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 WhatANicePub
2.24/5  rDev -45.6%
look: 4 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 1.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 2

I'd been looking forward to trying this. Sadly, it's a mess. Hot alcohol, coffee, charcoal, astringent wood and overwhelming green-apple rawness. As I got further down the glass it more and more resembled drinking a glass of mulled cider.

Maybe the bottled version is better.

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Photo of nick76
2.68/5  rDev -35%
look: 3 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 2 | overall: 2.5

The aroma is toasted and slightly sour with fruit, licorice, and oak. The appearance is black with almost no head. The flavor is like the aroma with a burnt finish. The palate is watery. Overall this is not very good. It's certainly not like most barley wines.

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Photo of thagr81us
3.01/5  rDev -26.9%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 2.5

Bottled March 27, 2010. Served from swing-top bottle into a Stone nonic. Poured pitch black with a minimal light tan head. Maintained decent lacing throughout the glass. The aroma was comprised of sweet malt, caramel, alcohol, wood, and chocolate. The flavor was of sweet malt, caramel, alcohol, and slight mothballs (oxidation perhaps?). It had a medium feel on the palate with low carbonation. Overall I was not really a massive fan of this one. The slight mothball flavor coupled with the alcohol made this one tough to get through. The mothball flavor wasn't very strong at all as it was quite muted, but still present nonetheless. Upon opening this thing I was concerned I would take a sip and drain pour it, but I was actually able to finish the full bottle. Just took quite awhile...

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Photo of cpetrone84
3.08/5  rDev -25.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

Big thanks to Sara for sharing this one!

A-pours a deep brown black color with a bright tan colored head.

S-the nose is boozy with notes of port wine and just a hint of whiskey. there is a strong malt presence with notes of chocolate and bitter coffee. light malt sweetness of dark fruits soaked in alcohol come in the back.

T-the taste is different, it is sweeter and less boozy, the malt stands out, hints of chocolate and roasted malt, plenty of dark fruit sweetness of dark fruits soaked in alcohol. the booze isn't as strong but the port sherry flavors are there.

M-smooth and creamy on the palate, good bit of carbonation with a crisp rough finish.

D-this has an interesting aspect, lots of booze and sweetness with a strong malt presence. somewhat straight forward and rather sweet.

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Photo of AgentZero
3.23/5  rDev -21.6%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

A - Brown colored beer with some red on the edges. Tan head left some spots and stick on the sides.

S - Not quite what I would have expected from a Scottish Ale, and also seems a bit infected. Some butter, whiskey, toffee and sharpie.

T - Peaty whiskey with some dark fruits, toffee, and a bit of brown sugar. The butter taste is still there as well. I find it all kind of weird, not necessarily unpleasant, but wouldn't say I'm a huge fan.

M - Lighter bodied, dry finish, lower carbonation.

O - Was not a very big fan of this beer, but it could very well be taht I didn't understand the style well enough. That being said, I just didn't really like drinking it a whole lot.

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Photo of craytonic
3.5/5  rDev -15%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Pours an oil-slick black, smallish head, no lacing. Aroma is roasted malts, chocolate, and molasses. Taste is a mirror image of dark chocolate, molasses, and vanilla. Medium-full body with light carbanation. Drinkable and in a beautiful bottle, but a bit expensive for not being a standout.

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Photo of Bouleboubier
3.55/5  rDev -13.8%
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...

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Photo of ffejherb
3.69/5  rDev -10.4%
look: 3 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Thanks to FooFaa for sharing this 750ml bottle on 4/3/10.

A - Liquid is a deep, dark brown color with a thin beige ring and flimsy patch on top that dissolved, leaving no lace in its wake.

S - Whiskey and vanilla notes with a moderate sour dark fruit tartness and a hint of woody astringency.

T - Starts off nicely with a blend of whiskey, sweet vanilla and a sour fruity tang reminiscent of black cherry, raisins and currants. However, the flavor drops off rather quickly, and all that is left is a lingering vanilla flavor during the finish.

M - Texture is quite slick and smooth but surprisingly light bodied, actually, with very minimal carbonation. Finishes with mild alcohol warmth and a slight sourness on the palate.

D - The whiskey and alcohol character is pretty timid, surprisingly, although the vanilla presence was definitely a welcome addition. Ultimately, this fell a bit short overall, and the flavor just drops off too quickly without ever reaching the "dark island."

