Dark Island | Orkney Brewery

very good
432 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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User Ratings & Reviews
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Ratings: 432 |  Reviews: 257
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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Photo of zoso493
4.07/5  rDev +3.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Poured from a 500 ml bottle into a nonic.

Appearance: Pours a very deep brown with just slight reddish tinges when held up to the light. Has a small one-finger head that recedes fairly quickly and leaves little lacing on the glass.

Smell: Smells very nicely of chocolate, biscuit, roasted malt and even some nut. Smells kind of like a creation of Samuel Smith, but better, in my opinion.

Taste: Taste is just slightly thinner than the smell would have indicated, but not bad by any means. A light serving of of chocolate and roasted malts is followed by a mild hop bitterness.

Mouthfeel: I don't know why, but the mouthfeel just feels like a cheaper Scottish Ale. It's not that it's overly thin, but just kind of watery. I can't quite put my finger on it, but it's not outstanding.

Drinkabillity: Well, a low ABV and a fairly complex, light brew makes for a pretty drinkable one, as well.

Overall, this is one of my favorite examples of the style, of which I must say I am not a huge fan. This, however, is a real tasty brew that's definitely worth a try if you see it around.

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Photo of tehawful
4.18/5  rDev +6.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Appearance: Pours dark brown into a black body. The light brown head leaves nice lacing.

Smell: The aroma of raspberry and chocolate combine with more subtle notes of deep wood and coffee.

Taste: The taste of chocolate and coffee give a hint of fruit before transitioning into an earthy flavor. The ale finishes pleasantly with a deep hop flavor that seems to really work well.

Mouthfeel: A respectful body with moderate carbonation.

Drinkability: This is probably one of the better Scottish
Ales I have ever had, though probably not ideal for a session brew. The aroma and taste complinment each other wonderfully, and the flavor profile is enough to keep you interested. This is definitely one I will be coming back to from time to time.

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

The color of this beer fits the name well. Opaque dark appearance with a bit of off-white foam floating on top. Poured into a snifter.

The aroma is quite good. Woody, toasted malts, chocolate, sweet syrupy malt smell as well. A little smokey, with some earthy notes.

The taste has lots of well roasted malts. Very smooth, creamy. Almost a hint of whiskey flavor. Little bits of chocolate. Just slightly smokey.

The mouthfeel is full, rich for a beer of only 4.6% ABV. Some tingly carbonation that could maybe be toned down just a notch, but otherwise pretty good.

This is a very drinkable beer. The bottle is already going too fast. Could definitely have two of these 0.5L bottles in a sitting. Overall, a well crafted beer. I will be picking up more in the future and would like to try the big brother of this beer, Dark Island Reserve.

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Photo of abuliarose
3.9/5  rDev -1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Poured into a snifter, revealing black opaque body with a dense and creamy-looking head. Smells a little boozy and a little like molasses, quite sweet. Notes of dark fruits. Slight dry sourness.

Tastes very interesting. It has the same astringency as black tea and is surprisingly medium-bodied. It kinda reminds me of the asian black jelly you can buy in cans. Roasty, a hint of sourness and very gentle bitterness that doesn't penetrate the tongue. Mouthfeel is ok with its medium to watery thickness and tiny, rounded carbonation. It's fairly drinkable excepting the odd tea flavors.

This is my first Scottish ale, but based on my findings I'll be comparing other like beers to this style in the near future.

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Photo of msubulldog25
4.08/5  rDev +3.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4.5

A portly brown 500ml bottle, picked up a couple weeks back at new Portland shop(pe), The BeerMongers. Poured to a plain ol' pint glass.

It should be noted that this is "The Authentic Orcadian Ale", for what that is worth. Though I've tried. and thoroughly enjoyed, a couple other Orkney brews, this is my first taste of Dark Island.

A: Deep, rich mahogany...looks 'brown' at first glance, but garnet and ruby hues shine when held to light. Head is nearly one solid finger of velvety cream, dropping away to a thin veil of tan gauze, clinging tighter as a ring. Sheeting lace envelopes the glass.

