Dark Island Reserve | Orkney Brewery

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Dark Island ReserveDark Island Reserve

Brewed by:
Orkney Brewery
Scotland, United Kingdom

Style: Scottish Ale

Alcohol by volume (ABV): 10.00%

Availability: Rotating

Notes / Commercial Description:
No notes at this time.

Added by John_M on 01-15-2008

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Reviews: 69 | Ratings: 134
Photo of dcmchew
4.74/5  rDev +15%
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.

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Photo of Sigmund
4.7/5  rDev +14.1%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

Rerate, 750 ml bottle, courtesy of Cardinal Pub & Bar, Stavanger. ABV is 10%. Brewed 23rd Sept. 2008, bottled 10th Dec. 2008. Pitch black colour, moderate brown head. The aroma is still vinous (sherry), oaky and roasty - also notes of chocolate, vanilla, figs and dates, hints of Christmas spices. Full and rich mouthfeel. The flavour has loads of malty sweetness, a moderate roastiness, oaky and vinous notes (sherry and/or port), some chocolate and a hint of liquorice. Moderate hops in the finish. Terrific beer! Original rating: Bottle, at RBESG 2007 in Glasgow, Grand Tasting. ABV was 10%. Pitch black colour, brown head. Lovely vinous, oaky and roasty aroma, some sandalwood too. Perfect! Vinous, roasty and oaky flavour - a wonderful beer!

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Photo of Knapp85
4.67/5  rDev +13.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Opened this and shared a bottle with my cousins at my grandmothers 80th birthday party over the weekend. I had been super excited to try this one since I got it a few months ago. The Beer poured out black, and thick looking. There was a thin brownish colored head on top that hung around for a good while but since I was sipping this for over an hour but the time I finished it was gone. The smell of this beer is awesome, the aromas of whiskey, wood, apple, cherry, roasted malts and chocolate all spew from the glass into the nose. The taste of this beer is really really nice, the aromas that are on the nose come full force onto the tongue for a really crazy joyride of flavors from start to finish. The apples and cherries come in a little tart up front but the roast malts keep it sweet and then in the aftertaste the chocolate dominates without and doubt. The mouthfeel of this beer has a really nice semi-thick body to it with some light carbonation. Overall this beer is very impressive. Hands down it has to be Orkney's best and I really enjoy Skullsplitter. This one just has so much to offer, it's not cheap by any means but I could see myself having this one again someday.

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Photo of walshclimb
4.65/5  rDev +12.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4

Pours pitch black with 1/2" tan bubbly head that leaves a little lace. Smells of sweet roasted malt with a warm scotch overtone - peat and smoke. Taste - YUM! Starts off tasting like a nice mellow scotch with roasted malt, chocolate and a hint of cherry thrown in. It has an aftertaste that is a little sweet but nicely balanced with a little heat, and the peat and smoke shining through. I was immediately impressed by the complexity of flavor, excellent balance, and completely unique flavor. I have never had a beer that tastes like this. Very full bodied, this beer is tipping the Scottish Ale scale toward stout. It has a creamy texture and a slightly alcoholic finish. This is a tough one to classify for drinkability. It is not that it isn't driinkable. On the contrary, I thoroughly enjoyed every sip. It is a slow sipper that is completely unique. On the other hand, it is pretty expensive and very rare, so I will probably never get to taste it again... Buy it if you can find it. Split is with a couple of friends, and expect a very unique experience.

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Photo of mdagnew
4.62/5  rDev +12.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

750ml swing top bottle bought from Peckhams, Edinburgh... aged for about 3 years...

Poured jet black - nothing gets through even when held up to the light. Creamy brown head poured quite thick and fizzy then faded fairly quickly to almost nothing... very faint lacing...

Aroma - Strong roasted malts, chocolate mixed with strong espresso coffee, some blackcurrent/blackberry notes, leathery, woody, liquorice / anise, good vanilla traces, some tar, spicy hops, treacle/burnt sugar, some alcohol traces...

Taste - Strong roasted malt bitterness, smokey notes, vanilla, definite black coffee, creamy dark chocolate, peppery hops, lots of liquorice, some nutty sweetness, molasse and treacle, alcohol warmth just coming through...

Feel - Very smooth and creamy with just a little sharpness after... pretty full bodied...

Overall - An excellent barrel aged brew... highly recommended if you can track it down..

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Photo of champ103
4.59/5  rDev +11.4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

A: Pours a dark brown with some ruby highlights around the edges. A two finger tan head quickly forms, and recedes in a second. Light patchy lace is left behind.
S: Toasted malt, sweet toffee, smoke, peat, and dark fruits. A slighlty tart green apple, and white grape aroma develops as this warms up. Excellent.
T: Similar to the nose. Toastes malt and sweet toffee. Though the smoke and peat seems to be more dominate than in the nose. Dark fruits of plums and rasins. Again, a green apple flavor with some grape skins lingering on. Slightly vinous. This is great.
M/D: A medium body and a little low on the carbonation. Though it is still very creamy and smooth. A real treat to drink. Something that is great to sip on. I wish the bottle would never end.

