I have to admit that apart from samples at a tasting event, Whisky is not a spirit that I am well accustomed to. So I was excited to receive the new Smokehead gift tin: Islay Single Malt Whisky from Ian Macleod distillers. The set includes miniature 5cl bottles of their core range: Smokehead Original, High Voltage and their new expression – Rum Rebel.
I love the reusable presentation ‘skull’ shape gift tin, the large Skull branding giving a less than subtle warning of it’s ‘explosive’ contents. This would make a perfect gift for someone with a rebellious streak.
A peaty whisky, Smokehead is labelled the ‘wild’ one of single Malt Whisky and described as ‘not for everyone’, but I’m always up for a challenge (maybe that’s the rebel in me). Tempted to plunge into the Christmas serves on the accompanying cocktail card, I decided to first try each one neat, allowing it to sit for a while to release the Smokey flavours.
I eased myself in with Smoke Rum Rebel, temptingly described as a ‘smoky, tropical whisky’ with a flavour profile of fiery peat smoke, burnt marshmallows, and softened with caramelised fruit. On the nose this had a distinct smokey earthy aroma with quite pleasing subtle fruity, toffee notes. Smoke and spice flavours burst on my palette, while rolling around on my tongue gave way to subtle caramel notes. A lingering smokiness this spirit packed some punch, but just a prelude of what to expect.
Smoke head original flavour profiles are described as immense smoke yet subtly sweet with notes of sea salt and spice. On the nose, the smoky aroma is taken up a notch with some fruity notes pervading, the first sip packed a punch, peppery spice with bold smoke notes tingling on my palate. As the spirit rolled around my tongue I could detect characteristics of subtle sweet salty notes. On the finish, herbiness lingered amidst the smoke.
My last sample was High Voltage. The flavour profile is ‘a rush of black smoke, creamy nutty notes and a tangy sea salt finish’. This was a total assault on my senses, the smoke aroma prickling my nostrils and hitting the back of my throat. I felt an instant tingling sensation on my lips and tongue before intense smokey flavours encased my mouth. Rolling around released a very rich, burnt smokiness with spicy pepper notes. The finish was a lingering smokiness, with subtle sweet salted toffee notes pervading. The toffee notes were especially noticeable in the remnants coating the glass. High Voltage is not for the faint hearted.
My favourite of the three was Smoke Rum Rebel, smoother and easier on my uninitiated palette. By now my tingling taste buds were crying out for something sweet. The Peaty profiles provide an interesting twist on festive cocktails. For those lacking in the holiday spirit, Smokehead have concocted three ‘badass’ festive serves to thaw out even the frostiest of characters. I tried two out of the three recipes (only because I struggled to find Melon Liqueur).
The first was Hot Buttered Rum Rebel: a twist between hot toddy and hot buttered rum. A simple recipe to whip up: 25 ml rum rebel, mixed spice, 1 tbsp. butter and hot cider. The sweetness from the apple cider complimented the mixed spice and balanced out the peppery notes and smokiness. The butter coats the mouth and adds creaminess. This is a delicious winter warming elixir teaming with autumnal flavours, bound to conjure up images of relaxing in an alpine ski lodge.
The second is the nostalgic Snowball made simply using 25ml Smoke head, 50ml Advocaat, 12.5ml gingerbread syrup and topped with lemonade. The smokiness slightly abated by the sweet creaminess of the Advocaat, the spice notes popping through the fizz. The addition of gingerbread syrup with its festive sweet aroma was delicious. This tasted like a supercharged Baileys, a definite keeper for my festive gatherings.
Also try your hand at Grinch cocktail recipe: 25ml Smokehead, 50ml melon liqueur, 25ml lemon juice and 12.5ml sugar syrup. Shake over ice strain and serve.
These little miniatures pack a whole lot of punch, a perfect prezzie for your ‘peat loving pals’. Gift tins cost £22.99 and can be purchased here or at major retailers & specialist stockists.
Check out the website to see the full Smokehead range including limited edition free gifts with full sized bottles. Follow on Instagram for more recipes to liven up your celebrations.
Written By: Eboni Addoh