S: Sweet cola-caramel, a raisin-filled and peaty/smoky noseful. Buttery toffee and thin coffee notes - it's all very sugary and malty and perfectly 'scottish'.

T: Dark fruits, ample spiciness, powdered cocoa, mild char/smoke, nutty!. Vague but pleasant roasted coffee bean and a hint of vanilla in the finish.

M: A little thin/watery, with a subtle bitter-spice that grows in the mouth. Light carbonation prickle, medium body at best.

D: Sessionable is an understatement, a pint or three would be fitting at the pub. Seemingly simple at first, yet captivating after a couple sips; the folks at Orkney know what they're doing. Definitely one I want to experience again.

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

This beer pours a nice cola colour with decent carbonation that leaves a one finger head with nice lacing,it has aromas of caramel toffee,figs and some bitter mocha,it has an above average mouthfeel which finishes quite smooth with tastes of dark plums,bitter mocha and some dates aswell quite a pleasant beer thats very easy to drink.

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Photo of BacklitAvenger
4.33/5  rDev +9.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4

Appearance - Appears black with hints of brown at the bottom of the sein. Held to the light it is totally opaque, which surprises m for such a low alcohol beer. May be chill haze perhaps? A sandy colored head of two fingers caps off a somewhat vigerous pour.

Smell - There's right off the bat a softly malty milk chocolate sort of aroma, with less of grainy smells and some coffee and smoke.

Taste - Mmmm, this is delicious! Like a porter or stout with just a bit less roast. There's very little coffee or roast flavor and much more of that malty milk chocolate stuff going on here, and a vague sweetness that accompanies a caramel or toffee flavor. Mild smoke weaves in and out. Grainy and delicious! Finishes off with earthy bitterness from UK hops most likely.

Mouthfeel - Easily the best aspect of this beer. Slightly carbonated velvet. The mouthfeel is just so soft and voluptuous. It is not slick or particularly viscous but this is seriously soft like a traditional Brit oatmeal stout.

Dinkability - Lovely flavor coupled with relatively low alcohol by volume makes this perfectly sessionable, but the heavy mouthfeel tends to encourage slow savoring rather than quick drinking. The bottle is a pint 0.9 fl oz and this is a perfect size. Would do well in a sam smith style Brit bomber to. 12 oz would not be enough I think.

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Photo of redmagik99
4.12/5  rDev +4.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

nearly black with a dark red tint. Smells fascinatingly delicious: Coffee and chocolate are most prominent, with red wine fruitness and toffee bringing up the rear. The back label of the bottle describes it in the exact same way, but I thought it before I read it! Taste follows suit - chocolate malts, stronger coffee taste throughout, black cherries. Some astringency. A bit sweet, yet finishes dry, with a long lingering smokiness that I find to be the most pleasant aspect of the beer, being the fan of Islay scotch that I am. It makes me want to drink it slower to savor that, but the light body says keep going. I'm unfamiliar with the scottish ale style, but in terms I understand, this is a porter with less roastiness and more fruitness. Really complex and flavorful for its strength.

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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 BeerFMAndy
3.87/5  rDev -1.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

500 ml bottle poured into a Nonic. No date on the bottle. Cool label though!

A - Dark as night with ruby highlights. A tan head of two fingers sits on top that's thick but gone quickly. Low foam but good lacing.

S - Rich roasted malts with a bitter dry smell. A touch of smoke and some strong fruity raisin esters. Some small aromas of coffee. Complex and foreboding.

T - Heavy on the roasted malts but the complexity changes quickly to tart raisins, cold, bitter coffee, and a touch of smoke. It finishes dry and somewhat bitter.

M - Medium to medium-full in body but not thick like syrup. Watery with a dry bitter finish. Tart too.

D - This beer's strength comes not from the mouthfeel or alcohol but rather from the flavor. It's potent and not something I could put back bottle after bottle of.

On a side note, after finishing the review of this beer I went out for a cigar thinking it would pair well. Boy was I wrong. What a terrible cigar beer. Leave the cigar alone til you're done with this one.

