Monday, August 17, 2020

Review - Smokehead Rum Rebel


This whisky is the latest addition to the increasingly popular Smokehead range from Ian Macleod Distillers. The Islay single malt, which is sourced from an un-named distillery on the famous whisky island, has seen a finishing period in ex-rum barrels from the Caribbean. It was launched in time to celebrate International Rum Day on August 16th. It joins the Smokehead Original, High Voltage and Sherry Bomb expressions in the core domestic range and the Extra Rare and Rum Riot in the travel retail range. All carry no age statement.

Smokehead is an Islay single malt brand that is owned and bottled by Iain Macleod Distillers. The company also own the Glengoyne, Rosebank and Tamdhu single malt distilleries. Smokehead was first released in 2006 and stirred up the whisky category at the time with its then unconventional look and contemporary packaging. This has since had a revamp a couple of years ago and continues to be innovative.

The Smokehead Rum Rebel is bottled at 46% ABV and will be available at selected UK whisky specialists and via A bottle will cost £55/ $72 US.

Our tasting notes 

The colour is a vibrant golden yellow and the nose has plenty of peat smoke and sweetness. The smoky aromas have a drying, almost ashy quality to them with an underlying malty and biscuit-like quality. These are joined by sweet golden syrup and honey aromas, along with juicy sultanas and hints of tropical fruit (especially tinned pineapple) and marshmallow.

On the palate this whisky has an immediate grip on the tastebuds and it is the peat smoke and maltiness that hits first. The smoke again has a drying and ashy quality but with a hint of damp earth and moss now. This is supported by the biscuity note from the nose and this has a slight hint of burnt cookies and oakcakes to it. Then comes an increasingly intense and vibrant sweetness, which is kicked off by a selection of fresh and dried fruits - think of juicy sultanas and over ripe mango with that tinned pineapple from the nose, plus a hint of something very sweet like lychee. This fruitiness is softened by further sweet notes such as golden syrup and white chocolate with further hints of caramel, marzipan and toasted marshmallow.

The finish is long and powerful. The peat seems like it never fades, while other notes slowly begin to drop away. First the sweetness, then the fruitiness and finally the cereal maltiness. This leaves a gripping and warming spiciness (think of white pepper and cinnamon) supoorting the ashy and drying peat smoke.

What's the verdict?

This is an impressive addition to the Smokehead range and a whisky that certainly lives up to its punchy branding and marketing. That said, it is not just all about the peat smoke - there is plenty of depth and complexity and the rum cask finish has clearly added a juicy fruitiness and vibrancy. This compliments the ashy smoke and makes you wonder why more brands have not tried the combination. A very enjoyable single malt and a 'must try' for the peaty whisky fans out there. 

No comments: