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Skull Splitter | Orkney Brewery

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995 Reviews
Skull SplitterSkull Splitter

Brewed by:
Orkney Brewery
United Kingdom (Scotland)

Style: Scotch Ale / Wee Heavy

Alcohol by volume (ABV): 8.50%

Availability: Year-round

Notes / Commercial Description:
No notes at this time.

Added by BeerAdvocate on 10-08-1998

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User Reviews
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Reviews: 995 | Ratings: 2,156
Reviews by instrumentality:
Photo of instrumentality
3.85/5  rDev -5.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

I picked this brew up at Vin de Pays liquor store in Long Beach, an establishment for which I gain new respect from one trip to the next. They have a relatively small selection of fantastic brews, but that selection rotates periodically, so the key is to stagger your visits enough where you'll be able to try something new each time you visit.

I'm at a point in my relative newness to the BA world (about 8 months) where I have become a huge fan of scotch ales, but only a couple have really impressed me. My favorite so far is Founders Dirty Bastard, which I had from the bottle after I had already thrown back a few, so I don't know that my senses were totally up to speed. I also greatly enjoyed Alesmith's Wee Heavy on tap, but again, I had already thrown back nine tasters before I took this one on, so I may be a bit biased. Out of the bottle it was still enjoyable, but not nearly as good. Moylan's Kiltlifter was drinkable but nothing special, and McEwan's Scotch Ale I could pretty well do without.

I've heard good things about the SkullSplitter, and with a little encouragement from BA's seagoat and TheLongBeachBum, I had to grab a sample.

Poured into my Stone Russian Imperial Stout tulip glass (like everything else these days), this brew emerged a rich, opaque mahogany with about a finger of off-white head that quickly settled to a very thin lace with a thin halo of foam clinging to the glass. A quick swirl revived the head slightly before it dissolved back into a halo.

The odor wasn't as potent as some others of the style. There was a small trace of burnt malt that is one of the main draws of a good scotch ale for me, along with the faint emanation of toffee and caramel, but nothing too potent. A good smell, but I would have liked for it to have a bit more strength to it.

The flavor was definitely more interesting, although still not what I'd call the definitive scotch ale. It started off with an intense burning sensation from the alcohol, followed by a burnt maltiness mixed with an intriguing flavor that seemed to evolve from sweet to mildly bitter, first caramel, then toffee, then roasted coffee beans. The finish felt slightly chalky and tasted burnt and subtly sweet, almost like peeling off the charred skin of a roasted marshmallow and letting it dissolve in my mouth.

As I delved deeper into my glass, the sweetness seemed to become more prevalent, almost cloying, like a red wine that's gone a bit beyond its peak.

Maybe it's sacrilege for me to say I enjoy scotch ales made in the U.S. more than scotch ales made in Scotland, but so far, that seems to be the trend. This beer definitely blows out McEwan's, upstages Moylan's Kiltlifter, and has a bit more bite to it than Alesmith's Wee Heavy, but for me, Founders Dirty Bastard really raised the bar (I wish I could find it out here) and this one, which definitely tasty, has some noticeable flaws. I see enough potential, however, where I may have to pick up one or two more and let them age for some time and see if I have better luck.

 3,052 characters

More User Reviews:
Photo of Jason
4.75/5  rDev +17%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

12oz bottle, sample from the importer.

Impressively strong not only in alcohol but flavour to. The only thing wrong with this beer is that the bottle is too small.

 164 characters

Photo of Marraybay
2.23/5  rDev -45.1%
look: 3 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 2 | feel: 2 | overall: 2.25

Rats: Little disappointed in this one, given the build-up. Bourbon or sherry esque in both the nose and the taste, with a very prominent and overpowering boozy presence. The booze aside, not a fan of the undercurrent flavor either, which was medicinally sweet-harsh. Believe the end of the glass was the best part of the pour, so warming did perhaps help. Still, found Belhaven's offering in this style to be far more drinkable.

 433 characters

Photo of WildHighlander
5/5  rDev +23.2%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

This is by far my most favorite of Strong Scotch Ales. It has a creamy maltiness that is very appealing. A slight peat flavor comes through and the alcohol content of 8.5% ABV complements the malt sweetness nicely. I had this at the Hair of The Dog pub in Chattanooga, TN and really wish I could get this in Oklahoma.

 317 characters

Photo of JetFeather22
5/5  rDev +23.2%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

Very nice looking light brown color, I have to say this i one of the best beers i'v ever had.. Not the best WeeHeavy, But this is for sure a world class beer...

