Skull Splitter | Orkney Brewery

Your Rating: None
Want it   Got it 
Skull SplitterSkull Splitter
2,216 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

Bros Score:
User Ratings & Reviews
Sort by:  Recent | High | Low | Top Raters | Alström Bros
Ratings: 2,216 |  Reviews: 1,010
Photo of Knapp85
4.33/5  rDev +6.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

This beer pours out as a beautiful redish brown color with a good head to start then it card off just to leave a little white film over top of the beer. The smell is semi sweet with some malts dominating the aroma with a bit or caramel. The taste is sweet too with some caramel flavors through out. The mouthfeel is pretty smooth and not overly carbonated. It's a stronger beer too coming in at 8.5%. Overall I enjoy this beer quite a bit, probably one of my favorite Scottish beers I've ever had. I look forward to having this every time I get the chance. Really worth checking out!

 583 characters

Photo of Duff27
4.33/5  rDev +6.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

A- Murky ruby red with a half inch of thick foam into a tulip. Some floaties present. Great lacing and good head retention.

S- Caramel malts immediately. Dark fruits.

T- Extreme maltiness. Peat. No hop presence per style guidelines. Slight (okay, a lot of) booziness but that's alright!

M- Medium to medium/full mouthfeel. Good carbonation

D/O- Such a great beer...gets better as it warms, too. Highly recommended for Scotch Ale fans or those who don't need a ton of hops to be happy.

 488 characters

Photo of Rifugium
4/5  rDev -2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

First had: bottle at Washington House, Sellersville, PA

One of the best Scotch ales I've had. And it's from Scotland, go figure. Poured into a stem glass, a deep mahogany with ruby highlights, and a small layer of bubbles for a head. Strong scents of toasted malts, dark sugars, sweet dried fruits, and peat. Big, complex flavor: toasted bread, sweet caramel, brown sugar, dried black cherries, raisins, figs, spiced rum, and smoked peat emerging in the background. Some alcohol bite pervades throughout. Heavy-medium mouthfeel, a bit syrupy, and quite drinkable.

 564 characters

Photo of olmatty
3.88/5  rDev -4.9%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Clear Amber with a persistent puffy head. Creamy and honey toasted biscuity sweet aroma. Flavor is creamy and lightly sour, complex layers of sweet malts and a light smoke flavor that comes across as a touch phenolic at first blush. Hops are spicy and present late and alcohol brings up the rear. Warming, but not hot. Very enjoyable and smooth. Complexity of such a simple brew is staggering, proving that less can often be more.

 430 characters

Photo of Treebs
3.88/5  rDev -4.9%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Poured from bottle into pint glass

A: Pours a dark cherry with little to no head. Keeps a slight film on the top.

S: Smells of figs and dates fill the nose immediately with a light booze note as well.

T: Taste follows the nose to a T with the bitter figs, dates and grapes present with a slight booze finish that's very nice.

M: Very smooth with little carbonation and medium to heavy body.

O: Interesting scotch ale. Not my favorite because I'm not into the dried fruity smells and tastes that associate with this beer.

 525 characters

Photo of SubpoenaDeuces
3.77/5  rDev -7.6%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Skull Splitter - Scottish - 8.5% abv

A: dark caramel color with hues of deep blood red amber, very little carbonation, pencil lead thin head with no lacing

S: there's ain intense cherry and alcoholic sweetness, very sweet on the nose, lots of turbinado sugar with notes of caramel

T: in the front of the beer is a slightly smoky sweetness, caramel notes, hops are understated but well done, just enough to balance out the sugar blast of the malt, again, this may be a problem with the style, but it just feels like candy water, with not enough complexity to justify it. Definitive beet sugar and slight boozy note that gives a little warmth on the palate

M: for all the black cherry notes, youd figure that iy would have a malty chewiness to it, but that is not the case, it is surprisingly thin. A noteworthy hybrid between a belgian dubbel and an amber, with the boring effect that a cross-section of those two would produce.

