Skull Splitter | Orkney Brewery

1,000 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: 1,000 | Ratings: 2,177
Photo of rdrummer
4.23/5  rDev +4.2%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

I'm not sure what category this belongs in, but old, strong, and dark seem to describe it. But I usually just think of this as a Scottish Ale and leave it at that. This is impressively beautiful with a very dark, amber color. It is hazy and when held to the light a real reddish glow shines through. The head is large, beige, and long lasting. There is, of course, impressive lacing. The aroma is a little mild for this strong of an ale with a malty aroma. The taste is a real malty gem with lots of fruitiness as well. I think there is a trace of dates or figs. It is kind of grapey so it could be raisin as well. This is a good thick ale in the mouth, almost meaty. I could drink this as long as it took to reach oblivion, it is that good.

My second visit with this beer doesn't change my rating but it did add a very strong smoky flavor that was muted on my first taste, probably due to the barbecue that I was eating. It is a very nice malty smokiness that I should have been aware of.

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Photo of soper2000
3.85/5  rDev -5.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Poured a nice brown with a decent sized off white head. This beer just smells malty. Huge notes of malt with a small hint of alcohol. There isn't really much alcohol evident in the taste. This was a lot sweeter than I expected but the sweetness was balanced well buy hints of nut. This isn't the thinnest of beers and I enjoy having it on occasion, It's just not something that I need every week.

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

Re-reviewed on 7/2/09

Orkney- Skullsplitter

A- Deep clear amber red with a small light lacing head.
S- Sweet light fruits with a good brown sugary malt.
T- Very sweet fruity sugary malt. Nice hints of raisin, plum, and grape. Brown sugar and molasses with a slight charcoal earthy hop twang.
M- Very sweet and thick. Thick fruitiness with a touch of hot/ boozy alcohol in the throat. Finishes off with thick sweet malt, quite smooth for its high alc content.

Overall- Much better 2nd time around. 1st time my palatte was still too young. Although this is a tad thick and sweet for me. Its worthy.

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Photo of Sixpack595
3.72/5  rDev -8.4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

A stern pour resulted in a huge chunky almost white head over a slightly ruddy brown body. The aroma was strong and featured toffee, caramel, and a bit buttery at times. Powerfull malts, butterscotch and toffee with a touch of hops to mellow out the sweetness. Very drinkable despite the high ABV and almost syrupy mouthfeel.

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Photo of FormatKid
4.44/5  rDev +9.4%
look: 3 | smell: 4 | taste: 5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Purchased a 12oz bottle at Bacchus in Chattanooga. This pours out a dark but translucent brown with a meager head that quickly disappears. Lacing is light to non-existant.

Smell is heavy in a sweet alcohol smell (remarkably like whiskey), and the malts are there too. No bitterness evident in the smell at all.Taste is BIG on malts up front sweet, round, and smokey. In the middle there is a pungently bitter-sweet combination I've never experienced in a beer before. Reminds me of chewing tobacco (and I'm talking about the stuff in the big bag Grandpa used to chew). Musty around the edges and the finish, with a slightly dry hoppy bitterness to round it off at the end. It leaves a warm trail down your esophagus and into your belly.

SkullSplitter really grows on me as it opens up. Mouthfeel is pretty light, which works for this one. I like this beer alot and I could imagine it going great with some game bird and flat bread to complete my viking delusion.

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

12ozer, purchased at Main St. Liquors, Monson, MA, as part of do-it-yourself mixed 6 pack. Red foiled cap.

Poured into an imperial pint glass, hearty inch+ tall tan colored head formed on top of a clear copper hued brew. Excellent lacing, after swirling it justs hangs on the sides of the glass. Malty, malty aroma, with slight tinge of alcohol. A surprise of smokiness jumps out at my taste buds from the get-go. A bit maltier in the taste than the color and clarity and aroma were indicating. Can taste the higher alcohol in there, but it's not like it hits you over the head. Rather, it just slips on by, the only real indication being the warming trend after swallowing. What I expected from a Scottish brew, and more.

