Whisky matured in former beer casks is certainly not new, but also far from commonplace, especially in the world of Scotch whisky. Therefore, the release of Smokehead Twisted Stout is noteworthy (up to a point). As the name suggests, this Islay single malt was part finished in ex-stout casks.
What is part finished, you might wonder? Well, it’s probably exactly the same as a selectively finished whisky, much like the Chivas Regal Extra 13 Rye Cask. It’s pretty much in the name, isn’t it? It means only part of the whisky was finished. Chivas master blender Sandy Hyslop finds it gives him more control than a regular finish. He believes a part finished whisky has the potential to be “more sophisticated.”
However, Smokehead has never been much about sophistication. It’s a brand intended to appeal to those who like their whisky with a pinch of brim and hellfore. Personally I’m truly curious about Smokehead Twisted Stout. I’ve tried plenty of stout beers finished in ex-peated whisky casks, many of them to high satisfaction. But I can’t say I’ve tasted many the other way around.
Then again, the marketing speak in the official press release putts me off somewhat. This is wat Iain Weir, Smokehead’s Brand Director, had to say:
“Our unique and disruptive Smokehead thinking has led to some convention challenging, trail blazing, rule breaking whiskies over the years that don’t follow the usual traditions and rituals.
“We’ve clearly struck a chord with those who do things their way, live life on their own bold terms, and pick a whisky that’s as disinterested in the status quo as they are. Twisted Stout is as far away from a standard single malt as the combination of tastes, aromas and flavours inside the bottle.
“So, while all our releases come with an original twist, our latest might just be our most twisted yet. Which is just how we like things.”
I don’t know if Smokehead is such a trailblazier, but to be fair, they’ve has been on a bit of a innovative trip as of late. Just recently they launched a pre-mixed single malt in a ready-to-drink can, including mixed with Cola, but also Ginger and Lime. I’m not at all opposed to mixing single malt whisky, and I’ve heard good things about their RTDs.
But back to the Smokehead Twisted Stout. In contrast with the core range (see below), you can only get it through the brand’s own webshop, which is a bit of a bummer. Even more of bummer: they currently only ship in the UK due to post-Brexit issues. These might be solved soon. Or not. Or you live in the UK and this doesn’t affect you.
Official Smokehead Twisted Shout Tasting Notes
Nose: The usual island intensity of Smokehead comes cloaked in sweet aromas of chocolate and treacle toffee. Maritime air meets a decent pint on the shore. Unexpected. Unusual. And unsettling for the senses.
Taste: You’re past the point of no return now. Hot and soothing at the same time. Salty smoke weaves its way around dry roasted nuts, toasted marshmallow, vanilla ice-cream and… is that someone putting a pot of fresh coffee on?
Finish: New flavours unlocked. Old favourites reunited, wood smoke and spices. Malty, toasted biscuits. Zingy citrus. Dark and delicious. A fitting sign-off from the twisted lovechild of whisky and beer.