Skull Splitter | Orkney Brewery

2,192 Ratings
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 Ratings & Reviews
Sort by:  Recent | High | Low | Top Raters | Alström Bros
Ratings: 2,192 |  Reviews: 1,005
Photo of hoopermcbeal
3.38/5  rDev -16.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Nice ruby colour, small amount of head. Very strong smell of molasses and alcohol. It is quite smooth with a strong finish, I got a abit of hops and a sweetness as well. I was happy with this beer considering I bought it on it's name alone.It's a very powerful beer with strong flavour, definitely not for the weak of heart.

 324 characters

Photo of Paincane
3.95/5  rDev -2.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

A: Chocolate dark brown with tan head that fades quickly and leaving small amount of lacing. 330ml bottle poured into snifter.
S: Malts, sweet dark fruits, figs, alcohol and tobacco all emerge. Definitely smells like more booze than it contains at 8.5%abv.
T: Roasted malt, tobacco, figs, dates, and alcohol.
M: Full-bodied, sticky, warming alcohol presence. Lightly carbonated.
O: A manly brew, not for the wife and kids. Seems a bit harsh and in need of mellowing. Will cellar it for a while and re-taste it later. Nonetheless, I did enjoy it and will have my skull split again by Orkney.

 592 characters

Photo of Guden
3.67/5  rDev -9.6%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Tasted at the Quarry House in MD.

A- Light chocolatey brown with a nearly non-existent white head.

S- Chocolate, alcohol, toffee and tobacco all fill the nose in an interesting bouquet. Not overly strong but what's there is good.

T- Heavy alcohol warmth with moderate caramel sweetness, light chocolate and a touch of black currants to balance the heat. Not so hot as to feel like a liquor but certainly the dominating characteristic.

M- Highly carbonated and full bodied giving a creamy mouth filling feeling which spreads the warmth and sweetness to all the taste buds.

D- A good beer but lacking in any real complexity or thrill. Something I would certainly enjoy again but not that I would go back to often.

 716 characters

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.

 698 characters

Photo of secondtooth
4.24/5  rDev +4.4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Opaque and dark caramel out of the bottle. Sizeable head of foam. Only minor lacing.

Nose says dried fruit, prunes, fig, dark berries. Sweet.

Taste is heavy on the malts, with hints of the aforementioned fruits and some spice. The alcohol presence is masked well. This is a tasty and enjoyable ale. Well-done!

 311 characters

Photo of DoctorDog
4.23/5  rDev +4.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Presentation: 11.2 oz bottle into a nonic.

A- Pours a clear coppery/brown. Massive, creamy, tan head, which necessitates a multi-stage pour & fades very slowly. Excellent retention and tons of sticky lacing.

S- Caramel-sweet maltiness, raisin/fig/dark fruits, and a small hint of booze.

T- Big toffee/caramel sweetness, dark fruits, and a nice earthy peat/smoky undertone that balances things out.

M- Moderate to slightly light carbonation with a medium feel. A bit of alcohol warming.

O- Good. Great flavor, nice drinking...nice beer.

Future outlook: Another beer that I have inexplicably passed over hundreds of times...

 629 characters

Photo of Sensaray
3.9/5  rDev -3.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3 | overall: 4

Pours a deep brown red with half inch light sand head which is pretty fluffy.

Smells like dark fruit, raisiny, spice, alcohol

Spice note leads to sweet dark resinous fruit and caramel which closes decently bitter, leaving dark fruit and alcohol on the palate. Kinda one dimensional, but tasty.

Lighter bodied, thinner carbonation. Was expecting more here.

I've had better examples of the style, but its pretty good.

