Skull Splitter | Orkney Brewery

1,002 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

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Reviews: 1,002 | Ratings: 2,180
Photo of Chugmonkey
1.32/5  rDev -67.5%
look: 3 | smell: 1 | taste: 1 | feel: 3 | overall: 1

I love the name of this beer, one of my favorite beer names ever. Smells strong, earthy, smoky, and medicinal. Mouthfeel is thick and syrupy. Taste is intolerable. Drinkability is impossible due to thick mouthfeel and nasty lingering medicinal syrupy aftertaste. I could not finish it. This beer made me want to quit drinking altogether. Should be named Throatsplitter. I shutter and cringe when I see it in a store.

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Photo of harrymel
1.91/5  rDev -53%
look: 3.5 | smell: 1.75 | taste: 1.5 | feel: 3.25 | overall: 1.75

Best by Jul 17 (my anniversary, hopefully a good omen)

It's a good dark brown amber with a etched surface and some loose rim foam. Smells like butter, apple skin, a little bit of malt, some skunk (this died off as the beer warmed); really sad nose. Flavor is malt, rye, tomato, sweet hawaiian bread rolls, some astringency and on the breath after the swallow: booze and butter. Medium bodied and tight moderate alcohol. Profoundly unimpressed with this brew.

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Photo of Brent
2.06/5  rDev -49.3%
look: 3 | smell: 2 | taste: 2 | feel: 2 | overall: 2

"SkullSplitter" is probably a good description of the hangover more than a couple of bottles would induce. I did not think the malt and hops were well balanced, it started fairly sweet but quickly gave way to a overly bitter hops finish.

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Photo of unklesyd
2.13/5  rDev -47.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 1.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 1.5

Damn. Tasted like two things: my own lame attempt at a Scotch ale that I thought was infected because it tasted like Band-Aid brand adhesive plastic barrier, and Rogue's Chipotle Ale, the only beer I've ever taken back to the bar to complain about.

Way too much peat smoke. Enough to make me wonder: did they overload on purpose, or was this, like mine, infected. Because I could taste a very faint undertone of trad. Scotch sweeties, I have to think the prior is likely. Skull splitting? Indeed, because it tastes like licking a smoke-dried sock.


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Photo of Immortale25
2.17/5  rDev -46.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 2.75 | taste: 1.5 | feel: 2 | overall: 2.5

Poured into a Dogfish Head signature snifter. Bottle says BBE MAR 14.

A- Pours a murky, dark brown that's nearly opaque with 3/4 of an inch of head that retains a bit and then goes down to an 1/8 inch ring around the edge of the glass with nice lacing trailing behind it.

S- Smells metallic and glassy with a bit of skunk in the background. Hopefully I don't have another oxidized import on my hands.

T- Gah! That bites! Now I see why it gets the name. For a mere 8.5% ABV, this one packs a heavy punch of booze. I guess that's why it's a "scotch" ale. It's hard to sip since all I get is burning alcohol on my tongue and in the back of my throat. Struggling to find layers or complexity in this. The label says "deceptively light character" which I must strongly disagree with.

M- Stinging, dry and intense with medium carbonation. It's hard to not make an "ew" face as I take sips.

O- Yuck! I think I may have my second drainpour ever...

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Photo of stirgy
2.18/5  rDev -46.3%
look: 5 | smell: 2 | taste: 2 | feel: 2 | overall: 2

The appearance of this beer is superb. It poured out a clear and bright ruby, almost cherry color. It gave a big lacy head in the glass and had a nice carbonation. That's where most of the enjoyment stopped for me. The smell seriously reminded me of old wet bread dough and sour apples. There was a strange alcohol smell also.

In tasting, a heavy malt flavor was evident, along with some fruitiness. Any hop aroma was muted by the other flavors. There is an overbearing sweetness here.

This beer was actually hard for me to finish, which is rare.
Someday I'll give this one another shot, hopefully on tap.

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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.

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Photo of SimplySinister
2.26/5  rDev -44.3%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 2 | feel: 2 | overall: 1.5

A - Great looking beer. A beautiful red with quite of bit of carbonation. Plenty of lacing.

S - Smokey and woody. The malts came through far too strong for me.

