Skull Splitter
Orkney Brewery

Skull SplitterSkull Splitter
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Scotch Ale / Wee Heavy
Ranked #12
Ranked #3,093
4.11 | pDev: 12.17%
Orkney Brewery
Scotland, United Kingdom
Skull SplitterSkull Splitter
Reviews: 1,042 | Ratings: 2,297 | Log in to view all ratings and sort
Photo of Nicholai_AH
4.09/5  rDev -0.5%
look: 4.25 | smell: 3.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

Excellent Scotch Ale. Dark amber color, not much of an aroma, very complex flavor. a bit of caramel taste, then fades into the classic medium to dark malted flavor. Not much going on with the hops. Not too chewy, could drink a second without much effort.

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Photo of Jackman42
3.94/5  rDev -4.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4

I blind tasted this against an Innis & Gunn Scotch Whisky Barrel Ale (meh) and a Founders Dirty Bastard (yum). This was a very nice tasting scotch ale but lacked the depth of the Dirty Bastard (and many other scotch ales I’ve enjoyed). I’d pick it up again.

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Photo of lastmango
3.98/5  rDev -3.2%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Poured a dark brown with a two finger frothy tan head that quickly dissipated to a thin film. Moderate lacing. Very light nose of malt and booze. Caramel, malt and candied sugar taste with little hops. Sweetness lingers. Seems a bit like a Belgian. Medium soft mouthfeel with light carbonation and a bit of stickiness.

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lastmango from Pennsylvania, Feb 15, 2020
Photo of paging12
3.8/5  rDev -7.5%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.25 | overall: 3.75

Poured into a tulip.

Sugary aroma, yes, like figs.

A red amber, like a raspberry iced tea.

It’s actually quite light on the tongue, a very thin, soft mouthfeel. Not much sparkle, leans toward the flat.

Definite breadiness. An earlier reviewer did mention that this was similar to a Belgian ale. I definitely taste and see the similarity. Caramel candiness both in the aroma and flavor.

This is an 8.5 but one wouldn’t know it until late as one warms up. The richness comes out on the exhale.

This is a complex beer. Not necessarily the kind where one would want keep coming back for, but to experience the spiciness, herbal and floral character.

Careful, this beer sneaks up on you. Many flavors to experience.

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paging12 from Virginia, Feb 09, 2020
Photo of MissouriMule
4.61/5  rDev +12.2%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.75

This ale does not have much on the nose (YMMV). The head is thin and dissipates quickly. Though the name muddles the message, the taste is exactly as billed on the back label: malty, with some figgy sweetness and very light bitterness. This ale preaches at the Scotch Ale choir, and the sermon is orthodox. If you are looking for a heavy-hitter, this is not it. It is an excellent wee heavy, nothing more and nothing less.

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Photo of jrc1093
3.94/5  rDev -4.1%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

Bottled on 5/23/19; best before 5/2022

Pours a deep but clear brownish ruby red body topped with a creamy finger and a half of off-white head; retention is solid, yielding a steady cap, frothy ring, and webby walling of dense lacing.

Aroma is saturated with plummy, figgy, nearly jammy dark fruits upfront, while ample burnt bread crust and pine needles reveal a dense caramel malt foundation and enable a transition to bright dark cherries on the back end.

Taste opens with toasted bread crust and roasty malt entangled with dehydrated dark fruits and raisins, with a sticky caramel malt and oak developing a drying tone on the back end.

Mouthfeel brings a medium texture accompanied by a soft, foamy carbonation which leaves the body extremely steady/smooth across the palate; slight sticky accents are fleeting on the back end as the beer dries to the point of thinning into an easy swallow, with no alcohol presence detected.

A very upfront, well-crafted scotch ale/wee heavy culling its strength well, leaving what it lacks in relative intensity to be mostly recovered in its steadfast, balanced approach as a higher-ABV ale.

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jrc1093 from Connecticut, Jan 30, 2020
Photo of MurphyMacManus
4.65/5  rDev +13.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.75

11.2 oz bottle into tulip

Look: red-amber with an off-white head that fades quickly but leaves lace that lingers to the end.

Smell: aggressively malty with notes of toffee, caramel, dark fruit, and booze.

Taste: vanilla, caramel, slightly toasted malt, and booze. Imagine soaking a cookie in whiskey and you wouldn't be far off.

Feel: easy drinking for a beer this strong. Low bitterness and carbonation mean that the sweetness lingers, but it's not cloying.

Overall: I would definitely get more of this. One of my favorite examples of the style.

