Dark Island | Orkney Brewery

very good
253 Reviews
Dark IslandDark Island

Brewed by:
Orkney Brewery
Scotland, United Kingdom

Style: Scottish Ale

Alcohol by volume (ABV): 4.60%

Availability: Year-round

Notes / Commercial Description:
No notes at this time.

Added by BeerAdvocate on 04-02-2002

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Reviews: 253 | Ratings: 425
Photo of Sigmund
4.88/5  rDev +23.9%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

This one of the very best (moderate strength) beers I've ever had (from cask). Aroma and flavour of dried fruits, coffee and liqourice. Can't think of any faults with it.

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Photo of Vvall
4.73/5  rDev +20.1%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

I went in my favorite store looking to get some Dragonhead Stout,and lo and behold they were out,so seeing this and noticing that it was from the same brewery,I thought what the Hell,I'll give it a try.I'm glad I did...this one IMHO is incredible.It had everything I look for in a beer,and I cannot not wait to get some more.

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Photo of JordanEllwanger
4.65/5  rDev +18%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

Pours a rich cola color and sits even more opaque inside of my tulip glass. A caramel white head fizzes densely covering the surface of the ale. I can smell dark chocolate and a very faint hint of coffee grinds. Exceptionally smooth in flavor and feel. I'll have to wait for this one to warm up a little until I continue. Ah yes that ripened banana fruit smell is starting to take taste. This is playing a soft low melody across my pallet that is very intoxicating. Without doubt the easiest Scottish ale I have ever drank!

Thanks to Keith (DasBeef) for trading this to me. Kudos and Cheers!

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Photo of claytri
4.64/5  rDev +17.8%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

The beer pours a rich brown with a tan head. The aroma is of dark scottish malt. The taste is incredibly light, it starts with a nice sharp bite of toasted malt then rounds out with just a slight sweetness. The feel is smooth light and dry almost evaporating off your tounge as you swallow. This is one of those times you want to pat your back for having grabbed this one. Just a wonderful beer. The brewer has been able to highlight the toasting of the malt without overpowering you.

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Photo of champ103
4.61/5  rDev +17%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.75

Drank my weight in this on cask while working in Aberdeen. Usually at Aitchies Ale House.

A: Pours a dark brown with ruby highlights around the edges. A perfect two finger tan head forms that sticks throughout. Sticky, spiderweb lace is left in sheets. I don't think a beer could look any better.
S: A light roasted malt aroma with coffee and chocolate. Toffee, more milk chocolate as well. Sometimes a bit mineral like. Subtle, and inviting.
T: A great roasted malt flavor of smoke, peat, coffee, chocolate, and toffee. Excellent.
M/D: A medium to full body. So rich, creamy, and smooth. Really easy to drink. Just a little to much alcohol for the perfect session beer. Though you will be hard pressed to find something more enjoyable.

This is almost perfect on cask. One of my all time favorite beers. This is a must if you see it on cask.

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Photo of Roostereno
4.6/5  rDev +16.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 5 | feel: 4 | overall: 5

Poured from a 500 ml bottle into a typical pint nonic.

Appearence-wise, it is a dark brown, a bit darker than expected, with a minimal beige head. Some ruby is apparent when it is held up to light but it is mostly opaque.

Smell is excellent, with strong chocolate malts coming through albeit with a vague fruitiness coming through as well.

Taste is everything that the smell hinted at, only more and better. Chocolate malts are the backbone along with hints of raspberry (chocolate combined with raspberry is certainly never a bad thing) and a nice subtle smokiness (a little subtlety goes a long way with the smoke: I'm looking at you American brewers) and a nutty finish that is largely the hallmark of darker british ales. To summarize for the ADD crowd: Scrum-diddley-umptious.

Mouthfeel is a tad watery although this is not entirely a bad thing as it allows the raspberry flavor to shine through the malts. Appropriately light (not too light) carbonation allow it to finish smoothe like the baby Fonzey's bottom and leave my tastebuds and the pleasure/reward pathways of my brain screaming "more, motherfondler! MORE"

Drinkability-wise you can't do much better than this. Smooth and tasty, with a depth of flavor rare in a beer of its strength, but not overly heavy or alcoholic; call it chicken soup for the drinker's soul.

To sum things up, another fantastic beer from one of the best breweries in the United Kingdom. Granted it lacks the awesome name and accompanying controversy of Skullsplitter (British tabloids are either the pinnacle of human idiocy or an Onion-meets-Kauffman masterpiece of comedy) but chocolate +raspberry + darkish British ale is a combo so winning that even a drunken chimpanzee working for Miller-Coors couldn't totally mess it up and in the hands of the fantastic Orkney crew it soars. Scrum-diddley-umptious indeed.

