Smokeheads - What a great whisky industry word!

June 5, 2018

Smokehead is a word you will come across quite often in the Scottish Malt Whisky world. This is particularly true if your interest includes the Islay malts. Smokehead is used in a number of contexts  including:


A book – by Doug Johnston.



Four friends, one weekend, gallons of whisky. What could go wrong? Driven by amateur whisky-nut Adam, four late-thirties ex-university mates are heading to Islay - the remote Scottish island world famous for its single malts - with a wallet full of cash, a stash of coke and a serious thirst. Over a weekend soaked in the finest cask strength spirit, they meet young divorcee Molly, who Adam has a soft spot for, her little sister Ash who has all sorts of problems and Molly's ex-husband Joe, a control freak who also happens to be the local police. As events spiral out of control, they are all thrown into a nightmare that gets worse at every turn.

This is a great yarn. One of the best from Doug who has published a series of great novels over the years. As my friends and make a pilgrimage to Islay each year it has special resonance. It’s fair to say, however, that our trips have never quite gone this far awry!


A Status


Once all Islay distilleries have been visited, I am led to believe that one can adopt the status of ‘Smokehead’. With the rapid construction and commissioning on new malt whisky distilleries this achievement is likely to be transformed into an interesting game. When a new Islay distillery is opened, all Smokeheads will immediately be demoted until they have one again visited the island and made the visit required to refresh their membership of this fairly exclusive club.


A Whisky



Smokehead is a fine, but slightly enigmatic, Islay malt. It’s rich peat smoke flavour and South Islay characteristics make in an ideal occupant of any whisky cabinet. I’ve probably just been asking the wrong people but I’ve never decided, or been told, which distillery this fine dram comes from.

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Edinburgh, UK