SmokeheadRating: ★★★★

Origin: Islay, Scotland

Type: Single malt whisky

ABV: 43%

Price: $A58 (Aus), US$44-$60 (USA)

Ian MacLeod distillers, the makers of the peat free Glengoyne, have decided to share with the world its take on peat and release Smokehead. There are no stories of pristine streams and impressive peat bogs to tell you about. Ian MacLeod distillers seem to skip all that and instead let the whisky speak for itself. Smokehead is a single malt from Islay and while the distillery from which it is taken may be top secret, one thing is clear: this smoky delight is seriously good whisky. The whisky told me so.


Vanilla, raisin, caramel, watermelon and cantaloupe are interwoven with peat, and a mild maritime note – imagine a vodka rinsed oyster with sour cream and chives, coriander and a slither of ginger – gently shines in the foreground with sea salt, lemon, zingy brown vinegar, earthy pear and the dusty cocoa from a cappuccino. Rich layers of oiliness and creaminess seem to define the bouquet of this whisky, along with the curious notes of crinkle cut crisps/chips – sour cream and chives, balsamic vinegar and sea salt, and, lemon and cracked pepper especially. It might be because of, one thinks, the oily undertones in this whisky. Lovely stuff!


On the entry the peat explodes on the palate with notes of honey, citrus and passion fruit, but then it softens momentarily allowing toffee apple, chocolate, vanilla and salty maritime notes to shine though. The peace is short-lived, and a surge of peat returns only to fade slowly into the finish.


On the finish the increasingly softening peat intermingles with fudge, lemon drops, cracked pepper and warming chili.

Bottom line:

Buy it! At its price, Smokehead is probably the best value peaty single malt on the market – its big, bold, fiery and is happy to give you a solid Scottish punch in the mouth just in case you’re not paying attention. This is a whisky for the peat lovers, as the name suggests, but don’t expect any labyrinthine oaky complexity – this is mostly supercharged peat, pure and simple but so delicious it hurts thinking how much I’ve paid for other peaty pleasures.

Match with:

This whisky was delicious with medium bodied oily cigars. Try it dashed over oysters or with some smoked salmon. Liven it all up with some sprigs of coriander and red chili. Even better, lobby your local Chinese restaurant to get a bottle of Smokehead and try it with steamed XO oysters.   

4 thoughts on “Smokehead

  1. I’ve seen the Smokehead around before – but never realised it was a secret-single malt! I’ve heard good things about it from other reputable sources, too, so I may have to track some down… Any recommended places to find it in Aus?
    Keep on waffling!

    1. Hi Nick. Thanks for your comment. I’ve just seen it at Dan Murphy’s for around $58. Smokehead is a single malt from Islay, but Ian MacLeod does not reveal from which distillery it is sourced. However it does seem (and this is just my opinion) more consistent with distillery styles from the south of Islay – take your pick 🙂

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