Dark Island
Orkney Brewery

Dark IslandDark Island
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Scottish Ale
Ranked #2
Ranked #8,404
3.99 | pDev: 11.28%
Orkney Brewery
Scotland, United Kingdom
Very Good
Dark IslandDark Island
Reviews: 265 | Ratings: 461 | Log in to view all ratings and sort
Photo of papposilenus
papposilenus from New Hampshire

3.9/5  rDev -2.3%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

From a 500ml bottle, undated as best I can tell. Served in an honest-to-God thistle glass, and how often do I get a chance to drag that out?

Pours cola brown-to-black, maybe a caramel highlight, and a scant quarter-finger of bubbly beige head. Retention is fleeting, just a fizzy little cap, a creamy collar and some sparse slippery sheets of lacing.

Powerfully robust nose of molasses and barley straw with a faint metallic tang.

Taste departs from the nose only in having no sweetness in it. Earthy and intense with roasted chicory bitterness, overcooked caramel, prune, powdered unsweetened cocoa and wet straw.

Feel starts out with a kind of icky dilute malt syrupy quality but still manages to redeem itself and end dry before it’s all done. Otherwise, it’s medium bodied with ample, fine carbonation.

Overall, it’s all about the dry, roasted bitterness. Other than the colour and the relatively low abv, there’s nothing especially scotch ale-like about it? Not that I’m a stickler for style guidelines.

Nov 18, 2020
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neenerzig from Ohio

4.25/5  rDev +6.5%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Poured out of a 16.9 oz. glass into my tulip glass, this beer pours a dark brown color with jist a hint of deep amber highlights when held up to the light. Has a dark tan head that's about an inch thick when first poured. Head settles to a fairly thick ring surroundings the inside of the glass along with some spots of surface coating and some decent lacing on the inside of the glass. Aromas of some roasted malts along with some cocoa and coffee hints some dark fruit notes such as plum. A similar flavor profile, with roasted malts with a bit of caramel sweetness followed by cocoa and coffee notes and certainly plum and fig. Rounded out with a bit of an earthy hop bitterness. This beer has more bitterness than just about all other beers of this style that I have had do. The heavy roast on the malt along with the coffee flavor combined with the earthy hop notes give this beer a more bitter flavor profile than I've also ever found in this style of beer before. Has a fairly crisp, just slightly chewy and gritty, creamy and frothy, medium to full bodied mouthfeel with moderate carbonation. The roasted bitter notes really linger inside my mouth and on my tongue long after each sip. Quite enjoyable.


Aug 17, 2020
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trevormajor from Ohio

4.4/5  rDev +10.3%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

500ML bottle poured into a pint glass. Dark and malty the only reason I can see for this to be a scottish ale is the location of the brewery. The beer has great flavor for a session.

Jul 23, 2020
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Lone_Freighter from Vermont

4.14/5  rDev +3.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 3.75

Bottle to English pint glass.
The appearance was a fairly thick dark brown close to black color in the glass and more of a dark ruddy brown color in the pour. Left a mild eggshell white film of a head, light spotty lace along the side of the glass.
The aroma had some dusty cocoa powder dryly plucking at some dark chocolate flakes, sweet ash/charred coffee edges, some dark fruits and some dark toast. Subtle whiff of clean alcohol notes even lighter underneath.
The flavor leaned towards the sweet side running through all of the prior mentioned aromas and adding a touch of toffee malts. Semi-sticky cocoa powder aftertaste.
The mouthfeel was about medium bodied, perhaps closer to full with a very good sessionability about. Smoothness gravitates fully through over my tongue without any cloying effects but just a touch of stickiness. Finishes with clean cocoa powder sweetness, dark fruits and dark toast.
Overall, not sure how this is considered a Scottish ale, to me if this was labeled English porter on here, I'd rate this way higher. Still, I know this is one I would absolutely come back to.

