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

For Trade:
User Reviews
Sort by:  Recent | High | Low | Top Raters | Alström Bros
Reviews: 253 | Ratings: 425
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.

 346 characters

Photo of superspak
4/5  rDev +1.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

500 ml bottle into pint glass, bottled on 6/6/2011. Pours lightly cloudy nearly opaque dark brown color with a 1-2 finger dense khaki head with good retention, that reduces to a thin cap that lingers. Nice spotty lacing clings down the glass. Aromas of chocolate, cocoa, toffee, molasses, toast, raisin, plum, pear, apple, dark bread, light roast, herbal, light pepper, light leather, and yeast earthiness. Damn nice aromas with good balance and complexity of dark malt and yeast ester notes; with good strength. Taste of chocolate, cocoa, dark bread, toast, molasses, raisin, plum, pear, light roast, herbal, light pepper, light leather, and toast/yeast earthiness. No bitterness on the finish; with lingering notes of chocolate, cocoa, dark bread, toast, molasses, raisin, plum, pear, light roast, herbal, and toast/yeast earthiness on the finish for a good bit. Damn nice balance, robustness, and complexity of dark/roasted malt and fruity yeast ester flavors; with zero cloying flavors after the finish. Light-medium carbonation and medium bodied; with a fairly creamy, smooth, and lightly chalky mouthfeel that is nice. Alcohol is very well hidden with minimal warming present after the finish as expected of 4.6%. Overall this is a damn nice Scottish ale! All around good balance, robustness, and complexity of dark/roasted malt and fruity yeast ester flavors; and very smooth to drink. A very enjoyable offering.

 1,419 characters

Photo of ryan1788a5
4.05/5  rDev +2.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

500ml bottle poured into a pint glass.

A: A shade below the point at which brown changes to black. Creamy tan head retains well and leaves broken patches of wispy lacing behind. Retention is great.

S: Dark molasses, dark chocolate sauce, chocolate covered raisins and berries. Traces of soot and roast. Nutty undertones. Hints of crust and a little bit of earthy yeast.

T: Roasted coffee beans and coffee beans dipped in chocolate. Waves of molasses and chewy dark caramel. Red berries with chocolate. Nutty. Hints of soot and roasted barley. Cocoa nib sort of chocolatey taste. Oily hop spice toward the finish. Hint of fruity tartness in the background. Chocolatey flavors and hop spice on the finish.

M: Medium-thick body. Silky smooth from start to finish. Moderate prickling carbonation.

O: A full-flavored pint that delivers great complexity and delightfully smooth drinkability. This is just an awesome beer all around. I'm sold on Orkney. These guys can brew some excellent beer.

 994 characters

Photo of CookstLiquor
3.92/5  rDev -0.5%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4

Poured from a 500ml bottle. Pours a red-tinted raisin brown colour. Nose offers notes of sweet, dark dried fruit. Taste is remarkably dry, yet quite flavourful with strong porter-like notes of smoke, chocolate and black coffee. Crisp and easy drinking, yet quite complex and flavourful.

 286 characters

Photo of LampertLand
4/5  rDev +1.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Orkney Brewing 'Dark Island' Scotch Ale @ 4.6% , served from a 500 ml bottle purchased for $8

A-pour is a dark cola brown from the bottle to near black in the glass with some ruby red peeking thru a small tan head leaving a spotty lace along the pint

S-dark ripe fruit , bitter bakers chocolate

T-smooth with a coffee & hop bitterness on the swallow

MF-ok carbonation , medium body

Ov-ok beer , good scotch ale

prost LampertLand

 434 characters

Photo of FLima
4.08/5  rDev +3.6%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4

Deep black color with a one finger off-white head with low to medium retention and leaving some laces.
Nice original malty aroma with lots of dark chocolate and clear fig and cherry notes.
Flavor of coffee, piney and earthy hops, roasted malt, plums, figs, leather and cocoa. A hint of peat, almonds and vanilla. Dry with a medium bitterness aftertaste.
Light body with good carbonation.
A very drinkable Scottish Ale. I was expecting a heavier body, but once it starts to warm up it reveals more and more amazing fruity flavors.

