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Whisky and Cola… Are you mad?
I know the idea of mixing single malt whisky is still a bit of a sticking point for some whisky drinkers but I think it’s important to remember that the drink is supposed to be fun. There’s no point getting hung up on rules when we’re discussing a drink that’s supposed to help you relax. I’m not saying I’d pour cola into a £300 bottle of malt but I see no reason why whisky can’t be used in cocktails or served in a tall glass as a highball.
Pre-mixed drinks have been on the market for some years now. In fact, most UK supermarkets have a selection of cans on their shelves ranging from gin and tonic to Bloody Marys. Whisky has been relatively slow to move into this market. Jack Daniel’s and Jim Beam have dabbled but given the former’s reliance on Cola as its main selling point, that isn’t exactly surprising. Scotch has made a few faltering starts. Diageo’s Haig Club has tried it out, quite successfully, in my opinion. Earlier was The Ginger Grouse, a mix of Famous Grouse and Ginger Beer.
Despite making a lot of noise about modernising their outlook, single malt brands have been relatively slow to explore this new landscape. The first, as far as I know, is Smokehead, the Islay single malt brand from Ian MacLeod Distillers, owner of Glengoyne, Tamdhu and the soon-to-be-reborn Rosebank.
Originally developed in 2006, the brand sought to appeal to younger, more adventurous drinkers by presenting a boldly flavoured whisky in contemporary packaging. Recent years have brought a fresh new look and an expanded range. Available bottlings now include High Voltage, Sherry Bomb and Rum Rebel expressions. Following Haig Club’s lead, Smokehead have presented two varieties of pre-mixed cans. The first is Smokehead mixed with Cola and the second is Smokehead mixed with Ginger Ale and Lime.
I’m well aware this product won’t be for everyone but I think there are enough of us now who are willing to drink whisky in different ways to make it worth recommending them here.
*I’m not going to write extensive tasting notes here. You all know what Cola and Ginger Ale taste like.
Smokehead with Cola
Thoughts: Peated whisky and cola is a bit of a thing. I first witnessed Diageo championing the Lagavulin Smoky Cokey’s at a pop-up whisky cocktail bar in Glasgow back in December 2016. I tried around four cocktails that night and the Lagavulin with cola was easily the best of them. Since then, I’ve tried it with various drams (the Ardbeg Wee Beastie works particularly well, if you’re interested). If you don’t want to spend a lot on a bottle of whisky that you’re going to mix though, why not try Aldi or Lidl’s Islay bottlings. I can pick up the Ben Bracken or Glen Marnoch for less than £20 a bottle. That’s significantly less than most people pay for gin which they then drown in tonic water and it’s not much more than you’d pay for a bottle of vodka.
The Smokehead cans do a decent job of delivering something similar with minimal fuss. My only complaint is I would like to see the intensity of the smoke dialled up a little but that’s a matter of personal taste.
In terms of price, the cans will set you back £2.50 a time which is less than you’d pay for most craft beer. I don’t really have an issue with the price, though as with any pre-mixed cocktail, you could do it a lot cheaper by mixing it yourself.
Smokehead with Ginger Ale and Lime
Thoughts: A bit more of a summery concoction this one. The Ginger Ale and Lime mix is incredibly refreshing and that Islay smoke would pair well with a wee bit of barbecue.
That said, I suspect it would work just as well any time of year. It’s light enough that it could cut through some pretty stodgy winter meals!
The only drawback for me, again, is the smoke’s lack of prominence. I feel like I always expect a bit more from Smokehead than it actually delivers. It’s like the branding says super-heavily peated but the actual experience says gentle introduction to Islay.
There’s no doubt this makes a tasty, easy-drinking carry out though.
For more on Smokehead visit here