D: Very drinkable and boasts a ton of diversity. I could give this to plenty of friends in a lot of different situations, illegal timbering, amateur meth lab creation, ice road trucking, all kinds of stuff. Does something being diverse make it good? Well I guess in the way your tomboy girlfriend can feel at home in a summer dress or equally gangly in wrangler cutoff jean shorts: diversity.

Narrative: You could feel the idle particles of dust drape upon you bit by bit, your unused glass with a wanting pallor for the warm touch of active paper. They knew what you were when they took you home from Staples: An All In One. Sure you're not not exceptional at scanning, what with your plastic internal parts, but YOU CAN DO IT. Sure you may not print the best photos with your blotchy low quality ink, but IT CAN BE DONE. Faxing? You've got that covered, in a halfhearted, paper jam, off-contrast sorta way. But it is still faxing. The perfect package for a man who needs to a variety of things, very little of the time. Oh, here comes a formidible 5th grade sciene projec- oh I see, they just opted to take a picture with their camera phone and email it to themselves instead of your very capable scanning parts. Perhaps variety is the spice of life, but boring needless diversity, that's more like UC Davis.

 2,244 characters

Photo of Cozzatoad
3.72/5  rDev -8.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

330ml bottle

A- Dark brown/mahogany colour with a little light brown head that recedes quickly, leaving very minimal covering and almost no lacing

S- Caramel malts with a roasted note to them, then dark fruits notes. A hint of heartiness (hops?) and maybe some faint alcoholic notes

T- A lot of caramel from the malts. The roasted notes that were in the aroma are almost (if not comletely) absent. Then again some vague dark fruits notes and hops enough to bring balance, but not much flavours. Some alcoholic notes show up as the beer gets warmer

M- Very delicate and smooth mouthfeel despite the high alcohol content and the caramel predominance. Maybe a bit watery in such a strong beer. Adequate carbonation

O- A very delicate warming beer. Plus, you don't find many thirst-quenching strong ales around. Great drinkability in an 8.5%ABV beer

 850 characters

Photo of Brabander
4.12/5  rDev +1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

I got this beer in a kind of trade with my beerbuddy Zimbo. Every now and then we send a parcel to each other with some nice beer in it. I got this bottle in a parcel last week and tonight is the perfect night to crack open this bottle.

Poured in my Westvleteren chalice (i had a westy 12 before i opened this beer) this beer starts quit good with a firm one finger head and a deepdarkred to brown fluid with no carbonation.

Sweet smelle and dito taste . Very drinkable dark ale. Thanks Craig for letting me try this one!!

 524 characters

Photo of BarryMFBurton
4.17/5  rDev +2.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Oi thaur! It's easy tae git intae th' spirit when skitin' a big scotch brew loch thes. Aam nae familiar wi' th' realm ay big, boozy ales loch thes, but Aam mair than ready tae try. Haur we go:

A: Deep blood red, with a contained white head. Thick and manly; no sediment apparent.

S: The nose is quite nice - dark fruit (plum, fig) and herbal/grassy phenols at the fore. Lots of smoky booze aromas are interspersed throughout, as well.

T: Good lord that's strong! VERY upfront with the booze. No wonder it's called a "Wee Heavy." Malts and granulated sugars are a welcome relief to a very thick body. Hoppy finish with plum undertones (as it was with the nose). The more I drink it, the more it reminds me of a Trappist - dark fruits, lingering sweetness, and big alcohol.

M: Thick and smooth. It consistently plays on the tongue, keeping a good carbonation in the mouth for quite a while.

O: Easily the best Scotch Ale I've had. And although I'm not a huge fan of the style, it was a nice departure from the usual hoppy imports I tend to drink. A big classic brew tae warm ye oan a braw day.

 1,096 characters

Photo of OldIronLungs
3.85/5  rDev -5.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Poured into a Delirium snifter deep ginger ale color with about a finger of light cream head like frothed milk.

Nose is deep caramel malts, some very light fig and cherry.

