Smokehead is a whisky released by Ian MacLeod Distillers. This 18 years old is a new premium single malt that joins the regular Smokehead, which was first released in 2006. The Smokehead brand offers quality whisky with a contemporary edge and this is reflected in the innovative graphics, design and website (www.smokehead.co.uk). Ian MacLeod Distillers own the Glengoyne distillery near Glasgow, as well as the Chieftain's and Dun Bheagan independent bottling brands. They also own various other spirits brands such as London Hill gin, Rostov vodka and Watson's rum.
As the name suggests, this whisky is smoky and named as an Islay (the island off the west coast of Scotland) single malt but the distillery is not revealed. The serious rumour is that this 18 years old is from Ardbeg. If this is true, then this makes Smokehead 18 years old the only way to currently get an Ardbeg of this age without breaking the bank. The other distilleries that it is rumoured to possibly be are Caol Ila or a heavily peated version of Bunnahabhain. The Smokehead 18 years old is a limited release with just 6000 bottles available worldwide. A bottle should cost £85-95 from specialist whisky and spirit retailers.
Smokehead 18 years old is light golden in colour and has a powerful nose that is packed with peaty smoke. This smokiness is heavy and a little tarry in nature but some other pleasant characteristics come through well - some honey, vanilla, nuts (think of almonds and hazelnuts) and a touch of citrus sharpness (imagine lemon zest). If you thought the nose was potent, then prepare yourself for the next step. On the palate, this again has a shovelful of hot peat but here the smokiness is more spicy and reminiscent of black peppercorns and red chillis. The sweet vanilla, oaky wood, pronounced cereal grains and honey come through well again. The citrus tang is present also and cuts through the heavy richness to freshen things up and create a lovely balance. The finish turns dry and woody with a bitter nutty edge (those almonds and hazelnuts again), a hint of saltiness and iodine present.
Smokehead 18 years old is a lovely smoky, spicy and luxurious dram that packs a proper punch. Definitely one for the peat lovers to try and not for the faint hearted! We thank Charles Miller from Harvey-Miller, the distributors of the Smokehead range, for the chance to sample this whisky.