Born in Japan but bred in Scotland, these whiskies are a perfect treat for Burns Night
One of the newest independent bottlers on the scene is The Firkin Whisky Company, established in 2019 by Mike Collings and Robin Tucek, a couple of legends in the world of whisky with track records second to none.
Meeting in a Tokyo bar, over a dram or three, the two decided it was time for a new approach to whisky and launched their company with the aim of making single malts fun. Firkin is all about enjoyment – perfect for upcoming Burns Night – and is not afraid to puncture some of the pretentiousness which can surround single malt whisky (the name chosen might give you an idea…)
But, while The Firkin Whisky Co. doesn’t take itself too seriously, whisky it definitely does.
All of Firkin’s whiskies come from Scotland’s finest producers of single malts – because of their background Mike and Robin have access to the best casks, not often available to others. They take the malts and give them a second maturation in bespoke casks made from staves seasoned with a ‘’soulmate’’ fortified wine, selected to enhance the special character of the spirit.
This isn’t done just to be different – 80% of the final whisky taste is a direct result of the interaction between the ”new make’’ whisky (the spirit before it becomes whisky) and the wooden cask in which it is aged, so making sure to select the right barrels is absolutely vital. Opting to use a firkin (a quarter of a barrel) results in more of the liquid interacting with the wood, producing extremely complex flavours.
Last year (who said nothing good came out of 2020?) they launched the Firkin Four – Firkin Rare, Firkin Ten, Firkin 49 and award-winning Firkin Islay in a limited edition release (all priced at £69 for a 70cl bottle).
The Firkin Rare is a Speyside Aultmore 2010 (rare because it’s usually found in blended scotch) teamed with tawny port which melts into the whisky. Firkin’s tasting notes say it has a ‘’big, fresh nose of red fruit and oak spice…creamy malt, bright spirit and cinnamon oak.’’
Firkin Ten is again based on a Speyside whisky, a 2008 Benrinnes, paired with a Madeira barrel to create ‘’a unique flavour profile… rich, lively and a tad spicy.’’ The finish though is pleasantly mellow.
Firkin 49 takes a Highland Tullibardine 2012 and matches it with a mix of Oloroso and Amontillado sherry to create something soft and nutty, with notes of ‘’creamy butterscotch toffee… crisp malt and some fruit, oak … a little cinnamon and sweet biscuit.’’
Firkin Islay (Gold medal winner in the prestigious Whiskies of the World awards 2020) pairs Caol Isla 2010 with Marsala to produce ‘’salty peat and smoke with softer spicy sweeter finish.’’ One whisky connoisseur was particularly impressed, describing it as ‘’worn leather trousers around a smoky bonfire with TCP, charred mackerel and bacon vodka. Bliss.’’
A non-connoisseur’s tasting notes (mine) for all of the Firkin Four just say ‘’Bliss.’’
These are all great whiskies and to enjoy them at their very best, it’s a good idea to take your time, allow them to breathe and release their full flavour, before sipping. Adding a few drops of water has the same effect.
Independent bottlers work their magic in their own special way and, like the Firkin Four, the result is stunning, limited-edition whisky, and as each cask only produces a few hundred bottles (after the angels have had their evaporated share), it could be hard to find.
Luckily, there’s TopWhiskies, an online whisky specialist who distribute Firkin here in the UK and specialise in independent brands with passionate founders and unique whiskies – just like The Firkin Whisky Co.
Not just Firkin though, TopWhiskies can help you find the best whiskies from other unique and independent producers (Japanese, Australian, Swedish). And they can ship to your door, just about anywhere in the world.
So, take a good look at these Firkin good whiskies and choose your favourite – and raise a glass or two on Burns Night.