The Vikings used a goose poo lotion. The ancient Greek medic Hippocrates believed the answer was pigeon droppings mixed with horseradish, cumin and nettles. One 5,000 year-old Egyptian recipe suggested blending the burned prickles of a hedgehog immersed in oil with honey, alabaster, red ochre, with fingernail scrapings and slathering the concoction liberally over the affected area. Socrates, Napoleon, Aristotle, Gandhi, Darwin, Churchill, Shakespeare all lost their hair. Hippocrates, despite the pigeon droppings, even has a type of baldness named after him. Time has raked her cruel fingers through our hairlines too. So, it was with keen interest that we listened to the rakish Frenchman who told us that Smokehead would put hair back on our bullet-like heads.
We had the distinct impression that 'Fab', the owner of a trendy whisky bar in Singapore, an independent bottler and former Pernod Ricard employee didn’t have to worry about male pattern baldness. His hair was so thick he couldn’t run a comb through it. His barber probably charged him double. While we hadn’t considered putting ground-up mice, horse teeth and bear grease on our heads like Julius Caesar, we weren’t above drinking Smokehead; even if it is chill-filtered.
We’re not saying Smokehead is like snake oil or hair tonic out of a gypsy’s caravan, but there is something queer about a single-malt that doesn’t come from an unspecified distillery. There are loads of reason a barrel of single malt might not end up in the distillery’s own bottling. Well, we say ‘loads’. We can think of four:
- It could be used by a blender as a flavouring element in branded blends, like Cutty Sark.
- It could find its way into an all-malt vattings such as those released by Compass Box.
- It could be chosen by independent bottlers to release under their own labels, like Gordon & MacPhail.
- It could be co-opted to represent entirely different brands, with the original distillery’s identity a closely guarded secret. Ian Macleod’s Smokehead is one such enigma.
Because you don’t know where it’s from or how old it is, you are basically just trusting the ‘brand’ and paying for a cool bottle. But, in the case of Smokehead, it is a very cool bottle.
Nose: Grow your hair out and wear it in a ponytail immature, it is tinged with the plume smoke from lighting off illegal fireworks in your parent’s garden.
Mouth: Your first girlfriend running her fingers through your hair in the backseat of your dad’s car, it’s a rollercoaster of spiciness, puckering heat and delicate sweetness.
Throat: The peat is in your face like an unkempt fringe, but it doesn’t last for as long as you might have expected, like that first time in the backseat of your dad’s car.
It’s unapologetically immature, feisty and teaming with testosterone. But there is still something sweet about it, like Judd Nelson in The Breakfast Club. We like the bad boy who isn’t so bad once you get to known him. We can, however, confirm Smokehead did not restore our luscious blonde locks. But there’s mounting evidence that bare heads aren’t a spectacular evolutionary accident. Research shows that bald men are seen as more intelligent, dominant and high status. So who’s laughing now? Probably still Fab.
4/5 – Buy a bottle of it because alcohol can be a man’s worst enemy and the bible says love your enemy.