks to FooFaa for sharing this bottle - poured chilled in my Allagash cervoise.

A - a deep translucent brown with ruby tinged hues and black edges w/ a quickly settling tan head which becomes a sliver

S - A black currant aroma -vinous w/ an oaky whiskey scent that accents. The odor has similarities to sherry with an almost red grape aroma

M - The feel has dried fruit-like sweetness but settles rapidly w/ spice and toast and mild nutty edge of the oak. There is a slight tang of yeast in the toasty finish

T - The taste has a slight tart berry and currant entry w/ very mild smokey whisky finish which is not as strong as in the nose. The flavor has gentle roasted malt and plummy effect w/ an element of whisky scotch flavor rolled in but not pronounced enough -the taste starts well but drops off with a truncated dry finish

D - I enjoyed this -it is a tasty beer, but not outrageously good. I was glad I got to try it as I liked the original, but I couldn't justify going out of my way for a repeat - taste - Thanks to FooFaa for sharing this!

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Photo of MasterSki
3.82/5  rDev -7.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Firstly, I don't think this beer is retired as I'm certain I heard of a new batch being available. In any case, my bottle was from the September 3rd, 2008 batch of 1568 bottles. Thanks to Reagan1984 for picking up this pricey offering for me. Served in a Cigar City snifter.

A - Quick-dissolving tan foam settles to a thin collar, leaving some concentric wisps, but minimal splotches of lace. Dark brown body with some reddish highlights when held to the light.

S - Extremely buttery - reminds me of fudge actually. There's some milk chocolate, cashews, and toffee, followed by an unusual juxtaposition of salty whisky, smoked meats, and light permanent marker. My friends think this is infected, but I just think it's a very buttery beer with a very salty scotch influence.

T - The taste has more of the whisky influence to it, with notes of smoke, peat, salt, iodine, and wood over top of a toffee, chocolate, and dark fruit malt backdrop. Less overt buttery flavors, which is appreciated, but also not quite as rich as the aroma. Char and peat constitute the lingering finish.

M - This is one extremely dry and tannic beer, and the body is shockingly thin for 10% - I'd call it medium-light in fact. There's a bit of stickiness mid-palate, but the alcohol is shockingly well-hidden. Carbonation is fairly low.

D - A very strange flavor combination here, and one that is likely very polarizing. Packaging this in a 750ml bottle was certainly a mistake, as five of us were barely able to finish half the bottle. I appreciate provocative and new flavor combinations, but this is one that would be best served in 4oz portions.

Note: Since this was in a swing-top I took the leftover beer home and tried it again the next day. I discovered that I actually liked it quite a bit more. I'll still probably end up baking with a portion of this beer, but I'd argue that this is best appreciated on a clean palate.

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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.

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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 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 lacqueredmouse
4.12/5  rDev 0%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Pours a deep black-brown, looking extremely heavy in the glass, with a filmy but creamy head of chocolate brown foam. Lacing is minimal, but there's some nice static carbonation as it's swirled. Looks very good indeed.

Big roasted notes on the nose, with nice booze characteristics coming through as well. Chocolate and toastiness, with leavened smoky notes of churrasco barbecue. Some wonderful deep coconut and oak notes are noticeable as well. A really, truly phenomenally delicious nose. Quite complex and very, very pleasant.

Taste is a little lighter, although that's not hard. Big roasted characters on the fore, before some mature oak characters and light tannic bitterness come forward. Slight astringency mid palate, although this merely descends to a long ashy afterpalate. Mouthfeel is clear and silky, adding texture but not too much body to the palate. Minimal sweetness, and the tannic notes are probably the most prominent. Very big palate. Quite enjoyable.

A very good brew all up - lots of character and extremely full-flavoured. While it lacks something a little in complexity, it surely makes it up with big ballsy roasted stoutness. Stays surprisingly smooth and drinkable throughout. I'm a fan.

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Photo of John_M
4.05/5  rDev -1.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Against my better judgement, I went ahead and bought a bottle of this stuff. It certainly does come in an impressive looking package, in this case a 750 ml. bottle with a swing top. There is some handwritten information surrounding the seal, which informs you that this beer was aged in single malt whiskey barrels and is a unique creation from the head brewer at Orkeny. Well then, I'm sure that must explain the $23.99 price tag for this beer. In any event....

The beer pours a very dark color for a scottish ale, appearing almost stout-like. The beer looks more akin to motor oil then beer, and initially there is very little head (often the case with extended oak aging I've found), but pretty good lacing. Interestingly, when I poured a second glass into my brandy snifter, there was considerably more impressive head retention. As for aroma, I can smell this beer from a foot away. There is a ton of vanilla and whiskey aromas in this one, and the beer comes across as rich, sweet and big (I'm surpised that it's ONLY 10%). The beer tastes just the way it smells and is quite smooth with vanilla, chocolate and a touch of coffee. Mouthfeel is pretty good, but the beer does come across as a bit heavy and is just a bit cloying on the palate. The alcohol is pretty warming as well, and has something of a cough medicine flavor about it. Drinkability is not this beers best feature.

