Dark Island Reserve
Orkney Brewery

Dark Island ReserveDark Island Reserve
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Style:
Scottish Ale
Ranked #1
ABV:
10%
Score:
91
Ranked #3,599
Avg:
4.15 | pDev: 10.12%
Reviews:
69
Ratings:
143
From:
Orkney Brewery
 
Scotland, United Kingdom
Avail:
Rotating/Seasonal
Wants
  101
Gots
  32
SCORE
91
Outstanding
Dark Island ReserveDark Island Reserve
Notes:
Reviews: 69 | Ratings: 143 | Log in to view all ratings and sort
Photo of vinicole
vinicole from England

3.99/5  rDev -3.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4

Thick, oily and almost black. Wispy dark brown head.
Complex bouquet. Rich, roasted malt. Smoky.
Taste follows the nose. Burnt bitterness is rather off-putting. Hint of vanilla.
Viscous. A very slow sipper.

Dec 31, 2015
Photo of bluejacket74
bluejacket74 from Ohio

4.26/5  rDev +2.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4.25

750 ml swing top bottle, bottled on November 15, 2013, Gyle 682. Served in a snifter, the beer pours dark brown/black with maybe a half inch tan head. Head retention is decent, and there isn't much lacing. Aroma is nice, the brew smells like dark fruit (figs, dates), whisky, chocolate, caramel and vanilla. The taste is similar to the aroma, but with the addition of burnt/charred malt, coffee, red grapes, woodiness, and sweet spices. Mouthfeel/body is medium/full, it's a bit creamy and slick with low carbonation. Overall I thought this was a pretty good brew. The whisky barrel character is certainly noticeable, but not overpowering. Definitely worth a try if you've never had it before.

Sep 06, 2015
Photo of shigg85
shigg85 from Japan

4.52/5  rDev +8.9%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

What a wonderfully smooth, rich, and DARK Scottish ale! The oak barrels imparted a lot of vanilla and whiskey notes into this, but its smoothness is deceptive and wonderful. Definitely recommended if you can find it!

Jul 22, 2015
Photo of jmdrpi
jmdrpi from Pennsylvania

4.46/5  rDev +7.5%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

330ml swing top bottle, purchased at the brewery.

Black with tan head. Nice pleasant aroma of whisky, vanilla, milk chocolate. Great taste and very smooth mouthfeel. This ones a winner.

May 02, 2015
Photo of oberon
oberon from North Carolina

4.21/5  rDev +1.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

Bottled on 3rd April 2012.Pours into my Isle of Arran glass a deep dark chocolate brown with a half finger cappuccino colored head atop.Dark fruit,brown sugar,and buttery caramel in the nose,a decent amount of alcohol is detected.Brown sugar and buttery caramel on the palate with alcohol infused dark fruit as well,light to almost zero carbonation in the feel.A great CHRISTmas eve sipper,expensive but hey it's the holidays.

Dec 25, 2014
Photo of Budinetz
Budinetz from Pennsylvania

4.25/5  rDev +2.4%

Bottled on November 12th, 2012. Poured from a flip top 75 cl bottle.

Pours a very dark black (50 SRM) with a tan colored head. Very little lacing present. Smells of roasted malt and a strong alcohol presence is detected with a bit of a raison note and slight vanilla. Tastes warming to the lips from the high abv with a sweet, smoky flavor up front and then finishes dry with a bit of astringency from the roasted malt. This is a beer you want to drink slowly and share with others. This is definitely a beer that would benefit from aging. Drink at 55-60 degrees.

Cheers!

Aug 16, 2014
Photo of KYGunner
KYGunner from Kentucky

3.94/5  rDev -5.1%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

This had a very dark and viscous pour of, what appeared to be, a very lightly carbonated stout.

The nose gave off a vinous date, licorice, chocolate, sherry and then a vinous alcohol.

I get a lot of chocolate on the palate with a backdrop of dry roasted coffee and some smoky qualities and malty grain.

The feel is mostly smooth and thick but had a slightly dry and tangy finish.

Very interesting and tasty ale but I prefer a touch more complexity on the tongue for the style.