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Photo of Viking
4.53/5  rDev +15%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Dark ruby color, almost black. Cream colored, lacy head. Nice roasted/smoked malt aroma blended with fruity toffee. Flavor is even better. Smoked malt, light fruit, and toffee combine with a slight hop bitterness. The flavors blend smoothly into a wonderful beer. Could have a bit more kick to it, but I've got no real complaints.

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Photo of JISurfer
4.52/5  rDev +14.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 5

This is one badass beer! At first smell, it smells like steak sauce, so that should clue you into what kind of food goes well with it. The initial part of the taste is one of steak sauce, but not too overbearing that it's bad. The finishing taste is nice, dry and fruity, which goes down nice and smooth.I had my girlfriend try it, she likes light beers, and she really liked it. I had to fight her to get it back. That should tell you that this beer should be tried by most. Had a little head to it, but nothing super crazy or anything,

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Photo of ivanwatling
4.5/5  rDev +14.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Appearance: Thick, dark brown/black. Decent head for a bottled beer, but as always will still disappear after a short time.

Smell: Wonderful strong aroma typical of a dark ale

Taste: Sweet with a hint of bitterness. Predominately a malty taste, rich and satisfying

Mouthfeel: Thick, substantial leaving a warm mouthfeel

Drinkability: Surprisingly low alcohol content for such a bold tasting beer (4.6), meaning a bottle will not but you flat on your back. Hence can be savoured at any time of the day and will always be rewarding.

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Photo of pokesbeerdude
4.5/5  rDev +14.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Picked up a 500ml single at Eastside Liquors in Craig, CO, about $4.

A: Dark brown, not quite black, garnet accents when held to the light. I wasn't sure if there was going to be a head on this one, and there isn't much, just a few bubbles on the edge of the class that are a light tan color. From the few bubbles that are there, there are some nice chunks of lacing.

S: I don't think I've ever smelled something like this, chocolatey, and earthy, a faint hint of smoke, peat, really heavy on the malt bill, and even some milk-like smells? There's a lot going on here. Wow.

T: Complexity follows over from the nose just as well, chocolate up front, earth, and smoke throughout, slightly sour as well, smokiness is there from the malts, a really nice addition, hints of fruits, cherries notably, tobacco as well. This is fantastic.

M: Remarkably thick for such low ABV, a lingering bit of smoke in the mouth, low carbonation, quite smooth. Spot on.

D: A little on the sweet side, but definitely a drinkable beer, this is fantastic, very complex, and a slow sipper, which is odd for something with low alcohol, excellent beer all the way around.

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Photo of Phocion
4.5/5  rDev +14.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Notes from phone, reviewed May 4, 2014. 500ml bottle poured into a nonic dark brown/reddish. Solid finger of light brown head, with big chunks of fizzy lacing.

Caramel/toffee and roasted malts, along with fig and other unidentifiable dark fruits. Slight hint of anise, and the warmer it gets, the smokier it gets.

The flavor is drier than the aroma. SOur and smoked peat, along with nutty and roasted malts. Chocolate and anise; almost English porter-like. Mile dry/sour finish.

Nice soft mouthfeel. Light-medium bodied and low carbonation, perfect for the style.

This is a wonderful beer. Very light and soft mouthfeel with a lot of subtle but no overpowering flavors going on. ABV makes this very drinkable. This would be even more phenomenal on cask.

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Photo of SilentSabre
4.5/5  rDev +14.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Wow! This is great! Very smoky all the way around. I would guess this to be a rauchbier if I didn't already know otherwise. Poured very dark reddish brown in colour; almost black. Very tightly knit cream coloured head that subsided to a 5mm layer over the surface of the liquid. Nice lacing. Smell consists of two things IMO; smoke and chocolate 75%25%. I can imagine having this with BBQ or a ham. I'm quite impressed with this indeed. The taste is positively divine (to a rauchbier fan) as there is actually a woody - charcoal like characteristic here near the finish. The taste is incredible. The mouthfeel let me down a little, as I thought it was slightly lighter in weight than it should have been. Everythig else was otherwise amazing!
Blessed Be

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Photo of Greggy
4.48/5  rDev +13.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

A- Pours a very dark ruby color that is just barely see through when held to the light. as the brew recedes, it leaves some nice lacing.

