Single-Cask Saturdays – The Firkin Rare, Ledaig 2008, Marsala Cask
Since becoming more familiar with the whisky community earlier this year, one of our favourite elements is the opportunity to purchase single-cask bottles. Typically, these bottles represent more experimental whiskies from classic distilleries, or casks that are just too good to batch together! They can be bottled by the distilleries themselves, or as is the case with our first bottle in this series, by independent bottlers.
We wanted to spend the four Saturday’s in December sharing some of our favourite single-cask expressions from throughout 2021. Starting with a relatively new addition to our shelf – the Firkin Rare, Ledaig 2008 Marsala Cask.
The Firkin Whisky Co.
Launched in 2019, The Firkin Whisky Co. is one of the newest independent bottlers on the market. However, that doesn’t mean they are lacking experience. Their Founder Mike Collins has a 40 year career in the whisky industry, including a lengthy stint at Johnie Walker.
Described as downright drinkable whiskies, according to their website “each whisky is recasked into a Firkin custom double oak that was seasoned with a soulmate wine”. Their custom double-oak casks are a mixture of ex-bourbon barrels and new Limouson oak with a custom char. Specialising in single-cask expressions, it will be very interesting to see where this independent bottler moves to in the future.
They have a number of ranges: Firkin 49, Firkin Islay, Firkin Rare, and Firkin Ten. The bottle we are reviewing today is part of Firkin Rare.
Ledaig at Tobermory Distillery
Established in 1798 the Tobermory Distillery is one of the oldest in Scotland. It has a colourful history, with multiple owners, closures, and re-openings – most recently being purchased by Distell in 2013 and re-firing its stills in 2019 following a thorough renovation.
Located on the coast of the Isle of Mull, they are a relatively small distillery making roughly 750,000 litres of spirit each year. They have two distinct distillation periods each year – one focused on the non-peated Tobemory spirit, and the other on the peated Ledaig.
Bottled at the Firkin Whisky Co. standard 48.9% ABV, this expression is non-chill filtered, and of natural colour. At the time of writing this particular expression is unfortunately sold-out at TopWhiskies, however, there are a number of other Firkin whiskies available on their website.
Cask Number: SC5A
Bottle Number: 29
Cask Type: double-wood, Marsala
Character: Bonfire peat
We were initially drawn to this dram given the relatively accessible price – £69. We love the expressions from Tobermory Distillery, but with their limited expressions often running at £100 – £150 for a 70cl bottle, they can feel like a large commitment.
Also who can resist a description of “[c]hunky peat and bonfire smoke. It just reeks of it and works a treat. Like walking past a fire pit but then you taste the sweet malt and dried spiced oak lingering in the background. It’s a big mouthful and the smoke and oak linger on” …
Nose: immediate BBQ smoke, pear, honey cereal, roasted pineapple, charred mango, hints fresh red berries, clove, chilli pepper spice
Palate: waxy-medium bodied mouthfeel, lots of sticky tropical fruit, seasoned with the dying embers of a fire pit, fresh citrus is present
Finish: chilli pepper spice, warmth from baking spices, lingering sweet smoke
This is an expression where all the individual elements blend together perfectly. The BBQ smoke acts as a beautiful enhancement to the tropical flavours; sticky mango, pineapple, and light citrus. No alcohol burn is present despite the relatively high ABV. Warming spices and chilli spice act as the icing on the cake, creating a mature, tasty, downright drinkable whisky!
So why is this one of our favourite single casks of the year? Once again, we find ourselves coming back to that accessible price-point. Firkin Whisky Co. offer a great opportunity to dip your toes into the magic that is single-cask whisky. Additionally, we’ve raved about the Ledaig Sinclair Series Rioja Cask, and this feels like a beefed up older-cousin. The sweet spiced smoke flavours are divine – perfect for late Autumn and cold Winter evenings.
We have previously sampled two other wine-finished Ledaig expressions – the Sinclair Series, and the Gordon and MacPhail Hermitage – so we were excited to see how the spirit would respond to the marsala flavours. There is no doubt that this is a match made in heaven. The sweetness from the cask balances the smokey/spicy flavours from the liquid perfectly.
Let us know in the comments some of your favourite single-cask releases this year!