Skull Splitter…the name itself sends shivers down my spine. There are no nice images that can be evoked by the words ‘skull’ and ‘splitter’. Various weapons split skulls, which isn’t a good thing. Hangovers and headaches also split skulls, albeit in a much more survivable way. So this is a beer that will attempt to cleave my head it in twain, and leave me with the mother of all hangovers…sigh. Maybe it won’t be so bad, perhaps the name is a smokescreen for a light, insipid brew…wait, it’s Scottish, and it’s 8.5%ABV…oh no
The bottle says:
There’s a burly looking Viking on the front (oh yeah, Vikings also split skulls) A passage on the rear label tells that this particular Viking is named Thorfinn Hausakljufr – he was the 7th Viking Earl of Orkney who was given the pleasant nick-name of ‘Skull Splitter’. He is the beers namesake, which just adds to my fears. Above Thorfinn are the words ‘5000 years in the making’….but there’s nothing immediately obvious about what this claim relates to. Old Thorfinn was the Earl around 950AD, which is just over 1000 years ago…so that’s not it. 5000 years ago puts us around the 3000BC, which is (arguably) when the first evidence of beer is found – give or take a few thousand years. Is this beer claiming it’s the epitome of the beer making process? Or just that this beer is the result of 5000 years of brewing? Doesn’t that mean all other modern beers are ‘5000 years in the making’?! Perhaps I’m thinking too much about this, or maybe I’m procrastinating to avoid my imminent skull destruction. Time to man up and drink!
The body is brown and murky with a red tinge (maybe blood!?) The head is big, thick and rocky, and the colour of overflowing cola. The aromas are strong; molasses, some tar, a little bluegum honey. The alcohol dominates the palate, even when the drink is cold. There’s some cinnamon, maybe vanilla essence, some burnt butter and caramel too. This leads to some single malt whiskey in the aftertaste…nice way to finish. The body is surprisingly silky and enjoyable…and my head is still in one piece.
There’s pepper and other spices on the nose now, and you can smell the alcohol sweetness too. The flavours are constantly changing…there’s some strong red wine tannins, accompanied by dark fruit and some cherry liqueur in the aftertaste. By the end of the glass you may as well be drinking a smooth Cabernet Sauvignon…it’s full of spicy and fruity flavours that are pushed around by a pleasantly subdued alcohol.
Skull Splitter – such an aggressive name for such a lovely and delicately approachable beer. A beer that also thinks it’s a whisky and a red wine…and somehow manages to be all three at once. Every sip presented me with different flavours and aromas, all of which were awesome. This is a fantastic beer, something to sit with and savour. To all the red wine drinkers who dislike the ‘cretin’ drink known as beer – try this, and be converted.