Skull Splitter | Orkney Brewery

1,001 Reviews
Skull SplitterSkull Splitter

Brewed by:
Orkney Brewery
Scotland, United Kingdom

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

For Trade:
User Reviews
Sort by:  Recent | High | Low | Top Raters | Alström Bros
first ← prev | 1-25 | 26-50 | 51-75  | nextlast
Reviews: 1,001 | Ratings: 2,178
Photo of Weizenmensch
5/5  rDev +23.2%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

First of all, this is like no other wee heavy I've ever had. I was just going to enjoy this ale quietly, musing on its merits without reviewing it, because I thought I knew what I was in for.

There are flavours in this beer I've seldom had before, and never all at once: the brewer who created this combination is truly skilled. There are elements of Kelpie Seaweed Ale, and other herbal ales I've tried, but also understated and richly satisfying christmas pudding, pepper and cinnamon flavours.

I'm not one for English nut-brown ales with these flavours normally, as they are usually too overstated. It's easy to make a brown ale with rich raisin, plum and spice notes, but very hard to have them balanced to such an extent that the overall impact isn't astringent and generally unpleasant in the mouth.

Skull Splitter works. It tastes like a seaside brewery - you can taste the bitter herbs, seaweed, sharp hops, and also the rich, flavoursome characteristics of the malts. I will remember this beer, not only for its awesome name and bottle, but for reminding me that ALL styles of beer can truly be made excellently, even the ones I personally am not so naturally attuned to.

Bravo, Norman Sinclair!

P.S. I'm giving this a straight five, but only because it's the best ale of this style I can possibly imagine. I've never had anything close to this in this style. However, I've had other excellent beers in other styles that have approached and sometimes merited a five. When it comes to the Scottish beer world, this is the leader of the pack.

 1,554 characters

Photo of Euphoria69
5/5  rDev +23.2%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

Just tried this beer last night at really cool bar that had a "twin peeks" look (velvet wallpaper, red curtains, animal heads on the wall and very dark) With a name like Skull Splitter I just had to try it. Amazing taste and almost instant buzz. So good I ordered 3 more. If you like dark beer but don't like how it sets heavy in the gut. This beer will impress you, because it has the rich dark flavor but without the bloat. I am giving this beer a perfect 5 because so far it is the best dark beer I have ever had.

 516 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 firemedic1343
5/5  rDev +23.2%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

Serving Type: Bottle with nice design, very appealing.

Appearance: Nice dark look with a nice reflection of light.

Taste: Delicious, dark fruit, wow, pleasantly surprised for the first time in a long time.

Mouthfeel: Chewy, filling feel in the mouth.

Overall: A new and instant favorite. You must try!

 305 characters

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

So I was at dinner one night, and ordered a skullsplitter. Wow. It poured a beautiful dark brown, creamy head (just enough). First sip? It was so good I literally shed a tear. Rich, deep, flavor, malty sweetness followed by just enough hops to not be overbearing. Left a delicious, sweet aftertaste in my mouth. When I start brewing, this is what I want my beer to taste like. My favorite of all time.

 401 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

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

Real Review from experiance , Bent and Bong's Beer Festival mid nineties , I would recommend a pre nuptial night with this beer, if you can survive this and you are still fianced you are sorted
I gave away my camra/festival badge to a mystery lass , arranged a motorbike ride with another lass and had a disaggreament with some round table people.
Good Night Out , caramel blah blah blah

 387 characters

Photo of Justin23060
5/5  rDev +23.2%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

My first A+ review and a perfect choice for the first night that required the furnace. Very dark amber with a beige head that gradually dissipated and stuck somewhat to my thistle glass. Smell is all the wonderful things you get from a fruit cake (even that little bit of alcohol you get from a brandy infused one). Taste is a pleasant sweetness that slowly fades to a clean semi sweet finish, thanks to the hops that only slightly bitter. Candied cherry is the headliner, followed by some almond nuttiness and a definite Sherry earthiness and warmth. The unmasked alcohol helps to highlight all the complexities in this warmer. Don't let the Viking theme and name lead you to believe this beer is just a novelty. This is indeed one world class brew.

 750 characters

Photo of NoHorsePiss
4.94/5  rDev +21.7%
look: 5 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

Compared to my Top 2 favorite ales, the price of this fine product makes it my clear go-to option for a case. You're sure to make friends at a party if you share this.

A - Poured into a pint glass with a little less than my small fingers of light tan head. The glass was nearly clean when finished.

