Islay Single Malt Scotch Whisky
Welcome to May. I started this malt mission in January. That is messed up.
When Ian Macleod Distillers introduced this in 2005, the packaging immediately set it apart form the pack. Aimed at the 25yo male smoky-whisky-drinking demographic, the packaging won the 2007 Design of the Year at the Wine and Spirit Design Awards. Smokehead is described as "A Whisky for Today" by its makers.
So, as an Islay Single Malt, everyone wants to know just WHAT single malt was used. The bottle offers no clues and no one at Ian Macleod will say a thing. Online forums (EUWOLS) are full of debates about what malt is used. At whisky fairs and events, there are always folks with great confidence saying what distillery is in Smokehead. Retailers all have their own opinions and can be very convincing. There is even a blog on the Smokehead site that cleverly propagates the myth and mystery of the source whisky in Smokehead.
Here is what I have heard:
- NOT Bowmore
- Young Bowmore
- NOT Ardbeg
- 7yo Ardbeg
- NOT Lagavulin
- Young Lagavulin
- Caol Ila
- Heavily peated Bruichladdich, Octomore, 3D, etc.
- Peated Bunnahabhain
So who the hell does that leave out?!? Maybe it's a Port Ellen for 20 quid. Or a Kilchoman... from the future...
Perhaps the mystery is the greatest insurance ever. It works to promote the product with gossip and the like, but most importantly, it offers a form of security for the makers. Who could guarantee in 2005 that Smokehead would survive the year, two years, 10 years? As it is very difficult to secure stocks without knowing the success of a new product and thus how much you will be needing, keeping the contents a secret means that, if necessary, they can use a different source for the next batch (Some suspect they have done this already). Or, if the distillery decides they don't like companies with the name Ian in them, then Smokehead can source from somewhere else with similar style (ie. move from the fortunate supply of 7yo Lagavulin to Caol Ila) without much of the 25yo male smoky-whisky-drinking demographic having a clue.
Unrestrained attack, honeyed peat smoke, dirty rubbery smoke, slight bleachiness, salty. Cigarette smokers fingers. Artificial lemon scent. With time, cut carrots or potatoes, and more of a chemical impression, antiseptic, janitor's closet. But still an arseload of peat.
Milky textured mouthfeel. Again, no restraint in flavour attack; BAM with peat and some sort of herb. Hearty. Green peppers, salt on cucumbers, cheap Advent calendar chocolate. Black pepper. Long finish of granny smith apples, licking copper, ashtrays and cleaning agents. A closed pub being cleaned at 4am.
Smoky. Heady. Brash and rugged. Bold like the font on the packaging. The end. A great victory for Ian Macleod Distillers to secure listing in UK Sainbury's stores, exactly where an affordable, does-what-it-says-on-the-label whisky, will fly off shelves. But is this in North America yet? Cheap and to the point is what we do best!!!
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