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

Dark brown with quite a bit of orange-red highlighting. Tight head with foam and some larger bubbling. Good lacing; good look in general.

The nose is a less impressive. There's some roasted malt (chocolate, etc.) while also bringing the dark fruit. No surprises, very straightforward.

The flavors are sweet with caramel mixed into the chocolate along with anise-herbal notes. Really not overly complex, even though the Orkney yeast tends to add the sour component to whatever they brew.

Finishes pretty long, pretty nice. For the most part, a middling Scottish ale. However, it is representative of the style and should be tried for anyone who tends this direction.

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Photo of bcdees47
4.12/5  rDev +4.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

I had this one from the cask. It's a dark beer, but by no means opaque. Smells of chocolate, malt, and perhaps a hint of fruit. It tastes of coffee and chocolate, lots of roasted flavours, but also has some acidic, almost fruity notes mixed in there. I found this one quite drinkable.

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

The foam was very dark wheat that dissapated quickly but still stuck to the sides of the glass. The smell was light and crisp but extremely dark and nutty feel. The taste was excellent. Hearty taste of a wheat porter with hints of carmel. The color was a very dark cola. It had a excellent smooth mouthfeel

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

Dark Island started off great, but ended a little thin. Upon opening, it had a pleasant aroma followed by multiple tastes that rushed through my taste buds. You can taste a subtle hint of chocolate, the roast, and it leaves a long lasting coffee/caramel after taste. I sampled 1 pint/500 ml and it became a little too carbonated and thin about half way through and started reminding me of a Stewart's Root Beer. The color is dark brown but not opaque. It has a medium thickness in pour with a light chocolate colored head that formed nicely in the beginning, however, settled by mid-beer. I did enjoy Dark Island and would recommend only drinking about two after dinner as a nice treat to end your day.

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

This one pours out looking very ominous, dark ,dark brown, not exactly opaque, but close. mocha-froth style head, moderate retention with plenty of foamy goodness left-over.

The nose is mild with chunky, bitter chocolate, dark-roastie coffee with vanilla, sour, spicey hops with zesty dried fruits and Quaker Oatmeal.

The flavor has a very herbal effect right off, dark roastie malt, very hearty with a good balance of earthy notes like, wheat and grains and musty chocolate. The hops provide a a dry, herbal balance from the dank malt. a crispy, clean feel, medium bodied but very smooth at the end, very stout-like feel. The finish is slightly dry, but greasy going down.

This is a pretty rightous and robust session brew.

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Photo of shanem
3.87/5  rDev -1.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3 | overall: 4

A: toffee/caramel brown a little light on the edges. smallish head but appears very carbonated with serious bubbling

S: roasted, little smokey and chocolately

T: chocolate/nutty, not overpowering, pretty well balanced

M: average, not too thin or heavy

D: easily drinkable

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Photo of joe1510
4.17/5  rDev +5.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

500ml Bottle

This bottle came courtesy of Redwood21 in Secret Santa '08, thanks for the massive haul Godfather! Dark Island has one of those bodies that are so dark brown they border on black. Burnt caramel highlights the sides of the glass and shoot through the body when backlit. The head grew to a finger's height of creamy beige and fell rather quickly to a skim coat with a respectable collar. Thin drink lines get left behind after each drink and slowly fall back into the body.

The nose is full of the things I enjoy so much in Scottish ales. Deep caramel and toffee kick start the aroma with a tendril of smoke rising between the two. The smoke ends up producing a mild layer over the entire smell of this beer. There is a very faint, indistinguishable fruitiness in the background. The rich dark caramel is front and center in this brew and I really like how much it steps forward.

Toffee manages to stand up to the dark caramel maltiness on the tongue. The fruitiness is a little more noticeable with figs standing out mid palate. Something I didn't pick up in the nose that's here in the flavor is an underlying layer of powdery cocoa, very nicely done. The peaty smokiness is layered above the cocoa with only a mild saturation. In my limited experience this is one of the better, easily available Scottish ales out there.

