You know, when I first thought about what I could say before reviewing these whiskies, my initial thoughts were to make comparisons to the subject of this post to Kramer vs. Kramer (the 1979 movie with Meryl Streep and Dustin Hoffman). I haven’t seen that movie since… I don’t know, 1979? After watching the trailer, I saw that there was no way I could tie Smokehead vs. Smokehead to Kramer vs. Kramer so I decided to abandon the idea altogether.
Sure, I could then get all silly and give you links to Kramer vs. Predator or Modern Day Jesus vs. Santa or even Bobby vs. The Devil. But I won’t do that.
Instead, I’ll just get down to brass tacks and tell you about these two whiskies bottled under the “Smokehead” name. Smokehead is a single malt Islay whisky bottled by Ian MacLeod. If you know your Islay distilleries then you’ll know that there is no distillery on Islay that goes by the name Smokehead. Similar to Port Askaig, Smokehead is a whisky distilled by an Islay distillery but bottled under a different name.
While some people are ardently opposed to bottling whisky under a secret name, I beg you to look at the quality of the whisky inside as you might be getting a fine whisky for a great price – regardless of what it says on the bottle. Speaking of bottles, I’ve got to say I dig the Rock and Roll quality/look to their packaging. I feel like I’m drinking whisky bottled by the Hard Rock Cafe.
Let’s have a taste.
Smokehead NAS (no age statement) – Islay region – 43%ABV – $45
On the nose – Well, it is called Smokehead for a reason. Initial blast of smoke upon first sniff. However, that is quickly peeled back to reveal lime popsicles; stick and all.
Bright and fruity (citrus and rhubarb) with a smoky and biscuity backbone.
A nice malty/beer like quality shines through.
A really nice nose – not over the top complex but one that’ll make the peat heads happy.
On the mouth – Here’s where the smoke REALLY comes into play. A bit of an ashy-doosy.
Diesel engines, construction sites and construction paper (burnt or burning).
Burnt toffee and apple crisps inside manilla envelopes and packaged up nicely with some industrial packing tape.
Interesting mouthfeel – this whisky benefits from the high phenol content which seems to be forcing my mouth to water which makes the somewhat thinnish mouthfeel turn to a more oily one fairly quickly.
This really is a smoky monster with a bright sweetness that tells me there must be some younger whisky in here.
Finish – Short to medium finish with some of those popsicle sticks I got on the nose.
In sum – A powerhouse in the smoke arena. One to help get your more thrill-seeking friends into Scotch Whisky. There is a bit of a wow factor. Also one that can be used as a warmer upper in the winter time for sure.
Smokehead 18yo – Islay region – 46%ABV – £86 (due to short supply, not available in the US but Master of Malt has it)
On the nose – Big smoke and brine and cups of over-steeped orange pekoe tea and a few shakes from a jar of Bacon Bits.
This might be 18 years old but there’s a youthfulness here that comes through in spirity version of almond brittle and butterscotch.
Red flecks of hot chili pepper sprinkled over salted lemon wedges.
For 18 years old, the smoke & peat is not as tamed as I would have expected. Again, there’s a youthfulness here…
On the mouth – A bit of a weak entry; not what I expected after all of the smoke, spirit, red pepper, salty lemons I got on the nose. I guess the age is now showing; rounded peat.
Decent mouthfeel and, wait a sec, there’s a bit of an evolution in flavors here. The strength gets… stronger, which counteracts the the bubbe-grannykins “attack” from the get-go.
Smoke, coffee, burning coffee grounds.
Turmuric (?) and paprika laced chocolate shavings. Lemonade and, again, red pepper flecks.
Finish – Drying now in the finish. Decent length, smoky, oaky and chocolatey.
In sum – A decent whisky. Expensive but tasty. Well balanced and would satisfy many an Islay worshipping, peat loving Smokehead. You might think me an odd duck but, as smoky as this is, I could easily pour a dram in the summertime… Perhaps after mowing the lawn or gardening the… garden.
Special thanks goes out to the good folks over at Impex Beverages for the Smokehead NAS sample!
Special thanks goes out to David H for the sample of the 18yo!