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Photo of ricke
3.73/5  rDev -9.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

A: Opaque, pitch black. A small brownish head settles into some lacings.

S: Plenty of roasted malts. Some coffee and dark chocolate. Dark caramel and molasses.

T: Big aromas of roasted malts, almost burnt. Coffee, dark chocolate and vinous dark fruits. Notes of oak barrel. Unfortunately, I detect an off-centered flavor of watercolor paint hovering above the other flavors, and it's quite disturbing. The finish is somewhat bitter with acidic roasty notes, salt and licorice. The alcohol is well hidden, but noticeable.

M: Medium body, gentle carbonation. Could perhaps have a little bigger body. Somewhat dry finish.

D: Not quite as good as I had hoped for. Still recommended though. Lacks some balance.

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Photo of Alieniloquium
3.8/5  rDev -7.8%
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.

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Photo of AngusOg
3.8/5  rDev -7.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Vintage 2007- Swing Top 750 ml Bottle
Decided to crack this one Saturday night while relaxing and wacthing the Stanley Cup finals. Poured into a snifter. Dark black with just the slight trace of a tan head. Smells strong of whiskey, some choclate and vanilla, some fig/dried fruit, some roastiness, but alot of whiskey, i feel like i'm about to take a sip of whiskey rather than beer. Taste is much the same, although luckily not quite dominated by the whiskey as much as the aroma is. Also, definitely got better as it warmed, (probably should have let it sit a bit before cracking it),the other flavors shine through more. Definitely not a lot of carbonation here. Overall, maybe a tad too much whiskey for my liking for this beer to truely blow me away, but still made for a very enjoyable Saturday night while sipping on this one. (slept well too.)

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Photo of Slatetank
3.82/5  rDev -7.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

many thanks to FooFaa for sharing this bottle - poured chilled in my Allagash cervoise.

A - a deep translucent brown with ruby tinged hues and black edges w/ a quickly settling tan head which becomes a sliver

S - A black currant aroma -vinous w/ an oaky whiskey scent that accents. The odor has similarities to sherry with an almost red grape aroma

M - The feel has dried fruit-like sweetness but settles rapidly w/ spice and toast and mild nutty edge of the oak. There is a slight tang of yeast in the toasty finish

T - The taste has a slight tart berry and currant entry w/ very mild smokey whisky finish which is not as strong as in the nose. The flavor has gentle roasted malt and plummy effect w/ an element of whisky scotch flavor rolled in but not pronounced enough -the taste starts well but drops off with a truncated dry finish

D - I enjoyed this -it is a tasty beer, but not outrageously good. I was glad I got to try it as I liked the original, but I couldn't justify going out of my way for a repeat - taste - Thanks to FooFaa for sharing this!

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Photo of MasterSki
3.82/5  rDev -7.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Firstly, I don't think this beer is retired as I'm certain I heard of a new batch being available. In any case, my bottle was from the September 3rd, 2008 batch of 1568 bottles. Thanks to Reagan1984 for picking up this pricey offering for me. Served in a Cigar City snifter.

A - Quick-dissolving tan foam settles to a thin collar, leaving some concentric wisps, but minimal splotches of lace. Dark brown body with some reddish highlights when held to the light.

S - Extremely buttery - reminds me of fudge actually. There's some milk chocolate, cashews, and toffee, followed by an unusual juxtaposition of salty whisky, smoked meats, and light permanent marker. My friends think this is infected, but I just think it's a very buttery beer with a very salty scotch influence.

T - The taste has more of the whisky influence to it, with notes of smoke, peat, salt, iodine, and wood over top of a toffee, chocolate, and dark fruit malt backdrop. Less overt buttery flavors, which is appreciated, but also not quite as rich as the aroma. Char and peat constitute the lingering finish.

M - This is one extremely dry and tannic beer, and the body is shockingly thin for 10% - I'd call it medium-light in fact. There's a bit of stickiness mid-palate, but the alcohol is shockingly well-hidden. Carbonation is fairly low.

D - A very strange flavor combination here, and one that is likely very polarizing. Packaging this in a 750ml bottle was certainly a mistake, as five of us were barely able to finish half the bottle. I appreciate provocative and new flavor combinations, but this is one that would be best served in 4oz portions.

