We’re again dealing with a ‘Mystery Malt’ here. I guess most of you are familiar with that notion, but just a quick explanation for those who are new to the whisky world. A Mystery Dram, is a whisky bottled by an independent bottler without disclosing the true origin of the spirit , that is to say: in which distillery the spirit was distilled. Some mystery drams are not very mysterious and their origin is well known, but Ian McLeod who bottles this one actually does a good job not revealing its sources. I have my bets, as i am sure most of you have an idea, who is responsible for this malt.
I first encountered SmokeHead by by chance. I walked into a bar with a friend, and had a few beers, and felt like i needed a whisky after all the food and beer. The bartender asked me “what will it be” , and i just told him : Smokey,Peaty, and not expensive – Surprise me! (Whisky in Israel in a bar is amazingly expensive, not surprising when you take into account 190% Tax on alcohol). The bartender suggested Smokhead for around $12 , and i said ok. You see, this is “non expensive” whisky when it comes to Israeli standards.
I quite liked that dram, as it was not very complex, but young, smoky and kicking Islay, a perfect dram to sip in a bar, with not much nosing, analysing and chewing, just plain enjoying my time. Back then i was only thinking of setting up a dedicated whisky blog, and knew i was about to review this malt someday. Time passed, I tried the older 18 year old version, and reviewed that one, and somehow forgot to review this younger sibling. So, here’s a chance to remedy all that, and enjoy a wee dram of this nectar again. Let’s start Smokin’
Smokehead , 43% ABV, NAS , £30
Nose: Massive Peat, Tons of smoke, Tar, Lemon sherbet, Soot, Sea spray, smoked bacon.. ISLAY spelled out in big bold 72 point letters. It kicks you ,it makes you smile. I like those young Islays, and this teenager is no different, you can sense it’s young. the peat is pristine, strong, untamed. lovely.
Palate: Peat attack on the first wave , then smoke comes in, some pepper,chilly, cured bacon then some sweet peppery smoke and ash.
Finish : Ashy, smoky , sweet pepper lingers for looooooooooooong.
Bottom line : This is a very good example of a young, kicking, smokin’, peaty little monster. It encapsulates the essence of “Islay young malts”, and offers a great, yet not ultra-complex experience for peat-heads, or just if you feel like digging deep into Islay Turf. It’s not very cheap (costs a bit more than let’s say Laphraoig 10), but offers a different experience, less tarry, and more rounded in my view (Hey, the Laph 10 is a classic, and I love it). All in all, i think Ian McLeod, who bottled this ‘Mystery’ dram did a very good job.
Let’s listen to a nice piece played by the one and only ‘Wes’ Montgomery, a true giant jazz guitarist. this piece how fitting is from his CD ‘Smokin’ at the half note’ with the Wynton Kelly Trio.
Sincere thanks to Iain Weir of Ian Macleod Distillers for the generous sample.