T - I can relate somewhat to other reviewers when they say that this brew has some of the qualities of an English Brown ale. Initialy the taste does have some of the characteristics of an English brown, but soon after other notes begin to emerge. For me, it started out a little nutty and soon developed into a sickly sweet, overly smokey, malt-coated nightmare.

M - Thick and syrupy. Terrifying.

D - Its price severely limits its drinkability, not to mention its taste. Far too thick and far too sweet for my taste buds. Atrocious.

After reading all the reviews for this one I had really high hopes for it. That was a mistake; this beer was a monumental disappointment. I like to give every beer out there a fair chance. Sometimes I will even give a beer a few dozen chances before I make my decision. As far as this beer is concerned I just don't like it. I could go on and on about certain things I dislike, but I'd rather just leave it there.

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Photo of BaronRVH
2.34/5  rDev -42.4%
look: 4 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 2 | feel: 3 | overall: 2

A - Great looking beer. A beautiful red with quite of bit of carbonation.

S - Smokey but sweet. The malts are upfront.

T - I was very disappointed! I was really hopeful in trying this beer because Orkney has my favorite, everyday Whisky in the 12 years old. This was cloyingly sweet, over malted and almost flat.

M - Thick, not well balanced. Coated the tongue with no brightness on the finish.

It makes me have to think that the bottle got heated pretty badly on the trip across the pond and completely killed the balance of the beer. That's the only explanation I have because I have read some great reviews of this beer. Of course, I finished the 4-pack.

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Photo of Homebrew35
2.38/5  rDev -41.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 1.5 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 2.5

Pours a nice off white creamy one finger head. Deep reddish body fairly clear. Some retention with no lacing.

Smells like pencil erasers, some sweetness, fruityness and some light alcohol.

Sweet and carmely, slight dark and white fruity notes, medium to light peat. Slight alcohol warmth. The eraser/rubbery smell comes through in the taste as well. I'm not sure if this is an old or infected bottle but this is what I get.

Medium bodied, medium carbonation. Fairly coating and sticky sweet on the finish.

Overall this beer was a big letdown. I'll try it again someday to see if this was a limited occurrence. The rubber/eraser smell and taste did me in, down the drain this goes.
$3 a single

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Photo of mintjellie
2.5/5  rDev -38.4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 2.75 | taste: 2.25 | feel: 2.25 | overall: 2.5

Deep copper. Small and short-lived beige head, decent lace. Sharp, boozy aroma with light raisin and toffee notes. Tastes mildly sweet with notes of caramel, raisin, and dried cherry. Mild bitterness in the finish. It's boozy, and I find that unpleasant without some strong flavours to balance things out. Light-bodied with low carbonation. It feels thin, and I think it contributes to the alcohol coming across harshly. I didn't enjoy this beer.

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Photo of bigfnjoe
2.67/5  rDev -34.2%
look: 2 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 2.5

Poured from a bottle into a Dogfish snifter

A- pours an extremely dark brown with a paper thin offwhite head that quickly fades into nothingness. Well then, that's...interesting

S- dark fruits, molasses, a little brown sugar...not a lot going on

T- very light sweetness, lots of caramel and toffee....pretty middling flavors overall, but not bad

M- thin bodied, much moreso than I expected. Disappointing

O- something must have gone wrong with this bottle, because it was absolutely nothing like what I'd expect from a wee heavy. Underwhelming across the board

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Photo of dojobrewco
2.68/5  rDev -34%
look: 2.5 | smell: 2 | taste: 3 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 3

Poured into a snifter a deep amber with minimal head retention. Fairly significant lacing as my glass emptied. Had a very sharp smell, not anything like a floral hops. More like a household cleaner. Perhaps this is from the alcohol content. Tasted of toffe sweetness on the frontside but as it finished the high alcohol content surrounded my taste buds. Overall is a very drinkable beer, perhaps if I'm ever in Scotland I'll try another

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Photo of trep
2.69/5  rDev -33.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 2 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 2.5

Garnet colored body below a creamy ivory colored head. Lots of lace being left on the glass as it slowly settles. Almost perfect clarity despite the darkness.

Very musty smell to it, like the corner of a gym shower. Definite caramel malt presence and a twinge of alcohol.