A taste is lots of that lightly burnt caramel malt opening up to a drier toasted malt end with some bite from the hops and alcohol. Very smooth with lighter carbonation and a buttery finish.

Overall this is a very drinkable wee heavy. I don't think this is a favorite style yet, but this was quite pleasant. I only wish it was colder outside and I'd just eaten mutton or pillaged a town. I mean I don't wish that, but it'd be appropriate for this brew.

 627 characters

Photo of Briken
4.35/5  rDev +6.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Cloudy dark amber and moderate foamy head with okay retention and no real lacing. Chocolate lager aroma. Roasted and chocolate balance with moderate sweetness a touch of peat and lingering roasted flavor. Light bodied and smooth with a hint of a bite.

Light and easy drinking yet full of flavor. This has a great combination of feel and flavor. It’s always interesting and super easy to drink with no alcohol trace. It didn’t quite split my skull but the movie I was watching it with, “Catfish”, blew my mind.

 518 characters

Photo of trevorjn06
4.07/5  rDev -0.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Pours a deep copper color with one finger of head that recedes after a minute, leaving a layer of foam on the surface. No lacing.

Aroma is caramel malts, some dark fruits like plum, black cherries and light fig/date. There is a bit of earthy/nuttiness as well. A relatively straight forward nose, but inviting.

Taste is rich malts, dark caramels, dates, molasses, a very light spice character (perhaps from alcohol) and lingering dark fruits and toastiness on the finish.

Mouthfeel is medium/full bodied with low carbonation and a nice creamy feel to it.

Overall this is a very drinkable and rich ale, quite smooth for it's strength. I enjoyed this quite a bit. and judging by my ratings the whole is better than the sum of it's parts.

 739 characters

Photo of Greywulfken
4.5/5  rDev +10.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Mmm. Liked this beer.
Been on a stout run over the winter, seguing into black lagers this spring - enjoying the roastiness. Been a while since I tried anything like this, and this one caught my attention.

A: deep amber/gold - quick head that dissipates just as quickly

S: nice - sweet, malty, some brighter notes pop through

T: vague orange, caramel malt, gentle spices

M: warming, soft, medium-bodied

O: great ale; had to update all this after having had one on the heels of the Sam Adams Wee Heavy - this has a class and character that befits the tradition of the Wee Heavy

 580 characters

Photo of medic25
4.2/5  rDev +2.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Served in a thistle glass (finally got to use it for a Scotch ale!). Dark brown with a thick white head. Malty, raisin-like aroma. Taste is a great malt flavor, sweet with a fig/raisin like character, almost no bitterness or hop sensation. Drinks nice and warm, with a pleasant aftertaste that would be a great drink on a cold winter night.

 340 characters

Photo of JLeege
3.62/5  rDev -11.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Bottle into a tulip, has the newer label

Appearance- Pours a deep amber color with a creamy white head. Decent retention, but little to no lacing.

Smell- Caramel and toffee dominate the nose. With some dark fruits mixed in.

Taste- Very sweet throughout. Fig and grape, to the point of dried raison start things off. Leading into strong caramel malts and notes of toffee and subtle vanilla. Slight citrus and earthy hops on the finish. But the lingering taste is still sweet dark fruits, mostly grapey.

Mouthfeel- Full body with medium carbonation. A little syrupy.

Overall- The ABV's are hid well throughout the drink, but it does sneak up on you quickly. Not bad, though a bit too sweet for me. Definitely worth trying though. For what it's worth I liked the old label better.

 782 characters

Photo of GoldenChild
4.92/5  rDev +20.6%
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 dinomite
4.8/5  rDev +17.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

A red tinted color in the glass with a fairly small head.

The flavor of this beer is the true standout--a wonderful mix of dark fruit & molasses with an undertone of maltiness. Overall, it is certainly a sweet beer, but there is enough subtle earthiness and spice that it's far from a fruit beer or cider.

The mouthfeel is a bit lighter than other wee heavies, but what one would expect from a fairly sweet, high alcohol beer.

