Smokehead Review

“For Peat's Sake : Who Distilled This Malt?" 

Country: Scotland 
Region: Islay
Brand: Smokehead
Bottled by: IanMacLeod Distillers Ltd.
Type: Single Malt Whisky
Age: NAS 
ABV: 43 %
Date: 16/07/2014

Colour: Light Golden

Nose: With a name like Smokehead, I was expecting a Peat Monster but it's actually quite moderate! Still, young Islay without any doubt. Immediately you get Maritime Peat, Wet Earth, Salt, Smoke from Yesterday's Campfire, Iodine, Burnt Rubber, Charred Oak, (Shell) Fish, Ashes, Lemon, Malt and Toffee. After a while a bit of Burnt Toast, Fresh Grapefruit Juice, Sweet Cocoa, Herbs, a few Spices and Heather. A hint of Sherry. The Alcohol is not fully integrated.

Palate: Slightly Thin and Watery. I find Brine, Seaweed, Cold Smoke, Iodine, Wet Clay, Burnt Toast, Soot, Pepper, Aniseed, Licorice, Sweet Cocoa and a very faint hint of Sherry.  

Finish: Middle-Long but not very expressive and mainly Sweet with Sugared Grapefruit or Mandarin, Herbal Tea, Cold Smoke, Wet Clay, Ashes, Salt, BBQ Sauce, Licorice and a bit of Menthol.

With added Water the Nose gets more Malt and a hint of Plum Jam. But Palate and Finish do not benefit from the added Water.

Rating: 83

Nose: 21.5 - Taste: 20.5 - Finish: 20.5 - Overall: 20.5 

General Remarks: Smokehead was introduced in 2006 by Ian MacLeod Distillers Ltd, an Independent Bottler established in 1934. MacLeod is the owner of the Glengoyne Distillery and is known for other Blends such as Isle of Skye. In 2009 the Smokehead Extra Black 18 Years was launched followed later by the NAS Smokehead Extra Rare, a special Travel Retail Expression. The 2006 expression is sold at around 55 US Dollars. 

Drinking Experience Neat: Good

Conclusion: You have to admire the Marketing by Ian MacLeod in this case. Nice  trendy bottle and packaging and slick Propaganda aimed at a pubic that is both Young and Modern and has Purchasing Power. Because the Smokehead is not at all cheap for a young NAS Islay Malt. And you don't even know the Distillery that produced this Spirit. Lots of people are speculating about this with most votes going to Ardbeg (Flavour Profile) and Caol Ila (Availability). But other people vote for Laphroaig, Lagavulin or even Bruichladdich. And that's exactly what Ian MacLeod wants people to do. Because 55 US Dollars is probably okay if it's an Ardbeg or Laphroaig. But most people wouldn't spend this amount of money on a NAS Caol Ila I suppose. In my opinion the Smokehead is not too bad but it's way too expensive. The Nose is okay for a young Islay but no more than that. The Palate however is a bit thin and watery and the Finish is too short. So, if you want to drink a young Islay, go for Ardbeg 10 or Laphroaig 10 instead. At least that's what I will do! Oh yes, I almost forgot the 1 Million Dollar Question. Well, my brain tells me that Caol Ila would gain the most by selling its Malt as Smokehead. But my heart whispers to me that it' s a 5-8 years old Lagavulin! As always, my guess is as good as yours!

Jan van den Ende                                                                 July, 2014


APG said...

Si une fois on goute le "fabuleux smokehead",on y revient toujours, j'en suis certain. Il est le dans le trio de tête des véritables whyskies.. AP Le Gwen

Jan van den Ende said...

Hi there, thanks for commenting. It's not a bad Malt but I think it's quite expensive for what it offers. Have you ever tried an Ardbeg 10 Years?. I think you will love it!

Unknown said...

Can you please help me .new to whiskey I've found Ardbeg 10 is my favourite closely followed by laphroaig select(have not tried the 10 get)but for some reason smokehead whiskey is stuck in my head saying buy me.question is is smokehead like any of my two favourite whiskey.
Many thanks

Jan van den Ende said...

Hi there, thanks for your question! It would be great if you would leave your (first) name next time. Smokehead is not a bad Whisky but it lacks power when compared to the Ardbeg 10 and Laphroaig 10. If you like the Select you will probably like the 10 Years even better. Try to find a sample of the Smokehead before buying a full bottle. Cheers, Jan.