Oct 26, 2019
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JonnoWillsteed from England

3.51/5  rDev -12%
look: 3.25 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.5

L- Effectively black, thin off-white head fast clearing to a ring.
S- Roasty-toasty grains.
T- Follows the smell^, pungent and quite biscuity with it.
F- It's quite dry, yet quite pungent for the relatively low ABV% for this style. The brewery terms this a 'dark ale', to me it's more off into black-beer stour/porter etc territory.
O- It is very nice, nothing is out of place flavour-wise. It presents a big taste-profile on a relatively light 4.6% foundation. A session-beer with impact for black-beer enthusiasts?
500ml bottle BB: June 2020

May 05, 2019
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swabby46 from New Jersey

4.68/5  rDev +17.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.75

It doesn't hint of peat, it doesn't smell like rose petals, it's just damn good brew. When reviewers start rating beer like wine, ( In itself nonsense) they lose track of why most people drink beer. I drink beer because it has so much more flavor and value than grape juice.

Sep 06, 2018
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hman43 from North Carolina

3.8/5  rDev -4.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

Look: It pours dark brown with a tan head with low head retention.

Smell: There are aromas of biscuits, carmel and a touch of butterscotch. There is a touch of earthy notes and a bit of musty notes.

Taste: It has flavors that are bready and a bit of caramel with light roast and a low smoke. There is also a low background not of earth.

Feel: It has a moderate body with a slight bit of creaminess to it.

Overall, it is a malt focused beer with a fairly good combination of malty elements.

Aug 25, 2018
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Cnote_crafty_1 from Pennsylvania

3.69/5  rDev -7.5%
look: 5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Look was black like a stout, tan head with a lot of lacing on the glass, smell was roasty maltedness and like a Guinness Irish stout. Taste was very similar to a Guinness as well, but a bit more malty and a tad more sweet. I should have a Guinness with this side by side, but as I remember it they seem very similar. The feel is very light for a dark ale like this, but I think it was meant as an easy drinking session ale. It has this bitter sort of skunk on the end of it which is almost like a mass produced beer. Yah, for all of the different tastes that they use to describe it on the bottle it really falls short of all of them. It was really overpriced from the store that I got it from. I think it was upwards of seven dollars a bottle. I am not really impressed, but it is not horrible.

Apr 30, 2018
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Vader444 from Scotland

3.33/5  rDev -16.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.25 | taste: 3.25 | feel: 3.25 | overall: 3.25

500ml Bottle poured in nonic pint glass.

Many years ago this was my everyday beer when the local pub had it on draft. Probably been a decade or more since I last tried it and was a little disappointed to be honest. Guess my tastes have changed but this was just so bland and uninteresting. Overcarbonation in bottle form didn't help. Slightly sulphurous and without the sweetness that I remember. A shame.

Jul 03, 2017
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mothmanscott from Georgia

4.05/5  rDev +1.5%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4

This bottle a gift from Outdoors7or24. Pours a brown black with a weak finger of tightly foamed, tan, shortlived head that leaves little lacing. Aroma is dark roasted malts, nuts, raisins, molasses notes & bitter chocolate. Taste is roasted malts, chocolate milk, toffee, dark fruits, thin coffee & a hint of smoke. Finishes fruity as described on the label. Aftertaste is fruity & roasted malt. Mouthfeel: Medium-heavy bodied which is strange for such a low ABV beer. Carbonation is low side of moderate. Texture is silky & just creamy enough to convince you that oats were use in the brew with a nice little prickle in the finish. The mouthfeel may be the highlight of this beer. A pleasant experience as I had a bottle of this several years ago that had obviously gone bad as it was more like a Flanders Brown/Ould Bruin than a Scottish Ale. Thanks R. J. for another go at this brew!

May 11, 2017
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outdoor7or24 from Georgia

3.54/5  rDev -11.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.25 | overall: 3.5

500ml bottle poured into pint glass.
A: pours a dark ruby brown body, mocha brown color 1 finger foam head, carbonation, stringy lacing that fades out
S: chocolate malt, raisins, dark fruit, roasted malt
M: medium body
T: roasted malt, chocolate, coca cola, dark fruit that leads to a semi sweet dry finish.
O: good brew with great nose but the taste was a little light and sweeter than I expected.

