Trying to give Smokehead a chance….

So we tried Smokehead once before – the Rock edition. To say that it didn’t impress the Whisky Ladies is putting it mildly. While we are always curious to try different things and no strangers to peat, ashtray is generally not our preferred style.

However when approached by the folks over at Ian MacLeod distillery suggesting their standard Smokehead is more accessible than the Rock edition, I didn’t have the heart to refuse their rather sincere representative, though did warn him our tasting would be unbiased and honest.

The little Smokehead mini sat patiently waiting for many months until finally one evening it was time to try a range of peat whiskies. Thus was born the evening of minis of a peaty persuasion – Peat Chimney 12 year 40%Big Peat 46%Longrow 46%BenRiach Peated Quarter Cask 46%Ledaig 10 year 46.3%. Smokehead came along for the ride but the others politely but firmly declined.

What to do with our poor rebuffed Smokehead sample? Try try try again… finally a fateful evening occurred when Smokehead finally was cracked open.

Smokehead 40%

  • Nose – Sweet smoky “breathable” want pulled port, braised steak craving, cinnamon, sweet BBQ rub
  • Palate – Watered down, then ash tray, came out as oddly flat
  • Finish – Queer finish, almost off

Our conclusion “All talk, no action”… in other words the nose was more promising than the palate.

Full disclosure – this sample was provided by the folks at Ian McLeod.

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Smokehead “The Rock Edition” – style over substance?

We get it. Its a gimmick. But gimmicks do get attention.

Sure its brash, testosterone fuelled and meant to be fun. But is it any good?


Smokehead “The Rock Edition” NAS 44.2%

So what did the Whisky Ladies of Mumbai think?

  • Nose: Smoked bacon, beef jerky, gorging on Montreal smoked meat (think Schwartz Deli!), pastrami on rye, hickory, popped out back for a summer BBQ, if you dig deep a hint of honey sweetness, ashtray
  • Palate: Pungent, peaty “not as bad as it smells” 
  • Finish: I’m sorry… was there a finish? It was like all the punch just suddenly fizzled out. Nada.
  • Water: Some thought 6 drops ‘salvaged’ it… yes there was a debate on the exact number of drops required! Consensus was six drops smoothes out the dram without overly dampening the smokey spirit. As one put it, can now taste the whisky and “I no longer feel like I’ve just smoked a pack of cigarettes!”

This Smokehead certainly sparked a lot of commentary…

  • Whisky to get trashed to…
  • College guys, sitting around playing cards, smoking and getting drunk
  • All bravado and no brains

Let’s be very clear, a number of our whisky ladies have no patience for wimpy whiskies. Peat scores high on their preferred elements in a good dram. However this one was all over the top flash without the substance.

There were several comments along the lines of it being a brash guy coming on really strong but in reality a limp noodle. Ahem… You get the picture.

When compared with other openly peat pushing drams like Compass Box’s Peat Monster or Bruichladdich’s Octomore, regret to say this Smokehead is outclassed. Now… it could be the Rock Edition specifically as it is meant to be no frills, just straight-on rock thrills. A couple lasses had sampled a different Smokehead and recalled more character and less clobber over the head with an ashtray experience.

So what more do we know about Smokehead?

  • Do they disclose the Islay distillery? Nope! All we know is its part of Ian McLeod distillers….
  • Do they use colouring? Yup!
  • What else? Not a whole heck of a lot.

What did the Ian Weir, Marketing Director for McLeod have to say when launching this edition?

 “The new limited edition presentation not only celebrates Smokehead’s close affinity to rock music, but reaffirms the brand’s unique position within the Single Malt category. Smokehead is vigorous and unapologetic about its big and intense peaty flavours. Like rock and roll, people must accept it for what it is or not at all. The brand is an enthusiastic supporter of rock music and we have some exciting plans underway to take this even further in 2012.”

And their official tasting notes?

Nose: Heavy smoke and peat.   Amazing richness.   Lemon, fresh ginger, plum jam.   Salty and spicy.
Body: Like a cannonball – hits the palate at once with cocoa, peat and some honey sweetness then explodes with peppery spice and more earthy peat.   Spreads to all the areas of your mouth with more peat and light sweetness.
Finish: Even more peat, spice, mandarin – then dries up.   When you think it’s all over the peat comes back to hit you again.
Impression A rollercoaster of peat and spice with some delicate sweetness.

Well… did we accept it ‘as is’? Meh… Not gonna run out and buy another bottle. However for a sociable drinking evening, makes for a great conversation piece!

Other whiskies sampled before the Smokehead included:

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Whisky ladies go sweetly smokey – Dalmore 15, Mackmyra Svensk Rök, Smokehead ‘Rock’

Our whisky ladies are a diverse lot and each bring something a bit different to the equation. We are also quite international – most travel regularly and lived in different parts of the world than the land of their birth at some point in their lives.

What this means for us in whisky terms, there is a certain pride in discovering something interesting to share from diverse corners!

Hence the Sheringham William’s White double distilled grain whisky was introduced by a fellow Canadian. Or an offering chocolates designed for pairing with whiskies from a recent European jaunt.

We revel in such treats! March featured one specific whisky that would ordinarily be rather tricky to track down… instead came courtesy of a Christmas trip ‘home’ to Sweden.

March featured whiskies ranging from sherry sweet, to refreshing smoke to in your face peat! Here’s what we sampled:

Notes to follow in the next few days…

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