Dry maltiness that doesn't really excite nor strive to be, I don't believe. Some spiciness initially that gives way to the malt. A toffee-ish aftertaste. Alcohol is somewhat present but not overwhelming. Tastes like armpit sweat, I imagine, does.

Kind of thin I guess. I haven't had alot of Wee-Heavy's so i'm not sure as to how to rate the mouthfeel of this one but it's definitely not too pleasing.

Not sure if I could drink another one of these...ever.

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Photo of jucifer1818
2.74/5  rDev -32.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 2.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 2.25

Ill be fair: I'm comparing this beer a lot to my own home-brewed scottish sure if that makes it biased or not. But it is in fact a thing!

appearance: My own beer does do something wrong: it has way too much color. It comes off far more brown than it should, and this brew does it right in my opinion. It has the color of pale malt syrup, with virtually no head (remember, alcohol kill head!). I think that this brew requires close to a perfect score in appearance. 4.55

Smell: really, I'm sorry to say, not much here. A bit of alcohol sweetness and Scottish (what, that's the only way to describe it) fits in as well. Its OK, but id hope for more. 35

Taste: I was kinda worried about my own Scottish ale. It tasted kinda hot, and I assumed that it was because it was very young (kegged about 2 weeks ago). This stuff makes me feel that its going to be a great Scottish ale. This stuff has huge amount of "warmth" ot it, which I would really call "booz" (tomato to tommato correct?). It has the same kind of sweetness that comes with such "warmth. That is pretty much the scope of flavor that this brew has. I'm not sure, I guess that I give it a 2.255

Mouthfeel: The beer has a oddly light mouthfeel, probably dried out via the use of brewing sugars. It is balanced out by a decent level of snappy carbonation. 45

overall: I think I was expecting more from this one. seriously. With a name like that, you expect greatness. but its just a bit above average. It comes off WAY too hot and sweet, but its not offensive so..ehh. its just ok. I suppose its worth having once to make up your own mind about the stuff (or to get the bottle, which DOES look cool), but really, its not worth a 4 pack or really trying again. 2.255

Overall a disappointment. Looking forward to when my own scotch ale matures up in about 2-5 weeks. Hopefully that will scratch my scotch ale itch

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Photo of Spikester
2.76/5  rDev -32%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 2.5

Poured dark brown with red highlights. A two-finger head and some lacings. Aroma is brown sugar and leathery. Tastes like soy-sauce mixed with molasses then made into wine. Lots of alcohol evident. Not my type of brew.
Very colorful label art. Overall in interesting experience.

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Photo of Mlkluther
2.77/5  rDev -31.8%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 2.75 | overall: 2.75

It seems most like this beer - I did it. I found it was overly boozy. It had a cloying sickly sweet finish. I found the overall flavour reminiscent of cough syrup. It's just not for me, I guess :-). More for the rest of you to enjoy!

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Photo of Moose90
2.83/5  rDev -30.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

BBE: May 15

330mL bottle

A – Dark mocha brown, almost leathery appearance. Big fluffy head from an aggressive pour, disappears quickly. Lacing is patchy, thin and just odd.

S – Pilsner here, typical pils hop and malt characteristics. Light fruit, raisins and figs. Quite assertive and bitter.

T – Very sweet and fruity, like a Fig Newton in a glass. Plum, fig, and fresh cut oats. Some odd spice notes as well.

M – Sticky and smooth with a long finish. Odd tastes rounds out to an okay package.

O – Crazy brew. A lot going on, maybe too complex and trying too hard.

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Photo of HopsYeast
2.85/5  rDev -29.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 2.5

a-clear dark amber body with a no head.
s-yeast and an abundance of fruit. plums, grapes, sweet apples, raspberries, cherries, and figs. to be honest, it almost smells like concentrated fruit syrup.
t-slight beginning of hops gives way to fruits again. some maltiness but dominated by yeast and fruit flavors. its too much. almost like drinking grenadine. there is a nice warmth from the high abv% but thats it.
m-thick. goes along with the syrup theme im picking up on. low level carbonation.
o-maybe i got a bad one since the review are in tital contrast to what im experiencing but this doesnt do it for me. i will try again to see if my palate develops more but right now, this isnt for me.

