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

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Reviews: 1,001 | Ratings: 2,178
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 iron78
3.93/5  rDev -3.2%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

amber with nice head that faded quickly to nice lace that lingered. slight malt aroma, thought was fairly mild.
but the taste, great. malt and molasses balanced with a bit of alcohol. maybe a touch of dried fruit on the finish.
mouth coating, but again the alcohol balances the mouth feel.
very enjoyable on a cool fall evening.

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Photo of lackenhauser
3.56/5  rDev -12.3%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Very nice, firey reddish/brown hue to it. Decent enough carbonation level but no head. Average aroma-faint coppery or metallic smell. Big malt flavor. Smoky with a somewhat perfumey sweetness. No bitterness is perceived. Almost a passing astringency in the finish. Good body. Very nice wee heavy that can be dangerously drinkable. Well worth enjoying.

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Photo of yekeraps
4/5  rDev -1.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

Got in a bottle and just popped it open. Very amber in color with hardly any head whatsoever. I tried to pour a head but nothing. It dissipated after the first couple sips. The aroma doesn't really do the taste justice. Smells good but the taste is out of this world. Very smokey and well balanced with slight hops. It's almost like drinking a campfire. There is lots of body to chew on. Carbonation is good. Overall a very fine beer.

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Photo of numenor1
4.32/5  rDev +6.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Pours deep auburn with an inch head that quickly dissipates. Smell is fantastic, smells like a nice oaked chardonnay blended with caramel malt. There's a slight hint of alcohol. Tremendous malt malt flavor assaults the palate from the start. Deep roasted, caramel, slightly smoky. Some nice wine notes. Hops are there to balance but little more, it dries out a bit and finishes quite bitter(otherwise it'd be terribly cloying), grainy, and lingering. Very very tasty. Body is medium full and palate coating with medium carbonation. Alcohol is perceived mainly in warmness. I'm drinking this too quickly.

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Photo of ichigodisaster
4.5/5  rDev +10.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

I have to say, this is one of my favorites to date. I think it is really underrated.

Pours a lovely dark purplish red color with a small head that dissipates quickly to light lace.

Aroma is a bit spicy and sweet, smells of dark fruits and maybe a bit of spice cake.

A pretty complex variety of tastes here, dark fruits like dates and plums and also some spiciness present, maybe chicory or a bit of nutmeg. It's pretty smokey and also tastes of molasses, especially as it warms. A great combination of flavors.

Mouth feel is pretty thick, but not overly so. The carbonation cuts this nicely so it's not too syrupy as the aroma would almost lead you to believe.

Overall a very drinkable brew. I was really impressed. It echoes autumn to me and I really enjoyed it. I am considering buying an entire case just to cellar it.

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Photo of cubedbee
4.27/5  rDev +5.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Pours a deep reddish purple brown with a thin finger of fizzy white head that quickly subsisides to the thinnest of rings. Nose is a big rich roasted caramel with a slight note of alcohol and maybe the slightest hops note. Taste is a wonderful smokey oak-like flavor with dashes of caramel and roasted malt. Spicey hop finish and just the slightest note of alcohol. Mouthfeel is thick, smooth, and creamy. This is an excellently flavorful strong ale, great for sipping.

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Photo of hefevice
3.97/5  rDev -2.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Tasted this one under completely the wrong circumstances. Had spent 2 hours walking around Genoa (Italy) on a sunny Sunday afternoon trying to re-adjust my body clock after nearly 24 hours of travel from Australia. About 1.5 hours in I noticed that I was a bit thirsty and perhaps should stop to re-hydrate. Problem is Genoa is not the most lively place in the world on a Sunday afternoon, and it took me another 30 minutes to find somewhere, by which time I was very hot and bothered. I ended up stumbling upon (and into), of all things a Scottish themed bar. After a few false starts (my Italian is non-existant) I managed to get a menu out of the waitress, and lo and behold at the top of the menu was the legendary Skullsplitter. I was not going to miss this opportunity so I ordered one immediately.

Sadly, it arrived with a Tennents Lager glass, which looked like it had spent most of its life in a dishwasher. Also, the label indicated it was right on its use by date. This aside, poured deep garnet with a fairly good light brown tightly packed head. Aroma was butterscotch, caramel and just the faintest whiff of hops. These aromas also came out in the flavour with a slightly bitter finish preventing them from being cloying. The 8.5% ABV was only very subtly noticable. Mouth was reasonably soft and creamy, carbonation was about right. This is a definitely a beer for a cold winters night, not to cool down after a long overheated march. Note to self, taste it again in the right circumstances.

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Photo of mynie
3.8/5  rDev -6.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Dark ruby. Translucent. Nice pinkie-finger head that sticks around for days.

Zippy smell of Belgian fruit--raisins and plums--along with alcohol and hints of chocolate. I initially gave this a 3.5 but it gained complexity as it warmed up.

Tastes like a combination of a smoke ale with big meaty oak and the alcohol and fruit zip of a dubble. Strange, to say the least. Complex and flavorful, but not that great a combination.

I don't know what to make of this here beer. It's worth a try, I guess, but I'm really underwhelmed.

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Photo of Gaisgeil
3.77/5  rDev -7.1%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

A well balanced and smooth malty scotch ale.

Pours a hazy medium brown in color with little head to speak of. Nose is quite nice, golden raisins, burnt sugars, very malty. Taste is a bit subdued and understated, similar to what is in the nose, but the flavors meld almost seamlessly making it a bit difficult to seperate them from one another. Mouthfeel is a bit thin. Overall I'd say there are much better scotch ales but this is a solid classic offering.


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Photo of rhoadsrage
4/5  rDev -1.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

(Served in an American pint glass)

A- This beer pours a deep auburn brown with a thin creamy light tan head and a gentle carbonation.

S-The aroma of caramel and toasted malts with some fresh grain and light burnt sugar notes.

T- A rich slightly sweet toasted malt flavor if complex with a finish of faint hop bitterness that hangs on the tongue. Very smooth and no alcohol flavor.

M- This has a medium mouthfeel with a light fizziness to it. No astringency or alcohol warmth.

D-This beer lives up to its name. It has a great malt base but no notes of alcohol. It is complex but not overpowering with the malt and a nice hop finish that is faint but helps to support the malt.

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Photo of mrasskicktastic
3.38/5  rDev -16.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 4 | feel: 1.5 | overall: 3.5

Appearance - A dark clear purplish red. Small half finger head that leaves a wee scattered ring of lace.

Smell - Syrupy sweet molassess malt, a bit of dates and diacetyl underneath. It is sugary sweet smelling to the point of being almost gross (but not quite). I just hope the taste isn't this sweet.

Taste - Not nearly as sweet as the odor lead me to believe, but sweet still.. My first thoughts are of smoke. A slightly sweet thick roasted barley malt taste dominates, chicory and dates stand out in my mind. It is extremely bitter, but not a familiar hops bitterness, not quite a coffee bitterness either - I can't pin point it. I think the smokey character meshes with a coffee bitterness to skew my view. A very slight metallic note is underneath, but with this bitter of a flavor, a faint metal taste actually helps a little. Alcohol is detectable, but not strongly.

Mouthfeel - There are two prominent aspects to the mouthfeel - one I like, one I hate. It is a thick viscous brew, I like that. Its bitter aftertaste leaves a gummy feel in my mouth, as you guessed, I don't like that at all. This gummy feeling only gets worse and turns into a powerful parching.

Drinkability - After a big glass of water I could definitely drink another, its taste is interesting and has a lot of character that makes it a brew worth examining. It is very rare that I say this about a strong and sweet beer, but 11.2 oz just isn't enough to assess it fully. Since It is so powerfully drying, I am docking it. All and all a great beer I will want to have another time.

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

The beer pours a dark ruby red color with a thick frothy offwhite head that slowly fades to lacing. The aroma is great. It has a rich and creamy malt scent that boasts of crystal and roasted malts. It's sweet and toastey and slightly warming. The taste is great also. It has a very smooth, malty flavor that boasts of crystal, roasted, and peated malts. It has a nice smokey character that mellows the elevated abv. . The mouthfeel is good. It is a full bodied beer with adequate carbonation. This is an awesome beer. I love everything about it. One of the top wee heavy beers out there.

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

at the inimitable brickskellar

deep dark amber/brown with a coating head that fizzles from the alcohol. slight diacetyl nose with brown sugar. more brown sugar and caramel with a roastednuttiness. i could taste the alcohol, but not many 8.5% brews are able to hide it; whatever heat is masked compensated by huge maltiness. virtually undetectable hops, but the malt sweetness isn't overwhelming, so they must be doing their job

another couple of these and someone's skull would have been split (exactly who no one will know)

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Photo of TurdFurgison
3.82/5  rDev -5.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Presentation: Drank from an 11.2 oz bottle, poured into Watou chalice.

Appearance: Dark red, with thin white head.

Smell: Strong scotch ale aroma, kind of old-world-ale bouquet.

Taste: This tastes on the money for a scotch ale.

Notes: Easily available from several locations in Columbus. I recommend it to scotch ale drinkers.

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Photo of charlesw
3.42/5  rDev -15.8%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3

Well, it's beer, you know? A nice dark color, little head, huge malty nose and mouth, no hops to speak of, not much of an aftertaste. Still... I dunno, I get a big raisin flavor out of it and it seems that someone may have done at least part of the mash at a temp that was a wee bit high - in the middle of the mouth there's an interesting dry rasp across the tongue. It's a bit overpowering in general - I mean, it'd be hard for me, with this much flavor going on, to drink more than one...

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

Dark honey/melted sugar color; light will penetrate clearly. Decent beige head leaving layered lace on the glass.

Strong sweet caramels and brown sugar show up in the smell. There's a touch of plastic present, but it's very much in the background.

An overwhelmingly sweet beer on the initial taste. There is a very surprising hop finish in the swallow. Very rich and full-bodied, it also has a high level of carbonation. It's been a while since I've had a real Scotch Ale; this one seems a wee bit heavier than most I've tried (pun intended).

This beer is growing on me with each sip. My initial reaction was, whoa, way too much residual sugar. But I like how the hop catches up with the beer. Perhaps it's the 8.5% alcohol content (which is quite muted by the flavors), but more likely, it's the nice balance in the aftertaste.

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Photo of JohnnyDuvel
4.05/5  rDev -0.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

For those who like an all-malt type of beer, you can't go wrong here. A terrific exaple of the Scottish ale-wee heavy style. As good as the Belhaven or the Alesmith (two beers I love). This is SO malty! Warming and smooth, good for what ails you! I had this before, but must have forgot to review it. Just arrived in a terrific local specialty store (thanks, Micro man!).

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

Pours dark caramel plus brown with off- white head Smells of sweet raiseny smoky things. Tastes a little sweet with roast and smoked malts, but nicely restrained. Nicely restrained hops as well. Complex malt flavors. Really nicely well done. Feels smooth and slick in the mouth with slight alcohol burn. I have to be careful how man of these I drink, because damn... it would be easy to have more than a few....

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Photo of JMazzic
3.79/5  rDev -6.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

This is my first review, so please forgive the lack of complexity. Great looking bottle featuring Thorfinn Hausakluif(I'm assuming). Bought from BevMo in Elk Grove.

Appearance - Poured dark amber into a Maudite Tulip glass. About a 1/2" head, light carbonation. Head quickly dissipated.

Smell - Aroma was not real strong. Picked up a sweetness, brown sugar/molasses? Slight fruity smell, maybe raisin. Very appetizing.

Taste - Nice light sweetness. Pretty smooth, considering the ABV. Malty, only slight hop to it. Raisins again, a bit of chocolate after it warmed up some. Warming to the throat, very tasty.

Mouthful - Not too thick at first. Then it fills out to a rich creaminess.

