Dark Island | Orkney Brewery

very good
429 Ratings
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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Ratings: 429 |  Reviews: 256
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 drabmuh
3.83/5  rDev -2.8%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

The #1 Scottish Ale currently, part of my best beer per style goal on beeradvocate. Poured from a 500 ml bottle into a Russian river wine glass.

Beer is brown and dark but clear with a tan head of small and medium bubbles that leaves some lacing on the glass.

Beer has a mild smoke peat aroma to it but mostly caramel.

Beer is medium to light in body with a mild smokiness and some malt sweetness up front, overall it is pretty good. The midpalate is a little thin but overall it's a pretty good beer. I should drink more scotch ales.

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Photo of albern
3.95/5  rDev +0.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

This is a fairly light bodied, easy to drink, Scottish Ale. It pours a ruby brown with plenty of thick creamy head once it warms a bit. The beer laces very well and the nose is caramel, smoky malts, and sweetish dark malts.

The beer is creamy, but also a bit thin, with a low ABV. The beer could improve with a bit more heft, but that being said, there is a very nice caramel, butterscotch, and smoked peat type flavor to the beer. The sweetish dark malts blend nicely with the caramel flavors to create a nice balanced, although thin, Scottish Ale. I had this with salmon and it was a very nice complement. The aftertaste is very mild as is the beer overall. This is worth seeking out.

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Photo of ThirstyBird
3.75/5  rDev -4.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Poured from a 500 ml bottle into an imperial pint glass.

Pours a deep, dark brown with a light brown two finger head. Smells of rich sweet malt some toffee and fruitiness in there. It smells wonderful. The taste is pretty good though not up to the standard that the nose set. dark malt, chocolate and some roasty flavors. All flavors are less substantial then the nose as well. Unfortunately there is a metallic taste soon upon first taste. The mouthful is very nice too. Mild carbonation structure makes this beer very smooth and easy drinking. Light/medium body. Overall a good beer, I will revisit to see if it was a condition issue with my bottle.

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Photo of megahurts4
3.73/5  rDev -5.3%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 4

Orkney Dark Island

Appearance: Dark brown, small to medium head, and good lacing.

Smell: Dark fruits, malty, faint coffee, and a tinge of alcohol. It smells almost like a Cabernet or Merlot.

Taste: Semi-sweet, slight coffee, faint vanilla, some dark fruits, a little smoke, and slight toffee.

Mouthfeel: Surprisingly light and slightly watery.

This is an odd beer. It is very light bodied, which was not expected. It contains a lot of flavors wrapped up in one beer. The slight sweetness makes this even more different. The flavor complexity makes me want to rate this high, but the texture is what is bringing the overall rating down.

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Photo of FourQuarters
4.1/5  rDev +4.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

I've been looking forward to trying this one. Poured from an attractive 500 ml bottle into a British nonic glass.

Appearance - Pours a deep, deep brown, almost black, with a finger of tan head.

Smell - Roasted malt with mild chocolate and a hint of vanilla at the end.

Taste - Very smooth maltiness and chocolate, with a trace of dark chocolate. Finishes with a mild hop bitterness. The label notes red fruits and figs, but I didn't get any of that.

Mouthfeel - Supple, rounded and smooth. Creamy, but light.

Drinkability - I enjoyed this beer and could see drinking it over the course of the evening as a session beer.

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Photo of BeerImmediately
3.68/5  rDev -6.6%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 4

Poured from .5L into stout-style glass in the mid-40 degree range. 2F of tan head over a deep brown cola-colored body. Really nice lacing.

Aromas of bittersweet chocolate, some sour fruit, light roasted quality, and even some ginger.

Pretty thin and metallic on the palate. Lightly bitter roasted malt leads the way on flavor, with a twang of fruit and coffee grinds. Leaves with a light film of bitterness on the tongue.

Drinkability is pretty good - it's thin and fairly light, but not lacking in flavor. Overall, I'd prefer this style to be a touch sweeter.

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Photo of damndirtyape
4.12/5  rDev +4.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Single bottle (laser stamped L8288 on neck - whatever that means) poured into a Nonic glass.