 160 characters

Photo of oberon
4.15/5  rDev +2.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 3.5

Very appetizing amber colored beer with rich creamy head.Raisin-like aroma to it,kinda porty in taste to me with some dried fruit in there,alchol was prevalent ecspecially when it began to warm.Something to drink before bedtime.Really nice liked it alot.

 254 characters

Photo of don1481
4.54/5  rDev +11.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Serving: Pour an 11.2 oz bottle into a pint glass.

Appearance: Deep reddish-brown. Small amount of foam lingers.

Smell: Fruity, toffee, boozy. Caramel notes, too. Smells inviting.

Taste: ... different than what I was expecting from the smell. I really don't taste the booze. It's quite a bit sweeter than I would have anticipated, even after reading the bottle's flavor description. The "complex" descriptor on the bottle is very appropriate here - I definitely get some molasses here. Fruit notes. Definitely warming. Mmm.

Mouthfeel: Soft. Not an abrasive boozy or syrupy feel at all. Satiny.

Overall: Yes, I think I will be picking this up quite regularly for now on when I want to go with something that I know is going to be REALLY good yet unique. AND - as a bonus - reasonably priced for a 4 pack!

 809 characters

Photo of RoyalT
4.6/5  rDev +13.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

Appearance – This has the classic appearance of the Sotch Ale/Wee Heavy style. The head came up huge then went down pitting. The body is a deep, dark, ruby-brown color.

Smell – Man, does this ale wreek! The big aroma of dark, concentrated fruits soaked in rum and brandy come out in force. The malts are present underneath along with some alcohol notes as well.

Taste – The rum/raisin flavor comes out huge and overpowers the other fruits from the nose. There’s also a tartness in there. Maybe we soaked some apples in this batch? Anyway, it’s a very unique and interesting flavor, and a “must try” for any serious BA.

Mouthfeel – Flat, smooth, and full-bodied with a reminder of alcohol.

Drinkability – Everything I wrote about this ale comes together in the drinkability category. I don’t feel that any one component is perfect, but together this is as good as it gets and deserves my highest, “Drinkability,” rating.

Update – I drink this on a regular basis but thought I should re-review it with an ’04 bottle. My opinion hasn’t changed one iota from my initial rating in September of 2003.

 1,124 characters

Photo of braugon
3.75/5  rDev -7.6%

Photo of cam477
4/5  rDev -1.5%

Photo of DanGeo
3.65/5  rDev -10.1%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

Photo of liveandletdie
4/5  rDev -1.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Bottle has changed a bit, still looks decent but I think I liked the old bottle better. Had this beer with some jalapeno chilli so it might have taken some taste away from the beer. Regardless I liked the beer, many flavors that my imprecise tongue could not put its finger on. A lot of fig/date type flavors. You don't really taste the alcohol. Color was a medium maple brown. Lacing clung to the side of the cup it was in. Little more into the beer and the alcohol makes a little bit of a presence as you might expect.
Overall good beer, and unique taste to it.

 564 characters

Photo of MadScientist
4.55/5  rDev +12.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

A: This is a fairly clear, medium amber beer with a long lasting tan head of less than a half finger cap on the beer.

S: This beer has a deep malty aroma with malt sweetness, some smokey and almost peaty aromas. There is a moderately-light caramel note in the background. There is the faint aroma of European hops aroma. There is some yeast derived dark fruit notes like plum with molasses and a light touch of alcohol flavor are in there as well.

T: A big malt flavor with a lot of malt sweetness followed by a dry roasted malt flavor. The hops flavor and bitterness are moderately low letting the malt and sweetness dominate the flavor. There is a very light pepper, some alcohol and some bitterness keeping the sweetness in check through the finish.

M: This is a thick, full bodied beer with moderate carbonation and a light alcohol warmth.

O: This malty, sweet and slightly smokey beer would make for a fine after dinner cordial. It's a fairly sweet beer but not cloyingly sweet with the alcohol and light bitterness keeping it in check.

 1,046 characters

Photo of Zakk
4/5  rDev -1.5%

Photo of wesbrownyeah
4.15/5  rDev +2.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

SkullSpiltter Wee Heavy Scotch Ale. 8.5% alcohol
Poured into a pint glass. I was talking to someone at the store i was at and they recomended this beer so i tried it.

A- Pours a medium amber- brown fluid that produces a small tan head that falls to a ring around the glass and froth.

