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This New Islay Single Malt Is Aged In Tequila Barrels

This New Islay Single Malt Is Aged In Tequila Barrels

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There’s no question as to what the Scotch whisky brand Smokehead is all about. They put it right there in the name. It’s owned by Ian Macleod Distillers, which operates a number of single malt and blended whisky brands. Smokehead puts its purpose a little more poetically on its website:

“Here’s to rule-breaking, breathtaking Islay single malts born of a simple ambition: to smoke tradition, and forge a new path.”

Smokehead’s latest release, Terminado, certainly does just that. It takes a single malt whisky and ages it in tequila casks, centering the entire release’s identity around the marrying of peated single malt whisky and tequila barrels. It’s almost certainly a type of aging even the most dedicated whisky drinkers haven’t tasted (or tasted much of).

ABV: 43 percent (86 proof)
Price: $85
Where it’s available: Online

How Smokehead Tequila Cask Terminado Is Made

Terminado is, at its heart, a well-peated Islay single malt Scotch whisky. This won’t come as a surprise to anyone who takes even a brief glance at the brand’s website, but Smokehead is not subtle about the tequila connection for this release. A marketing video with Día de los Muertos style skeleton marionettes sets the tone for how this particular whiskey is sold. A voice comparable Dos Equis’s Most Interesting Man ends the commercial (spoiler alert) with “there’s no rest for the wicked there’s still time for one more dance.”

That tequila connection comes from the use of barrels that were previously used to age reposado and añejo tequilas. Barrels are often swapped around like this—bourbon barrels get particular love with a second and third life, as bourbon requires the use of new barrels. In fact, most tequilas are rested in ex-bourbon barrels, and most Scotch in ex-sherry and ex-bourbon barrels. It wasn’t until 2019 that Scottish law even permitted the region’s signature spirit to be aged in ex-tequila barrels (among others).

Regardless, the effect on the taste is subtle. A previously used barrel still exerts primarily barrel-aged notes with just a hint of what was once inside. And that’s perfect for Smokehead.

What Smokehead Tequila Cask Terminado Tastes Like

While the tequila cask aging is the hook, when it comes to taste, think of Terminado more as just a solid peated single malt whisky with an interesting production method. The smoke is front and center from the first sip to the finish—not as much as the most heavily peated whiskies out there, but still enough to be the dominating characteristic. A nutty meringue and subtle barley sweetness keep things interesting and prevent the spirit from being one note. Is there a hint of a cooked agave sweetness or vegetal tang found in tequila? Maybe if you sip while watching the marketing videos and let yourself be open to persuasion, but otherwise the smoke and more traditional single malt Scotch qualities shine through most.

Why You Should Add Smokehead Tequila Cask Terminado To Your Bar Cart

If nothing else, Scotch whisky fans should seek out this bottle for experimentation’s sake alone. Tradition makes single malt whisky what it is. Experimentation keeps things interesting and allows drinkers to experience different takes on the same trusted (and delicious) Scotch whisky flavor profile.

Plus, you get an easy-drinking, heavily-peated single malt Scotch out of that experience.

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