Hammer Head 1989 Review

“Hammer and Sickle”

Country: Czechoslovakia
Brand: Hammer Head 1989
Type: Single Malt Whisky 
Age: 23 Years
ABV: 40.7% 

Colour: Golden

Nose: The Wood is quite present but I certainly would not have given this Hammer Head 23 Years in a Blind Tasting. The Nose is mostly Sweet but also slightly Sour at times. I find Dark Fruit like Plums or Berries, Citrus, Papaya, Malt, Buttered Croissant, Nuts, Vanilla Ice Cream, Fresh Herbs, Dirty Road, Polished Wood, Ginger and a hint of Licorice. Even at 23 Years, the Alcohol is not fully integrated. I kept thinking that the young German Slyrs Whisky might smell somewhat like this after a maturation of 23 years.  

Palate: There is a slight off-note but I'm not sure what it is. It reminds me of an Impregnating Agent for Wood. At first I thought of Varnish but it's stronger than that. Other than that, the Palate is quite Creamy and Bitter-Sweet with Vanilla, Toffee, Malt, Dark Fruit, Nuts, Oak, Orange Peel, Bitter-Lemon, Honey, Aniseed, Licorice and Cinnamon.   

Finish: A bit on the Short side, Creamy and Bitter-Sweet with Butter Biscuits, Malt, Oak, Vanilla, Dusty Road, Cigar Tobacco, light Pepper, Licorice and some Menthol. After a while I get a hint of Espresso.  

The Hammer Head does not improve with added Water.

Rating: 82.5

Nose: 21.5 - Taste: 20 - Finish: 20.5 - Overall: 20.5

General Remarks: The Hammer Head 23 Years was distilled shortly before the fall of communism and the division of the country. It was distilled in the town of Pradlo, close to Plzen from local Barley and it matured in Czech Oak Casks. The Barley was milled with an old Hammer mill if you were wondering where the name came from! It was bottled in 2012 by the new owners of the Distillery (Stock Spirits from the UK) to avoid that the ABV would fall below 40%. It is sold at prices that range from 50 to 70 US Dollars (August 2015).  

Drinking Experience Neat: Good with the exception of the Off Note on the Palate. 

Conclusion: First of all it's a nice feeling to taste a Whisky that was distilled before the fall of the Berlin Wall. And in Czechoslovakia of all places. A country that's more famous for its Beers. And that did not change when the country was split up in the Czech Republic and Slovakia. There is some local whisky to be had nowadays but it's certainly difficult to find outside the production areas. With the exception of the Hammer Head of course. A 100% local whisky that was distilled with local Barley and Water and matured in local Oak. And the end product is certainly not bad. The Nose is the best part with nice ripe Fruit, Dusty Vanilla and Butter. On the Palate I found this slight off-note that turned me off a little bit although its impact decreases with sufficient air. Other than that the Palate is quite Creamy with Dark Red Fruit, Vanilla, Aniseed and Licorice. The Finish is a bit on the short side for a Single Malt of this age but there are some nice notes of Cigar Tobacco, Licorice and Menthol. It's a pity really that the production of Single Malt was discontinued at the Pradlo facility after the fall of communism. The Hammer Head clearly shows the potential of this distillery had it been given the opportunity!

Jan van den Ende                                                                  August 20, 2015



Carissa Hickling said...

Gotta admit.. though certainly a remarkable piece of history but beyond that.... ?? Blind tasting it faired poorly for us. :-)

Jan van den Ende said...

Hi Carissa! Thanks for commenting! I basically agree with you. The Nose is okay in my opinion but the rest is not very attractive. Can I ask you if you tasted the Hammer Head together with a number of Scotch Whiskies? Because it's my experience that European whiskies that matured in local wood (with the exception of Ex-Sherry, Ex- Port etc) taste different than Scotch whiskies that matured in either Ex-Bourbon or Ex- Sherry etc. or in a combination of those. If you would do a blind tasting of say German, Swiss, French or Belgian whiskies, the Hammer Head would probably hold its ground. I must admit though that I wouldn't give it 23 years in a blind tasting.
Cheers Carissa!