Dismiss Notice
We're celebrating 10 years of BeerAdvocate magazine with $10 print subscriptions for US residents.

Subscribe now!

Skull Splitter | Orkney Brewery

Log in or Sign up to start rating.
995 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
Reviews: 995 | Ratings: 2,161
Photo of Darkmagus82
4.23/5  rDev +4.2%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

Poured from bottle into a snifter
Appearance – The beer pours a deep mahogany-brownish color with a one finger head of cream colored foam. The head has a fantastic level of retention, with it slowly fading over time to leave a fantastic level of foamy lace on the sides of the glass.

Smell – The aroma of the beer is quite potent of a darker fruit smell of raisin, cherry and fig. Along with these aromas comes some notes of an almost woody smell as well as lots of caramel and molasses. A little hint of a grainy and grassy smell round it all out, creating a rather nice aroma overall.

Taste – The taste begins with a good deal of sweeter flavors, being a blend of caramel, molasses, cherry and raisin. Right from the start there is a decent showing of a bready malt flavor, which gains more and more roastiness as the taste advances. All the while the sweeter flavors dwindle a little bit drying out the flavor ever so slightly (although by no means creating a dry taste). Toward the end some graininess, wood, and earthy hop come to the tongue and with a decent hit of a boozy alcohol flavor, one is left with a rather warming but smooth flavor to linger on the tongue.

Mouthfeel – The body of the brew is a little on the thinner side for a 8.5 % brew with a carbonation that is a little on the higher side. While I would traditionally like a bit more thickness and less carbonation, the combo actually sorta works for the flavors, and makes this one an easier sipper in light of its boozy flavors.

Overall – This was a quite tasty scotch ale. One I will certainly go to again in the future.

 1,618 characters

Photo of maedhros09
4.26/5  rDev +4.9%
look: 4.25 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25

Look: Clear ruby - amber with a couple fingers of sticky tan head
Smell: sweet, acidic maltiness, metallic
Taste: Has that same almost barleywine type maltiness as Founders Dirty Bastard (caramelly with some fruity acidity and a balancing bitterness) but with a cleaner less full taste. Less bitter in the finish. Alcohol is scarcely perceived.
Feel: Medium full body with a good amount of carbonation. viscous.

Overall: A bit lighter in body and character than the Founders Dirty Bastard; less hoppy as well. There is a metallic flavor to the malt that I associate with lighter European Ales and Lagers. Dangerously drinkable. I like the mouthfeel - well carbonated yet viscous and smooth. It's no accident this is called Skull Splitter - it goes down fast and hits you hard. I really like this beer for its complexity and balance - there's a lot going on, yet it manages to be kind of refreshing too.

 910 characters

Photo of TheCuriograph
3.99/5  rDev -1.7%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

it pours a glassy ruby-amber with a creamy off-white head. There’s a nectary malt nose full of pumpernickel, plum, caramel, orange bitters and cinnamon. The beer tastes of caramel, chai, and raisin. Skull Splitter is actually reminiscent of a Belgian Dubbel. It’s heavy but quite drinkable,.

 295 characters

Photo of LeeryLeprechaun
4.11/5  rDev +1.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

Aroma: Earth and caramel, some smoke in the finish. Deep and complex malt aromas. Hints of toffee and kettle carmalization. No Dicetyl.

Appearance: Strong and sticky head, red-brown in color. Brite and east to see through. Head retention is excellent.

Flavor: Malty, carmel flavor with some earthiness and a smoky finish. Alcohol appears as the beer warms. Finish is dry and almost astringent/tannic with a peat like smoke.

Mouthfeel: Full bodied, good carbonation, some what creamy body with dry tannic finish from smoke. Some alcohol warmth.

Overall: Beer is malty, smoky, and complex. Warmth goes well with the caramel flavors. Excellent body and good balance to prevent he beer from being overly sweet.

 710 characters

Photo of ChrisCage
4.33/5  rDev +6.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25

A- Pours a richly deep color of coppery bronze...even cola like. The head is impressive, that being dense, thick and it only slowly settles, tan colored, and creamy. Hard to tell how the carbonation is going to be, but the lacing suggests that this is a very protein heavy brew, with many thick strands of soapy foam grasping at the side of my glass and staying there too! A fine looking ale!

S- Rich and dark aromas of slightly dried fruit....prune, raisin, dates, and banana. There is also a chocolatey note that brings the malty sweetness upfront. Along with caramel and/or toffee, there is an Earthy finish that is sugary like a fine aged rum.