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MurphyMacManus from Pennsylvania, Jan 20, 2020
Photo of Fuggles_
3.91/5  rDev -4.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4

This is a great beer don’t get me wrong. I don’t think it’s a proper scotch ale. It really is a scotch ale begging to be a Belgian ale. Super malty and raisin explode on the nose and tastes like molasses and a Belgian beer made love. I really like this beer but it’s hard thinking about it as a scotch ale. Generally I’ll get more of a bite to a scotch ale and less fruity notes. Maybe this is the outlier, and I’m not mad about it. It has a pretty apparent alcoholic start then smoothed off in a lacquer on the mouth. Very ripe and dried fruit taste. This beer is fantastic and I would drink again. My only gripe is calling this Belgian wannabe a scotch ale. Anyways. Don’t pass this beer up if you get the chance, you’ll enjoy it as much as I have.

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Fuggles_ from Louisiana, Dec 28, 2019
Photo of Nass
3.73/5  rDev -9.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.25

The pour is medium brown. The taste is raisin, black currant, spicy fruit cake, caramel, & tobacco. The taste of this beer tends to get old & drag along after the first half of it goes down. All in all, it was okay, I was expecting worse. Cheers! B

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Nass from Florida, Dec 24, 2019
Photo of woosterbill
4.47/5  rDev +8.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

11.2oz bottle into a tulip.

L: Deep, gleaming mahogany body beneath two fingers of dense tan head. Moderate retention, plenty of lace. Very nice indeed.

S: Intense, pure, rounded caramel malt. Almost a candied cherry sweetness, but without straying too far from the pure grain at its heart. Precisely what I was hoping for for the style.

T: Malty throughout, but not as sweet as the nose suggested. Some bittersweet chocolate, grain husk, and warming alcohol keep things grounded, but slightly rough. The malty beauty of the nose shines through on the finish, though, which is long and delectable.

F: Slightly sticky, fairly thick, and highly carbonated. Solid.

O: Terrific Wee Heavy! I had this back-to-back with Belhaven, and Skull Splitter blew it away: so much more depth and purity of malt flavor, no butter or overly fruity esters. The higher ABV can be ever-so-slightly distracting, but I'm highly impressed overall. Beers of Fame review 175/250.


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woosterbill from Kentucky, Nov 22, 2019
Photo of TheDoctor
3.98/5  rDev -3.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4

Serving: Bottle
Best before: May 2022 (Consumed Oct-13-2019)

It pours crystal clear ruby brown with a half inch of whitish head. Decent retention; spindly lacing. The aroma is pretty straightforward, and definitely opens as it approaches room temperature. Spicy banana bread, light molasses, roasted nuts, toasted baking spices, grilled malt. The flavor follows this up with a rich, smooth wave of woody sweetness. That same vague banana bread, toast, caramel, and a lingering figgy pudding finish with some light herbal notes. It is a little thin for as sweet as it is with moderate carbonation and a drawn out fruity, caramel finish. This is a nice beer. It looks smells and tastes just about right like what I associate with the style. In all aspects I feel like it could pop more. A little bigger head, some more depth to the aroma and a more velvety feel which I think would also help the flavor. That said, this is a nice beer and a great ambassador for the style.


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TheDoctor from Quebec (Canada), Oct 14, 2019
Photo of GuyFawkes
3.5/5  rDev -14.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

"Best by Dec. 2018"; drank 3/31/16 @ the Yarchives.

Semi-opaque purple/brown appearance.

A rough pour yielded a small khaki head; strong lace.

Banana, caramel, clove & dry booze heat notes in the nose.

Sticky medium mouthfeel.

Caramel & banana flavors up; dry booze heat notes on the finish.

Thin & boozy; just OK.

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GuyFawkes from Illinois, Sep 27, 2019
Photo of Goity
4.88/5  rDev +18.7%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.75

Bitter Caramel, smooth, lovely.

Reddish brown look
Smells of sweet fruit, malt and alcohol
Tastes of how it smells!
Mouthfeel smooth & sticky, but crisp at the end witha little fizz.

One of the best beers I've tasted in a long while and it costs buttons from Lidl.

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Goity from Scotland, Aug 09, 2019
Photo of Fatheroftoomany
4.52/5  rDev +10%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

A beautiful dark brown ale that smells as delicious as it looks. Smells of fig newton to me . Pours a nice medium headband the beer drinks very smoothly. Overall I love this beer. Not a huge brown ale guy but this is amazing! Will buy more!

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Fatheroftoomany from Pennsylvania, Aug 05, 2019
Photo of FrMatthewLC
4.93/5  rDev +20%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

As you smell it, there is a slight hops smell but nothing overwhelming. It goes down with a smoothness I've never experienced in anything near this dark. The flavor has a strong malty flavor with a decent British hops compliment (I'm guessing they're technically Scottish hops but I distinguish mainly British, American, & European).

Even though in the last few years I've generally put very strong beers (things like an imperial porter with 60 IBUs) as my top beers, this balanced beer I think takes the #1 spot. Unfortunately, nowhere near where I live sells it & it is a little more expensive than most bottled beer at the store.