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Photo of Mangus
4.25/5  rDev +4.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Pours a really nice deep amber reddish brown with a thin lacey head which quickly settles away.

Smells caramel, malty with a strong hint of alcohol. Very earthy and damp, much like the Scottish Highlands.

The taste is quite exquisite with beautiful strong caramel and malt flavors. The alcohol taste is robust and hearty. If this is what the vikings drank, well then I wana be a viking! AAAARRRGGGHHH

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Photo of blitheringidiot
3.8/5  rDev -6.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

Turn off the smoke alarm if you dare sample this palate punch. Smokey all the way. First, I noticed the low carbonation clear orange & ruby jewel-like pour. Then I was drawn into an appearance that says “Drink me.” Remind me to pay my Alice in Wonderland royalties later. Small head. Legs and lace ooze down the sides of this easy goin’ mature sipper.

Sweet was the first overwhelming scent, but then out from the complex fireworks, pears, spices, little nutmeg & cinnamon. Heck there’s even fresh pepper in thar!

Rich, smoked punch. Full taste is explosive. This one shows up to the party without an invite. Bold. With so many beers out there, props must be awarded to an original concoction like Skull Splitter. No need to ruff this one up like a wine tasting, although red wine hints peeks out. Smoked salmon or beef jerkey? ( I am a huge beef jerkey fan) This one found the gas peddle. Robust, scotch ale all the way. Caveat emptor. Not for the faint of taste. Scotch drinkers could become addicted to this one.

Kicked in despite visually hidden carbonation. Almost tastes like a stoudt but with a more smokey, lighter feel. No one in a sane state of mind would dare drink these all night long. Worth a try, tho'.

Wallet splitter? Not at $8 for four 11.2 oz / 330 mL bottles, oh with the red foil on top. BA brownie points for Red foil. Last swigs: Recommended for fellow Barleywine Style Ale fans or just for the Indiana Jones adventure in you. This is a hidden treasure of lasting flavors that are good 'til the last drop. Now I must pay my Maxwell house royalties. Pardon me.

*** Updated review alert*** Had another bottle to compare and update my review. Not too many changes. Tweaks only.

Beer is good. Happy beering.

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Photo of merlin48
4/5  rDev -1.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

11.2oz/330ml bottle here. Label says Skullsplitter was the 7th Laird of Orkney. Pours a clear cherrywood brown with an ample tan head that eventually fades to some patchy and sheet lace. Aroma is big caramel malt in the foreground, with fireplace ash and a hint of alcohol behind. Mouthfeel is thick and chewy and has minimal carbonation. Taste is caramel and smoke, with a moderate hop bitterness. Alcohol is well concealed in the taste until it sneaks in near room temperature. The smokiness lasts all the way through and is quite pleasant. There are also notes of pipe tobacco. Finishes mildly sweet with a smoky aftertaste. An excellent Scottish style Strong Old Ale that is a pleasure to sip.

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Photo of beerman599
4.12/5  rDev +1.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Poured ruby color with a small head and rather thick lacing on the sides. the smell was of a lot of sweetness with hints of peet. And that was what the initial taste was also. Lots of fruit flavor and some roasted malts, But as it wormed up it upened like a flower and got fuller on the tongue. It turned more hoppy and alittle woody and ultimately a strong alcohol flavor came through. I like it....a lot. go thor

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Photo of PSUDREW
3.6/5  rDev -11.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3

Pours a nice bit of head. Not alot, but a nice bit. It has some head. Not much, but some. Pours a very dark copper colr, with a bit of head, not much, but it is def. there. The lacing goes through and through to the end, and it is a ncie bit a astetic compltement. It really has no reall hop profile, but the alchohol/ malt balance makes this a nice little brew, it has a good representation of the wee heavy variety, ad, should be drank ona regular basis for a good rep of the stley.

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Photo of JackTheRipper
3.33/5  rDev -18%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Poured a clear dark brown color, very nice head.