T- Full flavors that actually are much more balanced than the smells suggest! Rummy, toasted grains and even a hint of charred oak compliment this rich ale. Sweeter flavors include hints of licorice extract, rum, dried fruit, reduced brown sugar, and a tinge of molasses. The finish is surprisingly clean and hop bitterness assists in this, leaving my palate begging for another sip...very nice!

M/O- Full bodied and super creamy carbonation best describe this brew! It is definitely an easy drinking beer that keeps the alcohol well hidden.....very desert like. Will go well with a stew or as an ingredient in a stew....also I think would go well with a nutty cheese. A very nice beer and I would buy again!

 1,371 characters

Photo of Bonsall_Phil
4.27/5  rDev +5.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Deep copper pour, minimal off white head subsiding quickly. Somewhat clear, except for some white floaties swimming around in the light carbonation.

Sweet roasty malts on the nose, it's very clean and true to the malt there's a slight caramelized accent to it. I do not pick up much earthiness. Very pleasant and subtle accents to the malt.

Taste follows the nose with a welcome punch of grains and some minimal hops that give the beer a nice surge over the palette. The scent-taste is a well made one-two punch of sweetness and bitterness that is impeccably balanced but gives the malt a slight nod. Finish is warm, pleasant and dry. Mouthfeel is on the heavier side of medium and creamy.

Very enjoyable wee heavy, maybe my favorite now.

 750 characters

Photo of DrMullet
4.15/5  rDev +2.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

Deep copper color. Thin creamy lace that persists. Mild fruit smell. Up front taste is a moderate fruit/date flavor followed by a tinge of caramel. Complex indeed. I like scotch ales and this is perhaps my favorite.

 215 characters

Photo of 50wolves
3.67/5  rDev -9.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Appearance - pours amber/ copper with small head, slight carbonation was foggy when poured however became increasingly clear once it warmed up. Aroma - Earthy aroma. Taste - all I can taste is the fig. Feel - has a warmth to it that I do appreciate, quite smooth, has astringent elements to it. Overall - appearance and taste do put me off, not a beer that I would drink again, however I think it is more a case of me not appreciating the beer style than the actual beer. Brewer appears interesting and I would try other products.

 530 characters

Photo of BowWowWowYippyYoIPA
4.52/5  rDev +11.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

No bottle date

Look - Pours a deep garnet with a beige head. Head dissipates rather quickly to form a thin cap. Average distribution. Limited lacing. 4 paws.

Smell - Lots of dried dark fruit aromas. Hints of wine and port with a touch of alcohol. Hints of tobacco and the faintest bit of cinnamon. 4.5 paws.

Taste - Smoky tobacco flavors up front finishing with taste of dates and bitter almonds. The sweetness is balanced excellently by the alcohol. Baker's chocolate, and a surprising twist of lemon. Finishes like a fine brandy. Very complex and exquisite. 4.75 paws.

Feel - Rather thin for the style and amount of flavor, surprisingly effervescent. Tingle on tip of the tongue. 4 paws.

Overall - Excellent beer and one of the most pleasant surprises I've had in a while. Definitely recommended. 4.5 paws.

 829 characters

Photo of tekstr1der
4.78/5  rDev +17.7%
look: 4.25 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.75

Reddish-brown pour with minimal head. Looks almost syrapy. Appearance is it’s only low-point. The smell is from heaven - malty and fruity. Flavors are strong malt sweetness with some slight wine notes. Incredibly smooth, and way too drinkable. This one could get me in trouble.

 279 characters

Photo of TreyIsWilson
3.9/5  rDev -3.9%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 3.75

A - Pours a murky amber with a thin off-white head. Light amount of sticky lacing.

S - Aroma of caramel malts, toffee, and dark fruit.

T - Flavor is sweet caramel malts, dark fruits, toffee, and vanilla. There is a light smokiness throughout. A small amount of booziness in the finish.

M - Medium bodied with medium carbonation. Very smooth and creamy mouthfeel. The finish is dry and sticky.

O - Very tasty beer. Lots of sweet malty flavors make this a rich and pleasant drinker.

 484 characters

Photo of Foxybrau
4.45/5  rDev +9.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

This one absolutely lives up to it's reputation for me. Almost missed it at the store, just happened to notice a couple 4 packs collecting dust on a bottom shelf. Skull Splitter pours a hazy amber with a smooth head, the lacing is quite appealing with tiny distinct bubbles and falls away quickly. The nose is unmistakably dark, sugared fruits - plum and fig and perhaps the best part if this beer, although the taste is delectable. Smooth, sweet malts and a warm boozy finish. It begs to be drank and I concede. I find this beer quite enjoyable cold. My first Wee Heavy and I'm officially in love. Happy Valentine's Day!