The body is medium but manages to evolve nicely as it warms. I initially thought the body was a little thin but as this beer sits in my glass it hits its stride well. After some warming and breathing the body takes on an enjoyable silkiness.

I have no problem drinking a few of these in a sitting. There is a lot of flavor jammed into this low abv package. It's unusual to find a beer this low in alcohol that can be savored such as this one.

Like I noted earlier in my review, this is one of the better Scottish ales on the market. It's very enjoyable and very approachable, the peat hits just right. The few beers that I've had from Orkney have been very good. Thanks for the brew David; I'm a huge fan of the style!

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Photo of Jeffo
3.96/5  rDev +0.5%
look: 3 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3 | overall: 4

Got this at De Bierkoning in Amsterdam.

From a bottle into a pint glass.

APPEARANCE: Pours a super thin small tan head that disappears right away. Black and opaque, resembling a stout in colour. Basically no carbonation and zero lacing in any way. The colour is attractive but that's it really.

SMELL: A nice strong nose of peat and sweet dark caramel malt. A touch of smoke and a hint of vanilla lingers in the background. Quite nice and very enticing.

TASTE: A peaty smokiness up front and a bit of sweet wood at the end. Very mild but long lingering aftertaste of sweet wood and a touch of bitter coffee and vanilla again. Pretty nice combination, but not quite as strong as the nose would suggest.

PALATE: Medium body and medium to higher end carbonation. Slightly creamy on the palate, goes down relatively smooth and finishes slightly mouth coating.

OVERALL: A fine Scottish ale by any standards. Not the best looking thing I've ever drunk, but very tasty, interesting and complex. The flavors are quite bold, so I think it would be hard to drink a few of these. A couple would be very enjoyable, however. This is one I'd pick up again for sure.

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Photo of Redwood21
4/5  rDev +1.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A: this beer is extremely dark with a thin little halo of head floating around the walls of the goblet

S: malty liek very doughy bread mixed with grains toasted but still chewy

T: the malt is front and center and i feel earthy peaty tones try to burst through but don't quit make it the bread like front loaded taste is supported by a weak and almost water finish that brings with it a vanilla mixed with a very faint raisin like taste. there is also a faint amount of coffee on the first taste, but this is by no means a coffee centric beer. I do not perceive the chocolate the label says i will, but this could be me.

this is a good albeit a lil light bodied beer. light in body only for the style though and it sticks around on your palate for a while which for a "thinner" beer is not a bad achievement

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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 ccrida
3.68/5  rDev -6.6%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

500ml bottle poured into my Samuel Smith imperial pint, Dark Island is cola colored, with a creamy eggshell head that leaves nice lace.

Smell is rich, fruity and sweet, but nutty, with dark caramel crystals. The sweetness here seems a little out of wack with the nutty, astringent bite.

Taste is also pretty rich but not as sweet, the maltiness has a more brown porter like quality with the coffee and chocolate, but not real roast, just some light smoky esters. Like the nose, there's something about the malt profile I'm not loving, almost lactose like, but I really think it's just the particular balance of crystal and chocolate malts...perhaps some damp herbal hops as well, touch of spice on the finish. Improved as I let it warm to almost room temp, more chocolate opened up, and coffee on the nose.

Mouthfeel is pretty smooth and light-bodied.

Drinkability is pretty good, and interesting beer, defiantly has the Scottish ale profile but with a more porter like malt base. Worth trying but I'm not particularly wowed.

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Photo of BMoney575
3.6/5  rDev -8.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

Sampled on 1-13-09

Pours a deep brown color with just a hint of red. A thin, off-white head sits on top, leaving craggy lacing.

Smell is very sweet and peaty, now this is a scotch ale. Quite complex, with a strong aroma of smoke.

Taste is very smooth, not as sweet as expected. Very roasty and a little earthy, but not much going on.

Mouthfeel is good, but a little too carbonated.

Drinkability is good, just a little on the boring side.

Overall, nothing different here.

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Dark Island from Orkney Brewery
3.94 out of 5 based on 432 ratings.
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