 529 characters

Photo of thierrynantes
4/5  rDev +1.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Beer bottle (50 cl.) purchased from Le Comptoir Irlandais, and tasted in 2013.

Appearance : dark red color, with tan foamy head.
Smell : dark fruit & malty aromas.
Taste & mouthfeel : roasted and smoked malts flavors,
Drinkability : a good beer in the Style Scottish Ale.

 273 characters

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.

 446 characters

Photo of BeerRefugee
3.65/5  rDev -7.4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 3.75

Pours a very dark brown with a creamy tan had with good retention and lacing. Moderate aroma of coffee, toast and toffee. Flavor is similar with hints of coffee, bitter chocolate, raisins and toffee/brown sugar sweetness. Mouthfeel is a little thin and finish is slightly astringent. Would this beer to be a little more full-bodied, but the flavor is very good.

 361 characters

Photo of bmwats
3.7/5  rDev -6.1%
look: 3.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.25 | overall: 3.5

Poured from a 500 ml bottle into a footed tulip.

A: Medium-dark brown. Pours a slight brown white head, which quickly liberates itself from reality leaving only a faint ring. No real lacing.

S: Pungent malty tone with some black cherry, tea leaf, and.... cinnamon rolls?

T: Very light malt character, slightly kriekened, with a little musty peat.

M: Sticky and a little shallow.

D: Goes down easy.

Atmosphere is good. Decent hue, but a very slight head and no lacing. Nose is a great malty, sweet cherry and fresh pastry combination. Flabby and a little shallow slightly sweetened malty tone, balanced with a bit of pungent peat. Overall, this is a pretty good quaff.

 673 characters

Photo of Bouleboubier
3.76/5  rDev -4.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.75

(poured into a fat tulip - this bottle seems to me to have been at least 6 months old, if not more, and possibly handled poorly sometime in its history...normally, this beer is pretty good - was a bit off here...)

A: really dark on the pour - appears to be a dark, ruby-brown...nice 1" head on pour that poofed out quickly, leaving barely a slimy collar

S: like an old Eastern European Baltic-style porter...really predominantly fruity, bright and berry-like, matched against a background of light-roasted coffee and a dab of cocoa....i'm wondering if they use a lot of finishing hops or ferment at a higher temperature than normal...perhaps a little oxidized...some mild fig, mint, and cordial/medicinal notes....seems weaker than it should be

T: lightly leathery, mildly soured coffee...just as fruity as it smells - sour cherry?...light cocoa and bittersweet in the aftertaste....bold composition of flavors, yet mellow in their dynamics (if that makes sense)....once again, Baltic porter-like

F: light-ish, clean, but curiously hearty....some silky or slickness as it comes along

O: I've had a better bottle than this, and on cask, it's quite nice-r

 1,158 characters

Photo of StJamesGate
4.09/5  rDev +3.8%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Ruby black with puffy beige head that keeps a film.
Oily coffee, Christmas pudding, and chargrilled steak on the nose.
Strong coffee and dark cherries, dried apple, raisin skins and fig relish, a roasty hit, and some bark and earth hops. Some sour malts, a bit of treacle, and hints of woody vanilla, too.
Prune finish and lingering stone fruit tartness.
Medium thinking about full, oily, good bit of chew, cleansing fizz.

More darkness than the usual Scottish ale but more fruit than a porter. Enough carbonation to never cloy and a very reasonable strength. I'd prefer more hops, but not really what this is about.

Couldn't ask for more in February.

