Smokehead

Smokehead Islay Single Malt Scotch Whisky
43% ABV
$55
Website

What the Bottler Says
Contemporary, individual and exciting, Smokehead appeals to bold and adventurous whisky drinkers who are looking for something challenging and different.

A heavily-peated Islay single malt whisky of the highest quality, Smokehead hits you like a cannonball and takes you on an explosive rollercoaster of peat, smoke and spice with a little delicate sweetness thrown in.

Flying in the face of traditional whisky packaging, Smokehead’s striking tin and unique label are hard to miss.

An award-winning Islay single malt with a cult following that stands out from the crowd.

What Richard Says
Nose: Briny and meaty. Notes of licorice, honey, and rich earth (sort of like compost but not).
Palate: The taste is much more mellow and balanced than the nose would foretell. Sea salt, herbal liqueur, smoked salmon, and caramel and fruit sweetness.
Finish: It finishes with a light bit of campfire ash and cracked pepper around the edges.
Comments: The package and name are clearly geared toward a younger drinker and bristle with masculine undertones. The whisky itself is much more muted. I was expecting something along the lines of Big Peat but this is more reminiscent of a young Caol Ila or a lightly peated Bunnahabhain. A nice pleasing dram for sure.
Rating: Average

Sheep Dip

Sheep Dip Blended Malt Scotch Whisky
40% ABV
$39.99
Website

What the Blender Says
No fewer than 16 different single malt whiskies, aged between 8 and 20 years, all woven together in specially selected first-fill oak casks for a distinctively full-bodied flavour.

What Richard Says
Nose: Compared to it’s Pig’s Nose stable mate this blend has more depth to it on the nose. Under ripe melons, poached pears, and malty back bone.
Palate: A young malty crispness.
Finish: Fairly short.
Comments: I had higher hopes for this over the Pig’s Nose but both disappoint. I don’t see any reason that should pay the mark up from Pig’s Nose to Sheep Dip. It’s a fairly bland and unoffensive blend but I will put my $40 to better use elsewhere.
Rating: Average

Pig’s Nose

Pig’s Nose Blended Scotch Whisky
40% ABV
$29.99
Website

What the Blender Says
The whisky’s name plays on the notion that it’s as smooth as a pig’s nose.

Produced in specially selected first-fill oak casks, the seriously satisfying smoothness comes from combining oak-aged Speyside, Islay and Lowland malts with superior gentle grain whiskies.

What Richard Says
Nose: The is clean, crisp, lightly floral, and grassy.
Palate: Exceptionally light and smooth. There is a buttery creamy mouthfeel to it but beyond that it is nearly flavorless.
Finish: Just a wisp.
Comments: I don’t know about it being “smooth as a pig’s nose” but it is one of the lightest whiskies that I’ve ever tried. It’s almost flavorless but in a very smooth way. Not flavorless like vodka. I tend toward something with a bit more oomph when I choose a scotch but this surely won’t offend anyone.
Rating: Average

Auchentoshan Hepburn’s Choice 1997

1997 Auchentoshan 19 yr “Hepburn’s Choice” (K&L Wines Exclusive)
53.3% ABV
$80
Website

What the Retailer Says: Auchentoshan often gets overlooked in the new age of big sherry and big peat. The Lowland stalwart’s triple-distilled, light, and fruity flavors often have more in common with Irish whiskey than they do Scotch single malt, but that’s exactly why we love it! The longer Auchentoshan sits in wood, the more exotic those fruit flavors become, which is exactly what happened inside this hogshead from Hepburn’s Choice. There’s a kiss of sweetness right off the bat that’s lifted and bolstered up by the 53.3% ABV. The vanilla kicks in shortly after and there are cheerful notes of shortbread and oak spice on the finish. At 19 years old, this whisky is still full of malty character and by no means shows its age. Think of this whisky as a cask strength version of the Midleton Rare, but at almost half the price. With water, the fruit really opens up and flavors of caramel and king sugar begin to unfold. It’s a whisky that does justice and honor to the classic Lowland style.

