Site Maintenance: Some portions of the site will be unusable until the process is complete. Thanks for your patience. Cheers!
Dismiss Notice
Love Belgian Beer?

Join us Sep 17 in Portland, Maine for Return of the Belgian Beer Fest, featuring hundreds of authentic Belgian beers and Belgian-inspired offerings.

Tickets + more: beeradvocate.com/belgian

Skull Splitter | Orkney Brewery

YOUR RATING = None |
BA SCORE
91
outstanding
993 Reviews
Skull SplitterSkull Splitter
BEER INFO

Brewed by:
Orkney Brewery
United Kingdom (Scotland) | website

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

BEER STATS
Reviews:
993
Ratings:
2,142
Avg:
4.06
pDev:
12.32%
 
 
Wants:
189
Gots:
289
For Trade:
0
User Reviews
Sort by:  Recent | High | Low | Top Raters | Alström Bros
Reviews: 993 | Ratings: 2,142
Photo of blitheringidiot
3.8/5  rDev -6.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

*** WARNING *** WARNING *** WARNING *** WARNING ***
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.

 1,802 characters

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.

 697 characters

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

 414 characters

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.

 484 characters

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.

 640 characters

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!

 442 characters

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. :-)

 658 characters

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...

 363 characters

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.

 533 characters

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.

 559 characters

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.

 650 characters

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.

 670 characters

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.

 384 characters

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.

 448 characters

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.

 768 characters

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.

 766 characters

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!

 637 characters

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.

 692 characters

Photo of bobinverted
3.27/5  rDev -19.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

SkullSplitter pours dark amber in hue with minimal head. It has a sweet malty aroma with a hint of smokiness. The tastes are of carmel and fruit, but strangely dominated by a smoked meat flavor. Mildly carbonated and a little chewy with noticable alchohol content. It's an interesting ale, but I probably wouldn't have it again.

 328 characters

Photo of RockyTopHeel
3.7/5  rDev -8.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Deep, chestnut brown color with very little (if any) head. Smell is neutral (maybe because it was too cold when first poured--more notes from the flavor came out in the nose as it warmed), only a touch malty, but the sweet malts, caramel, and dark fruits dominate the flavor. Thick and syrupy at first, but gets better as you drink more of it. Strong alcohol taste in the finish, but eases up on you as you get closer to the bottom of the glass.

Skullsplitter is as devastating as a Scottish claymore. I appreciate this beer for what it is (what it is is brutal), but it ain't me. Still, I'm glad I had the experience. Yowza.

Spoils of the 10/11/03 Knoxville Raid.

 670 characters

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

This is a very interesting brew. Nice amber color..some sweetness in the taste....a hint of peat undertone? smooth, but firm and accented with alcoholic tinges. I get a sense that this is what a strong/old ale should taste like. A definite sipping brew...probably great in the winter time. Of course this is form Northern Scotland, so I'm sure they appreciate this kind of brew in the North Sea. I'll bet this beer would be great with a nice roast beef. A definite try for all.

 477 characters

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

Pours a dark amber, like a good caramel sauce, and paired well with the ensuing flavor of the beer. Showed great lacing and thin bits and bands of stain.

Smelled of sweetish roasted nuts, caramel, and smaller but sharp whiskey notes - altogether round and even. Opened to dark fruit notes. Taste was of an interesting malt: caramel in general, with notes of walnuts, it also had a strong grainy tone that increased in texture and strength as it slides down my tongue. Spicy and almost fruity accents lingered, quite whiskey-like in character. Grainy roast finish with a creamy last lick, and a thinner mouthfeel that seems somehow fairly appropriate, alleviating the pressure on my palette from the complex, though not heavy, flavors.

That’s all there is to it, and its tastily complex. A truly excellent handling of malt, and thus a very good scottish ale. Easy to drink despite what may seem to be too much for the palette.