Appearance: Very dark beer - black on the table, with hints of ruby red and brown at the edges. Same dark ruby red and brown when held up to the light. Very thin film of tan foam across the top of the beer. The few strands of lacing that formed would sink back down into the beer after awhile - so not much in the lacing department.

Smell: Strong smells here. Chocolate and roasted malt along with figs and something else fruit-like. I can't say if I'm smelling the "red fruits" listed on the bottle label, but it's not raisin/prune/dark-fruit in smell so I'll call it red fruits and leave it at that. It's not cherry, it's not strawberry...you'll know it when you smell it. Very good and appetizing.

Taste: Bittersweet chocolate and bitter coffee flavors dominate. There is a strange middle flavor that is almost flavorless, but then the final taste and aftertaste return as bittersweet (high cacao) chocolate. I like it, but that flavor (or lack thereof) in the middle makes me think the beer is missing something.

Mouthfeel: Mild carbonation, but otherwise a little creamy.

Drinkability: Good beer with a meal (Moroccan style meatballs and couscous) but I could see myself slowly drinking one of these while reading something - the chocolate and coffee just make me think cafe in a way, but I'm doing the reading in a pub. A very good beer.

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

A - Very dark ruby red witha very nice tan head that really sticks around.

S - Figs, sweet malt, a hint of coffee and even some whiskey barrel aroma as it warms.

T/M - Creamy and full-bodied. Slightly smoky/peety, some sweet coffee, semi-sweet chocolate and roasted malt

D - An absolutely delicious beer. Incredibly complex with the characteristics changing from minute to minute as it warms.

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Photo of philbe311
3.65/5  rDev -7.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

A - A fingers worthy of tightly compact slightly creamy light khaki head with some big chunky bubbles mixed in... Minimal retention gives way to a rich creamy lacing... A slightly murky medium to dark brown color with some minor ruby highlights... A slight bit of small bubbled sluggish carbonation...

S - Super rich and malty... Bursting with caramel and toffee... Fig... Raisins... Light scent of vanilla... Loaded with nuttiness... A touch of smoke... A touch of peat...

T - The sweetness alluded to by the nose is present, but in a much more subdued muted fashion... A touch of a medicinal finish...

M - Medium bodied... Surprisingly thin... Extremely muted weak carbonation... Slightly chewy... Smokey finish...

D - Loaded with flavor and complexity, especially considering the 4.6% ABV... A little more mouthfeel would go a long long way... All that being said, this is still an excellent Scottish Ale offering...

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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 AndyAvalanche
4.03/5  rDev +2.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Poured into a Sam Adams Perfect Pint Glass. It's it's far darker than I expected for a Scotish Ale. It almost pours out black, but it's a bit decieving. When you hold it up to the light it's a deep amber/red/brown mix of colors. THe small parts you can see through actually has a little bit of clarity. A little lacing but not a whole lot. The smell is very unique. It has the major characteristics of both a Scotish Ale and an English Porter. Slight citrus smell, but big dark malt aromas. Toffee, caramelized and chocolate malts. The taste sets itself apart slightly from the smell, and maintains the same complexity. Big dark malt charactheristics. Roasted, chocolate, caramel, and even sligthlty burned malts. A little smokey, maybe peat. There's only a slight hop tates, but you have to look for it. I only noticed it because because my bitter tastebuds are working at the end of each sip. The mouthfeel is good, here's where you can really feel the mix of the two styles. It has the creaminess of a scottish ale and the smokeyness of a porter. Pretty drinkable with all that is going on. All in all a pretty good beer.

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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 mithrascruor
3.88/5  rDev -1.5%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

500 mL bottle poured into a mug.

Appearance: Pours a nice black color with a light tan head. Good lacing with a really minimal carbonation.

Smell: Has a slightly heady/smokey aroma of malts and sweet earthy herbs.

Taste: Has a bitter-sweet roasted malt taste, with bits of chocolate, coffee, herbs, and spices. The aftertaste is a bit herbal and has a slightly bitter taste.