 428 characters

Photo of metter98
4.05/5  rDev -0.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4.5

A: The beer is slightly hazy copper in color and has a moderate amount of visible carbonation. It poured with a finger high creamy beige head that quickly settled down leaving a thin layer of bubbles that consistently covered the surface.
S: There are moderate aromas of dark fruits in the nose and notes of malty sweetness.
T: The overall taste is rather sweet and has flavors of dark fruits along with notes of molasses and hints of caramel. There are some hints of spices in the finish.
M: It feels medium-bodied and smooth on the palate with a light to moderate amount of carbonation. The mouthfeel is rather light compared to other beers in this style.
O: The beer is quite flavorful and very easy to drink because the alcohol is well masked from the taste. It is a good representation of the style.

 805 characters

Photo of bsp77
4.35/5  rDev +6.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Serving glass: Poured from bottle into Nonic Imperial Pint.

Appearance: Hazy reddish-orange with thin off-white cap. Nice glow.

Smell: Plum, figs, raisins, cherry, caramel and spicy English hops (likely Fuggles or Goldings).

Taste: Very malty blend of plum, figs, raisins, cherry and caramel (yeah, it is the same as what I wrote for the smell, oh well). There is a nice counterbalance of spice, pepper and earthiness from the English hops.

Feel: Low carbonation, medium to full body, nice drying finish.

Drinkability (ahem, Overall): For such a strong Scotch Ale, this is very easy to drink, while also having a great deal of complexity. American brewers take note: this is how to brew a great Scotch Ale without going overboard.

 735 characters

Photo of AlCaponeJunior
3.67/5  rDev -10%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Reddish brown and somewhat cloudy. Head is ok and lacing is decent.

Smells really malty, with an earthy, floral, nutty backbone.

Taste is very caramel malt, with nuts, floral notes, and a little mid fruit flavor.

Feel is slick and medium bodied, warming, sweet aftertastes.

Drinks ok. Not quite what I expected, but still a good brew.

 340 characters

Photo of Dubbledown
4.65/5  rDev +14%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

This is obviously a true Scottish Wee Heavy. I often use it to judge all other Scotch ales against. I think that some American brewers forget that there should be a spicy-sweet component to the flavor. The Skullsplitter does have a wonderfully complex flavor

I poured it into a 16oz. Guinness pint glass.
the colour is a beautiful reddish orange. Moderate head which quickly recedes. Serving tempurature was 55 degrees F, which I consider ideal for this type of brew. Serving it too cold brings out bitterness and obscures the flavor. On the nose there is a strong but clean alcohol smell followed by dried cherries and other fruits-maybe raisins and orange peel. Mouthfeel is medium bodied. Flavor is full of spicy dried fruits, especially cherries and raisin with a clean alcohol finish. This is a beer that goes down easy despite its high alcohol content.

As Scotch ales go I think this is the best of the best.

Grade A Purchased at Stoney's-4pk $12.99

Addendum- Although I hesitate to recommend blending beers in the glass,we have ,of course the Black & Tan. I now suggest you try a Guinness stout Skullsplitter blend when you find that the Scottish ale can either be a bit too intense for first beer of the day or you feel that the flavor of the ale sometimes fails to bloom without the help of the Guinness lace left on the glass. So, I recommend you try a Red & Black with a base of Guinness draft, which can be a mixture to suit your mood and taste; from barely there to a 50/50 mix. You be the judge. Enjoy.

 1,525 characters

Photo of bobhits
3.84/5  rDev -5.9%
look: 3 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3 | overall: 4

Skull Splitter

Pours dark amber, thin reddish cream head, the color is a bit murky.

Rum, spiced dark fruits, dates, figs....the bottle does a decent enough job. I think the beer is a bit sweeter to the nose than the bottle leads on. The rum aroma gives off some alcohol notes as well.

Sweet and fruity flavors. The rum like nose isn't at all present in the beer's taste. Opening with dark fruity flavors and finishing with a nice spiced finish. The sweetness strongly over powers the spiced finish.