 932 characters

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

Small 11.5 oz bottle

This beer poured a crystal clear mahogany color that when held to the light had ruby overtones and it seemed fairly thick as it poured. The head that was formed was minimal but present. Off white/beige in color that when settled was small amounts on the edges of the glass. Light lace was present after the last sip. The aromas were big out of this little bottle. Tons of dark currants (raisins, plums), alcohol soaked fruits, alcohol, roasted and sweet malts, caramel, spices, a medicine aroma when it warmed and some hops (faint). The tastes and flavors were just as big. Lots of dark fruits (more raisins, plums), tons of alcohol, lots of fruits that were soaked in rum, spices, dark, sweet and roasted malts, lots and lots of caramel seemed to constantly come out, and hops to finish it off. One thing I did notice, was that when warmed this beers flavors intensified, but a medicine flavor came forth. Not unpleasant but noticeable. This beer was medium-heavy in body. I like this style of beer and this one did not disappoint. Lots of flavors and aromas made it a pleasure to just sit back and sip while talking to the wife. IMO this was a better beer on the cooler side then on the warmed side, but I would take it both ways. Only thing I would have liked more was to see more foam or atleast some more time to get a better visual. I like to sit back and just look at a beer for a moment to get the full effect.
Very good example of its style.

 1,476 characters

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

It took a fairly aggressive pour to get even a small light tan head to form. It stays for a short while, then reduces to a small lace scattered across the surface. SkullSplitter pours with a deep reddish copper hue and has a chill haze for quite a while that eventually clears as the beer warms. There is a small amount of carbonation bubbling from the bottom of the glass. The aroma is absolutely wonderful. Sweet malts with notes of caramel are quite apparent. Most noticeable, however, are the winey, vinous notes mixed with alcohol and dark fruits. The flavors parallel the aroma fairly well. The start is of sweet malts and caramel. Vinous notes quickly come forward along with a slight bitterness and hints of dark fruits – raisins and plums – lasting through the finish. Considerable carbonation adds a bit more of a bite around mid swallow and some alcohol is also noticeable. Towards the finish, there are also some slight hints of roastiness that come though. The mouthfeel is medium to maybe slightly full. The hops seem to be pretty laid back in this brew however, the vinous alcohol character really helps to balance the sweet malts.

Quite a unique brew that makes for a very interesting and drinkable Old Ale. It’s a little strong, so I don’t know that I could drink too many of these. One things for sure... one isn’t enough!

 1,348 characters

Photo of RoyalT
4.6/5  rDev +13.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

Appearance – This has the classic appearance of the Sotch Ale/Wee Heavy style. The head came up huge then went down pitting. The body is a deep, dark, ruby-brown color.

Smell – Man, does this ale wreek! The big aroma of dark, concentrated fruits soaked in rum and brandy come out in force. The malts are present underneath along with some alcohol notes as well.

Taste – The rum/raisin flavor comes out huge and overpowers the other fruits from the nose. There’s also a tartness in there. Maybe we soaked some apples in this batch? Anyway, it’s a very unique and interesting flavor, and a “must try” for any serious BA.

Mouthfeel – Flat, smooth, and full-bodied with a reminder of alcohol.

Drinkability – Everything I wrote about this ale comes together in the drinkability category. I don’t feel that any one component is perfect, but together this is as good as it gets and deserves my highest, “Drinkability,” rating.

Update – I drink this on a regular basis but thought I should re-review it with an ’04 bottle. My opinion hasn’t changed one iota from my initial rating in September of 2003.

 1,124 characters

Skull Splitter from Orkney Brewery
91 out of 100 based on 993 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.
  • Quick Navigation

    Open the Quick Navigation

  • Return of the Belgian Beer Fest

    BeerAdvocate Brings its All-Belgian Fest to Portland, Maine on September 17, 2016. Tickets are on sale now.

    Learn More
  • Get the Mag

    Become a BeerAdvocate magazine print subscriber today.

    Subscribe