Apr 23, 2017
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Roguer from Georgia

3.85/5  rDev -3.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.75

Very dark with a modest tan head.

Strong sweet aroma, replete with fruit and dark bread.

Very bitter, dark chocolate flavor, with prunes and raisins on the finish.

Creamy, medium-full body. Great presentation for a light beer.

Jun 08, 2016
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Derek from Canada (BC)

3.06/5  rDev -23.3%
look: 3 | smell: 3.25 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

A bit flat with a light oxidation, just doesn't seem lively. Subtle fruit and dark malt character, light licorice in the finish. I know it's only 4.6%, but I expected a bit more.

Jan 15, 2016
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captaincoffee from Virginia

3.83/5  rDev -4%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

500ml bottle in Glasgow. Pours near black with a medium head that does not retain much lacing. Nose is lighter than expected. Roasty maltiness with just a whiff of peat in the background. Taste is slightly sweet with light roasted notes on the malt backbone. Not really what I would call a Scottish ale...more like a cross between a light sweet stout and a brown ale. Good, drinkable, and somewhat flavorful, but not exciting. I would love to try this again on cask where I expect it would shine.

Nov 24, 2015
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tekstr1der from New Hampshire

4.17/5  rDev +4.5%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Mahogany pour with little to no head/retention. Very nice color though. Aroma is just incredible... chocolate-covered cherries. Flavor is malty with some roasted character, but slightly watery. Finish is slightly dry, mostly roast. Not as great as the nose would indicate.

Nov 14, 2015
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TonyLema1 from South Carolina

3.43/5  rDev -14%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.25 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.25 | overall: 3.5

L: black/maroon color
S: dark fruit...has that typical British smell
T: dark fruit, smooth, tasty
F: medium body, decent mouthfeel
O: good for the style

Nov 08, 2015
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HattedClassic from Virginia

3.83/5  rDev -4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

The beer is a dark black color with ruby brown edges and a tan creamy head.

The smell is interesting. If you smell too quickly, it comes off as acidic and unpleasant while taking one's time releases a more interesting aroma. The nose has a light dark fruit notes and toffee with a nice roasted coffee and bitter dark chocolate smell. Overall, it's pretty good even though it's not as intense as other beers.

The taste is fairly good but not as interesting as the smell. You get a nice floral bitterness from a very light hop note. The bitter chocolate is still there but not as distinct in the smell; it's actually a bit softer and has a slight sweetness. Also, very woody.

The feel is good. A fairly lighter bodied beer that makes for a good session beer. It's thin and a bit acidic, though but doesn't take away much from the beer.

Overall, pretty good and worth getting at least once.

Oct 25, 2015
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BeerAndGasMasks from Virginia

3.73/5  rDev -6.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

Pours a very dark, ruby on the edges, brown with a moderate tan had. Malty nose. Malty flavor on the tongue. Light body. Just the thing to sit looking over Scapa Flow and contemplate the massive amounts of iron below the surface!

Sep 26, 2015
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The_Mad_Capper from Japan

3.87/5  rDev -3%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.75

Dark chocolate and prunes primarily in the aroma, along with some molasses bread. Appears very dark brown, coffee-like; has a thin, off-white head. Tastes like bitter, woody seltzer water. Perhaps a little more fruit and cocoa as it warms up. Thin in body, lightly carbonated.

Not very flavorful—tastes thin, acidic, dry, and woody. I was excited after taking a whiff of the aroma, but then disappointed with the flavor.

Jul 31, 2015
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Andrewharemza from Australia

3.88/5  rDev -2.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4

Black colored, bit of ruby hue, moderate tan creamy head. Aroma is malt, chocolate, dark chocolate, licorice, roasted malts. Taste is moderate sweet toffee, chocolate, milk chocolate, bit dark fruit, roasted malt, dry roasted finish. Roasted acidity present. Medium bodied, moderate carbonation.

