Dark Island | Orkney Brewery

very good
255 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: 255 | Ratings: 427
Photo of mrasskicktastic
1.74/5  rDev -55.8%
look: 2.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 1 | feel: 1.5 | overall: 1

A - Very dark brown to auburn, almost black. A half finger tan head dissipates quickly leaving no lacing behind.

S - A smoky bourbon character over a slight sweet fruity (dates and elderberries) odor. The aroma is pleasant.

T - Smoke! This tastes like cigarettes. Ick! It is seemingly composed of entirely charred malt, they probably cooked the barley until it was just idle carbon. It is pretty damn offensive. The aftertaste is of . . . smoke! I CAN choke it down, but it really sucks. I got a brief taste of dark berries for an instant, but I might have just been imagining things (or hallucinating from toxic shock).

M - Viscous, a bit harsh and drying. Not good.

D - If you pour liquid smoke in your cereal or save your cigarette ash for seasoning, then this is the beer for you. Otherwise it should stay on the shelves. Naturally, it is too gross to session. It might go with a cigarette, but I don't smoke. Normally I am avidly against drain pours, but I don't classify this as beer - it's cigarette juice. I hope the drain finds you more pleasant then I do!

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Photo of Zephenbrewid
2.71/5  rDev -31.2%
look: 2 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 2 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

Serving Type: 500 ML bottle poured into 16 oz tumbler

A: Lives up to its Dark moniker, this is probably one of the darker scottish/scotch ales I have seen to date, being pretty opaque with a moderately lingering medium tan head.

S: Mmm there's that malt. I pick up on some grape scents in there with a little chocolate pulling through as well

T: Too much roasted flavor here, I can also taste some smokiness. Really though, If i didn't know better I'd call this a porter

M: Med-Full bodied and suddy, feels like there could be some roasted barley here

Notes: bought this on a whim and it isn't for me, there are better scottish ales

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Photo of Thorpe429
2.75/5  rDev -30.2%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 3

Bottle picked up in Winston-Salem the night before Sexual Chocolate 2011. Served in a Bruery tulip.

Pours a very dark brown with almost no head. Appears to be quite a bit too dark for the style. Lacing is non-existent. The nose brings forward some toffee as well as a mild amount of diacetyl. The taste is lightly-toasted with some roasted malt and a bit of sweetness. Underneath there is toffee and butter. Body is light with low carbonation. Not worthy of its position as the #1 Scottish Ale.

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Photo of seedyone
2.75/5  rDev -30.2%

08/01/13 From bottle at Rattle n Hum, NYC. At the outset this was too cold to appreciate. Unfortunately, even as it approached ambient temperature the flavor never seemed to arrive. It never got past a stout w/out body. Left me waiting at the station.

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Photo of kwalters
2.83/5  rDev -28.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Dark Island comes in a uniquely shaped bottle with an intriguing label. It was hard to pass up, sitting there all alone on the shelf.

It poured a dark ruby color with almost no head. What little head there was disappeared almost immediately. The smell was of malt and light smoke. The taste was on the malty side (as a Scotch ale generally is) but was too dominated by the burnt-wood/smokey flavor to be truly enjoyable. I can see where one might think of chocolate flavors when sipping this brew, but I couldn't get past the smokiness.

Scotch ales are typically among my favorite brews, but this one seemed a bit off. It's worth a try just because of its unique flavors, but it's not something I'd come back for. The 4.6%abv makes it highly drinkable if you like the flavors.

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Photo of rastaman
2.84/5  rDev -27.9%
look: 4 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 2.5

Fairly pleasant. Sweetish malts at the start (chocolate+ a t touch of sugar and also some toffee). nice roasty, peaty finish, thin-ish body with some sourness, musty, sulfuric, and maybe a bit unexciting, but fairly easy to drink. Cask at Chelmsford Beer fest 03'.

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Photo of Dogbrick
2.88/5  rDev -26.9%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 2.5

Courtesy of Hollingshead Deli in Orange, CA. I didn't really enjoy this one very much. Pours a dark ruby color with a thin beige head and thin lacing. Aroma is faintly sweet malt and toffee. Very fruity flavor without the maltiness I have come to associate with the better Scottish Ales. Finish had some hops but was too sour. A little disappointing but I have had worse.

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Photo of CplHunter
2.91/5  rDev -26.1%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

A: Deep brown with a red hint. Off white head quickly dissipates to a "dusting". Decent lacing.