 420 characters

Photo of silentjay
4.23/5  rDev +4.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

pours a mahogany amber with a huge light tan head with orange hues that settles quickly and laces well.

aroma of molasses on toast like my grandfather would have every sunday afternoon after church. maybe some dark fruits, caramel, and butterscotch in there as well.

molasses and dark fruits dominate the flavor profile which is complemented by some booziness, a touch of peat smoke, and a caramel smoothness.

silky texture with a nice soft carbonation and a slight stickiness on the back-end.

wonderful example. one that i can't understand why I haven't had before. won't be my last. not my favorite style, but a great beer.

 629 characters

Photo of donteatpoop
4.14/5  rDev +2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Pours a clear brown color that becomes ruby red when held up to the light. A thin line of foam sits atop the brew but dissipates rather quickly.

Heavy earthy malts dominate the nose accompanied by dark fruits and an almost chocolate scent. Very inviting, mouth is watering.

Earth malts dominate the mouth as well, some oak or maple notes, the alcohol is present but masked up front to finish with a nice warm sensation.

 421 characters

Photo of socon67
3.73/5  rDev -8.1%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Poured into an Ommegang snifter.

A - Amber to brown color, translucent. Nice lacing and a thin eggshell colored head.

S - Scents of plum and prunes. Has a boozy scent. As it settled there was a distinct smell of caramel that wasn't present before.

T - Tastes molasses sweet. Has a caramel flavor with a backdrop of dried cranberries. Ends with a boozy bite.

M - Very smooth for the style, heavy bodied, and low carbonation. Makes for a great post meal beer.

O - I Enjoyed this one, and think that in the colder months this would be even better.

 549 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 spitInTheOcean
4.47/5  rDev +10.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

dark brown color, clear, and a tan head.

smells big time of malts and caramelization.

tastes the same way it smells, big. big malt flavors with caramelization, and esters into the finish like plums. very sweet. no smokiness. the flavor of the malts lingers after the finish. not very much bitterness.

a medium body with moderate carbonation. very warming.

this is a good beer. it makes being a viking(or even scottish) very attractive if this is what i get to drink all day every day.

 489 characters

Photo of rvdoorn
4.13/5  rDev +1.7%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Look: the beer pours a dark orange-copper color with almost no head.
Smell: Caramel, toffee, butterscots, earthy and grains.Very light
Taste: Butter, caramel, malts, grass and some spicy hops. Sweet malt finish.
Mouthfeel: creamy texture, medium carbonation
Overall: Nice brew

 276 characters

Photo of eclaycamp
4.42/5  rDev +8.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

I have to say that the bottle redesign on Skull Splitter is among the best I’ve ever seen. Ornkney really amped it up, going from a somewhat lame stock photo to a menacing looking comic character brandishing a huge axe. Nice work and hats off to whoever had a hand in the redesign.

Popping the cap on this I’m immediately concerned. The bottle opens with nary a hiss, so we could be dealing with something spoiled or even a possible infection. Luckily the nose smells okay. I don’t get any kind of sour or off flavors, instead I get a lot of fruity notes followed by dark malt. Peat is there somewhere as well.

In the purposes of full disclosure, this is a purposely aged bottle, as I’ve had it since a trip to KC in January. I’ve treated it well; storing it in my fridge at around 38 to 40 degrees F. The beer shows it’s age somewhat, as there is a slightly oxidized, almost sherry like quality to my first sip of beer. Having had this fresh (or at least as fresh as we can get here in the states), I notice that the peat character in this aged version is very subdued. This is unusual. Fresh this beer is almost a peat bomb, a heavy toffee and syrupy affair tinged with wonderful smoky malt character. That said, I like this too. There still a beautiful caramel toffee background, but it’s augmented by this amazing dark fruit character. It’s almost like a Belgian Dubbel or something similar. I love the finish. Sweet and smoky peat malt comes through first, before giving way to a light sense of alcohol; there’s an ester character going on that leads to a pleasantly warming finish.
The body of the beer is thin and less syrupy than what I’ve had in the past. This could and likely probably is a byproduct of the nearly still state this beer is in. There is almost no carbonation, which isn’t really surprising considering that the lid came off so easily. The beer has a nice residual malt sweetness throughout.