Note: Since this was in a swing-top I took the leftover beer home and tried it again the next day. I discovered that I actually liked it quite a bit more. I'll still probably end up baking with a portion of this beer, but I'd argue that this is best appreciated on a clean palate.

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Photo of CrazyDavros
3.84/5  rDev -6.8%
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.

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Photo of bonbright7
3.85/5  rDev -6.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

I shared this with a group of friends at Bellport Beer and I found this dark ale from the Orkney Islands to be interesting and mildly complex. The descriptive labeling of the ale that poured well into my glass extolled the range of tastes one might expect. Its smoky aroma lingered while we tasted it and flash of heat was apparent in the after taste, which drove me to take a look at the bottle to see if it had been stored in single malt barrels like Ola Duhb.

I found the taste to be a little less than I was expecting from such a grand bottle, but I could pick out the enjoyable elements right away. Clearly, this sipper was one of those one could sit back and enjoy with a quality cigar.

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Photo of akorsak
3.9/5  rDev -5.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Thanks to Foofaa for sharing this bottle, which was dated September 3, 2008.

A: The ale is pitch black, like a big imperial stout. No head to speak of. Very mysterious looking.

S: The nose is sweet initially, with dark fruits (currants, blackberries and grapes), followed by roasted malts that are nearly charred. The booziness is never really an issue.

T: The dark fruits and roasted malts continue into the taste, all dark and strong. The ale has a vinous presence, at least up front. The aforementioned fruits continue to add sweetness although there is a tart twist running through the ale. The Orkney barrels don't add the a traditional Scotch peatiness, instead they focus the fruits. My only complaint is that the ale drops off after the first wave of the barrel. The dark, roasted fruits come and, as quickly as they come, go with very little to fill the void.

M: The mouthfeel is rich early on, often vacant at the end. The dark fruits, roasted malts and barrel all work while they stick around.

D: At 10%, this is a beer to share. A nice treat that I don't think I'd normally seek out.

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Photo of wisrarebeer
3.92/5  rDev -4.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Brewed April 2008 and bottled September 2008

One of 1568 bottles.

a: opaque, jet black beer, poured nice head but dissipated with lacing on the side of the glass
s: mild to medium nose, amazing combination of oak-aging with burnt malt and sooty qualities (true-to-type English oak aged nose), earthy as earthy can get!, a touch of vinousness also
t: very good beer that will improve with aging - a bit young - burnt malt, vanilla, woodsy -- very good
m: flavors need to mellow a bit more but all-in-all a very drinkable, sassy mouthfeel
d: a bit rough around the edges but will mellow nicely with age, I plan on buying the next bottle for aging!

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Photo of KYGunner
3.94/5  rDev -4.4%
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.

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Photo of Sammy
3.95/5  rDev -4.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

750 ml from Bruisin' Ales. Pours dark grey with bubbly head, looks caskish. Scotch whiskey in the nose. The tasting begins with scotch whiskey, nuttiness, and ends with some roast malt, chocolate and smoked peat in a long finish. Very good, it must be shared.

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Photo of vinicole
3.99/5  rDev -3.2%
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.

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Photo of kkipple
3.99/5  rDev -3.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Another brew cracked into at the turn of the year. Thanks to Julie for sharing this $25 beaut.

First off, the bottle is *gorgeous*. Screams class. Probably makes you feel almost justified at spending a quarter of a hundred dollars on a single bottle of beer. More brewers should put this kind of effort into their packaging, it's really standout.

Dark Island Reserve glugs into my glass nearly lifeless, dark, opaque and reminiscent of dirty black water. Oh wait, there's a tiny, feeble head peeking out... barely... the brew looks thin but "dense" if that makes any sense. Yeah, it's all around odd.

Hmm, the nose is rather... unique. First up is a sour dark fruit note, unexpected. Next we have oak, cherry vinegar (think Rodenbach a bit), some very welcome subtle smoked peat, dark roast, bits of coffee and chocolate, vanilla and char flit here and there... smells "cool", rather like Allagash Odyssey. Unexpected, complex, sophisticated... in the end I dug it. There is certainly nothing else that smells like this as far as I know.

The taste is a little less shocking after the nose. It's sour upfront, maybe from the oak? Not sure. The sweetness is deep dark malt and dark fruits again, odd. The oak is fresh and reserved, the smoked malt (or is it the barrel? Or both?) adds a very nice oily, lingering meatiness and the whole experience makes one feel old and aristocratic.