S: Burnt. Plums. Estery. Burnt esters...? Cidery. Smoky.

T: Grapes. Plums. Hints of cider and smoke. Sea salt. Ocean. Hop bitters linger. Something off that I can't put a finger on. Whatever that "something" is, it's inhibiting my enjoyment of this beer.

M: Some champagne-like carb hits the tongue. Thick. Rich. Coating.

D: <5% ABV makes it a candidate for a session beer. Just not my session.
BIA: No. This one just doesn't do it for me.

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Photo of jdhilt
2.94/5  rDev -25.4%
look: 4 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Pours with a three-fingered very light, brown head that fades slowly and leaves good lace. A nice deep, ruby color. Nose has just a hint of roasted coffee. Starts hoppy/malty and finishes with a hint of malt/hops and just a hint of bitterness. Very good carbonation. $3.99 for 500ml.

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Photo of clvand0
2.94/5  rDev -25.4%
look: 4 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

This one pours a brown color with a small head that dies off quickly and leaves very little lacing on the glass. The aroma is really weak - nothing much here. Maybe a little malts. The flavor has asmokiness to it and a slight malt character. It finishes smooth and bitter. This is an interestingly good taste, but it's hard to describe. I'm not sure that I enjoyed this brew much.

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Photo of PorterLambic
2.94/5  rDev -25.4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 2 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 3

Mahogany brown, dark tan head with good retention.
Smell is rich with malt but sadly not much else. After serious nasal straining I did find a very faint hint of coffee.
Taste is much better, malty, dark fruit (mostly cherry), oak, sour.
Body is thin, watery, with light, no very light, effervescence. I'm wondering if maybe I got a bad bottle here?
I would give this another shot but if the 2nd is the same then...
Overall, this was just a so-so brew.

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Photo of livingregret
2.97/5  rDev -24.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 2 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 3

Serving type was a 1pt .9fl oz bottle. Fairly nice looking bottle and label

Pours a dark dark brown, almost black, w/ little to no head but plenty of lacing w/ nice retention. Not to shabby so far

Smell is a very soft toffee mixed w/ a earthy oat smell. Very pleasing smell that invites you in to sample it

Taste is a touch disappointing to be honest. A light earthy taste(almost semi-sweet) which is not in any way bad but than you get a Dried Chocolate taste that ends w/ almost a prune like ending. I was hoping for more of the toffee to come out but no such luck. Smooth taste..that ends w/ chalk

Mouthfeel is very smooth at the beginning but ends w/ a slight chalky taste. Once again...I was really hoping for the smoothness to follow all throughout the taste but it does not

Drinkability is averageish. It's not terrible and I would enjoy one again...but would I keep a few extra on hand?...honestly I would not. The odd pick up from my local store sure but nothing to go out of my way to keep in stock

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Photo of CampusCrew
3.02/5  rDev -23.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 1 | overall: 2

appearance: deep dark black, nearly ebony. low head retention

smell: lots of smoke flavor, and I actually think I can detect peat, not that I ever smelled that before. But definitly has that earthy aroma that may be generated from that.

taste: subtle taste compared to the aroma. I have a feeling this may be aged very well and possibly even oxidizes but Im not sure. heavy roasted malts like a scotch ale should be. detecting some smoke as well. But it had a dry tar like taste and left a weird feeling in my mouth. Dry... cough cough

mouthfeel: worst part about the beer was the mought feel. medium to full bodied

drinkability: interesting and I would love to try again fresh. It's so dry it drying my mouth out though. weird. It did not drink well with me. maybe it had light damage. it sat in the store for awhile Im sure.

 831 characters

Photo of veech
3.05/5  rDev -22.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 2.5

I was surprised that I didn't like this beer more, but the overdone smokiness just really compounded with each sip until I just didn't enjoy it any longer. I typically like the style and the presentation, nose and mouthfeel were all fine. The smokiness just really dominated with each successive sip. I have noted the high marks from most other reviewers, but I just really had a hard time finishing my particular bottle. The other Orkney beers I've tried I have really enjoyed, but unfortunately I cannot count Dark Island among them. I guess it's just not my bag.

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Photo of Derek
3.06/5  rDev -22.3%
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.

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Photo of biglite351
3.06/5  rDev -22.3%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

A - considerable maroon red around edges of glass. Tight creamy white head.

