Two Stacks Smoke and Mirrors: Imperial Coffee Finish

Two Stacks, a renowned staple of the Water of Life, has given an intriguing name to one of their most iconic ranges – Smoke and Mirrors. As enthusiasts of magic would know, this term is often used to refer to something that is meant to conceal or distract from a potentially awkward or an unpleasant situation. It leaves one wondering, what exactly is being concealed in this case? Could it be a sarcastic joke surrounding transparency, or perhaps the use of sourced whiskey? Or could it refer to the illusion of complexity and depth that the whiskey presents, like a magician’s sleight of hand or an optical illusion? As someone who is delving into the Smoke and Mirrors for the first time, I am curious to uncover the true essence of this whiskey.

Full disclosure, I must confess that I am easily swayed into purchasing a Two Stacks whiskey. Their releases have always captivated me with their bold and pronounced flavours, hefty alcohol by volume (ABV), their inventiveness and commitment to transparency. Needless to say, I was immediately sold upon learning that they were aging their whiskey in an Imperial stout cask infused with coffee beans. However, such boundary-pushing experiments are hardly new to Two Stacks. Devoted followers of the brand and the Water of Life are well aware that innovation and creativity are at the very core of their ethos; something we have often heralded.

This release is a multifaceted marvel, including a range of unique elements. Let’s start with the whiskey itself. The Two Stacks’ DNA comprises 30% peated malt which has undergone a triple distillation and has been aged in bourbon casks. Additionally, it features 60% stout malt, also triple distilled, which is finished in ex-imperial oatmeal stout casks. The final part is 10% double malt, double distilled spirit that has been aged in first-fill bourbon casks. This blend is then further matured in Dot Brew’s Imperial Stout cask which had been infused with Kaleidoscope coffee beans from Imbibe Coffee. What’s particularly intriguing about this collaboration is that both Dot Brew and Imbibe Coffee Roasters share Two Stacks’ values of sustainability, quality, and innovation, making it a truly harmonious partnership.

It’s worth noting that every aspect of the whiskey’s makeup is mentioned above is trustingly printed on the back of the bottle, leaving nothing to imagination. Mike reminded us with his opinion piece that the use of sourced whiskey is a common practice among Irish distilleries, bottlers, and blenders, and  not unique to Two Stacks. Therefore, going back to the title; “Smoke and Mirrors,” it may imply that the whiskey boasts a smoky flavour profile, with complex and elusive flavours reminiscent of the illusions created by smoke and mirrors. Another interpretation could be that the name is a clever play on words, indicating that the whiskey has been expertly blended or crafted to create a specific flavour profile, much like a magician meticulously curates a performance to achieve a particular illusion. I personally believe it’s the latter.

There is only one way to determine the true origin of the name. It’s review time, so here goes my attempt at smoke and mirrors; Whiskey in my glass, alakazam, alakazoo, Reveal your secrets to me, with each sip I pursue! ….I’ll stick to whiskey reviewing then….

Two Stacks Smoke and Mirrors Imperial Stout Cask

ABV: 56%

Price: £61.00 but all sold out. You might be lucky to find a few in the wild, at a bargain price of £50!

Nose: At first, the nose is a delightful blend of herbs, gently infused with a touch of refreshing peppermint and a subtle undertone of aniseed. A lingering essence of smoky nostalgia, reminiscent of a cherished cigar box, adds depth to the experience. With a little time, a distinct aroma of freshly brewed coffee beans emerges gracefully from the glass. There’s also the unmistakeable notes of honey and a delicate hint of vanilla, accompanied by a subtle whisper of Germolene.

Palate: A genuine symphony of captivating flavours. It begins with a bold and robust stout note that makes an immediate impression. Indulgent toffee sauce then wreaks havoc, complemented by a generous dollop of spiced vanilla custard, creating this harmonious balance. Further sipping uncovers additional layers of honey that intertwines with the smoky allure of finely rolled cigars. A subtle yet tantalising hint of spice emerges, with delicate touches of cinnamon, clove, and perhaps a resurgence of peppermint, offering depth, variety and everything you would want from this delightful spirit.

Finish: Luscious toffee and creamy Wethers Originals saturate the mouth even after swallowing. The presence of smoky undertones remains constant. The notes continue, as echoes of stale cigar smoke resurface, enhancing the depth of the experience once more.


This release from Two Stacks truly stands out, rivalling some of my all-time favourites like Polaris 1.1 and 1.2. What sets it apart is its refreshing uniqueness, as collaborations often face challenges in terms of consumer reception and brand identity. However, each element of this whiskey truly combines seamlessly, resulting in a great outcome.

I previously noted that Two Stacks is renowned for its robust and daring flavours, and this release certainly lives up to that reputation. The initial aromas that greet the senses are diverse and incredibly satisfying. While the ABV adds an extra kick, the true delight lies in its taste. I often found that some of the Two Stacks releases benefitted from a drop of water (check out The Craic), however this whiskey strikes a perfect balance. The combination of flavours generates a luscious warmth that intertwines beautifully with the peated malt, making it a smoky masterpiece and not overpowering whatsoever.

Regarding the question I raised earlier in the piece, the name “Smoke and Mirrors” clearly alludes to the masterful blending or crafting that went into creating the distinct flavour profile; this one is fantastic. Two Stacks, on the other hand, is undeniably leading the way for blenders across the country. As we eagerly anticipate the upcoming releases such as Polaris 1.3, pineapple brandy and their 100% rye whiskey, it’s evident that Two Stacks is continuously excelling and progressing in their craft.

Score: 8/10

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