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FrMatthewLC from Nova Scotia (Canada), Jul 28, 2019
Photo of JonnoWillsteed
3.53/5  rDev -14.1%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.25

L- Deep chestnut, clear (looking a bottom of bottle it has to be filtered). Pours with 5mm fine pale-tan head that's holding very well. [Holds right down, and leaves lacing all the way to the bottom].
S- Deep and rich, some toastiness. with hints of alcohol.
T- First sip follows the path of the Smell^. My next sip reveals more depth/pungency. On the 3rd sip the pungency is still building and the 8.5% is prominent/obvious. Ultimately the ABV% could be over-prominent in the mix.
F- Perhaps the first beer of this strength where I can say it comes over as even heavier than that. For me this is a reeeal slow-sipping beer, it's too full-on the drink quickly.
O- I wonder... is it possible to have a beer where the ABV% is so prominent that it becomes over-prominent? Is there an art to producing an 8.5% or more, even 11% and yet reining in the ABV% so it's still within balance? There was a time I wouldn't have imagined it, and several of my v. highly rated beers here are materially stronger than this one, yet have gone down a dream. But there is something about this one that makes it a true blunt weapon. Interesting to try, but I shan't be buying it again. In conclusion, I don't choose my beer for it to be a form of challenge.
Bought from BeersOfEurope. 330ml bottle, BBE: Sep-21

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Photo of SierraNevallagash
4.25/5  rDev +3.4%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

11.2oz bottle - BBE Sep 21 - poured into a squat tulip pint at 65F.

Pours a very deep chesnut brown, with some mahogany highlights. Appears opaque due to how dark it is, but upon closer examination, it's actually quite clear. Two fingers of very sticky khaki foam sit atop, which eventually reduces to a film and a healthy collar. No visible effervescence.

On this nose: This smells sweet sweet sweet! Brown sugar, butterscotch, sweet malted barley, lots of cinnamon, stewed fruits, dates, baked apple, dried figs, plums, cherries, raisins, and some wonderful floral notes, maybe due to some mild hopping. There's honeysuckle, lilac, heather honey, more baking spice, a hint of light molasses, and maybe just a suggestion of dried ginger. A faint mineral, or perhaps metallic note on the back of it all. This is wonderfully sweet, deep, rounded, and complex on the nose. Lovely.

Palate: On first sip, it veers off from the nose dramatically. Malted barley, front and center, with a touch of light brown sugar. Quite quickly, a pronounced briny mineral note shows up. I could smell it in there, but it's bolder on the palate. I am getting some of those baking spice notes, but they're thinner and drier on the palate. There are some light hop notes, lending some florals and a touch of black peppercorn, but they're remarkably subdued, and the bitterness they give is quite restrained, almost in a way that says, "Wait, don't worry! I'm not American!". Not a whole lot of dried fruit character like the nose gives off, and it's not nearly as sweet either. It's still sweet, but not in the way the aroma suggests. There's even a flavor in here that reminds me so much of bourbon barrel, and if you told me it was barrel aged, I woukd say, "Yeah, I definitely get the barrel note". Some dried orange peel, and some earthy, grassy notes. It finishes drier, with faint lingering florals, some dry bitterness, and a subtle earthy flavor that I can't pin down. I do not believe this is peated, but I can't be sure.

Mouthfeel: Texturally, this is on the wee heavy side of a wee heavy. Rich, creamy, slightly viscous, sticky, and just the faintest touch of effervescence - just enough to feel on the very top of your tongue, and nowhere else. It's not so thick that it's cloying, but it's definitely rich with a nice viscosity.

Overall: This is a nice scotch ale. It embodies the heart and soul of the style. I would have liked to see a little bit of peat smoke going on, but as always, that's simply wishful thinking. It does have a little flair of that unique island scotch maritime character, which is always welcomed. Honestly, it's a perfectly good scotch ale on the palate. The problem for me was, that damn nose really gets you worked up. It's so exquisite on the nose, that the palate just lets you down a little. Had the aroma translated to the flavor - with some more sweetness, all that dried figgy fruit character, the florals, and a little less bitterness, this would be a home run. As it is, it's a perfectly good scotch ale worth buying, if you're into scotch ales.

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Photo of Mugman8
4.21/5  rDev +2.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

Pours to deep ruby hue with a modest creamy head and lacing. The strong alcohol content is evident but not overwhelming. Taste is smokey and bold but with a sweet, smooth finish. I love this brew and this style. Will be buying again!