Mouthfeel: Medium-bodied with a moderate but not overbearing level of carbonation.

Drinkability: Perhaps a bit too herbal, but still tasty with a nice spicyness.

More of a dark ale than a scottish ale, this is close to Orkney's Dragonhead Stout while being (overall) a better and more consistent beer. Although best from a cask, this is quite good from the bottle as well. A really solid and tasty beer.

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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 brownbeer
3.93/5  rDev -0.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Really a nice looking Scottish Ale. Pours deep mahogany with a creamy tan head.

Distinctly non-American nose with English-like maltiness and a hint of ashy smoke, toffee, and sweet chocolate.

The soft carbonation jumps out right away, with, again, subtle smoke making an appearance. The taste is a little bland overall, until it warms, when vanilla and sweet chocolate come out, blending with the smoke very nicely. Acquires a certain vinous quality as it hits about room temp. Very sessionable, with a silky medium body. I could drink a lot of this.

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Photo of mullenite
4.15/5  rDev +5.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Pours a very very dark brown with red highlights when held up to the light. Two finger, slightly off white head. Nice lacing on the glass.

Sweet caramel aromas, some vanilla, some very slight peat. It smells like a really good Highland or Speyside scotch.

The taste picks up where the aroma left off with some grainy dark chocolate notes and a little more peat. I wish I was getting more of the scotch aromas in the taste but it still tastes spectacular.

Medium body with nice thin carbonation, slightly slick mouthfeel.

Overall I'm really digging this, it smells fantastic and tastes freaking awesome. I'm not sure why this one doesn't get better reviews. Maybe I just got lucky with this bottle.

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Photo of clayrock81
4/5  rDev +1.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Poured a ruby brown with a good one-finger tan head that died quickly and left little lace. Slightly buttery smell mixed with chocolate malts and hints of coffee as well as a decent fruit smell (think berries). A sharp, juicy fruit splash on the front of the tongue greets me; akin to cherries or figs. Then a medium-sized smooth and creamy body passes over my tongue with a mix of bitter chocolate, coffee malt and for balance some hop bitterness. An easy to drink ale that mixes fruit and malt sweetness with hints of dryness only slightly undone by a bitter finish.

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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 sammiles
4.3/5  rDev +9.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Picked this up at Purvis Cellars, Melbourne.

Pours nicely with a light brown head which stuck around quite well. Nice colour dark drown with ruby. Can smell the chocolate in there with possibly raspberries? Taste is similar with nice malt and nutty notes. Very drinkable, smooth and creamy. Was much happier with this than their Stout, has the same smokiness as the stout in the aftertaste. Want to nip in for the Reserve now, $50.

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

Poured into a tulip glass this brew is DARK brown with a ruby glow when lit from the back. 1/2" brown foam head settles atop the dark clean looking brew leaving a nice ring of lace.

Deep smells of roasted toffee and caramel with nutty and dark fruit undertones.

Dark semi-sweet fruits, burnt caramel, and a bitter (in a good way) nutty aftertaste blend together for a fine balance.

Mouthfeel is a bit thin, but is really crisp and clean for the complexity of the smells and taste coming out of this one.

Big time drinkable. I will definately pick up a few of these for the fridge. Bummed I've only got one.

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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.

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Photo of JasonA
4.05/5  rDev +2.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Pours a rootbeer chocolate, single finger head with ample lacing. Very surprised at the opaqueness of the brew. Loving the look.

Smells malty, sweet, maybe some rum raisin. Little bitter hops, nothing aromatic. There is something else in there I cant place, reminds me of a wee heavy sourness. Carmelization present and heavy.

Bitter, little malty with the herbal flavor. There is some smoke taste in there. Not burnt, smoke.

Not quite full bodied, but I find this a lot with Scottish Ale's, its prolly more to the style than my pallete.

Not quite a winter warmer, not a spring summer brew. Very enjoyable around a fire, but the ABV for the amount I can drink isnt favorable.

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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 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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Dark Island from Orkney Brewery
3.94 out of 5 based on 429 ratings.
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