S- A little tight in the nose, but it's driven mainly by dark malts and a nice roasty quality with a hint of cherries.

T- Starts out silky smooth and then moves towards a very smooth dark chocolate with a bit of sweetness. I don't think there's lactose in this beer, but it is very reminiscent of a milk stout. Not terribly complex, but is very delicous.

M- Silky smooth from start to finish. Well done.

D- 4.6% for this gem makes it VERY sessionable. I could easily drink this all day long.

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Photo of Travlr
4.45/5  rDev +12.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

A: Very dark brown, barely admits light. Thick and creamy beige head that settles slowly to reveal wonderful and persistent lacing.
S: Roasted coffee, nuts and vanilla with bitter cocoa.
T: Begins with black coffee then peanuts and pine, then finishes with creamy milk chocolate and a slight bitter edge.
M: Nice enough body, slightly less than its Reserve brother.
D: An amazing and desirable brew. Find it now.

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Photo of NeroFiddled
4.44/5  rDev +12.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Opaque brown in color with a tan head that drops quickly to a decent collar and whispy foam across the surface and leaving just some light lace. The aroma offers a light dark fruit note, a sweet caramel maltiness, and a soft espresso-like roastiness. The body is light, the carbonation limited, and the mouthfeel oily. The flavor, however, is richly malty and quite complex with notes of dark chocolate, burnt caramel, coffee, biscuit, and soft dark fruits. The finish is sweet, even candyish at times, with a light fudge-like note - but always well balanced by an underlying bitterness that keeps the sweetness in check. Although this is a Scottish ale, a warmer serving temperature closer to British standards seems to display its character best. Worth trying, but not worth seeking. Probably very nice cask-conditioned.

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Photo of gfreed
4.43/5  rDev +12.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 5

The latest effort in my quest to drink the entire Orkney line (or at least what's available in the US). As Scottish ales go, this one is actually a bit thin in the nose, but the taste more than compensates. It's not overpowering, but is a subtle and complex mix of dried fruity things, leather, burlap, rope and a teeny bit of smoke, perhaps? It will require many more bottles to sort it all out. I had this pint with a handful of chocolate-covered espresso beans and, toward the end, a fistful of chocolate jimmies (the cheap, waxy kind from Stop & Shop), neither of which put a dent in the taste of this beer. Another superb brew from our Scottish pals.

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Photo of rhoadsrage
4.42/5  rDev +12.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

(Served in a nonic)

A- This beer pours a jet black body with an oatmeal colored thick head that sticks to the glass with each sip. A few random bubbles pop through the murky liquid to glide up the glass to the head.

S- The smell of musty raw peat moss turns to a pencil graphite aroma as the beer warms but still stays pretty soft. The smooth black roasted malt has a Kona coffee quality to it with a fruity note of plums to finish.

T- The flavor of mellow black malt has a dark smooth toffee flavor with some caramel qualities with a mellow bitterness to dark roasted malt finish. The finish has a soft red wine vinegar hint that increases a bit as the beer warms, and it lingers just a moment after the finish.

M- This beer has a medium-full mouthfeel with a tight little fizz note at the finish.

D- This beer is mellow but rich in flavor with a nice bit of earthiness and I would love to try this on cask. I think there are some great flavors hidden in there. The tartness was also a nice compliment to the malts.

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Photo of slyke
4.42/5  rDev +12.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

I first had Orkney Dark Island in a pub in Edinburgh along with my first meal of haggis. When I found it recently at local beer store, I was thrilled.

A: An almost black dark red with a finger of tan head.

S: Dark fruit, roastiness, maybe a hint of chocolate, a little sweetness.

T: The dark fruit is there, the roastiness, maybe a touch of smokiness, and a sweet-malt backbone holding it all together. The taste becomes more complex as the beer warms.

M: Slightly coating with a lingering finish.

D: This is an excellent beer. If you come across it, do yourself a favor and try it.

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Photo of pkalix
4.42/5  rDev +12.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

completely dark, little head. first time trying this one. got some bitterness, something i'd expect with a higher alcohol content.
a tad oily, more bitter than i'd expect, but has a good taste. for the taste, i was hoping for a higher alcohol content but i suppose it will be a good finisher for the evening.
wanna be guinness?