Smelt like woodsmoke and grains, taste was sweet at first with almost a smokey whisky-ish flavor underneath. Carbonation was next to nothing in this beer. Not something I would drink often, but it did match very well with a big old order of chili cheese fries. I think I may have gotten a bad bottle, I wasn't very impressed with this one. The smell was very nice, and the taste would have been much better if the carbonation was higher.

Edit to add: After seeing the other beers in this category, esp AVBC's Winter Solstice and Double Bastard, I had to lower my score somewhat. Sorry.

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Photo of GeoffRizzo
4.34/5  rDev +6.9%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Bloddy chestnut hue, thin head. A beauty of a nose! Raisins, cotton candy, sweet fruit, grapes, plums all found here. Up front, this is big and bold, not to be messed with. Intimidating. Smokey, charcoal notes, aggressive caramel flavoring, with massive belly warming. Meaty, near 'beef-stick' flavoring, definite full bodied beer, with a hint of alcohol noticed throughout. Big, hearty and in yer face. Take note, don't mess with this beast!

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Photo of CortexBomb
4.08/5  rDev +0.5%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Lovely dark reddish when poured with a large frothy head. Scent is very sweet while the taste is a mixture of malt and what I've variably heard described as smoke, meat and/or bacon grease :-)

I get a great hankering for it every once in a while and have never had problem finishing one unlike other rausch styled beer (I know it isn't officially called a rausch but the flavour definitely makes me think of it in those terms...), the smoke/meat flavour can make this one hard to drink when you first try it, but after you get used to it the drinkability is actually quite decent.

Have to love the romance novel esque label on this one in any case. :-)

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Photo of anders36
3.98/5  rDev -2%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

A lovely old ale from the very north of Scotland. It pours a dark amber colour with alot of head that disapear quickly, leaving a thin head. It has a roasted smell and you also smell a little of alcohol.
The taste is a little bitter with a roasted taste leaving a warm feeling behind. It's a nice beer and if you have to many you will feel the skull splitter...

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Photo of flaminghomer
3.92/5  rDev -3.4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 3.5

the appearance doesn't impress too much. seems to have a lazy head. smell is very interesting. mild sweet and a tart apple smell almost like cider. very fruity smell. o.k. time to take a drink. hmm...very complex. like nothing i've ever had. carbonation is the first thing that i feel going on. this swells into tart fruity flavors that soon vanish and a nice alcohol warmness soon follows all the down. very complex but doesn't suit my tastes. very glad that i tried it though. i'll highly recommend this but, one was enough for me.

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Photo of beergeek279
4.42/5  rDev +8.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Served in a 330 mL bottle, into a pint glass. The color is amber, with a nice bubbly white head. The smell is a nice mix of dark malt and hops. The taste is a very nice rich malt, with a nice hop backing, and the beer has a warming but not overwhelming alcohol. Mouthfeel is fairly thick and creamy. Drinkability-wise, could have a few.

A simply amazing old ale...probably one of the best in the world. A very rich and delicious malt and hop mix, and I can see why this is a favorite of Sapphire's owner. This beer is certainly one I'll have in the future.

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

This fine beer pours a beautiful reddish brown with a creamy white head that thins pretty quickly. Moderate lacing holds the glass after each sip.

My nose is greeted by a mix of chocolate, malt and caramel. The aroma is sweet like the smell of a fresh pie or cake.

There is a slight smoky flavor to the beer that seems malty and meaty and vaguely maple. This is a delicious beer.

The beer is smooth and thick in the mouth with a dry finish.

Drinkability is tough. Because it is such a rich flavorful beer, it would be hard for me to consume more than one, or two, at a time. I really enjoyed this beer and would recommend it to others.

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Photo of bighops
4.7/5  rDev +15.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

t's a beer that crosses in flavor between Scotch and Brandy if you can imagine. Sweet, but not overly so, with a touch of roasted nut flavor under the fruitiness that isn't dominated by the alcohol, which is very present with a content of 8.5% per volume. It has a nice dark amber color with a thick white head that dissolves quickly. The aroma is full of malty goodness, rich and sweet with the absence of the sharp hoppy bouquet that tends to reside in stronger beers. Mouth feel is thick and a bit warm, leaving only a hint of sweetness on your lips and a quickly fading malty after taste. The overall effect made me think of green apples with a kick. Very drinkable.