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Mugman8 from New York, Feb 24, 2019
Photo of Gajo74
4.09/5  rDev -0.5%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Pours a clear amber brown color with hints of ruby. A moderate head dissipates and yields a creamy layer of film and foamy lacing throughout. The carbonation is visible.
The nose first yields estery dark fruit aromas redolent of red grape, raisins and plum. Aromas of toasted and caramel malts. Furthermore, there is a light peaty and tobacco aroma, as well as mild notes of floral hops.
The taste is rich with toasted malt and caramel/toffee flavors. However, to its credit, i would not describe this beer as overly cloying or sweet due to other balancing factors. The dark fruit esters, red grape, plum and raisin, add a vinous quality. Although malt forward, there is actually a developing hops profile that adds a light bitterness, spice and floral and grassy flavors. There is also a bit of peat and smoke.
Medium to full bodied, moderately carbonated and very smooth. The alcohol is unbelievably well masked yet provides a nice bit of spice and warming in the finish. The finish is also nice and dry with a bit of hops bitterness and clean alcohol linger.
This was such an easy drinking beer that was a great example of the style. I particularly love that it wasn’t too sweet.

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Gajo74 from New York, Jan 30, 2019
Photo of rex_4539
4.3/5  rDev +4.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

L: Very dark amber color, quarter finger off white head, messy lacing, light carbonation.

S: Sweet, malts, alcohol. Smells wonderful!

T: Sweet, malty, alcohol. Nice!

F: Medium bodied, lots of flavor, good drinkability.

O: Pleasantly surprised by this one. Very good.

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rex_4539 from Greece, Jan 16, 2019
Photo of chitoryu12
3.94/5  rDev -4.1%
look: 3 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Look: Mud brown that lets a little light through. Half a finger at best of white head that quickly turns into a ring around the glass.

Smell: Sweet, doughy malt. A little cherry and brown sugar.

Taste: Starts mild with some slightly sweet malt, moving into more doughy and bready notes. Very mild hop fruitiness without any noticeable bitterness.

Mouthfeel: Thick and full-bodied, with relatively minimal carbonation.

Overall: Easy to drink, but lacking in complexity.

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chitoryu12 from Florida, Jan 12, 2019
Photo of Brutaltruth
4.09/5  rDev -0.5%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

An old favorite and one delivered from across the pond via our UK friend Keith! Cheers!
This classic ale pours a muddled amber tinged brown with a nice head of off white foam
that settles to a thick ring, thin light pool, and displays some nice light lacing. Nose of
dark breaded malts, hints of cherries, light phenol notes, and brown sugars. Flavors
surpass the nose with light cherry tinged brown sugar and dark breaded malts with
light herbal notes and earthy woodsy undertones with a subtle English yeast note.
Nice mouth feel; medium body, low carbonation, smooth, and a lightly warming
and subtly sweet finish.

Overall excellence from Scotland.


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Photo of Amendm
4.1/5  rDev -0.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

11.2-oz. bottle needed a moderate pour for a finger sized short lived light tan head with minimal lacing.
A little cloudy from chill haze at first, quickly clears up to a deep ruby/amber color, yellow/amber in front of light. Abundant sweet malt controls the smell with wood, apple and alcohol in the background.
Taste features roasted malt, a bit bitter at first as caramel malt, raisin and apple sweetens the middle.
The long finish is semi-dry with a slight smoky bite, rich malts are blended (semi-bitter/sweet), faint hops. Medium-light body with lower that average carbonation, smooth and a little chewy. Alcohol is well hidden. Smooth and well balanced, almost session-able. Big malt flavors on top of a lighter feel.

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Amendm from Rhode Island, Dec 12, 2018
Photo of mothmanscott
4.15/5  rDev +1%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

From notes 1/8/12: Pour a deep bronze with particulates producing a 1 inch tan head and leaving only a little lace. Aroma is rich caramel, dark fruit, toasted dark bread, alcohol and delicate hops. Sweet and boozy taste is similar with an earthy hop character coming in at mid-sip and knocking the edges off the sweetness until it fades to a dry finish. Mouthfeel is medium-full and mellow with moderate carbonation, relatively smooth. Much more complex than this short review reveals.

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Photo of jkblr
4.15/5  rDev +1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

330mL bottle BBE June 2020 poured into a teku glass at fridge temp 8.5% ABV. The beer pours slightly hazy medium brown in color with khaki head. The head recedes to a fat ring around the glass. There is slight lacing left behind. The aroma is toasted malt, caramel and fruit. The taste is semisweet caramel with a yeast driven fruitiness and mild bitterness. The mouthfeel is medium to thin bodied with less than medium carbonation and a semi dry finish. Overall, very good. I was expecting smoke and peat and instead found high level of fruity esters and a really enjoyable beer. Drinks more like a Belgian beer.

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jkblr from Indiana, Nov 24, 2018
Skull Splitter from Orkney Brewery
Beer rating: 92 out of 100 with 2297 ratings