Jun 11, 2014
Photo of soccerman7
soccerman7 from Vermont

4.21/5  rDev +1.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

Brought from Orkney thanks Stan!

A - beautiful pitch black with a thin head.

S - amazing raisin and toffee notes. Intense.

T - wow. Like drinking scotch. Dark fruits and wood. Malt sweetness.

M - lingers and smooth.

O - simple amazing. Worth getting if you see it.

Feb 03, 2014
Photo of dcmchew
dcmchew from Romania

4.74/5  rDev +14.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.75

Bottled on 15th November 2013.
Pours black with some dark brown hues, low beige head goes away fast and really sticks to the glass.
Smells awesome. Dark roasted malts with milky chocolate, huge caramel, low coffee, lots of vanilla and dark spices, mild dry dark fruit, not very big oaky barrel notes though.
Whiskey pops up in the taste more than in the smell. Roasted malts with coffee and dark chocolate, along with charcoal notes mix nicely with the strong caramel sweetness. Really balanced malt component. The dark fruit (figs, plums, dates) aren't alone, there are red grapes (bringing a mild mustiness), red berries and some faint sour cherries. Typical whiskey barrel aged vanilla spice, along with some mild cinnamon, cocoa powder and faint licorice. Earthy feel mostly, not as barelly as expected, with some oak chips, smoked wood and peat covered up by the roast. Whiskey is felt though, really clear and nice, providing a nice excuse for the warm booze. Hops aren't the star, so they're pretty low in the finish, still helping the roast bitterness a pinch.
Mouthfeel is creamy, buttery, hence a nice butterscotch feel to the whole brew. Finish is really dry and bitter from the charcoal. As it warms up, the sweet elements (the fruitiness, the caramel) start to cover up all the roughness. Aftertaste gets bittersweet, rather than ashy.
Great beer, a perfect "Orcadian Ale" enhanced by the whisky aging. The best from the brewery and personally it surpassed some russian imperials and scotch ales that i usually hold dear.

Dec 28, 2013
Photo of mick303
mick303 from Canada

4.2/5  rDev +1.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25

A blackish dark brown, slight whispy lace, thick oiliness. Little residual lacing owing to the barrel time.

S - roasty malt, creamy cherriness, some oaky vanilla sweetness, nutmeg earthy notes with some alcohol spice.

T - sweet start with some oaky whisky presence, smooth and estery alcohol, lots of complex character develops with the malt and barrel influences, a vanilla malty finish, surprisingly lightt with lots of fruit there also, fig, cranberry, not much hops to speak of. End is quite dry.

M - big body and silky liquor lot of smooth vanilla and fig notes, and then dark chocolate, soothing sipper, warming on aftertaste and smooth.

A lovely interplay of complex flavours, it is malty and fruity with vanilla and oak, big presence but so smooth drinking, one to try for sure.

Jun 27, 2013
Photo of CrazyDavros
CrazyDavros from Australia

3.84/5  rDev -7.5%
look: 3 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3 | overall: 4

Pours dark brown with an almost non-existent head.
Nose shows caramel, peat, charred oak, roasted malt, smoke, bready malt and heavy sweet burnt figs.
Sweet flavours at first too, before some roasted malt and charred oak roll thorugh. A fair bit of booze too.
Body feels a bit light.

Jun 11, 2013
Photo of deg
deg from New Hampshire

4.52/5  rDev +8.9%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.5

I poured the beer into a glass chalice. It was dark. Some light got through, and the color was dark brown. The head was coffee with cream color. I could smell some fruit. The taste started out heavy on fruit and vanilla and oak. I couldn't taste much peat or other flavors I associate with whisky initially. As I worked through the bottle, more roasty and peaty flavors came out. The beer was easy on my mouth, thick and rich. I noticed a warmth from the alcohol instead of a burn.

Mar 22, 2013
Photo of Muhly
Muhly from Canada

4.49/5  rDev +8.2%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Poured from the bottle into a nonic pint glass. Bottled in April 2012 according to the label.

A-dark brown/opaque. Dark tan/brown head pours two fingers with a vigorous pour. Low retention with a wisp of foam remaining after the head drops.

S-dark malts with hints of smoke and charred barrel. Smells a little boozy.

