So with my final day in Edinburgh for the time being, I thought I would have a look at something smoky, what with peaty whiskies being so few and far between in the Emerald Isles. Not that that’s a bad thing but I do love me some smoke, so the Smokehead seemed like the best whisky to grab at the small bar. The Smokehead comes to us courtesy of Ian Macleod Distillers, from an undisclosed Islay distillery and first hit the shelves in 2006. Beautifully packaged, I’m not too sure what that skull of theirs represents, but it sure does stand out on the shelf and behind the bar. An NAS peated whisky, the Smokedhead delivers on the promise of a young Islay, complete with the familiar flavour tang you want. Let’s dive into the glass.
So we start with pieces of peat moss and fungus rolling past us in the dark, resting against a bed of month old wet bark before a beach bonfire splutters to life in front of us. From there, the smoke that rises give off good old dirty soil, sois bois, fresh spades of second layer soil followed by the sweetness of whisky and bourbon based fudge, chunks of brown sugar melting away in the heart of the fire. Charred sea salt and brine over dried wrapped seaweed come forward, with malt biscuits, the rich soot of a coal burning oven and an open flame barbeque with scorched ham, burnt lamb fat and smoky scallops.
Having a sip showcases the smoky and peat of the dram, with scallops drizzled with linseed oil, burnt wax, the sweetness increasing to seaweed wrapped seafood, sweet heavy sugar again and a charred, crispy lamb chop. Lemon drizzled ham, black pepper, and the morning after taste of a night next to a driftwood beach bonfire, though it gets a bit watery towards the end. Our finish is short, the peat rising before a quick fall into an overly tannic cup of black breakfast tea that immediately seals away our taste buds.
There wasn’t as much to this as other young Islays, that is true. Having a nose was good, though I expected more from the palate, and could not find all too much to work with. Having said that, the dram accomplished pretty much everything it needed to, and the lack of complexity could make this a worthwhile dram for those looking to step into peat, and your more peaty Laphroaigs, Ardbegs and Octamores. Plus, when you consider the price of the whisky, this gave much more enjoyment. £3.30 behind the bar for this dram, and for that little price I’m happy with something such as this. If you’re an experienced whisky drinker, you may initially pass it by, but it’s worth picking up a bottle for when you want something quick and easy drinking.