Drinkability - Very Smooth. The alcohol is well hidden. Great taste, can be downed quickly if not careful. That said, this should be sipped and enjoyed. Very good, will drink again

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

Hearing that I was a fan of woody beers and smoky scotches, this one was recommended to me by beer manager Jon Hartlage of Smart Buy Wines in Fort Lee, NJ. Thanks a ton, Jon!

Served in a pint glass at recommended temperature.

A - Pours a clear, deep amber color with crimson highlights and an explosive tan head made of medium sized bubbles and a pillowy, tiny bubbled top. The head subsides to 1/4'' after a minute or two, and the lacing remains intact all the way down the glass.

S - Aggressive malty nose with medium bodied hoppiness, roasted nuttiness, and light raisiny brown sugar notes. Only faint hints of the alcohol contained within.

T - Smoked, peaty malts hit you right off the bat - somewhat surprisingly since I did not get this at all in the nose. Some of the roasted malt sweetness comes through in the middle and toward the swallow. The finish is laced with spicy hops and is quite dry and vinous (in the vein of a dry sherry). There is a warm alcohol afterglow which reminds you that this beer is well fortified, despite the fact that the ABV is masterfully disguised. Very complex.

M - Initially watery, but not thin. Opens up ever so gently to become airily creamy on the palette. The swallow is fast and easy. Wonderful!

D - The well disguised alcohol coupled with the very wide taste profile on this one makes it disturbingly easy to quaff (and ponder) despite the big ABV. Delicious!

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

Pours a dark brown chestnut with ruby highlights and a creamy 1-2 finger head lacing the sides of a New Belgium glass. The head evolves into a thick cream colored halo ring.

Smoke/ peat malts, caramel and toffee.

Taste is similar to aroma - Caramel malts, toffee, dark fruits and alcohol for a slight dry finish.

Mouthfeel is slick.

Has well hidden 8.5% ABV Wee Heavy. Most drinkable.

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Photo of abcsofbeer
3.88/5  rDev -4.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

This one was poured from an 11.2 ounce greenish brown bottle. The nordic dude on the label is pretty cool. Pours a clear, bubbly, Coca Cola color with light amber shades on the fringes. The head is tan colored, bubbly, but not thick. There is no lace until you get to the bottom of the glass even though the head sticks around nicely.

The nose is buttery, fruity and semi-sweet smelling.

The taste is fruity and malty with breaks of alcohohic flavor. I think the aftertaste was somewhat hoppy, and, mildly salty (a new one). It finishes with more alcohol in the bottom of the glass. I like the scotch ale. It's good.

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Photo of Sigmund
4.47/5  rDev +10.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Cask conditioned at the 32nd Cambridge Beer Festival, gravity dispense. Dark reddish brown colour. Complex aroma of dark fruits, spices and oak, various woodwork, some chocolate. Flavour is spicy, oaky, malty, chocolate, there’s vinous qualities (old sherry, marsala). Nutty / dusty hops finish. A great beer!

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Photo of Fish113d
4.03/5  rDev -0.7%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

served into a pint glass, from a refrigerated bottle, it pours a chestnut brown color, a bit hazy, with a rather huge head, due to a pretty aggressive pour. The head is a milky off-white color that begins to settle a bit with some slow, nice cascading. Some slight yeast remains at the bottom of the bottle as well.

Aroma is mostly of some caramel malts, maybe some oak (dryness), and some nice hops. Nothing overpowering, but decent overall.

Taste is of some smoke flavors off the start along with the nut brown malts and sweetened with caramel a bit, with some decent alcohol burn, and a hit of hops then yeast to finish it. Reminds me a lot of drinking somethign aged in bourbon barrels maybe. Nice overall flavor.

Feel is nice and smooth. Carbonation is not ridiculous, and the alcohol helps to balance out the smootness of it. Rather easy to drink for a medium-bodied brew.

Overall, one i had tried a few years back due to the bottle being cool looking, but one I have tried again due to remembering that I rather enjoyed it!

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Skull Splitter from Orkney Brewery
4.06 out of 5 based on 2,178 ratings.
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