T-a big wallop of roasted dark malts with hints of smoke and oak. Burnt toffee and licorice linger a bit on the tongue.

M-seems pretty round and full. Coats the tongue and finishes with some warm alcohol.

O-an intesely dark ale that slaps you across the face with its boldness. Could have perhaps benefited from another 6 months in the bottle.

Mar 20, 2013
Photo of nickfl
nickfl from Florida

4.13/5  rDev -0.5%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4

Orkney dark island reserve

A - Pours with one finger of light tan foam on top of an opaque, black body. The head settles at a moderate pace and leaves light foam.

S - Chocolate, vanilla, cinnamon, and lots of smooth whiskey and smoke,.

T - Dark caramel and toffee up front with a touch of molasses. Some vanilla and chocolate with nutmeg in the middle. Finishes with more dark sugar, spice and whiskey as well as vanilla and cinnamon.

M - Medium-thick body, moderately low carbonation, and a balanced finish.

D - nicely done, the aroma is much better than the flavor, but everything works well in the end.

Feb 23, 2013
Photo of kylehay2004
kylehay2004 from Illinois

4.1/5  rDev -1.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Two finger head that dissipates rapidly on a jet black body. Aroma is stronglyof whiskey and scotch, mint, molasses, cinnamon. Flavors are very dull, with the whiskey understated in sharpness but still providing flavor. Supporting notes include dark chocolate, citrus, earthy hops, rye breads and licorice. The aroma is great, the flavor is a little mild but still keeps the whiskey flavor while staying very drinkable. Very nice whiskey aged brew

Feb 22, 2013
Photo of beerdrifter
beerdrifter from Germany

4.41/5  rDev +6.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Beautiful dark brown pour with a one finger beige head with minimal retention and crazy lacing. The nose is earthy with rich dark caramel malts dominating along with hints of mocha. As it warms, a strong vinous character emerges along with evidence of the barrel aging and hints of whiskey. The taste follows suit, dominated initially by loads of roasty cocoa, espresso, and dark chocolate. As with the nose, the taste really opens up as it warms. Unlike some big barrel aged beers, it's not in your face. The woody vinous notes are subtle but so delicious. Hints of oak, vanilla, whiskey, and dark fruit round it out nicely. The mouthfeel is thick and creamy with a subtle sweet and dry finish. Overall, this is my definition of a comfort beer. Big, but not too big, rich and bold, but not in your face. A world class beer!

Feb 10, 2013
Photo of BMMillsy
BMMillsy from Florida

4.14/5  rDev -0.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

Bottled April 3, 2012, poured Feb 1, 2013z Pours dark brown almost black. Big very light brown head. Very pretty. Aroma is sherry, peat whiskey, hints of chocolate, raisins, anise, licorice, and a bit of roasted grain and smoke. A lot going on here. Flavor of a nice scotch, took my breath away on the first sip. Really not expecting that. Not boozy but lots of peat and whiskey here with a warm finish. Only medium thickness on the palate. Lasting explosion of chocolate that leaves a bit of sweetness on the palate. Smokey oak with a red wine (merlot) quality about it. Very intense sipper, but surprisingly drinkable as the alcohol is not strong (though the scotch flavor certainly is). Something everyone should seek out. Awesome bottle and labeling, too. And I can recork this for later, which is nice.

Feb 02, 2013
Photo of biboergosum
biboergosum from Canada

4.01/5  rDev -3.4%
look: 4.25 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

750ml, very attractive bottle and label. I've been sitting on this one for over a year, as it's from the Nov 2011 hand bottling, which apparently numbered at 2933. Seems to me the fitting start to a Robert Burns' night, especially one that falls on a Friday. To quote the man himself: 'Critics! Those cut-throat bandits in the paths of fame'. I'll keep that in mind here, dear auld Rabbie.

This beer pours a solid, unrelenting black, with nothing in the way of even the slightest highlight, and two fingers of bubbly and fairly creamy brown mocha head, which settles away at a lazy, but steady pace, leaving some broad swaths of limestone formation lace around the glass.