S - It smells of fruit and syrup. Caramel comes into the picture, also. Very pleasing on approach to drink. Would make a nice cologne.

T - Instant fruity taste that finishes into a sweet molasses aftertaste. I'm a chip eater with certain beers that leave a bitter aftertaste, but this whole glass went down with lip-smacking and no food chasers. I could easily have opened a second or third to keep enjoying it, but at 8.5%, that'd be a bit overkill for my 120lb body.

M - Almost no carbonation. I'd have to say it feels like a pleasant coating that lingers and prompts another sip. I might be offended if I saw someone chug it. No, I would be. It would be amazing with a good steak and will try that soon.

O - Overall, when being budget conscious, I'd choose this over my favorites: Palo Santo Marron and Kentucky Bourbon Barrel Ale. PSM clearly kicks in with 12% ABV but is the most expensive of the three by more than a dollar per bottle in Tampa, FL. KBB is over $14/4pk here, too, but is a special treat, so I've found a new "it's not a stout" tasty option to grab when we have a get-together.

Serving type: bottle

 1,424 characters

Photo of sarahspat
4.92/5  rDev +21.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

Pours a dark brown with beautiful amber highlights; small caramel colored head.

Smells of caramel, red wine, woody/earthiness, flowers. The taste follows suit. Very tangy, sweet (but not too sweet) and at times almost tart. No shortage of complexity here. Very rich and smooth, too. No way I would have guessed that this had an ABV as high as 8.5% based on the taste. The alcohol is completely hidden. It's medium-bodied and perfectly carbonated.

This is one of my favorite styles; but this was the first authentic (being that it's brewed in Scotland) one I've had. This is a great Wee Heavy... maybe my favorite one now.

 623 characters

Photo of Troy_P
4.92/5  rDev +21.2%
look: 5 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 5

Red Coat Tavern was out of the usual Bellhaven Wee Heavy. Decided to try this one. Came in a bottle, poured into a nice cold glass.

Appearance: Nice head. Good creamy lacing. Wonderful dark, dark color.

Smell: Slightly fruity. Some caramel noted. Overall, a very positive beginning.

Mouthfeel: Rich and full body. Not as "thick" as expected. Very smooth. This seemed to be a bit lighter in the alcohol taste than the Wee Heavy from Bellhaven.

Taste: Nice malty profile. Wonderful complex notes which seemed to adjust slightly. Sweet caramel combines with some fruitiness. Nice finish.

Only wish I didn't have to stop at the second. Though, in truth, these were filling as well.

 686 characters

Photo of GoldenChild
4.92/5  rDev +21.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

This is a world class beer buy it if you want to try one of the best beers for this style. $9.99us for a 4 pack.

A-Dark orange 2 fingers of creamy thick head.

S-Oak, Bourbon, Dark fruit, Caramel, And vanilla .

T-Smooth warming, Oak, Bourbon, Dark fruit, Caramel, And vanilla .
Love it going to drink two then put the others in the cellar. Will be buying more. Drink this beer

 378 characters

Photo of Futbol15
4.89/5  rDev +20.4%
look: 4.75 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.75

This beer was everything I expected and then some. I found it at a variety store as a single and thought it would be a great sample bottle to add to my build your own 6 pack....I should've bought 6 of these!

 208 characters

Photo of hyuga
4.87/5  rDev +20%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

Amber-brown color with a frothy light tan head that settles quickly. Wonderfully intense and rich malty aroma of smoky caramel along with lots of green apple rind and spicy hops. The aroma jumps right at you, it's hard to miss all of the nuances of character in it, even under the big, bold maltiness. Rich, full flavor. Chewy, sweet caramel and peat-like malt with a little smokiness and spicy hop bite. A tiny hint of dried fruit is detectable. Roasted undertones throughout. Dangerously smooth. Very and robust. Overall, caramel is in charge. This was one of my first introductions to heavily malty brews, and one of the reasons I love them! Highly recommended.

 664 characters

Photo of Kwak
4.87/5  rDev +20%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4 | overall: 5

Rich creamy head, a little small but had plenty of flavor.

Smooth full creamy dark body almost muddy looking.

The taste was full of caramel flavor, nice gentle spicy undertones.
Excellent alcohol warming effect in the end.
I like the aftertaste on this one.

Would recommend, but only have one!