S- I getting some very light scents of dark fruits... plum, raisins and maybe dates. Very light I must repeat.

T-M- There it is the flavor says everything in one sip. The alcohol fuzes with rich burnt malts danky plums and massive raisin backbone.
Taste is simple but for what a Wee Heavy is in Scotland "get drunk and have it taste good". Perfect. Mouthfeel is warm with alcohol tingling with every carbonated bubble but in a good way... smooth.

D- Hell yeah its drinkable and it a Wee bit heavier than any sessionable beers... but hey session drinking can be done with this one be careful.

 879 characters

Photo of tbryan5
4/5  rDev -1.5%

Photo of JacobMutberg
4/5  rDev -1.5%

Photo of SIRIUS2
4.06/5  rDev 0%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Poured from an 11.2 oz. bottle into a pint glass.

A careful pour yields a clear ruddy brown brew with a very nice foamy white head of 2-3 fingers in width. Head settles down but stays with the brew and leaves lacing all the way down the glass.

Aromas are of earthy malts with a touch of grassy hops. Aromas seem solid with good balance.

Sweet caramel malts were forward, fading slightly to allow something like dried cherries or similar fruitiness to come through. Hops aren't necessarily coming forward with flavor but you get the sense they are there simply because of the balance. The weight is nice too, and the carbonation is allows for an almost creaminess that all comes together well. nice.

Goes down easy and is highly enjoyable. Awesome beer!

 757 characters

Photo of wrycon
3.75/5  rDev -7.6%

Photo of skybluewater
3.78/5  rDev -6.9%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Pours a deep rust color, no lacing. Tastes malty, with a nice raisin undertone, with a bit of dried fruit as well. Warming alcohol present. It really tastes almost like a thin barleywine. Not a bad beer, one I'd return to every once in a while, if it was't $2.50 for such a small bottle.

 287 characters

Photo of orbitalr0x
4.29/5  rDev +5.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

11.2oz bottle pours into my glass a deep garnet hue without much head, just some bubbles that quickly fade and some chunkers that I accidentally let fall into my glass. Aromas start with big sweet malt tones dominated by caramel, sweetbread, dried fruits, leather, tobacco and a mix of spicy tones. There's a vinous quality in the background as well. Really rich and inviting, it pulls me in for a sip.

First sip brings smooth sweet malts upfront that spiral into a vortex of deep fruits, caramel, sweetbread and spice. Earthy tones of tobacco and leather veer in midway though the sip. Just a touch of alcohol in the finish, this is one malty beast with a great depth of flavor. It does teeter on the line of being too sweet for me, but overall is very enjoyable.

Mouthfeel is lush and satiny smooth as the beer effortlessly flows down. Mellow carbonation adds to the ease of drinkability here. I can see how this would be dangerous as the alcohol is totally hidden. Overall, this is just a damn fine drink right here. Will be revisiting this and maybe getting some to age as well.

 1,084 characters

Photo of chOAKbarrell
3.98/5  rDev -2%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

I can't say I know all that much about scotch ales, seeing as I've tried relatively few of them, but I was certainly fond of this one.

This beer is on the darker side, nicely attractive to look at. The alcohol is very present in the scent. I dont know if this is a good thing or not. It didnt bother me, but I guess that issue is just a matter of preference.

The taste - wow. There is a lot going on in this beer. It is rather hard to believe that this beer is only 8.5%. It seems a good bit stronger. I noticed too that it has that slightly-syrupy quality to it much like a barleywine. Very complex.

I dont think your average drinker could handle too many of these in a single session, but it is definitely worth your $$$ to pick up a six pack or
4 pack or however these are sold (I got mine at a bar - $4).

 819 characters

Photo of FadetoBock
4.35/5  rDev +7.1%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Photo of danthehopslamman
4.25/5  rDev +4.7%

Photo of lordofthewiens
4.2/5  rDev +3.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Thank you to Todd the beer guy at McKean and Charles in Waldoboro for getting me to try this. Other than the cool name, I'm not sure I would have bought this without his suggestion. A 330ml bottle poured into a pint glass, it was brown with red highlights, and had a small head. It had a peaty aroma, as well as a little bit of malt. Loved the taste. Bread, peat, alternatingly sweet and smoky. A really nice mouthful. Try this beer.

 433 characters

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Skull Splitter from Orkney Brewery
4.06 out of 5 based on 2,156 ratings.
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