An interesting beer and one assumes the lofty price tag is due to the extended aging in scotch whiskey barrels. However, at the price they're charging for it, the beer almost might as well be singe malt. Frankly, I found the beer to be a bit too much of a good thing, though perhaps age will mellow this beer somewhat. However, I just did not find the beer to be so exceptional that I'm likely to plunk down another $25 (including tax) for it any time soon.

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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.

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

Vintage 2007- Swing Top 750 ml Bottle
Decided to crack this one Saturday night while relaxing and wacthing the Stanley Cup finals. Poured into a snifter. Dark black with just the slight trace of a tan head. Smells strong of whiskey, some choclate and vanilla, some fig/dried fruit, some roastiness, but alot of whiskey, i feel like i'm about to take a sip of whiskey rather than beer. Taste is much the same, although luckily not quite dominated by the whiskey as much as the aroma is. Also, definitely got better as it warmed, (probably should have let it sit a bit before cracking it),the other flavors shine through more. Definitely not a lot of carbonation here. Overall, maybe a tad too much whiskey for my liking for this beer to truely blow me away, but still made for a very enjoyable Saturday night while sipping on this one. (slept well too.)

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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 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 dgilks
4/5  rDev -2.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Inky black with a smooth, creamy tan head. Good head retention with a quarter inch head remaining over the beer after the initial head dissipates.

Rich, dried fruits with figs, dates and raisins all coming through. Mild whisky notes with a distinct alcohol sweetness. Nice.

Smooth but slightly thin malt with some drawn out dried fruits and a touch of alcohol. Slightly nutty. For me this is a touch thin and while the flavours are good I wish there was a bit more malt and body. Slightly tart.

Medium-light body with moderate carbonation. I think the lightness in the body is a little bit too much and this deserves a thickness that isn't here.

This is a good beer with a stunning based but the barrel aging process has drawn out the beer and made it a bit thin making the beer less delicious from with the fruitiness and barrel notes not having enough malt and body to support them.

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Photo of cpetrone84
3.08/5  rDev -25.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

Big thanks to Sara for sharing this one!

A-pours a deep brown black color with a bright tan colored head.

S-the nose is boozy with notes of port wine and just a hint of whiskey. there is a strong malt presence with notes of chocolate and bitter coffee. light malt sweetness of dark fruits soaked in alcohol come in the back.

T-the taste is different, it is sweeter and less boozy, the malt stands out, hints of chocolate and roasted malt, plenty of dark fruit sweetness of dark fruits soaked in alcohol. the booze isn't as strong but the port sherry flavors are there.

M-smooth and creamy on the palate, good bit of carbonation with a crisp rough finish.

D-this has an interesting aspect, lots of booze and sweetness with a strong malt presence. somewhat straight forward and rather sweet.

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Photo of champ103
4.59/5  rDev +11.4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

A: Pours a dark brown with some ruby highlights around the edges. A two finger tan head quickly forms, and recedes in a second. Light patchy lace is left behind.
S: Toasted malt, sweet toffee, smoke, peat, and dark fruits. A slighlty tart green apple, and white grape aroma develops as this warms up. Excellent.
T: Similar to the nose. Toastes malt and sweet toffee. Though the smoke and peat seems to be more dominate than in the nose. Dark fruits of plums and rasins. Again, a green apple flavor with some grape skins lingering on. Slightly vinous. This is great.
M/D: A medium body and a little low on the carbonation. Though it is still very creamy and smooth. A real treat to drink. Something that is great to sip on. I wish the bottle would never end.

This is excellent, just like everything else from the brewery. A great combination of smoked peat and fruits. It really melds together well. It becomes more and more vinous and wine like as this warms up. Very unique. Something I highly recommend.

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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.

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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...

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Photo of AgentZero
3.23/5  rDev -21.6%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

A - Brown colored beer with some red on the edges. Tan head left some spots and stick on the sides.

S - Not quite what I would have expected from a Scottish Ale, and also seems a bit infected. Some butter, whiskey, toffee and sharpie.

T - Peaty whiskey with some dark fruits, toffee, and a bit of brown sugar. The butter taste is still there as well. I find it all kind of weird, not necessarily unpleasant, but wouldn't say I'm a huge fan.

M - Lighter bodied, dry finish, lower carbonation.

O - Was not a very big fan of this beer, but it could very well be taht I didn't understand the style well enough. That being said, I just didn't really like drinking it a whole lot.

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