 304 characters

Photo of SpruceMoose
4.85/5  rDev +19.5%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.75

It's going to be extremely hard for me to not be ridiculously biased in this review. I love, love, love my scotch ales and I especially love Skull Splitter. It's my bloody avatar, for god's sake. However, after trying several other scotch ales, I decided to return to the good old Orkney brew and compare it to others I've enjoyed in the past couple of months. Almost nothing has changed (what a surprise, he lied).

Serving Type: 330ml bottle poured into a Duvel tulip glass.

Appearance: An aggressive pour leaves a dark-brown opaque body with a thick white head. Bewdeful.

Smell: Chicory, caramel, toffee, plum, apricot and wood(?) dominate the nostrils, with some subtle booziness unraveling itself as smelling persists. It literally begs for me to take that first, prolonged sip. Oh, temptress!

Taste: Wham! There's so much going on here that it's hard to isolate the flavours. Fruitiness, nuttiness, bitterness,'s all here. Wrapped up in a neat little bow (or glass?) for you to enjoy.

Mouthfeel: Surprisingly light for a scotch ale, but not to the point where it comes off as watery and plain. The body is definitely there, but it takes a few sips to truly embrace the intensity of this ale. The taste throws the first punch, and the developing body is the knockout hit.

Overall: There's a reason I hold Skull Splitter above the many other scotch ales I've had, and that's because I'm biased. But why, you scream and point accusingly? Because it's simply everything you'd want in a beer of its kind (strong caramelised taste, decent strength, consistent body) plus more. Open a bottle, take a sip and split your skull. Split it beyond the point of repair. You won't regret it.

 1,701 characters

Photo of RonaldTheriot
4.85/5  rDev +19.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

Skull Splitter has a medium, creamy, beige head and a hazy, apricot color, with particulate matter floating throughout. The aroma is of dark fruits, figs, and prunes. Taste is of sweet, dark fruits, prunes, figs, chocolate, and there is some spicy hop presence. One gets a strong alcohol profile with this, and it is reminiscent of brandy. Mouthfeel is medium, and Skull Splitter finishes fairly dry, rich, and smooth. Overall, this is a fabulous beer.


 458 characters

Photo of Bouleboubier
4.85/5  rDev +19.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

This is my benchmark Scotch Ale. It was my first such - before I knew what one was - before I really knew what beer was. I first crossed paths with Thorfinn in the desert in the middle of Arizona in the middle of August 2001. Had the privilege of sampling a half-pint (actually 3) of it on draft in Edinburgh at the Guildford Arms, August 2009. Quirky (because they refused to pour me full pint) and immemorable.

SkullSplitter is the color of my blood. The head pours small due to it being pulled down by the brawny weight of the brew. I don't trust a Scotch Ale that has a fluffy head. The aroma is rich, dry, malty, cherry-fruity, delicately smoky and swampy - it vaguely resembles an altbier as well. For the style, the flavor is big and bold - absolutely perfect. Alcohol barely intrudes, if at all. No over-hopping nor over-smokiness. At its core, whiskey, cherry, and burnt wood lead the flavors, nougat and butter-cookie at times, with a lightly sweet, mostly dry, tobacco-lined aftertaste. Man flavors. The feel is nearly flawless - moderate density, motor-oil smooth. This is the best goddamn Scotch Ale in existence, and that statement is only marginally influenced by the bad-ass label and tale about the namesake. The ale is eternal, invigorating, inebriating, and revelatory. Hail SkullSplitter!

 1,309 characters

Photo of Brad007
4.85/5  rDev +19.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

Pours a dark red color with a one-finger head and decent carbonation.

Aroma is strong with hints of smoked peat and a bit of caramel. Definitely seems like it has a decent malt bite.

Taste is very strong with definite flavors of smoked peat and a bit of caramel/brown sugar at the back. Rich and chewy.

Mouthfeel is smoked peat and caramel. Very thick. Beer goes down smooth.

Definitely a skull-splitter! A decent sipping beer that would go well with a cold night. Probably the best example I've had of this style.

 520 characters

Photo of obrendano
4.85/5  rDev +19.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

a favorite of mine, this is some stellar stuff right here

A - love the bottle on this, makes me want to crank some metal while I drink. clear crimson red body, puffy head that leaves some good spotting and lacing throughout

S - sweet malt smell with caramel and an alcohol harmony in the background

T - super super malty and sweet, gets sweeter towards the middle, finishes with tons of caramel and butterscotch to be found, and a touch of booze

M - unbelievably smooth and velvety, unbeatable

D - turn down the lights, turn on some Bathory, let this warm up to just barely above room temp and enjoy

 604 characters

Photo of bpw28
4.85/5  rDev +19.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

Look: Two finger white head, great retention, dark oaky brown (about a 23 SRM), beautiful lacing.