 656 characters

Photo of bluejacket74
3.96/5  rDev +0.5%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4

500 ml bottle. Served in a pint glass, the beer pours dark brown with a half inch tan head that stayed around for a while. There's a decent amount of lacing. The brew smells like caramel malt, toffee, dark fruit, roasted malt and a bit of leather and chocolate. It tastes like peat, roasted malt, dark fruit, minerals/salt, chocolate and some coffee. Mouthfeel/body is medium, it's a bit creamy and slick with moderate carbonation. I liked this brew, and at $4.99 a bottle I'd buy this one again in the future.

 510 characters

Photo of mdagnew
4/5  rDev +1.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

500ml bottle bought from The Vineyard, Belfast...

Poured a deep amber colour. Slightly off white head poured fairly loose and frothy then faded quickly to patchy covering with thick edging. No real carbonation... wispy lacing...

Aroma - Quite a lot of toasted bready malts, dried dark fruits (raisins, prunes, also some apples), some light peat / tobacco notes, toasted nuts, leathery traces, sweet muscavado sugar notes, grassy hints...

Taste - A bit of a let down after the decent aroma... watered down lightly toasted malts, dark fruits (raisins, apples, figs), fruit / malt loaf notes, metallic traces, some saltiness, light smoke...

M&D - Quite sharp and dry... light bodied... Fairly drinkable and sessionable...

Overall - A decent enough Scottish ale... worth a try...

 780 characters

Photo of Dave1999
3.86/5  rDev -2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Pours a pitch black with a small tan coloured head.

The smell is quite subdued, there's some dark malts.

The taste is dark malts,toffee, caramel with a bit of a bitter finish. It hints at being great tasting but is too subtle.

The mouth feel is medium bodied with low to medium carbonation.

Overall a fairly simple but tasty beer. Too subtle in both the nose and taste but decent none the less. Being from Scotland I know our beer is pretty different to American made "Scotch" ales.

 486 characters

Photo of mick303
4.13/5  rDev +4.8%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Poured a really solid head of toffee tan head, good retention and this leaves excellent lacing and film. Colour is a very dark brown, near black.

Smell is chocolaty dark roasty malts. Some floral esters. Surprisingly light. Low bitterness, fresh fruity maltiness.

Taste has a big full dark malty body, dry chocolate (hot cocoa mix). Cooked apple, bready malt, really rich, a bit of residual sweetness but hops counter this. Finish is dry, slightly roasty, bitterness comes through. Its really tasty and satisfying, really interesting balance of flavours.

Mouthfeel is moderate, low carbonation, but really smooth and rich. Delicious and really sessionable.

A pretty solid go-to dark ale. This is really nice and a tasty ale.

 729 characters

Photo of BigBry
4.2/5  rDev +6.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

One of the pints that we enjoyed at our new-found favorite pub - The Bon Accord.
A very, dark beer (very Guinness-like) with deep ruby high lights when held to the light. Tight, long lasting, off white head. Thick lace coats the glass, almost an inch of foam lesft at the bottom of the glass.
Smells of bitter chocolate, dried fruits like figs or dates. Roasted malt with some hints of coffee.
All of the same flavors as the aromas: chocolate, coffee and roast malt. Fruity sweetness like plum or prune. Just the right amount of hoppy bitterness at the end. Thick and creamy body, silky smooth mouthfeel.
This was a great beer, one of the high lights.

 651 characters

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....

 1,347 characters

Photo of DirtyD
4.25/5  rDev +7.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Orkney did a great job overall on his beer. It poured very dark and had a nice tan head. The smell was of molasses, dried fruit and rich malts. Taste was to style with more malt flavor showing through than hop bitterness, but for me was more of a sweet fruit than dark malt. The mouthfeel was light to medium and finished very smooth.

 334 characters

Photo of DaveBlack
4.32/5  rDev +9.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 4

A: Almost totally black beer, some slight reddish tints at the edges. the head is about 1 finger and tan with moderate retention and some fine lacing.

S: Roasted malts bring a lot of caramel, chocolate notes with an underlying coffee. There is also a prevalent sweetness that reminds me of blackberries. Great smelling brew.