 629 characters

Photo of geodonnokepyo
4.14/5  rDev +2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.25

Look - Pours a pretty clear amber color. Thin head,dissipated rather quickly.

Smell - Molasses is most prominent. Slight hoppy aroma detected. Some caramel malt detected as well. Possibly some toffee and/or vanilla notes.

Taste - Smoky, roasted malt flavor. A very slight bitterness at the end. Vanilla is in there somewhere too. A little nutty as well.

Feel - Super smooth and light bodied feel followed by a pleasant chalkiness that stays throughout. A little creamy as well with lower levels of carbonation. Absolutely no sign of any of the 8.5% ABV. Very good mouth feel.

Overall - Very enjoyable. Drinks like a session ale. The flavor had complexity but overall it didn't have that mouthwatering appeal. Very good beer though, would recommend.

 754 characters

Photo of DeepBrew
4.21/5  rDev +3.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Poured from 11.2 oz bottle into snifter.

A: Hazy dark mahogany with slim foam that recedes into a ring. Good lacing coats the side of the glass.

S: Malt, caramel and dark fruit, improving as it warms.

T: Sweet malt forward, rich dark fruit, slight spice bitter, more flavors and booze comes out as it warms.

M: Medium-high mouthfeel

O: Great drink, just give it some time to warm up.

 389 characters

Photo of DoctorZombies
4.28/5  rDev +5.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

Draft pour into 12oz tulip; dark Amber with off white head; medium mouthfeel; sugary scotch flavors coats the tongue; minimal alcohol on exhale(nice); sugar beet and "whiskey" finish; very good for style.

 204 characters

Photo of colingaiser
4.19/5  rDev +3.2%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4.25

Poured from 500 ml bottle into 4-6 oz (not sure) sample glass

L: Beautiful nut-brown with a slight but thick tan head

S: Deep aroma of molasses, anise, plum, dates, and a little hint of vanilla ... it smells like a meal!

T: This beer is COMPLEX. And I love it. There's an immediate note of chocolate -- almost like a Tootsie Roll -- before the darker fruit flavors of figs, plums, and cooked apple become apparent. This all takes place with the underlying notes of molasses, vanilla, and toffee. It's sweet, but the booziness (almost like a good scotch) masks some of the sugar.

F: A lighter body than many scotch ales, it makes this deep, complex beer more drinkable (i.e. chuggable) than one would expect. I could easily nit-pick and say I wish this beer were a little heavier and chewier, but they advertise this as having a "deceptively light character," so in that sense they nailed it.

O: This is a MUST-TRY for any lover of deep, complex, malty ales. I'll be buying this one again and having that 500 ml bottle all to myself.

 1,042 characters

Photo of slusk
4.46/5  rDev +9.9%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

Pours a clear mahogany with a thin tan head. Bright caramel malt aroma with a small raisin background. No hop nose. Beautifully malty brew. Clean upfront caramel malt with some raisin. low hop bitterness. a slight tinge of alcohol warmth. Medium body and smooth. Finishes semi-sweet. Love this beer. Fine example of a scotch ale.

 329 characters

Photo of dmgeng
4.01/5  rDev -1.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4

Skull Splitter is just such an appealing name and after passing it by 4 times I finally decided to try it since I only had gotten big >10% ABV beers in my other 5 sampler pack slots.

A - Rich copper color. Slightly murky with light eggshell head and decent lacing. Poured lighter than I was expecting.

S - A robust character with malt, toffee, dark fruit, burnt sugar, and alcohol present. Smells like a Scottish beer with more alcohol.

T - Rich in flavor with toasted marshmallow, malt, toffee, some dark fruits and alcohol. Very similar to the smell but with more of the dark sugars. No discernible hops but not cloying sweet so there are some on the backside to assist the alcohol to make this beer easier to drink. On the sweeter side but not too sweet.

M - Medium mouth-feel with light carbonation. It's definitely got some sort of sugar to both add to the burnt sugar flavor but also make the alcohol stand out and the body get thinner. Not the heaviest wee-heavy I've had in the past.

Overall, a good tasting beer. I would prefer a heavier and more robust beer instead of a sugary, lighter, and boozier offering. It is mostly stylistic but the toasted marshmallow is not as delightful as just rich malt in my opinion and I would prefer Dirty Bastard to this beer. I understand that drinkability is what the goal was for this beer and it does deliver on a high impact with lighter body but since I drink to take it all in and not to get drunk I would pass on this beer next time. I would recommend this if you prefer to drink to get drunk but don't like commercial american beers.