Overall this is a deep beer, more well-rounded and complex than versions I recall having in the past. This aged version has developed a wonderful dark fruit character that has helped to smooth out the rough peat edges of the fresh version. I have another bottle of this in the fridge so I may try it a second time to do a comparison. Either way Skullsplitter remains one of my favorite versions of the Wee Heavy style, and a beer that continually surprises me every time that I have it.

 2,432 characters

Photo of cbo2122
4.42/5  rDev +8.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

A pretty big tasting Scotch ale that is suprisingly light feeling. It has a nice dark ruby red color and carries a decent head. The smell immediately presents itself and easily provides scents of figs and dates. The taste is interesting and a little complex, but not overpowering. The fruit notes are easily picked up amidst the darker malt. But, it was the lightness of the beer in the mouth that suprised me the most. It smelled heavy and looked heavy, but no this beer drank easy. An impressive, though not skullsplitting scoth ale.

 535 characters

Photo of Vierenner
3/5  rDev -26.1%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Somewhat cloudy, tawny-red color beer; a tight, smooth head with hints of red and amber

Juicy, almost fruity malt character, together with a medley of fresh and dried fruits, dates and figs, hints of ginger and cinnamon spice. Finishes with a hop bite which is a little strong for me.

Interesting beer, worthy of sampling, but don't get too excited about it. However, the label is beautiful!

 418 characters

Photo of snpub540
4.3/5  rDev +5.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4

Poured a nice brown kind of mahogany hue with a creamy khaki head. Left some nice sticky lacing on my glass the entire way down.

Smells of dark fruits and bread. All malt notes in the nose.

Taste is very complex. At first it is dark fruit most notably fig and raisins. It has a very nice neutral bitterness and as it warms it gains some toasty flavors as well. A little bit of alcohol warmth in the finish.

Mouthfeel is super creamy and smooth. It is pretty much perfect. The body almost feels like something I'd have on cask. This is way out of the norm of my go to styles but I enjoyed it a lot.

 600 characters

Photo of BBP
4.17/5  rDev +2.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

A- Pours a cherry chestnut color with some ruby notes glowing from the bottom. Unfiltered with slight amounts of sediment and decent carbonation. Maintains a small head for the duration of the drink.

S- Dare I say the best thing about this drink? The aroma was definitely elevated my expectations. Oak, vanilla, candied sugar, caramel, and raisins.

T- The taste of this reminded me a lot of an Old Ale without so much of the hop presence. There are hops, but they're primarily spicy rather than bitter. There's dark fruit in this like raisins and prunes, but they're balanced so well they don't have a chance to stick out. The sugar and caramel sweetness is also quite balanced too. Grassy hops can be thanked for that.

Everything seems to be smoothed out as if aged, but it's not. You'd never guess the alcohol to be nearly 9%.

M- Very smooth and creamy. The bottle describes it as "satiny smooth", and it sort of is. If they were able to edge the carbonation down ever so slightly it would get a nicer rating. Slightly dry and sticky in the finish.

O- As far as the previous drinkability category would go, this would ace it. The alcohol is nowhere to be found.

Overall, I was happy I picked this up, but I think I'd rather opt for a more pungent flavor than one as smooth as this. It's almost smooth enough that you forget about it.

 1,345 characters

Photo of BeerLover99
4.74/5  rDev +16.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.75

A: Deep leather brown, finger head, good lacing

S: caramel, slight smoky wood, hint of booze

T: caramel, raisin/ripe fruit, good bready malt,
slight bitter finish.

M: med/heavy, creamy/smooth

O: POW! Now that is a delicious wee heavy. Glad
I finally picked up a 4 pack after seeing it at my
local store for many years.


 349 characters

Photo of Thads324
3.54/5  rDev -12.8%
look: 3 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

A : A ruby mahogany color with very little tan head. dissipates to a small whispy top of nothing very quickly.

s : smells very boozy, with a sweet dried fruit flavor and a hint of caramel and butterscotch. An underlying tone of musty hop goes almost the whole way through the brew.