It smells of musty black fruit - duly soused by strong, dark red wine - mildly roasted bready caramel malt, thin vanilla, some dampened woody astringency, watery orange juice, and a further spiced rum/whisky alcohol tint. Yup, this one's gonna be a boozer. The taste is bittersweet chocolate-dipped cherries, injected with a shot of brandy for good measure and grandmas everywhere, more softly acrid, pulpy orange, a middling caramel/toffee malt backbone, edgy oak barrel wood tannins, diluted vanilla, and a musty, earthy wet leafy dryness, where the wetness is alcohol, albeit on its best behavior.

The carbonation is pretty sedate, but does well enough to offer support to the whole affair, the body a sturdy, stout (more on that later), and medium-full weight, and smooth at most measurable and/or memorable junctures, that flat woodiness a sometime offender. It finishes on the sweet side, with the caramel malt finally coming around, the dark vinous fruit holding fast, and the warm vanilla oakiness completing the lulling circle.

It is a bit strange that I get more wine barrel than whisky cask in terms of woody adjuncts, given the proclaimed Orkney-local production methods. Oh well, esters are a funny thing, they can act as the chimera, rendering things in a slightly different manner from what they truly are. Anyhow, this is a splendid Scottish ale, with strong dry stout predilections, well integrated barrel notes, and a much more subtle alcohol profile than I was led to believe up until the very end. Worth the wait, indeed, and I feel that I have not let today's celebratory poet down, at least not yet.

Jan 26, 2013
Photo of UCLABrewN84
UCLABrewN84 from California

4.23/5  rDev +1.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 3.25 | overall: 4.25

Bottle pour for New Brew Thursday's 3rd Anniversary event held at Beachwood BBQ & Brewing in Long Beach, CA.

Thanks to Wowcoolman for sharing this one.

Pours an opaque black with a foamy dark khaki head that settles to wisps of film on top of the beer. Small dots of lace form around the glass on the drink down. Smell is of dark roasted malt, cocoa, dark fruits, port, whisky, and wood. Taste is much the same with a slightly sour fruity flavor on the finish. There is a mild amount of roasty bitterness on the palate with each sip. This beer has a lower level of carbonation with a slightly crisp and medium bodied mouthfeel. Overall, this is a very good beer that is tasty and rich.

Jan 22, 2013
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Alieniloquium from Florida

3.8/5  rDev -8.4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

750 mL bottle poured into a Kuhnhenn snifter. April 2012 bottle.

Appearance - Deep brown. Completely opaque. Small khaki head. Big bubbles as it settles. Very leggy upon swirling.

Smell - Buckets of butterscotch, whoah. Peaty whiskey permeates behind it, but butterscotch all over. Deep caramel malts, verging on chocolate malts.

Taste - Much more whiskey presence here, but still a ton of butterscotch. The whiskey is smokey and peaty and, in the aftertaste, almost salty. The finish is a little bitter, perhaps exacerbated by the briny flavor.

Mouthfeel - Not terribly heavy, but also no alcohol. I'm looking for a bit more chewiness to it for all the barrel it has. The finish is whiskey dominant.

Overall - Obviously a far cry from Dark Island, but that isn't a bad thing. Hell of an expensive bottle, but that doesn't surprise me so much these days. Good beer and very different from normal stuff I drink.

Dec 21, 2012
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siradmiralnelson from Iowa

4.18/5  rDev +0.7%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Poured from 750ml swing top bottle into Globe glass.

A. 1 finger of dark tan head. Color is all black. Pretty thick lacing. Really good retention. Pours out looking like a stout.

S. Hot damn. Sucker smells boozey. Has a defiantly whiskey smell to it. Get past that and there is quite a bit of malt aroma or roasted malt, and caramel. Has a bit of a spicey background that is somewhat hard to pin down.

T. The aroma had me feeling like I would be sipping a whiskey bomb. The flavor is quite refined and quite good. This definitely borders the line between Scottish Ale and Stout. Really nice flavors of both styles. Roasted malt, caramel, some oakiness on the finish. All while being pretty damn smooth. Some pretty sweet vanilla notes come out more as it warms.

