Smokehead Islay Single Malt Scotch Whisky

Smokehead: Islay Single Malt Scotch Whisky (Islay Single Malt Scottish Whisky:43% ABV)

Visual: Light gold.

Viscosity: Mostly slow thin streaks.

Nose: Smoked beef and peppercorn. The aroma can be detected at massive distance. Medicinal notes. Dumplings and beef broth. Barley. Lots of smoke. Touch of honey. Water dries and brings out slightly harsher notes.

Body: Smooth. Golden syrup and vanilla. Massive peat and smoke. Light charring. Vanilla custard slices. Light medicinal notes and noticeable alcohol. Icing. Toffee. Light cherries. Water mutes alcohol, brings out raisins, Madeira and sherry trifle. More fruity.

Finish: Honey. Charred notes. Barbecued beef. Icing sugar. Vanilla custard. Seaweed. Water brings out Madeira cake, light rum spice, and sherry trifle.

Conclusion: It is often overlooked how sweet Islay whisky can be. They are well known for hitting hard and fast with big notes – here that is definitely true with smoked beef, peat smoke and peppercorn. There is small medicinal notes, but not heavily on that side – this leans much more on the smoke side of things, also eschewing the salted character than an Islay can have to concentrate more on the smoke.

The thing is, if you are used to those strong flavours then you realise that there is huge golden syrup and vanilla custard sweetness behind the smoke. The massive notes are a significant contrast which makes for a surprisingly smooth yet intense whisky. Frankly, even without water this is very easy to recommend.

Water refines it even more, it drops the few alcohol notes and brings out what I would guess to be the sherry barrel ageing influence. There is cherries and raisins, lightly spicy and sherry trifle notes – it goes from nearly no sherry influence to being dominated by it in a heartbeat. It is like two whiskies in one.

So, at any price point this is excellent – peat juice delivered against a vanilla sweet backdrop or sherry trifle sweetness – smooth, intense and delicious. At the 35 to 40 quid mark it often goes for? This is an absolute steal. A great value Islay whisky showing that the words “Great value” don’t have to be damning with faint praise.

Background: I tried the 18 year Smokehead a while back, but realised I had never done notes on the standard bottling – so here it is. Grabbed from Independent Spirit and drunk while listening to David Bowie’s haunting final album.