Always good to have something peated in an initial line-up from an indy bottler – and Firkin’s is a 2010 Caol Ila that rather than being served in a more usual 1st or refill ex-bourbon barrel, comes with a custom marsala wine maturation.
325 bottled have been produced from this rather unusual cask (#324069). Delivered at the bottler’s standard ABV of 48.9% - this is noted as ‘original strength’ which frankly I find to be a point which will likely cause confusion. This ABV is not natural, nor cask strength, but rather a product of a discussion. Fine enough - but nevertheless, the use of ‘original’ on the label by implication implies a level of unaffectedness – which is simply not the case here. Language means different things to different people.
The release can be picked up via the Top Whiskies website for £69 – the same price as the other bottlings in the Firkin series. I do like this single pricing structure. Nice.
Nose: Meaty with bacon lardons and burnt with a combination of melted plastic, ash, medicinal wipes and an electrical box fire. Golden syrup and nut brittle joined smoked caramel whilst residue minerality and sea breeze lurk in the background. The addition of water presents citrus fruits – St Clements together with additional antiseptic peat cues and ozone.
Taste: The arrival is meaty – roast beef dinner served next to an ashy log fire. Medicinalness is never too far behind – sticking plasters, ointment together with lamp oils. Then comes a combination of sweetness and salinity – crunchy toffee apples with an additional sugar dusting alongside a huge wave of brine and salty pasta water. Minerality persists into the back palate – hewn granite and limestone – together with persistent salinity. Dilution feels ill advised, reducing the fruity sweetness levels and emphasising the one note that’s already too domineering - salt.
Finish: Medium to long – with bacon Frazzles and serrano ham together with crushed aspirin minerality and dogged saltiness.
Despite favouring coastal and mineral whisky styles – this Coal Ila sadly exceeds my comfort zone for hard-hitting salinity. And at the same time, it leaves me wondering whether the marsala wine treatment has really paired well with the Caol Ila distillate style – to my palate, there’s less of an exchange of flavour and character here and more of a simple addition of sweetness atop of the powerful maritime notes. Distinctive and different but it doesn’t quite work for me.
Review sample provided by Top Whiskies on behalf of Firkin Whisky Co.