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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 mdagnew
4.62/5  rDev +12.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

750ml swing top bottle bought from Peckhams, Edinburgh... aged for about 3 years...

Poured jet black - nothing gets through even when held up to the light. Creamy brown head poured quite thick and fizzy then faded fairly quickly to almost nothing... very faint lacing...

Aroma - Strong roasted malts, chocolate mixed with strong espresso coffee, some blackcurrent/blackberry notes, leathery, woody, liquorice / anise, good vanilla traces, some tar, spicy hops, treacle/burnt sugar, some alcohol traces...

Taste - Strong roasted malt bitterness, smokey notes, vanilla, definite black coffee, creamy dark chocolate, peppery hops, lots of liquorice, some nutty sweetness, molasse and treacle, alcohol warmth just coming through...

Feel - Very smooth and creamy with just a little sharpness after... pretty full bodied...

Overall - An excellent barrel aged brew... highly recommended if you can track it down..

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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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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 BDTyre
4.22/5  rDev +2.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Grabbed from a shop on Princes Street in Edinburgh...apparently bottled almost a year ago, but still tastes great.

Darky ruby, almost black, with a very thin but fluffy khaki head. Oak, scotch, wine, chocolate, fruit and coffee. Taste is predominantly oak, scotch, wine and chocolate. No hops are noticeable. Definite alcohol burn, but at 10% what can you expect? Excellent after-dinner beer - one to share for sure. Low carbonation, and definitely a sipper.

Great contrast to the normal Dark Island. A big beer, and one put away for sure.

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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 NilsFrisk
4.52/5  rDev +9.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

When you pour it into a glass, you can see the intense body of it, but it does not give much of a head.
Smells roasty, but with this kind of old unfamiliar smell, maybe a bit oaky.
The taste is powerful, a lot of sweet maltiness, quite a bit booze, some roasty bitterness and a full delicious body to wrap it all inn. Too bad it is a limited edition.

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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 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 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 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 FreshHawk
4.47/5  rDev +8.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

A - Dark black with a deep brown hue on the edge. Smaller than average foamy and fairly creamy, dark tan head. Disappears pretty fast leaving behind a thin patchy lace.

S - Oaky, whisky aroma with a good amount of vanilla as well with a spicy, peaty aroma. Some chocolate fudge-like aroma with a bit of roasted malt and dark fruit, especially black currant. Interesting and enjoyable aroma.

T - Similar to the nose with dark chocolate and roasted malt starting out. Strong whisky flavors come out and remain with peat/oaky flavors along with a pretty strong amount of vanilla. Dark fruit and anise come out a bit stronger mid to end sip. Fairly sweet, but the whisky peat and spiciness cuts that a bit. A rich, chewy malty beer overall with an enjoyable mix of chocolaty malt and whisky.

M - Medium body with moderate carbonation. Rich and slightly slick feeling.

D - Pretty drinkable. Alcohol is present but it isn't overly strong, and it works fine with the whisky presence. A little on the sweet side, but the whisky cuts that nice. Definitely a sipper, but one I kept wanting to sip.

Notes: Overall I really liked the mix of whisky and rich chocolaty malt along with a good showing of dark fruit. I liked the mixture of sweet and whisky, neither are too powerful and work well together.

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Photo of craytonic
3.5/5  rDev -15%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Pours an oil-slick black, smallish head, no lacing. Aroma is roasted malts, chocolate, and molasses. Taste is a mirror image of dark chocolate, molasses, and vanilla. Medium-full body with light carbanation. Drinkable and in a beautiful bottle, but a bit expensive for not being a standout.

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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 WhatANicePub
2.24/5  rDev -45.6%
look: 4 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 1.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 2

I'd been looking forward to trying this. Sadly, it's a mess. Hot alcohol, coffee, charcoal, astringent wood and overwhelming green-apple rawness. As I got further down the glass it more and more resembled drinking a glass of mulled cider.

Maybe the bottled version is better.

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

Its a really cold night tonight and thought this be a nice one for sitting by the fire,it pours a dark chocolate hue with decent carbonation that leaves behind a one finger head and some sporadic lacing that slowly settles down to resemble a whiskey and cola,it has a very distinct aroma of whiskey,some peat,oak and dark fruits lingering in the background,it has a really nice mouthfeel to it which feels complex yet finishes very smooth and easy with tastes of whiskey,caramel,plums and some spicy oak and to be honest ill easily finish this 750ml bottle without doubt its an interesting brew that would buy again and store as i did with this one.

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Photo of Daniellobo
4/5  rDev -2.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Rich ale with a nice and complex long range around a markedly peaty and whisky cask sense.

Presentation: 75 cl brow swing top rubber cap bottle. Simple, busy and yet fairly well ordered label design: topped by a dolmen construction in dark letters, it highlights the special nature of the bottled series of this ale aged in whisky casks, notes main intent and quality, alongside a signature of the head brewer. Back label offers a generic note about the high standards of the brewery alongside perfunctory legal notes. Neck label works as a seal noting bottling (hand bottled on 3rd of September 2008), location, head brewer approval, alongside a generous note about the brewing, aging process, and tasting notes. Shows Alc. by Vol. (10%). Served in a snifter.