Smell: Big roasted malt, big dark fruits: prunes, figs, and cherry come to mind, floral, boozy, sweet, slight woody, caramel, nougat, nutty/chestnut.

Taste: Wow. Sweet but not overly, nice medium roasted malt, big prune and fig, boozy (not offensive, it tastes like a well aged liqour), warming, biscuity, caramelized sugar, spicy, light liquorice. Great full and chewy body.

Final Thoughts: This screams "enjoy on a cold, snowy day by a fire". This could be my favorite scotch. Even if it is summer, I can see the good in this brew. The warming full ale is amazing. Great brew.

 679 characters

Photo of Earpe
4.84/5  rDev +19.2%
look: 5 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

WeeHeavy....i am a fan of IPAs and English Ale. I can say without a doubt, Skull Splitter is my favorite of all brews. Upon first taste 6 months ago, this sucker has been the brew I dream about, unfortunately it is quite expensive for a 4-pack., so therefore i am in constant search for a brew that is very close to the taste of the Splitter (i have yet to find it).

Let me describe it for you the best i is brown in color, it has the smell of heaven (seriously some hints of spices and to me hints of liquor).

It taste of darkness from the malts and fruits, but definitely not fruity in it hits the throat there is a warming sensation from the alcohol, but the alcohol does not overwhelm the flavor. This is what a real brew should be.

On the tongue slapped my brains out
Splitter is 8.5% warned...but i love that warming sensation as it goes past the pallet down the shoot...

pour this sucker in your favorite mug....and you will not be disappointed (just don't take the weekly 4 pack i have reserved at my local wine store).

 1,076 characters

Photo of Bodega95
4.83/5  rDev +19%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.75

Excellent Wee Heavy.

It pour in perfectly on the glass, with a nice copper brown colour and a good head.

it had complexity and a mouthful of Malt.

Strong but smooth.

Sweet on the after-taste.

I could drink this all day, sitting and enjoying a Scottish style view

 272 characters

Photo of seanyfo
4.82/5  rDev +18.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

poured into a duvel tulip glass, pours a very dark mahogany colour, holding it up to the light produces a nice ruby hue. 1 finger persistant head.

S- lots of prune, sherry, raisins and bready malt, smells like a hearty desert in itself

T- OH MY GOD! this is nectar! absolute nectar, a beautiful toffee hazelnut quality in this beer, lots of sweet sticky raisins and sherry like alcohol finish. Not at all dry, i cannot find the alchohol in the finish as i was expecting, so damn smooth, magnificent!

M- low carbonation, with thick syrupy mouthfeel, just what you want on a cold winters nite

D- not high drinkability of course for the abv, but each small sip makes me want more and more. This is my ideal winter warming firesider! well done Orkney Brewery, a true world champion!

 794 characters

Photo of The_Mad_Capper
4.81/5  rDev +18.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

The aroma includes toffee and a little chocolate but is not overly sweet. Some spiciness and dark fruitiness are also present, along with some soft but pronounced woody, roasted malt. It appears mostly clear with a lovely, orange-ish mahogany body and a light tan head. There is plenty of rich maltiness in the flavor but it feels light in the mouth. The malt is somewhat sweet but is not as toffee-like as in the aroma; it instead has a roasted and woody quality. The flavor overall produces an impression of nicely balanced sweetness and bitterness, which is soon followed by some warming alcohol which appears briefly and swiftly fades, and which contributes nicely to the pervading spiciness and dark fruitiness of the esters. What lingers is a lightly sweet and grainy maltiness with just a bit of husky bitterness. The feel is smooth with a mid-range body—neither too heavy nor too light. Some alcohol warming is present, but it works very well with the other qualities without overstaying its welcome.

Overall impeccable, really. All of the qualities work very well together, especially the well-structured and judicious flavors and the carefully attenuated carbonation and carbonic crispness. The flavor and aroma are consistently complex and expressive without being overwhelming.

 1,293 characters

first ← prev | 1-25 | 26-50 | 51-75  | nextlast
Skull Splitter from Orkney Brewery
4.06 out of 5 based on 2,178 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

    Support uncompromising beer advocacy and award-winning, independent journalism with a print subscription to BeerAdvocate magazine.