This is excellent, just like everything else from the brewery. A great combination of smoked peat and fruits. It really melds together well. It becomes more and more vinous and wine like as this warms up. Very unique. Something I highly recommend.

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Photo of zaphodchak
4.56/5  rDev +10.7%
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.

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Photo of NilsFrisk
4.52/5  rDev +9.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

When you pour it into a glass, you can see the intense body of it, but it does not give much of a head.
Smells roasty, but with this kind of old unfamiliar smell, maybe a bit oaky.
The taste is powerful, a lot of sweet maltiness, quite a bit booze, some roasty bitterness and a full delicious body to wrap it all inn. Too bad it is a limited edition.

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Photo of deg
4.52/5  rDev +9.7%
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.

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Photo of shigg85
4.52/5  rDev +9.7%
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!

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Photo of Muhly
4.49/5  rDev +9%
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.

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Photo of FreshHawk
4.47/5  rDev +8.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

A - Dark black with a deep brown hue on the edge. Smaller than average foamy and fairly creamy, dark tan head. Disappears pretty fast leaving behind a thin patchy lace.

S - Oaky, whisky aroma with a good amount of vanilla as well with a spicy, peaty aroma. Some chocolate fudge-like aroma with a bit of roasted malt and dark fruit, especially black currant. Interesting and enjoyable aroma.

T - Similar to the nose with dark chocolate and roasted malt starting out. Strong whisky flavors come out and remain with peat/oaky flavors along with a pretty strong amount of vanilla. Dark fruit and anise come out a bit stronger mid to end sip. Fairly sweet, but the whisky peat and spiciness cuts that a bit. A rich, chewy malty beer overall with an enjoyable mix of chocolaty malt and whisky.

M - Medium body with moderate carbonation. Rich and slightly slick feeling.

D - Pretty drinkable. Alcohol is present but it isn't overly strong, and it works fine with the whisky presence. A little on the sweet side, but the whisky cuts that nice. Definitely a sipper, but one I kept wanting to sip.

Notes: Overall I really liked the mix of whisky and rich chocolaty malt along with a good showing of dark fruit. I liked the mixture of sweet and whisky, neither are too powerful and work well together.

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Photo of jmdrpi
4.46/5  rDev +8.3%
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.

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Photo of tatoodkelt
4.42/5  rDev +7.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Consumed on 8/1/09- from notes.

Buddy and fellow BA 46and2 brought this over to celebrate my birthday as well as the birth of my daughter. Thanks again Dan!

Poured into a snifter.

A- Oily pitch black with a half finger beige head that settles quickly to a thin cap.

S- Tons going on here! Very deep and earthy, roasted malt, faint scotch, dark chocolate, something sweet- caramel or molassas?, hints of dark fruit.

T- Everything from the smell with the addition of faint coffee, oak and little hint of whiskey.

M- Very slick, medium leaning on heavy. No noticable carbination.

D- A real treat that I've been looking forward to for months. I'll have to pick up one of these myself and repay the favor at some point.

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Photo of opwog
4.42/5  rDev +7.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

A - Very dark reddish brown body when held up to light with a beige head that developed nicely when poured into a goblet.
S - plum and similar dark fruit
T - Given that this is a scotch ale aged on whisky barrels, I really expected this to be overwhelming whisky-like. I was pleasantly surprised to find an incredibly complex, yet balanced beer.
M - velvety and nicely carbonated.
D - I had this on a foggy, cool beach night and it was perfect. On a hot mid-day, I may not have even enjoyed (or at least not appreciated) such a beer.

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Photo of beerdrifter
4.41/5  rDev +7%
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!

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Photo of Mora2000
4.4/5  rDev +6.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Bottle courtesy of bu11zeye.

Hand bottled in September 2008. Pours dark brown/black with basically no head. Aroma is some smokey peat as well as caramel. The flavor is slightly sweet with some caramel malt, roasted malt and some smoke and chocolate. Medium mouthfeel. Very creamy mouthfeel.

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Photo of soupyman10
4.39/5  rDev +6.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Deep, deep brown - near black - with a small off-white head on top that dissolves down quickly.

Huge sweet cookie nose. Light butter. Roasted malt, caramel, prunes and other dried fruit. Molasses sweetness comes to dominate as it warms.