Medium-low carbonation, rather thin, yet slick mouthfeel... peat and sour smoke finish, reserved, quiet. Pretty nice.

This is a definite sipper. Plus, given the price I recommend splitting the bottle 4 ways-plus.

Orkney Dark Island Reserve is certainly sticks around in my mind long after I've had it... while I wouldn't go out of my way to get this one, if you see it at your local bottle shop and are in the mood for something subtle and memorable, consider picking it up. At the very least, the bottle will look great on your mantelpiece. Reservedly recommended.

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Photo of dgilks
4/5  rDev -2.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Inky black with a smooth, creamy tan head. Good head retention with a quarter inch head remaining over the beer after the initial head dissipates.

Rich, dried fruits with figs, dates and raisins all coming through. Mild whisky notes with a distinct alcohol sweetness. Nice.

Smooth but slightly thin malt with some drawn out dried fruits and a touch of alcohol. Slightly nutty. For me this is a touch thin and while the flavours are good I wish there was a bit more malt and body. Slightly tart.

Medium-light body with moderate carbonation. I think the lightness in the body is a little bit too much and this deserves a thickness that isn't here.

This is a good beer with a stunning based but the barrel aging process has drawn out the beer and made it a bit thin making the beer less delicious from with the fruitiness and barrel notes not having enough malt and body to support them.

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Photo of Daniellobo
4/5  rDev -2.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Rich ale with a nice and complex long range around a markedly peaty and whisky cask sense.

Presentation: 75 cl brow swing top rubber cap bottle. Simple, busy and yet fairly well ordered label design: topped by a dolmen construction in dark letters, it highlights the special nature of the bottled series of this ale aged in whisky casks, notes main intent and quality, alongside a signature of the head brewer. Back label offers a generic note about the high standards of the brewery alongside perfunctory legal notes. Neck label works as a seal noting bottling (hand bottled on 3rd of September 2008), location, head brewer approval, alongside a generous note about the brewing, aging process, and tasting notes. Shows Alc. by Vol. (10%). Served in a snifter.

A - Black pour with a 1/3" bubbly head with short retention, nice surface memory and ring with touched of lacing.

S - Peaty whisky character, with a lightly malty sense underneath, distant sweetness coated by a sour note.

T -The peaty whisky range embeds all the flavor with an unapologetic sense, smokey, with a malty sense, splashes of bitterness in the roasted undercurrent with notes of chocolate and a brief herbal spiciness. Minimal hints of vanilla, caramel, and dark fruits in the background.

M - Medium-body and carbonation, however achieving a tingly finish. Not being so heavy works well with the assertive character but one longs a bit for a thicker sense in particular if the brew is served at cellar or room temperature.

D - It's a nice sipper, but could overwhelm a bit with the smokey/whisky/profile and the medium body, which in a way make it work rather well. A bit of a rich defiant brew for fixed gear expectations.

Notes: It's true that the pricing hurts it a bit. It would also be nice to be more detailed about what particular whisky casks are used for aging since it tries to coat itself of such an exclusive dressing. However it is unusual and rich, and a snifter while the bottle is shared should be a pleasure for most beer aficionados.
I had it on a couple of occasions and while not too cold it sure need not be too warm since it loses some of its drinkability and strangely enough the nuances and long range get blended into one losing a bit its sense. Slightly above cellar temp might be best...

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Photo of biboergosum
4.01/5  rDev -2.7%
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.

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Photo of Kendo
4.02/5  rDev -2.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

A: Poured into a pint glass, it's pitch black and oily-looking. Absolutely no carbonation is evident -- no fizz and no head whatsoever.

S: Nice nose -- black licorice, ripe fruit (plums, I think) and a hint of chocolate or cocoa.

T: First impression is black licorice, then I get roasted barley malt and some smoked peat -- which oddly didn't turn up in the nose. Appropriate for the style (the bottle calls it an "Orcadian Ale" -- I believe Orkney is the location of the brewery in Scotland). Alcohol heat is pretty strong at the finish.

M: Heavy, but smooth -- again, there's no carbonation evident on the palate.

D: OK. Heat detracts and I think a little bit of effervescence would liven things up a bit.

Notes: I got this as a Christmas gift, 2007 (no way I would've spent the approximately $25.00 on myself). Consumed in October of 2008.

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