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Photo of crookedhalo
3.99/5  rDev -1.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Deep copper colored with a thick beige head. Big malty, earthy aromas with some smells of fresh dark bread, like pumpernickel mixed with a slight vegetal afterthought. Tastes sweet and malty with some earthy notes with a small dry finish. Rather complex. Very good strong scotch ale. A bit chewy and a slight bit syrupy, but that might be expected out this style of beer. Recommended.

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Photo of GCBrewingCo
4.69/5  rDev +15.5%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Amber brown beer pours with a low but persistent head. The aromas are complex. In the aroma is smoke, malt, caramel, alcohol and sherry. The flavors are sweet malt coupled with smoke, caramel, sherry, a host of complex flavors. The mouthfeel is big and thick. The finish is smoky and dry and just every so slightly nutty.

Other than the hints of alcohol in the nose, and the warming after consumption, the alcohol does not show up in the flavor.

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Photo of AtLagerHeads
4.22/5  rDev +3.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Like the Highland cattle that I use as my icon, this Scottish product is quite handsome, bold, and durable. The great looking clear bronze body was capped by huge billows of tan foam, but it receded to a quarter inch layer fairly quickly. That was sufficient to lace the glass very nicely, thank you.

The nose on this beauty is huge and gives off the most aromatic whiffs of caramel malt. This is one of the best smelling brews I've had in some time. The malts follow in the great taste along with significant hints of the alcohol that is a big part of this big beer. There is a peppery mouthfeel from the brew, but overall the feel is very smooth and creamy. Limited drinkability, but not from the lack of great taste and feel, but rather from the alcohol content.

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Photo of SilentSabre
4.07/5  rDev +0.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 4

Poured a dark reddish brown colour, a cross between tea and a red oak coloured wood varnish. The almond coloured head was quick to dissappear and left just a hazy almond coloured film on the surface. The smell was actually quite sweet and heavy of malt. The taste as well was heavy with malt and tasted almost of chocolate, perhaps a bit of caramel with a tiny bit of an almost charred taste on the finish like the blackened, crispy edges of a steak from the grill. The mouth feel was almost "heavy" in sensation and had a bit of carbonation, but not too much. All in all, it was the taste of this brew that I was impressed with the most. And having spoke of steak, I would presume this brew would compliment a heavy red meat dish.
I'd probably buy this one again.

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Photo of granger10
4.17/5  rDev +2.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Poured a transparent ruby color with a small head and rather thick lacing on the sides. The head could've (should've) been bigger, led me to believe this was an older bottle or something like that. Anyways, the smell was of a lot of sweetness. And that was what the initial taste was also. Lots of fruit flavor and some roasted malts, main noticeable flavor being caramel. But it seemed a little odd because the flavor changed very rapidly while on the tongue. It turned more hoppy and acidic in taste and ultimately a strong alcohol flavor came through. At first it threw me off but once I got used to it I like it....a lot. Quite nice!

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Photo of marcobrau
4.05/5  rDev -0.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 4

Skullsplitter. Gotta like the name. Pours with huge, dense head and a dark amber color into my tulip-shaped tasting glass. I sense this a malty beer and the aroma this ale produces confirms my suspicions. Malt is present in the aroma, but in some peculier forms, I can detect the aroma of sweet malt but also that of leather. Very interesting. Very smooth mouthfeel. Like velvet. Tastes meaty, with a bit roasted grains and bitter towards the finish. There's a bit a wine-like finish, not so much tannin as fruit and alcohol. Very delicate tasting for strong beer, and not as thick as one would think, but still quite good. The bitter finish is a nice touch and surprising in a Scottish beer.

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Skull Splitter from Orkney Brewery
4.06 out of 5 based on 2,177 ratings.
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