M. Medium/full bodied. Medium carbonation.

O. Aroma had me a little concerned. Taste didnt dissapoint. I was pretty impressed with this beer. Has really good qualities of a Scottish ale and Imperial Stout. Good beer. Lots of flavor and smooth to drink.

Nov 06, 2012
Photo of Bouleboubier
Bouleboubier from New Jersey

3.55/5  rDev -14.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Huh - bought 2 bottles of this in Edinburgh in August 2009. Opened one upon returning home from that trip and opened the other 2 weeks ago.... Quite different experiences...

The first bottle drank like a supremely mellow Imperial or Baltic Porter (sorry, best comparative "style" that comes to mind). Mineral and light-medium bodied with a smooth, seemingly aged cocoa/coffee-roasty center. Alcohol barely poking through. Fairly well-balanced, if nothing spectacular and surely easy to put back the entire bottle of.

After countless proposed yet passed-on occasions for which to open the second bottle, I along with my good friend and brother finally opened the second bottle less than a month ago and we found a brew way further along in its development -

It poured out like brackish swamp water - the darkest brown with an almost grey tinge to the slight and scummy, plump-bubbled, and swift-diminishing foam. Not looking like a "Scottish ale" - it's a dark-fruited porter, my friend...

Purple grape skins and vaguely port wine in the nose. Oxidation, sweet corruption, for sure. Nearly off-putting unless you knew what you may be getting into. Some black licorice and char, though mellow.

Hardly a chore to sip, but I'm glad we shared this... Actually wish we would've aged this for another 3 years - mellow it all further. Much vinous, but pleasing against the fading background of roasty, chocolaty malt though, as I suggested, it probably could've benefited from an extra-extended conditioning. Caught it in transition?

Moderately silky and smooth going down - maybe something best savored low-60s in a snifter (we used cruddy Ikea drinking glasses, roughly mixer-shaped - bleck! i know...).

Hey - I wasn't blown away initially (3 years back) by this, however, drinking it now, I've probably for the first time experienced a "cellared" (if not ideally) strong ale. Interesting. Some things to take forward...

Aug 21, 2012
Photo of zaphodchak
zaphodchak from Virginia

4.56/5  rDev +9.9%
look: 3 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Some light lacing coffee opaque brown, some brown highlights.

Smell portends greatness. Faint booze, port, smokiness. Truly magnificent.

Taste does the nose justice. Port, a trace of soy sauce and leather, finishing on plum, black currant, and a trace of spice. This is amazing.

Oily, not too too thick, but pretty thick.

This is a great beer. The price point suggests it and the beer delivers. At the price, I probably wouldn't buy it, but if you have a chance to try it (or go in halvsies), I highly recommend it.

Jul 28, 2012
Photo of SawDog505
SawDog505 from New Hampshire

4.26/5  rDev +2.7%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

Poured into a 20 oz Duvel tulip, bottled in late 2011. Pours a magnificent almost black with a 3 inch dark tan head, with beautiful lace. Smell is dark fruit, leather, tobacco, apricot, smoke, dark chocolate, and whiskey. Taste is all that, apricot starts, with leather and dark chocolate, and obviously some whiskey in the finish. Body is medium to heavy perfect, great amount of carbonation, a little dry as expected, and drinkability is exactly what you would expect. Thanks Tom for bringing this to celebrate my daughters birth, excellent beer!

Jul 20, 2012
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danieelol from Australia

4.07/5  rDev -1.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Thanks to Chris @ Slowbeer

Bottled 27 March 2010. Consumed 16 June 2012.

Pours dark brown/black with small head but great lacing.

Smell was apparent when I first popped the cap. Lovely potent whisky/chocolate aromas. Behind that and the yummy booze there's a fairly strong apple juice note. Lots of caramel and oak. Pretty awesome nose really.

Taste is again lots of smoke. There's also quite a lot of somewhat sour apple juice. Seriously, it's almost exactly like apple juice. Balanced though, and really pretty drinkable for 10%. Booze comes through, but gets more balanced and malty as I get through the bottle.

Mouthfeel is medium and a little sweet, still manageable.

Overall a very enjoyable beer.

Jun 17, 2012
Dark Island Reserve from Orkney Brewery
Beer rating: 91 out of 100 with 143 ratings