Smokehead 18yo Extra Black Tasted!

Smokehead 18yo Extra Black
Islay (‘Mystery Distillery’)
Bottled by Ian Macleod
46% ABV
Available soon for £85

Smokehead 18 Extra Black

This has been going on for ages now, the rumours of the new Smokehead with an age statement surfaced so long ago that I no longer remember when that was. Then we saw some pictures and we found out it was going to be an 18yo… but still no launch in sight.

But now is The Time. This fanatically anticipated malt is finally ready to be presented to the UK market!

The Edinburgh Whisky Blog team (that’s us!) had a chance to sample this whisky last night. Because we think this may potentially be the most important release of the season, we decided to assemble a mini panel for this one. We invited one friend from the Scotch Malt Whisky Society and one from the Scotch Whisky Heritage Centre to aid us with this, by all means not unpleasant, task (and then to aid us watching Champions League and drinking pints). Here is what we thought.

Colour: Brassy, shiny polished gold, dessert wine

Nose: At first a bit heavy, “like a room where a dusty old rug was beaten on the floor”, freshens up after a few sniffs. Zesty and citrusy, yet spicy; posh honey with a hint of vanilla, perfume and slight maltiness. Sweet smoke is not overpowering and wraps it all up beautifully. Exceptionally well balanced and showing great maturity.

Palate: Enters with honey sweetness and then instantly explodes with flavour. Loads of smoke here in the middle; later bready, peppery and stingy. Creamy in texture.

The palate is much bigger than the nose and this is where the price tag starts making a lot more sense.

Finish: Here the Islay character is unmistakable. It is dry and oaky, really medicinal and bitter, char-grilled. “As if you chewed on a bit of a stick”.

Overall: Grand, both thumbs up. We all really liked it and, yet again, Ian Macleod Distillers’ attention to detail prevails. Will it be able to defend itself on the market at this price? We hope so…

Person: It was the highlight of the night (the week, the month…) when Chris suddenly asked: Who was the guy in “Being John Malkovich”? When we picked ourselves from the floor after crying-laughing for half an hour, we agreed, that Malkovich is, indeed, the best candidate. Sophisticated in a rugged way. Talented, a bit weird and dark. 100% match.


Oh, I almost forgot about our guess on the ‘Mystery Distillery’ (everyone is allowed one, right?). Well, we voted and it turns out that most of us thought it was like Bunnahabhain but with extra smoke. So heavily peated Bunnahabhain is being our bet…

…But something tells me that boys and girls at Ian Macleod are laughing just as hard reading this, as we did at Chris’ legendary “Malkovich” one-liner…


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  1. Very interesting, look forward to tasting it. I believe that some early batches of normal Smokehead were Bunnahabhain, but I haven’t heard anything on this one yet.

    Bunna and Caol Ila seem like the likely candidates, they’re the usual suspects for these kind of bottlings.

  2. Caol Ila was our second guess. I am convinced that some of the early batches were Ardbeg:)

  3. I’ll never live it down ;)

  4. As it happens I had a taste of Smokehead last weekend (at a friends place). It was actualy very nice. It was, I presume, the standard bottling. I didn’t know there was a mistery background to this brand otherwise I would have paid more attention. The remark “chewing on a stick” I do recognise. Cheers Dennis (DandyT)

  5. Whats up with an £85 price tag and not even cask strength?! Tight gits.

  6. Don’t worry, Chris, I knew who you meant. It’s John Cusack, isn’t it? ;)

  7. I’ts a cracking dram!

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