T: Surprisingly light tasting, not nearly as heavy as the nose and look would lead one to believe. The taste of the coffee and chocolate are there, slight smoky vanilla taste as well. The berry is still there as well.

M: Surprisingly moderate body and carbonation. I actually find it a little too watery, I wish it was creamier and stickier to back up the flavor.

O: Great flavor, lots of complexity. My only complaint with this beer is that I find it too light to back up the flavor. Worth a try to be sure.

 838 characters

Photo of wordemupg
4.23/5  rDev +7.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

500ml bottle poured into tulip 23/6/12

A dark brown with deep cola edges, two fingers of mocha foam retains very well leaving lots of spider web lacing, looks great

S milk chocolate, dark toffee, molasses, dried fruit and its a little nutty, smells pretty good but not overly strong

T just a little cold coffee I didn't smell, the flavors come out quite a bit stronger then the nose, a little rum raisin as it warms, tastes great

M silky at first and carbonation leaves it feeling creamy, not that heavy considering the color but the bubbles give it some body, slightly sticky on the lips

O pretty solid stuff in my glass tonight, great flavors in a beer I could session, this ones a winner

I could drink a few of these without getting board, went down quickly and I thought it tasted great, what more can you ask for?

 828 characters

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 agtĀ“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.

 340 characters

Photo of johnnnniee
3.83/5  rDev -2.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Pours a solid dark brown with the faintest of ruby highlights when held to light. Huge frothy tan head slowly subsides and leaves lots of stickies on the glass on the way down. The aroma is a bit vinous with hints of dark dried fruits. Bits of caramel and chocolate almond with dried cherries and raisins abound. The flavor is as vinous as the aroma suggested. Lots of dark and slightly tart fruit with a hint of butterscotch and light chocolate. Medium body with a moderate level of carbonation and a sweet creamy bubbly mouthfeel. Lots of body and flavor for such a brew with 4.6 abv. I like this.

 599 characters

Photo of CwrwAmByth
4.31/5  rDev +9.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

Poured from a 500ml bottle into a pint glass.

Pours a dark brown/black colour with an awesome creamy looking off white head.

Smells faintly of dark malts.

Tastes nicely of roasted notes of malt, dark balanced well with light and the hops lingering at the end to create something perfectly balanced. Has a great feel to it that makes it so easy to drink, the alcohol is hidden well.

Overall a pretty remarkable beer.

 420 characters

Photo of biboergosum
4.06/5  rDev +3%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

500ml bottle. Quoyloo? Did Herman Melville come through there at one time?

This beer pours a clear, very dark reddish-brown colour, with two fingers of puffy and rocky beige head, which leaves a high-flying array of honeycomb lace around the glass as it slowly sinks away. Sexytime!

It smells of dark roasted malt, some oily nuttiness, soft caramel and bitter chocolate notes, and a subtle drying, indistinct hoppiness. The taste is mildly chocolaty, grainy malt, understated, sulky, and yet persistent nutty tones, some weak, but pesky caramel, and soft, unassuming drying noble hops.

The bubbles are average, and middling, but not at all obtrusive, the body a soothing medium-light weight, and no-questions-asked smooth. It finishes off-dry, the burbling nutty, caramel, and Euro-chocolate sweetness nowhere near overpowering, but still ceding little to the steadfast, if still quite anonymous drying hops.

A lovely Scottish ale, balanced in all respects, except maybe for (from a New World view) the ABV - ah, hell, even I shouldn't complain - any session ale should be lucky to have such complexity and ardor.

 1,117 characters

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

    Your go-to website for beer (since 1996), publishers of BeerAdvocate magazine (since 2006) and hosts of world-class beer events (since 2003). Respect Beer.
  • BeerAdvocate Microbrew Invitational

    Join us June 2-3, 2017 in Boston, Mass. for beer, cider, mead, kombucha and sake from over 70 small producers.

    Learn More
  • Subscribe to BeerAdvocate Magazine

    No fake news here. Get real beer content delivered to your doorstep every month.