Jul 29, 2015
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doktorhops from Australia

3.33/5  rDev -16.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Like every Orkney Brewery Ale: Dark Island conjures up a great image, one of stirring sea tales of a sailor in a rickety boat fighting against crashing waves, jagged black rocks and temptress sirens (the ancient mariner ones, not the alarm sounding ones). Here’s hoping this Scottish Ale will live up to its brethren, including the mighty Skull Splitter (which is currently #11 on my all-time list of reviewed beers). Do not disappoint me Dark Island!

Poured from a 500ml bottle into nonic pint.

A: Presents a fearsome almost opaque deep cola red/brown body with a 1 cm light tan head that sticks around well. Certainly suits the name quite well here. 9/10.

S: Dark fruit forward in the aroma with notes of dark plum, date and macerated figs. There are earthy undertones that suggest a traditional brew with fresh or organic ingredients, along with a solid brown sugar/molasses malt base. Overall the aroma of Dark Island is very much a Skull Splitter lite, and I have absolutely no problem with that [not at all Sir!]. 8/10.

T: Dark fruits present upfront in the flavour with an intriguing sour presence throughout... it’s not Gueuze sour, just a lingering sour touch in the background, however it also isn’t overly as sweet as expected and along with it having a light bitter finish the sourness tips the balance... I checked the BB date and it says ‘APR 16’ so it should be fine, but I am definitely getting a slight sourness which I suspect is unintentional. Hints of brown sugar round out flavour. 6/10.

M: Along with the flavours not being as bold as expected there is some watery mouthfeel that detracts overall from this mid to light bodied light carbonated brew. 6/10.

D: I will get this one again as it may have turned in the bottle a bit, heat damage perhaps? Well it’s the middle of winter here in Canberra and the mercury rarely tops 13 Celsius (or 55 in the old money) so heat damage is out of the question. Infected bottle? Who knows, is it Pasteurized? If so then also likely not. In any case I’ve had a bad run of soured brews lately and I’m hoping my luck changes soon. Overall I imagine a good bottle of Dark Island, a twice CAMRA champion beer of Scotland is a much better brew than the one I just had. 6/10.

Food match: [pairing to what a good bottle of this would match] game meats, beef stew with crusty bread and aged cheddars.

Jul 06, 2015
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Gryphon69 from Michigan

3.8/5  rDev -4.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.75

Poured a black with small very light tan head, decent lacing

Smelled good, bready, dark fruits, dark roast, not any noticeable smoke for a scotich ale

Taste was better than average, but nothing really popping out

Thiner than I expected but enough body to hold

Nice looking, always like a beer with lacing, smells more defined than the taste, but good flavor, very easy to drink.

Jun 28, 2015
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jmdrpi from Pennsylvania

4.13/5  rDev +3.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4

on cask. black in color, with white head. mild roasty aroma, a touch of chocolate. same flavors in the taste. smooth mouthfeel, overall very nice and drinkable.

May 22, 2015
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chinchill from South Carolina

3.48/5  rDev -12.8%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.25 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

500 ml bottle with a BB date of August 2016 purchased and consumed in Fife, Scotland; served in a Sweetwater pint glass.

Flavor has a load of toffee with brown bread. Neither sweet nor bitter. Low carbonation but a fairly durable head. Near full body.

Apr 28, 2015
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UCLABrewN84 from California

3.35/5  rDev -16%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.25 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.25

Best before the end of 10/2015.

Pours an opaque black with a foamy dark khaki head that fades to nothing. No lacing on the drink down. Smell is of roasted malt, burnt caramel, smoke, and slight dark fruit aromas. Taste is much the same with roast, char, burnt caramel, and slight smoke and soy sauce flavors on the finish. There is a mild amount of roast bitterness on the palate with each sip. This beer has a lower level of carbonation with a slightly crisp mouthfeel. Overall, this is an above average beer that is drinkable, but the aromas and flavors I am getting are a bit unexpected for the style.

Serving type: bottle.

Mar 10, 2015
Dark Island from Orkney Brewery
Beer rating: 89 out of 100 with 461 ratings