What Gary Says
Nose: Clean, cereal malt, with a subtle citrus (kiwi & lemongrass) with fresh tobacco & tea leaves; just a hint of smoke.
Palate: Sharpens quickly with a pepper spice, and then sweetens to barley sugar, figs, tangerine, and a hint of nutmeg.
Finish: Moderate to long, and drying.
Comments: Classic Auchentoshan profile – at least from what I’ve read. I honestly haven’t had much from them before, but I found my tasting notes lined up pretty close with how they describe the retail Auchentoshan 18yr (which I often find the distillery notes tend to be overzealous – but hey, they’re trying to move product). While this is similar to their notes, and I imagine a fair representation of their offering – it isn’t right in my wheelhouse. When I first opened it, I was disappointed – but I’ve liked it more each time I’ve gone back to it. I’d love to try this after only the 2nd distillation, as thrice distilled it is just too clean for my liking.
Rating: Stands Out

What Richard Says
Nose: Green tea, lemon zest, and malt-o-meal. Water makes it a bit more grassy and vegetal.
Palate: This is lovely and much easier to drink than any other cask strength lowlander that I’ve had. Creamy and honey sweet with a kick of cracked black pepper at the end. A bit a water taps down the pepper and bring forward more a of an orange blossom note.
Finish: More pepper (even with water) and wood. Medium and dry.
Comments: Very nice. I really enjoy this whisky. I actually like it with very little water. The fullness dies quickly with too much additional dilution. A nice one for Auchentoshan and single malt fans alike. As referenced in the K&L’s notes, I agree that this might be something that would appeal to drinkers of Irish whiskey too.
Rating: Stands Out

Canadian Club 100% Rye

Canadian Club 100% Rye Canadian Whisky/
40% ABV
$20
Website

What the Distillery Says
This premium Canadian whisky is crafted 100% from single grain rye. Aged to perfection, it’s the purest expression of rye whisky, with more complexity, character and spiciness than other Canadian whiskies. It has the smooth taste you expect from Canadian Club® – making it the perfect choice for special occasions. Like Tuesdays.
Description: Complex, full and spicy
COLOR: Antique gold
AROMA: Balanced with toasted grains, gentle wood notes and a tantalizing hint of sweet vanilla
TASTE: Complex balance of rye spiciness, caramel and oak notes, warm and creamy
FINISH: Long clean finish with hints of clove, oak and vanilla

What Gary Says
Nose: Sweet & fruity, subtle pine note with a hint of nutmeg.
Palate: Thin mouthfeel, young, soft, subtle fruit salad.
Finish: Fairly short.
Comments: I picked this up for $18, as I recalled enjoying the Canadian Club Chairman’s Select 100% Rye (only offered in Canada) – and wanted to see if this version (offered in the US) was the same. Turns out it is (in fact, Canadian Club doesn’t even include both products on their web-site, but via Facebook they answered a consumer’s question that it is the same whisky). So you can read the review on that. I didn’t until I had written up my notes, and was only mildly surprised to see differences. I didn’t enjoy this as much as I did the original, which is more about my palate changing than the whisky (as I did a blind side-by-side, and couldn’t pick them apart – so I believe Canadian Club’s claim that they’re the same). I really would love to taste this whisky at 100 proof. Some drams hold up well at 80 proof, but this isn’t one of them. Compared to American rye whiskey, this is quite a bit softer. This might be a gateway rye for someone who likes Crown Royal, although I’d recommend they just go to Crown’s Northern Harvest Rye. It is certainly inexpensive enough to take a shot at if you are a rye fan.
Rating: Average

What Richard Says
Nose: Rich stewed fruit sweetness like fortified wine mixed with a bit of american brandy.
Palate: A bit thin. There is vanilla, baking spices, and a candy sweetness there but teasing it out is tricky and water doesn’t help.
Finish: Quick and clean.
Comments: Nothing spectacular and nothing off putting. I find the flavors a bit muted compared to other whiskeys but it serves well as a mixer or sipper. If you like Canadian whisky in general or Canadian Club specifically then it is probably worth giving this a shot.
Rating: Average