2nd review.... still dark....
dark fruit aromas, tastes (figs?). settling on the fact that lighter abv has a more genuine flavor- less to contend with when you include a higher abv. it is why i appreciate a truly great taste from the higher abv brews. i mean a slurpee can taste great, but whe you add the vodka to it it diminishes the taste, right? we ARE drinking it for (partially) the alcohol and the craft involved to produce an alcoholic beverage, right? so, the lower abv'd brews naturally have the advantage in taste. this one has a great taste, and a more flavorful malt variety, which is great, but i hesitate when i compare it to higher abv brews. regardless, it still is a great tasting brew. i suppose i feel the need to say this as i have seen many reviews knock the fact that it has an 'alcohol' flavor to it, when that 'flavor' can, actually, be difficult to appreciate. i want to bump up my review numbers as i feel i may have been influenced by others' opinions.... i have always liked this beer....

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Photo of Reidrover
4.41/5  rDev +11.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

I must say this is one of the most beautiful beer bottle/label i have seen..very good lookin 500ml brown bottle with ancisnt standing stones in the sunset on the label.
This beer is beautiful as the bottle deep slightly murky brown with a massive creamy head..wonderful.
Smell is ok but not exceptional some maltiness.
the taste is great so smooth yet very complex..veery malty ..smoky even..great.
Very smooth on the tongue not much carbonation..
For me a very very drinkable beer.. i will be buying this again guaranteed.

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Photo of Beertracker
4.4/5  rDev +11.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

Dark Island should be served at "cellar temperatures" (50-55F) from a traditional no-nick pint glass or Scotch thistle. This Orkney bottled Scottish Ale pours up heartily with moderate carbonation. The malty aroma is slightly peaty (smoky) and mildly roasted with just a hint of ripe fruitiness. The color is very deep mahogany with a small, tannish colored head. The flavor is full and malty, just as the nose lead one to believe. This one starts off rich with some sweet bready notes and offers a defining smoky-chocolate finish. The bitterness is low and unassuming creating a fairly substantial, but smooth creamy ale. By far one of the fullest flavored Scottish Ales that I've ever had. Pick up a few bottles of Dark Island for yourself and enjoy a taste of Scotland along with some traditional Galloway cheddar & Scotch eggs. Here's to the land of blue skies and clear waters!

SLAINTE! Beertracker

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Photo of shand
4.4/5  rDev +11.7%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Dark Island pours out a lighter black and offers sweet, slightly roasted malts, coffee, and fruit on the nose. The nose is really exceptional. The taste is very good, with fruits and semi-sweet chocolate up front, and smoke lingering on the backend along with some leafy hops and highly roasted coffee. Very well composed, and delicious. The mouthfeel is light and creamy, and the drinkability is great. Overall, Dark Island is an excellent beer.

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Photo of ChrisBowers
4.4/5  rDev +11.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4.5

I may be reviewing this beer a little past its prime, but it still is quite excellent. I forgot I had this in my cellar, no idea why I cellared it for almost a year. Pours a dark dark brown/black with very little head. Aroma is rich, malty, almost like a toned down JW Lees with a hint of conac. Taste is much of the same... ripe fruits, roasted malt, and a pleasant sweetness. Mouthfeel was a bit thin, but I think that is a result of holding on to this one a bit too long.

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Photo of kmacphail
4.4/5  rDev +11.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

Probably one of the most regular of the Orkney beers to be found in the south of Scotland.

A very nice pint arrived, looking very close to a Guinness from accross the bar. Dark brown in colour with a creamy head, this lasted the duration of the pint.

The smell of burnt malts and chocolate with a hint of fruitiness is totally different from the tamer bottled version. This malty and chocolate taste continues through with a nice smokey character in the initial taste, this is then followed with a nice variety of fruits, none too dominant, but this is to the beers advantage I think.

The beer swirled very well round the mouth, nice and full of body, but still very drinkable. This was consumed in the New Bazaar in Dumfries (Scotland), a number of the lads stayed on it all night. A very drinkable beer, much more suited to the cask rather than bottle.

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Photo of Realale
4.37/5  rDev +10.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4.5

Pours a clear, but very dark brown, with ruby highlights. Creamy mocha head settles quickly to an incomplete rocky cap.

Nose is incredibly malty with rich bready licorice, some rum, prune, and a wonderful dusty cocoa note.

Very rich and malty in the mouth. Chocolate predominates, but its also a touch winey. Some hop bitterness acts to balance all of the malt, and there's just a touch of Burton-like sulphur on the end, giving a little extra length. Mouthfeel is a bit flat and dead, but that just might be the sulphur.

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Dark Island from Orkney Brewery
3.94 out of 5 based on 425 ratings.
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