Whiskey Review: Colkegan Single Malt

Editor’s Note: This whiskey was provided to us as a review sample by Santa Fe Spirits. This in no way, per our editorial policies, influenced the final outcome of this review. It should also be noted that by clicking the buy link towards the bottom of this review our site receives a small referral payment which helps to support, but not influence, our editorial and other costs.

Santa Fe has a lot to offer the world. Perhaps overlooked slightly as a smaller Southwestern city, it has a vibrant and interesting cultural scene (I would personally recommend that anyone visit Meow Wolf while in the city). It also offers us a craft spirits distillery: Santa Fe Spirits.

Colin Keegan started the distillery in 2010 as many small, craft distilleries start: as a passion project. His background, however, is not quite as aligned. Instead of highlighting his hometown or heritage, Keegan chose the land that had become his home: Santa Fe.

Keegan originally hails from the U.K., much more known for the long traditions of Scotch and Irish whiskies. It’s clear that those whisky practices were not lost on him, but the products he chooses to make are uniquely American.

Take this single malt, for example. American single malt has gained traction in the past few years, but still remains a much lesser player on the American whiskey scene. Keegan’s choice to make one comes from his roots. He made a very significant change though: he smokes his malt with mesquite.

Even amongst American single malts, smoked expressions often use peated malt, and often imported directly from Scotland. Smoking the malt at the distillery is unique, and the mesquite even more so. 

The flavor difference is very clear. Mesquite has a sharpness and even animalic quality to it, very different from the more botanical effects of Scottish peat (which even vary greatly amongst each other). 

Another difference is the aging process. Scotch whisky is less likely to use virgin oak than other types of whisky due to the distillate being easily overwhelmed. This expression is still 100% malted barley, but the distillery still made the choice to use virgin oak for some of the blend. In my opinion, the oak has less of an astringent impact due to the already intense effect of the mesquite smoke. 

This isn’t a whiskey for the faint of heart. It’s sharp and intense and it does not let up. The sensation is akin to nights in the desert, most particularly one spent next to the fire. It’s always an interesting conclusion when the traditions of multiple cultures and practices meet up, and Colkegan is just that. 

Colkegan Single Malt Whiskey review

Colkegan Single Malt Whiskey (image via Santa Fe Spirits)

Tasting Notes: Colkegan Single Malt Whiskey

Vital Stats: 92 Proof, 46% ABV, 100% malted barley, Batch 1, Bottle 337, 750ml, $89.99

Appearance: Scattered, fat, crooked legs, spread unevenly. Very pale and clear, nearly Champagne in color, with a sunbleached quality and a ruby tint.

Nose: Light mesquite smoke surrounds every note on the nose. A strong sensation of barbecued game meats comes through, most reminiscent of venison mid-way through. A buttery sweetness leads into the finish.

Palate: The texture is very light. The same gamey meat from the nose starts off strong here. It eases into an earthy sweetness, with notes of carrot coming through strongly. This lasts long on the palate, losing some sweetness and leaning more into the earthiness, with a bit of moss and an element of organic decay. Over time a bit of grapefruit pith bitterness comes through. 



This was not a particularly strong sipper. The mesquite is a little rough and the long lasting palate doesn’t give much respite from the intensity. I think the goal of creating a spirit representative of Santa Fe may have been achieved, however. I think this could have an interesting effect in a cocktail with other elements to balance the strong flavors.

User Review
2.75 (4 votes)


Talia Gragg

Talia is part of the Portland service industry community, and an alumna of the Multnomah Whiskey Library. She’s an avid spirit and cocktail enthusiast, and likes to experience them both academically and recreationally. When not sipping whiskey she’s a ceramic artist and lover of travel.