T : starts with a sweet malt taste with a very subtle fruit character. The fruit is difficult to decipher and subtle. The middle has an odd elongated hop flavor that is slightly bitter and earthy flavored. A tiny bit of smoke as well. finishes very light and dry, almost like a white wine finish. Booze is much less prevalent than in the nose.

M : easy going, yet tingles very well from the carbonation.

overall an all right brew, but nothing mind blowing. a little less fruit and a little more real malt complexity would be nice. I know this is a good beer, but slightly underwhelming in overall character for a wee-heavy.

 909 characters

Photo of Kshock
4.38/5  rDev +7.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

A- Bright brown caramel color with good head retention. Good lacing on the glass.

S- smells or caramel malts and brown sugar sweetness.

T- Same as the nose, very round and balanced. simple flavors but very well done beer. Can tell this beer has been refined over the years.

M- Very light and delicate. mild carbonation.

 322 characters

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

A: Pours a clear cherrywood brown color with a small one finger head with big bubbles that dissipates fairly quickly leaving a nice looking lacing on the top and a ring around the glass.

S: There's a dark malted character present on the nose along with some dark fruits, figs and dates are most apparent. There's also a light amount of hopiness that is present.

T: Dark fruits again, some dates and figs, followed by a huge malt character which dominates the rest of the taste.

M: A huge malt character definitely gives this beer a full bodied feel to it, with not a whole lot else going on. The alcohol is well hidden by the malts.

O: Overall, quite good. I would definitely buy this again, a solid beer, a little easier to drink than other Scotch Ales/Wee Heavys that I've had previously.

 794 characters

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 dedgarmcvey
4.55/5  rDev +12.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

11.2 oz bottle from Winchester Wine and Spirits.

Appearance: Pours a tawny dark amber with some off-white head that doesn't linger too long.

Smell: Despite lack of persistent head, gives off strong aromas. A strong toasty malt odor is complemented by a little bit of "strong ale" acridity.

Smells like viking vomit. I approve -- I didn't buy a beer called "Skull Splitter" hoping for a wimpy brew.

Taste: Starts minimally then bursts on the tongue with powerful malt profile that is not cloying. Finishes with sweet alcohol kiss that reminds me of vermouth.

Mouthfeel: Thick and almost milky with medium to high carbonation that adds to its bite.

Overall: A very enjoyable fuck-you-up beer that may just have made it onto my short list. After all, I would be a fool to want to tangle with Thorfinn Hauskaluif. That's a really big axe. And any culture that erects standing stones is okay with me.

 902 characters

Photo of fdkayti
4.03/5  rDev -0.7%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

A- Pours a reddish orange hue with a nice fluffy pearl head. Not a lot of lacing.

S- Malty and sweet. Black cherry.

T- Sweet but tart, almost acidic at the back of my tongue. Reminds me of a shiraz. Lots of red fruit notes. Definitely and deliciously malty. No hops.

M- Feels like its sticking around on the inside of my cheeks. Good carbonation without being overpowering.

O/D- Just enough boozey taste to slow ya down but still want to keep drinking it. Diggin' it! Good beer for a good weekend.

 501 characters

Skull Splitter from Orkney Brewery
4.06 out of 5 based on 2,192 ratings.
  • About Us

    Founded in Boston in 1996, BeerAdvocate (BA) is your go-to resource for beer powered by an independent community of enthusiasts and professionals dedicated to supporting and promoting better beer.

    Learn More
  • Our Community

    Comprised of consumers and industry professionals, many of whom started as members of this site, our community is one of the oldest, largest, and most respected beer communities online.

    Learn More
  • Our Events

    Since 2003 we've hosted over 60 world-class beer festivals to bring awareness to independent brewers and educate attendees.

    Learn More
  • Our Magazine

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

    Learn More