Dark Island Reserve | Orkney Brewery

69 Reviews
no score
Send samples
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

For Trade:
User Reviews
Sort by:  Recent | High | Low | Top Raters
firstprev| 1-25 | 26-50 | 51-75  | next → last
Reviews: 69 | Ratings: 134
Photo of KickbacksSteve
4.17/5  rDev +1.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Poured into a Unibroue tulip. Gyle #4. Aroma is definitely very, very strong of whisky, with some toasted malts. This should be interesting. Definitely a sipper, very strong in alcohol taste. Almost seems like maybe some whisky was left in the barrel and blended into the beer. I would think that this would be difficult to pair with food and may only be paired with a cigar. Bottled in September, 2008, now a year old, I think that actually the beer will benefit with even more age. Not my favorite style, but I appreciate the eff out of this effort.

 551 characters

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.

 694 characters

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.

 722 characters

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.

 712 characters

Photo of mithrascruor
4.2/5  rDev +1.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

750 mL bottle poured into a tulip glass.

Appearance: Pours an entirely opaque inky black colour. The brownish-tan head quickly become a creamy film atop the beer and coats the glass pretty well too.

Smell: Has a really deep aroma of deep roasted malts, dark chocolate, creamed coffee, and some nuts. A nice balance between bitter and sweet, slightly in the favor of bitterness. The aroma of Scotch is also there -- not too strong, but quite lovely.

Taste: Lots of deep roasted malt flavors and a bit of coffee. Some rich smokey hints here, with perhaps a bit of peat. There are some hints of warm alchol in here, although I can't taste the alcohol outright. It could be that I'm tasting some of the flavors from the barrels, which is just making me think of that. The finish and aftertaste as a weird bitter/tart flavor, which I can neither identify or enjoy, however. All told, the bulk of the taste is nice, but not as complex or interesting as I was hoping for, after the aroma.

Mouthfeel: Medium- to heavy-bodied and generally smooth. Only a tiny bit of carbonation is present here.

Drinkability: Despite the strong alcohol content, I don't notice it in the taste. However, that finish/aftertaste is a bit unnerving at times.

I'd been looking forward to enjoying this bottle for a few months, after having picked it up while in Kirkwall during mid-March. While it has been great fun to try, and I generally enjoyed it, I must confess that it is probably my least favourite of the different Orcadian beers (approx. 8) I had there. Still, a fun treat.

 1,559 characters

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).

 618 characters

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.

 1,222 characters

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!

 647 characters

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!

 746 characters

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.

 260 characters

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.

 1,955 characters

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.

 847 characters

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.

 533 characters

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.

 938 characters

Photo of ChainGangGuy
4.05/5  rDev -1.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Appearance: Pours a oily-looking, black body with a scant, brown head.

Smell: Rather peaty aroma with notes of molasses-coated grains, anise, chocolate.

Taste: Chewy, sweet dark maltiness. Smokey peat character throughout. Hint of aniseed. A few drops of Maggi seasoning. A jigger worth of scotch. Only a very slight underlying bitterness. A touch of vanilla, dark chocolate, and molasses. Sugary, smokey, warming finish.

Mouthfeel: Medium-bodied. Rather mild carbonation.

Drinkability: A fine, reasonably complex beer packaged in a classy-looking bottle.

 559 characters

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.

 902 characters

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.

 1,062 characters

Photo of dedrinker
4.14/5  rDev +0.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

A somewhat murky brown color with a thin off-white to tan head. The aroma was port, figs, peat, and maple. I tasted big boozy flavors of port, dark fruit preserves, figs and cocoa. Full body for sure. It had a warming, oaky finish with nicely integrated alcohol presence. A fire-side sipper for sure. No doubt. Quite expensive, and yet not really, considering the price of pedigree wines and Sam Adams Utopias. If I had to live in an old Scottish castle (or Welsh for that matter) I'd have to make a fire, wrap myself in a thick carpet and have a bottle of this stuff on hand. If you see it, don't be a fool - buy it.

 617 characters

Photo of John_M
4.05/5  rDev -1.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Against my better judgement, I went ahead and bought a bottle of this stuff. It certainly does come in an impressive looking package, in this case a 750 ml. bottle with a swing top. There is some handwritten information surrounding the seal, which informs you that this beer was aged in single malt whiskey barrels and is a unique creation from the head brewer at Orkeny. Well then, I'm sure that must explain the $23.99 price tag for this beer. In any event....

The beer pours a very dark color for a scottish ale, appearing almost stout-like. The beer looks more akin to motor oil then beer, and initially there is very little head (often the case with extended oak aging I've found), but pretty good lacing. Interestingly, when I poured a second glass into my brandy snifter, there was considerably more impressive head retention. As for aroma, I can smell this beer from a foot away. There is a ton of vanilla and whiskey aromas in this one, and the beer comes across as rich, sweet and big (I'm surpised that it's ONLY 10%). The beer tastes just the way it smells and is quite smooth with vanilla, chocolate and a touch of coffee. Mouthfeel is pretty good, but the beer does come across as a bit heavy and is just a bit cloying on the palate. The alcohol is pretty warming as well, and has something of a cough medicine flavor about it. Drinkability is not this beers best feature.

An interesting beer and one assumes the lofty price tag is due to the extended aging in scotch whiskey barrels. However, at the price they're charging for it, the beer almost might as well be singe malt. Frankly, I found the beer to be a bit too much of a good thing, though perhaps age will mellow this beer somewhat. However, I just did not find the beer to be so exceptional that I'm likely to plunk down another $25 (including tax) for it any time soon.

 1,846 characters

firstprev| 1-25 | 26-50 | 51-75  | next → last
Dark Island Reserve from Orkney Brewery
4.12 out of 5 based on 134 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.
  • BeerAdvocate Microbrew Invitational

    Join us June 2-3, 2017 in Boston, Mass. for beer, cider, mead, kombucha and sake from over 70 small producers.

    Learn More
  • Subscribe to BeerAdvocate Magazine

    Support uncompromising beer advocacy and award-winning, independent journalism with a print subscription to BeerAdvocate magazine.