Flavor is similar - huge roasted malt. Light sourness, light alcohol heat. Spiciness, mixing nicely with the sweet malt. Some light cookies. Whisky and vinous, sour grapes come to the fore as it warms up. Chocolate.

Nice body. Fizzy carbonation, appropriate for the beer.

Really tasty brew. Very unique. Love the whisky hints throughout (could do without the price though).

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Photo of lackenhauser
4.39/5  rDev +6.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Muddy black color when pouring. Totally opaque in the glass with a nice, tight cocoa head on top. I am actually suprised how carbonated it is.

Huge nose of plums, figs and dried fruit. Very fruity smelling. Nice touch of vanilla. Somewhat boozey flavor upfront with port and vanilla highlights. The whiskey doesnt come thru at first. About 3 or 4 sips into it the oakiness and schotch flavors start to really unfold. not as in your face as some US barrel aged bers. Vanilla and dark chocolate as well. Very complex.

Body is good. Rather thin but not in a detracting way. Obviously not a lot of sugars left in here. Very soft and smooth.

A great, great beer-complex and very unigue. I dont know how much I could do in a sitting but this is a really great sipper and goes down like velvet. Pricey yes. I will get one to cellar but have been dying to pop this one since I bought it several months ago.

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Photo of Stephen63
4.39/5  rDev +6.6%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 3.5

A - Brown foaming head, dark body porter-like in appearance.

S - Definitely get plummy aromas and lots of fruity sweetness. Very complex and giving plenty on each tip to the nose.

T - Quite a surprise as the sweetness is less evident. However the whisky/malt is stunning and almost confusing. It certainly works. A lot to take in.

M - Incredibly smooth, chewy and rich.

D - For sure you only have one of these. Perhaps one to share.

Bought in a "touristy" shop in Scotland and price tag £9.35 = about $18. So it aint cheap here either. I had not seen this before though probably not looking. Certainly at the top end of the market. This was a treat from my brother, cheers bro! Very much for a special occasion and to be treated like malt whisky, enjoy one at length for this luxury. Try it at least once but you will definitely come back. Funny to have the Grolsch top on such a beer. Unlike a malt I finished the bottle in one go.

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Photo of thekanna
4.37/5  rDev +6.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4.5

Picked this beauty up at Village Pump Liquors in College Park, MD.

Presentation: Beautiful, like a fine bottle of wine. The seal over the cap states that this is one of only 1568 bottles, and the signature of the brewer confirms its quality.

A: Pours a pitch black which turns slightly purplish when held to light. Almost no head to speak of.

S: Extremely complex and slightly chewy, with strong notes of roasted malts, dark fruits, leather, prunes, and aged wood. Slightly musty, like an attic, with a characteristic wood smell that you get from being in old barns or old wood shops, as if this brew was there since the beginning of the earth.

T: Burnt malts and sour dark fruits, predominately (somewhat unripe) dates and figs. Beautiful roasted flavor, like a campfire or an old dusty chimney. Also, strong notes of port; somewhat heavy red wine-like. Or is it whiskey? Oak-aged barrel flavor pulls through in the end, complemented by faint chocolate and espresso notes.

M: Not much carbonation, a bit thin. But this seems characteristic of most Orkney brews.

D: Nice sipper. Seeing as this is a pretty rare beer, and at $25 a bottle, I don't expect to have it again. But I'm glad I picked it up and tried it.

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Photo of cjgator3
4.33/5  rDev +5.1%
look: 3 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 4.5

750ml bottle

A- Pours a dark brownish black color. Not much carbonation in the bottle so this doesn't produce much of a head.

S- The aroma is dark malts, plums, figs, vanilla, whiskey and wood from the barrel aging. 

T- The taste has a malty sweetness up front with molasses, chocolate, whiskey and woody flavors as well. Very smooth for a 10% ABV beer.

M- The mouthfeel is medium bodies with a low amount of carbonation.

O- Overall, I really enjoyed this beer.  It is a really nice barrel aged beer that is recommended!

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Photo of bluejacket74
4.26/5  rDev +3.4%
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.

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Photo of SawDog505
4.26/5  rDev +3.4%
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!

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Photo of wnh
4.25/5  rDev +3.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

750 mL bottle poured into a wine glass.

Pours a red-tinted deep chesnut brown with a nice creamy ecru head.

Aromas of burnt grain, whisky smoke, and oxidized pear. Smoke forward on the palate, but pleasantly mild. Lightly oxidized, though not as an off-flavor. Peaty whisky smoke leads to a depth of character. Big and deep and complex, and simply delicious.

Tasted alongside a bunch of really big beers, toward the end. That I was able to taste what I could taste in this beer, after the bruising my palate took up to this point, shows me what a fantastic beer this is.

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Dark Island Reserve from Orkney Brewery
4.12 out of 5 based on 134 ratings.
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