A - Black pour with a 1/3" bubbly head with short retention, nice surface memory and ring with touched of lacing.

S - Peaty whisky character, with a lightly malty sense underneath, distant sweetness coated by a sour note.

T -The peaty whisky range embeds all the flavor with an unapologetic sense, smokey, with a malty sense, splashes of bitterness in the roasted undercurrent with notes of chocolate and a brief herbal spiciness. Minimal hints of vanilla, caramel, and dark fruits in the background.

M - Medium-body and carbonation, however achieving a tingly finish. Not being so heavy works well with the assertive character but one longs a bit for a thicker sense in particular if the brew is served at cellar or room temperature.

D - It's a nice sipper, but could overwhelm a bit with the smokey/whisky/profile and the medium body, which in a way make it work rather well. A bit of a rich defiant brew for fixed gear expectations.

Notes: It's true that the pricing hurts it a bit. It would also be nice to be more detailed about what particular whisky casks are used for aging since it tries to coat itself of such an exclusive dressing. However it is unusual and rich, and a snifter while the bottle is shared should be a pleasure for most beer aficionados.
I had it on a couple of occasions and while not too cold it sure need not be too warm since it loses some of its drinkability and strangely enough the nuances and long range get blended into one losing a bit its sense. Slightly above cellar temp might be best...

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Photo of ffejherb
3.69/5  rDev -10.4%
look: 3 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Thanks to FooFaa for sharing this 750ml bottle on 4/3/10.

A - Liquid is a deep, dark brown color with a thin beige ring and flimsy patch on top that dissolved, leaving no lace in its wake.

S - Whiskey and vanilla notes with a moderate sour dark fruit tartness and a hint of woody astringency.

T - Starts off nicely with a blend of whiskey, sweet vanilla and a sour fruity tang reminiscent of black cherry, raisins and currants. However, the flavor drops off rather quickly, and all that is left is a lingering vanilla flavor during the finish.

M - Texture is quite slick and smooth but surprisingly light bodied, actually, with very minimal carbonation. Finishes with mild alcohol warmth and a slight sourness on the palate.

D - The whiskey and alcohol character is pretty timid, surprisingly, although the vanilla presence was definitely a welcome addition. Ultimately, this fell a bit short overall, and the flavor just drops off too quickly without ever reaching the "dark island."

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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 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 laituegonflable
4.22/5  rDev +2.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Pours a very dark, murky black with a red tinge around the edge. Head is OK when poured, but sinks to a thin mocha film on the top. Lacing is nice and thick, but could be stickier. Looks like a fine stout, not sure how a Scottish Ale looks though.

Nose is a fine, sweet array of roasty stout characters. Lots of coffee on that, with nice chocolate characters, very sweet with lots of cocoa. A milk chocolate character mostly, very pleasant and sweet but with a nice burnt character behind it. Some pecan notes, oak and almost some chilli as well. Very pleasant indeed.

Taste is quite intensely dark and toasty. Very sour, bitter, ashy even, as a spike on the very front, but then becomes more roasty and sweet on the mid, with charcoal-broiled meat and lots of chocolatey notes coming through, and a big ripe burgundy flavour up to the mid-point. Lots of bitter, earthy characters on the back, soil, coffee and oak among them, and the finish is gorgeously balanced, with a nice woody ashiness but not "burnt" and not overly bitter. Very pleasant indeed.

Mouthfeel is very smooth, slick and textured. If anything it's a bit thin, but I don't have an issue with it. Just searching for a criticism. Doesn't wow me, but it's certainly good.

Not spectacular but a very pleasant drinking beer. Lots of nice balance between sweet and roasty.

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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 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 wnh
4.25/5  rDev +3.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

750 mL bottle poured into a wine glass.

Pours a red-tinted deep chesnut brown with a nice creamy ecru head.

Aromas of burnt grain, whisky smoke, and oxidized pear. Smoke forward on the palate, but pleasantly mild. Lightly oxidized, though not as an off-flavor. Peaty whisky smoke leads to a depth of character. Big and deep and complex, and simply delicious.

Tasted alongside a bunch of really big beers, toward the end. That I was able to taste what I could taste in this beer, after the bruising my palate took up to this point, shows me what a fantastic beer this is.

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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 KickbacksSteve
4.17/5  rDev +1.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Poured into a Unibroue tulip. Gyle #4. Aroma is definitely very, very strong of whisky, with some toasted malts. This should be interesting. Definitely a sipper, very strong in alcohol taste. Almost seems like maybe some whisky was left in the barrel and blended into the beer. I would think that this would be difficult to pair with food and may only be paired with a cigar. Bottled in September, 2008, now a year old, I think that actually the beer will benefit with even more age. Not my favorite style, but I appreciate the eff out of this effort.

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