Glass- Snifter

 1,608 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

Photo of Caveworm
4.68/5  rDev +15.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.75

Skull Splitter - Orkney Brewery. Poured from the bottle into a glass mug, its got a 2 finger thick mildly porous eggshell brown head with lateral lacing, and a medium-dark amber body.

I smell spicy roasted malts, along with scotch-like sweetness. Not much hop presence going on.

Tastes like roasted /caramelized malts, spiced fruits, and molasses. Not too much, it ends before that happens. Again, scotch profile type of sweetness. Not really picking up much hop taste.

Skull Splitter's mouthfeel is crisp and clean. Only a slight warming sensation, no sting. Goes down smooth, perhaps a little TOO smooth.

I'll give Skull Splitter - Orkney Brewery a 4.75 overall. This will split your skull with a Nordic buzz that is comfortable and still sociable. SKALL !!!!!!!!

 793 characters

Photo of ordybill
4.65/5  rDev +14.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.75

Poured from a 12 OZ bottle into a pint glass
Aroma- Has a great malt smell with a hint of fruit on the follow through.
Appearance- A deep dark reddish brown with a small light brown head.
Taste- Excellent flavor!! You can really taste the malt and has a hint of caramel.
Palate- This is a great medium bodied beer with a creamy finish, mildly carbonated.
Overall- This is an excellent beer. I love the name, the flavor and the finish.

 437 characters

Photo of UrbanCaveman
4.56/5  rDev +12.3%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

11.2 oz bottle, poured into a snifter at room temperature.

A: Pours a clear, deep ruby-russet brown, and forms a just-wider-than-a-finger head of very pale tan. Once the head collapses into a ring, it leaves some spotty but rather persistent lacing.

S: Sweet caramel toffee malt swirls out of the glass, with just a hint of earthiness, and some mild dark fruit.

T: Yes. Exactly in line with the nose. The flavors open with pure sweet malt, all caramel and toffee slathered and draped over warm toast. Towards the middle, a faint hint of black earth creeps in, and brings along some notes like leather oiled and polished with something that contains a dark fruit essence, like currants and plums. A more roasted, darker feel rounds out the malt profile as well as the beer progresses. The finish is a commingling of the malt sweetness and that earthen-clay bitterness.

M: Surprisingly light-bodied for the flavor, this beer has enough carbonation to give it some mouth presence. A bit more stickiness would have been nice.

O: A glorious wee heavy, and one I return to frequently. For a devout malthead, this beer is a dance of triumph along the tongue.

 1,157 characters

Photo of admiral
4/5  rDev -1.5%

a beautifully balanced strong ale/scotch ale that reminded me of a traditional English brown ale on steroids.

aroma: mineral toffee with sticky spice, slight date and figs

taste: yeasty toffee with spice, slight brown sugar, a touch of rum, slight cheese, date and figs and slight chocolate.

 293 characters

Photo of archyquaffer
4/5  rDev -1.5%

Poured from a half liter bottle into a schooner glass. A moderate pour produces a short-lived, creamy white head that reduces to a ring and wispy islands of lace. The beer is a murky deep brown....with floaties!! WTH? I take a close look at the label, which seems to indicate a bottling date of 2011 (it is now 2014).

So, even though this beer is a bit aged, it does have a yummy aroma and flavor. Tons of mineral, caramel, dark fruit, and a touch of spice. Maybe a touch of diacetyl. The flavors are smooth and complement each other. Creamy mouthfeel with some alcohol warming, though the booze is well-hidden. The floaties seem to dissolve and don't catch on the tongue.

This beer is quite mellow and delicious overall, despite the fact that it's probably past its prime (the seller shall remain anonymous, except to me of course). Despite the rather horrid appearance, this is probably the best Scotch ale I've tried so far. Maybe the extra aging helped it. Awesome label art, by the way, with a cool (if historically inaccurate) Norse chieftain/king on the label.

 1,080 characters

Photo of HuskyHawk
4/5  rDev -1.5%

A: rich caramel color, with almost no head and light carbonation. It is pretty in the glass.

S: aromas of bread pudding, but without the sweetness. Some dried dark fruit, a little molasses.

T: Follows the smell, with dried fruits (figs, raisins) and a caramel/toffee dense bread pudding flavor. The downside here is that while this shouldn't be a hoppy beer, the finish is just lacking in something. Either a dose of hops or carbonation might help.

M: Medium bodied, not thick or viscous and dominated by the very light carbonation.

O: a really very good beer, with some great flavors. I find myself thinking that it could be better however.

 652 characters

Skull Splitter from Orkney Brewery
4.06 out of 5 based on 2,161 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
  • 10 Years of BeerAdvocate Magazine

    We're celebrating 10 years of BA mag with $10 print subscriptions for US residents!