smokehead single malt high voltage

Smokehead Single Malt, Rum Rebel & High Voltage

Of all the brands bottling undisclosed Islay whiskies, Smokehead has been around for quite a while. First launched in 2006, there have been a number of Smokehead releases since. One to first grab attention was the Smokehead 18 Years, which I reviewed a few years ago and is said to contain Ardbeg. That’s the only Smokehead that has received attention on this blog. So far.

Today I’ll take a closer look at three of the brands expressions, starting with the standard release, followed by Rum Rebel (a rum finished single malt) and High Voltage (bottled at a high strength).

smokehead islay single malt

Smokehead Single Malt (43%, OB, 2020)

Nose: Somewhat medicinal with notes of tar, charcoal and diesel, but also a bit funky with a touch of rubber soles and spent matches. Whispers of smoked paprika powder and preserved lemons also.
Taste: Lacks a little oomph and the mouthfeel is a bit thin. Notes of sweet barley, rubber and ashes, but also touches of grass and moss. A whiff a caramel.
Finish: Ashy, dry and medium in length.

Score: 74

The nose is somewhat enjoyable but it fell flat once I took the first sip. I always thought young peated whisky had a rather high floor, but not this Smokehead.

smokehead rum rebel

Smokehead Rum Rebel (46%, OB, 2020)

Nose: It certainly has a different profile than the standard expression. There’s comparatively subtle smoke and a whiff of smoked bacon, but also grilled pineapple, ripe bananas and tinned peaches. Finally some notes of raw sugar and charred marshmallows.
Taste: Sweet arrival with orange marmalade and some salted caramel, followed by crisp smoke and earthy peat, as well as some lively cracked black pepper. A touch of aniseed as well.
Finish: The fruits return for an encore on the palate. Grilled lemon peel and some tinned pineapple. Medium in length.

Score: 83

The fruity, sweet rum influence is nicely integrated with the classic Islay flavours. Job wel done and a big step up from the standard release.

smokehead high voltage

Smokehead High Voltage (58%, OB, 2020)

Nose: Surprisingly approachable with notes of vanilla and marzipan accompanied by vegetal peat, green olives, brine and almond paste. Soft whispers of raw oak and lemon peel too.
Taste: Certainly more aggressive because of its higher ABV, but not by much considering. A sweet arrival highlighted by vanilla, quickly followed by lemon pith, but also rubber, vegetal peat and shoe polish. Touches of black pepper too.
Finish: Lingering smoke. Fairly long.

Score: 81

Delivers on strength but a little less on complexity. There are better high strength peated whiskies available in the same price bracket.


A bit of a mixed back. The standard Smokehead release fails to impress but the Rum Rebel is a tasty mix of sweet and peat. Just by sheer power the High Voltage has more to offer than the regular Smokehead, but it’s no high-flyer.

Samples provided by Ian Macleod

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