Burns Night comes early with Smokehead and SLTN

BAR operators and staff from across the Scottish trade celebrated an early Burns Night yesterday (19th January) when SLTN teamed with Islay single malt Smokehead to host A Burns Night That’s Not for Everyone.

The online event – part of the SLTN Trade Tastings series – saw Smokehead brand ambassador Mikey Sim take the attendees through a tasting of three Smokehead expressions: Original, High Voltage and Rum Rebel. Each expression was paired with a different snack chosen to complement that particular dram.

Participants had pre-registered for their tasting kits through the SLTN website.

Mikey said the brand, which is owned by Ian Macleod Distillers, is taking “a completely different approach” to whisky in order to break down barriers and make the spirit more accessible.

He said: “This is about putting it in a glass, making it into a cocktail, pairing it with a beer. It’s not about getting bogged down in all these traditions of what Scotch and single malt can be.

“Have a smell of it, have a taste of it, if you want to add a little bit of water add a little bit of water. If you want to add a little bit of Coke add a little bit of Coke. The main aim is to enjoy what you’re drinking.”

Smokehead Original was described as having warming woodsmoke and clean peat on the nose, before the palate delivered flavours of smoked honey, burnt orange and freshly-ground black pepper.

Mikey promoted the drink as an ideal base for cocktails.

“Smokehead is flavour,” he said.

“So when we mix a drink I always think ‘what is Smokehead going to add to this?’ You get sweet elements, you get spice, and you get that clean smoke.”

The expression was paired with crispy seaweed thins from Itsu.

Smokehead’s cask-strength expression, High Voltage, was next up, paired with Mackie’s haggis crisps.

Mikey described the dram as “a bold whisky” with notes of toffee and vanilla as well as spicy pepper.

“My recommendation if you get a bottle of this is to pop it into the fridge and drink it cold,” said Mikey.

The session concluded with Rum Rebel, paired with haggis spice dark chocolate from Coco.

Mikey described the expression, which is finished in Caribbean rum casks, as “almost like drinking smoky caramel”.

He pointed out flavours including barbecued pineapple and toasted marshmallow.

“It’s so sweet,” said Mikey.

“And it’s a such an easier way into Islay whisky. We know how challenging Islay whisky can be and that’s why we’re so open to trying these different things and experimenting.”