A bit watery especially given the 8.5%, you have to hand it to the English in their ability to mask the alcohol. Still this goes down pretty well.

Water body, a bit of carbonation that makes this far too easy to slam considering the style and alcohol.

Really glad to have had this beer. It's well balanced, low enough in flavor to drink, but has enough going on to keep it interesting. Not nearly one of the great beers it lacks the extreme complexity that many finer English brews have. Still at about 12 bucks for a 4 pack, it certainly is cheaper and easier to justify.

 1,080 characters

Photo of zoso1967
4.3/5  rDev +5.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Skull Splitter pours slightly hazy orange amber color. It hue has a definite warmth to it and glows nicely when held up to the late afternoon sun. The head is parchment in color and fades to little splotches that float about the surface of the beer. The lacing is pretty impressive for style.

The aroma is slightly fruity with a rich candied character to it. Fruity sweetness and some phenols mingle together with a nice caramelized character. This is definitely a malt forward brew, but I do detect a little bit of earthy hop character. Alcohol aromas appear to be completely absent, even at cellar temperature. Overall the aroma on this beer is not as robust as some of the scotch ales I have previously sampled.

The flavor is just as rich as the aroma with a rich malty quality. The caramel laden malt is accented with a bit of toffee and some earthy hop character. This is a malty brew first and foremost though, and notes of candy apple, cherry and raisin are mingled in with the malt sweetness. Luckily they included enough bitterness to keep things from getting too sweet. I am very impressed.

The mouthfeel is also quite enjoyable. The body is medium, and while perhaps not as "satiny smooth" as the label suggests, it is quite gentle on the mouth, with just enough carbonation to bring out the different flavors. The finish is slightly sweet and surprisingly unassuming, leaving an almost honey like sweetness in my mouth.

The drinkability on this thing is off the charts. I am detecting almost no alcohol, even as it continues to warm. Perhaps the "satiny smooth" character refers to drinkability and if that is the case I totally agree. This is a wonderful beer that drinks like it is much smaller. It has great flavors and is well integrated. My friend D.C. extolled the virtues of this brew after another friend's wedding, and I am now kicking myself that I did not try it sooner.

 1,897 characters

Photo of DovaliHops
3.9/5  rDev -4.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Pours an almost-clear, reddish brown color with a small white head that disappears quickly. Scent is very malty with some dark fruit and caramel malt. This beer smells very sweet. Taste is not as sweet as the nose implies. Very strong malt flavors with barley and grain. I also get a lot of caramel and maybe a bit of toffee. There is also some strong alcohol flavors. Mouthfeel is very full bodied and a bit syrupy. Drinkability is scotch ales are not typically my favorite beer. All in all, this is a great representation of this particular style.

 559 characters

Photo of wvsabbath
3.4/5  rDev -16.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

Serving Type - Bottle

Appearance - Dark tan/brown. Plently of lacing, creamy 1/2 head.

SMell - Malts, sugar and spices, carmel, hops, alcohol and barley. Some rye also.

Taste - Finally after having this beer some 6-8 years ago im able to sit down and drink. Pretty mild and smooth for a wee heavy ale. Carmel mixed with some rye and malts starts the drink off. Very surprized on how mild almost watery flavor it has. Its balanced well, not overpowering on any flavor. Hops are present, as is the alcohol.

Mouthfeel - Its thin and rather easy on mouth. Palette gets some very mild bitterness, but quickly recovers. Aftertaste doesnt last long, you can move right on to something else.

Drinkabilty - This doesnt feel like a 8.5% beer. Pretty mild and smooth. This is too mild for me, i much prefer founders dirty bastard or even the spiced up wallop that the traquair ales bring. Scary smooth beer to drink at such high alcohol. Also, this bottle i have features a different cover label then the classic one ive always known with the real person in viking attire. This one has a cartoon viking and a new logo.

 1,114 characters

Skull Splitter from Orkney Brewery
Beer rating: 4.08 out of 5 with 2,216 ratings
  • About Us

    Founded 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.
  • Our Events

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

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