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Photo of sennoma
2.86/5  rDev -29.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 2.75 | feel: 2.75 | overall: 2.75

Did not enjoy. Another reviewer put it well -- "wears its ABV on its sleeve". Probably would have split my skull but I didn't finish it -- thin mouthfeel, bitterness unbalanced by body -- not nearly as rich or warm as I was expecting from a strong beer. Have never had a Scotch Ale before so maybe I just don't care for the style.

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Photo of katybee
2.87/5  rDev -29.3%
look: 3 | smell: 2.75 | taste: 3 | feel: 2.75 | overall: 2.75

pours transparent brown amber, highly carbonated, but the 1/2" head very quickly dissipates leaving only a trace of lacing.

the smell is not hoppy at all, clearly leaning toward a biscuit malt or perhaps fig-like, but with a slight metallic note which put me off immediately.

the mouthfeel was slightly creamy and smooth- the one good point. But the beer was too thin-bodied overall.

taste was slightly carmel and sweet, but the fruity overtones were a little funky or metallic, and I detected no pronounced flavorful spiceyness.

very little complexity to hide the immediate head rush. the beer lived up to its name "skull splitter" and I could sense the headache to come almost immediately. This is not a 'sipping' beer... It's more like a whiskey blend. Straight and to the point; hangover to follow...

will pass it by next time, despite the intrigue of the Orkney isles and the cute term "wee heavy"... I'd compare this to a Belgian tripel.

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Photo of OWSLEY069
2.88/5  rDev -29.1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 2.5

Pours a clean deep amber with a white head that does not hang around. In the nose, a sweet malt and somewhat earthy. In the taste, a sweet malty beer, with hints of caramel/ butterscotch, and a alcohol presence. It has a dry sticky mouthfeel. It is a bigger beer, with big alcohol and big flavors, the sweetness to this is nice though.

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Photo of TheHammer
2.93/5  rDev -27.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 2 | overall: 2

Appearance: A dark brown body with crimson notes that boasts steady and ample carbonation. Sadly the head produced a mere finger that quickly receded and did not lace.

Smell: Malt and grapes dominate the nose, but that's not saying much as it required warming to come out. Nothing all the complex or particularly off or pungent here.

Taste: Starts with a creeping molasses taste that turns abruptly into an explosion of malt as prunes, grapes, caramel and a very abrupt booze taste comes forward as it wears it's ABV on it's sleeve. It then winds down with light peat and smoke that is accented by a touch of grassy hops.

Mouthfeel: This beer is not at all delicate with it's transitioning, it goes from mild, to malt and back to mild and the carbonation seems to only accent the malt hit. Points also get deducted for a complete lack of head. It also leaves a bit of a solvent aftertaste as it doesn't conceal the alcohol.

Drinkability: This stuff hits way too hard and serves more of a wake up call then something to drink regularly. Medium bodied but seems to be a bit rough on my gut.

Final Thoughts: I guess with a name like Skull Splitter, I should have expected a beer that drinks like an axe to the head. I guess this beer is for more adventurous tastes as unlike Belgians who tend to hide their high alcohol content, this beer seems to want to be blatantly upfront about it.

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Photo of Winter
2.99/5  rDev -26.4%
look: 4 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

Pours a dark brown with garnet highlights. Scattered light tan head across the surface. Pungent malty aroma has an unappealing sourness to it. The mouthfeel is medium-bodied, smooth and soft. Skullsplitter is an odd tasting Scotch Ale. Rich malty flavor with a prune-like fruitiness. But the taste has a funky sour, bitterness to it. The alcohol leaves a dry finish on the tongue. With all the high marks, this was disappointing.

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Photo of aforbes10
2.99/5  rDev -26.4%
look: 4 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

from old notes....

looks heavy. red with a small head. heavy lacing contributes to its heavy alcohol appearance. Smells sweet and smoky and a little unwelcoming. Wow, very smoky flavor with alcohol on the finish. hickory and other wood tastes are the most dominant flavors.. some fruity flavors but i can't place them exactly. I want to say figs, but that seems strange for a beer and isn't quite right. Taste isn't too bad, although everyone else i was drinking with thought the whole thing was terrible. must be my scots blood. syrupy mouthfeel. ok drinkability but too alcoholic.

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Skull Splitter from Orkney Brewery
4.06 out of 5 based on 2,180 ratings.
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