S - figs, fruit, malt and a mild chocolate. Overall not bad, but far to light.

T - dark fruits, something like alcohol, mild coffee grind. A bit bitter in the after taste.

M - thin coating, decent tingles on sides of tongue.

D - no reason not to, but no reason to grab it either.

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Photo of Godfather50
3.06/5  rDev -22.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.25 | overall: 3

Maybe I wasn't in the mood for this dark ale, stout.
There was nothing offensive about it, but nothing hoppy or wholesome or distinctive.it reminded me of a kit homebrewed stout I brewed a couple of years ago. I was very pleased with it, but then, It cost me 30p a bottle and was out of a tin.

I think I'm not a dark ale fan, that's the problem.

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Photo of gbontrag
3.08/5  rDev -21.8%
look: 3 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Looks like raisin water; water that's had raisins soaking in it for a few hours. (I do this for breads.)

Not much of a nose to it. Dark toast... a little tobaccy. Maybe this is an old bottle. There's not a lot of sniffy power.

Tastes like burnt toast with butter. Old socks--? I don't much care for this. It's not very interesting. Maybe I'm looking at something that's lost a step due to age. There's a little charred wood, a bit of dark malt sweetness like just a hint of prune. A hop kiss along the sides of my palate. That funky shoe yeast keeps popping up. Negligible carbonation.


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3.15/5  rDev -20.1%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 3

500ml bottle. Snifter glass. Notes dated on agt´11. Deep mahogany color crowned by off-white froth showing pretty well retention. Some spots. Yeast, sweet toasted & caramel malt, toffee aromas. Flavors of chocolate, ripe dark berries & hints of toffee. Sweet bitter palate. Medium body, moderate carbonation. Slightly watery in the middle.

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Photo of JoEBoBpr
3.21/5  rDev -18.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Poured into the Sam Adams pint glass.

A - Pours a dark brown with some nice ruby hues. There is a very thin and small light tan head that recedes quickly to a ring around the glass. There is very active carbonation.

S - Rich buttery bread notes are immediately present with some yeast notes as well. Nice malty sweetness rounds out that grainy aroma. The nose hints at a very rich and robust malty beer.

T & M - Robust and rich malt character with some roasted malt flavor as well. Very roasted actually. Coffee and some caramel are present on the tongue. This is a very clean and crisp feeling beer. The roasted malt lingers on the tongue for a while. There is little to no hop flavor except for some bitter and dry finish at the end. This is not my favorite style of brew but it is a well crafted beer IMO.

D - Low ABV and good flavors make this a good choice if you are into rich roasted malty beers.

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Photo of scruffwhor
3.23/5  rDev -18%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 4

Appearance- Pours a small had with alright retention throughout most of the beer. Colro is a Guiness like brown/black.

Smell- Lots o roasted, toasted, and hints of smokey malts (as expected) with little or no aromas of hops.

Taste- Pretty malty in a mostly English way, but with some expected Scottish improvisations. Hints of White Hens coffee and black licorice with hints of Earth.

Mouthfeel- A little dry, but easily outweighted by the overall malty flavors of the beer.

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Photo of Paul_PABrewNews
3.31/5  rDev -16%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 3.5

Appearance : It was Dark as Night, Slight ruby hues being seen through the bottle of the glass, I could tell it was a clear ale overall from what I could see through it.
Aroma: It was faint, but toasted grains, a bit of smoke tone, coffee and earthy hops were present.
Body: It was soft and smooth a bit thin overall but it was a great chugging ale and with the low ABV very session able.
Taste: Was faint but enjoyable, soft chocolate and coffee tones. Toasted Grains, Brown Bread and Brown Sugar at the end. Blending with a undefined dark fruit note.
Overall: A nice drop, but a little muted in character for me, though on cask I think this would shine. Cheers!

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Photo of doktorhops
3.33/5  rDev -15.5%
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.

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Photo of UCLABrewN84
3.35/5  rDev -15%
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.

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Photo of mterrence5
3.35/5  rDev -15%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Dark brown color with avg head. Smells a little like wine but more of like citrus fruit and coffee. Light in the mouth with semi sweet acidic taste and a deep deep coffee grinds / dark chocoalte finish. Very smooth drinking. Good beer but wouldnt drink frequently. Maybe with desert (yeah I said it) cause of its coffee flavor.

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Dark Island from Orkney Brewery
3.94 out of 5 based on 427 ratings.
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