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Water of Life – The Firkin Whisky Co. and The Cannabis Co

Unless you are a whisky fiend, the thought of how the initiated parlay about the merits of their favourite drops, let alone the brands themselves, will seem poncy to you and at times even detract you from trying – which is a shame as whisky should be about enjoyment no matter your level of expertise.

Enter Mike Collings and his Firkin Whisky Co.

With an unparalled pedigree in the realm of international whisky excellence with his roles including having been at the helm of the creation of a range of now well-established labels and distilleries for over forty years, Mike has set out to channel his alchemy in putting his own spin on the single cask malt market, poking good-natured fun and focussing on the proposition to get people to have fun and enjoy it.

What has become idiosyncratic for Firkin’s expressions is that each whisky is recasked into a custom double oak comprised of two types of oak – usually a first-fill Bourbon and a new Limousin oak with a custom char, which was previously seasoned with a fortified, soulmate wine to accentuate what is inherent in the characteristics of the whisky. Checking in every six months during the maturation process, Mike decides when his hand-crafted drops are ready have reached the depth of flavour he was going for.

Firkin Whisky Co. has currently four styles of whiskies, with each having deliberately distinctive attributes before getting the aforementioned trademark Firkin cask and maturation treatment: Firkin 10 is usually paired with a madeira cask finish. I tried a Benrinnes expressions and it proved to be an example par excellence for Firkin’s approach as the brightness of the whisky was not tamed but enriched with spiciness and citrus notes emanating from the cask treatment.

Firkin 49 is derived from the Tullibardine Distillery and is married with a blend of amontillado and oloroso sherry, which adds nutty flavours to it.

The Marsala finish is used for the Islay expression, i.e. Caol Ila, which adds a delicate sweetness to the peat and smoke.

For the Firkin Rare, I had the fortune to taste the latest release, i.e. an Aultmore, whose musky, earth notes have been complemented by the richness of a tawny port.

The common denominator across the range is that each release is bottled at Firkin’s signature strength of 48.9% ABV, which not only enables to keep the need for filtration at bay but also pays homage to the years the founders were born in, i.e. 1948/49.

Apart from the whiskies, every facet of Firkin’s operations has a lot of attention to detail paid to, including the intricate labels and elaborate designs to reflect the craftmanship that goes into the creation.

Given what I have seen and tasted from The Firkin Whisky Co. and learned about Mike’s approach and philosophy I hope to be able to try his premium blended malts, i.e. Spencer Collings, the Imperial Tribute and the Founders 10-Y-O expressions.

Change of gear into gin territory…

Hemp has made many appearances in areas that it was shied away from over decades and with the advancement of the recognition of its benefits, it is having a moment and gaining acceptance when it comes to widespread mainstream acceptance.

Given the aforementioned, it was only a matter of time until we were to taste hemp based libations, to which the appropriately named Cannabis Co. dedicated their efforts after hemp consumption became legal in Australia in 2017.

After launching their first hemp gin, The Myrcene, and selling out the entire stock within days before anyone having had a chance to taste it, I was curious to see what is behind the hype. While The Cannabis Co is not the only Australian distillery channelling their alchemy with hemp, what makes them stand out is the addition of aromatic oily compounds derived from plants, fruits, flowers and seeds, which infuse idiosyncratic notes, essential smells and flavours to the distilling process.

Needless to say, Cannabis contains a myriad of those terpenes along with health and relaxation benefits, which adds another dimension to the indulgence of enjoying gin – at least in theory, as the question remains if the potency of the ingredients can survive the distillation process.

Since the first inception, Cannabis Co’s gin range has seen the release of other variants and expressions, further enhanced by the addition of Australian native botanicals.

As far as the gins are concerned, I would describe their Myrcene expression as being inspired by the tradition of the classic London Dry Gin style, accentuated by a nice mouthfeel full of citrussy aromas sitting against a melange of piny, woody and spicy nuances.

The Jilungin Dreaming Hemp Gin not only contains the name giving Australian native botanical, but also lemongrass and cinnamon myrtle, which gives it a bit of a punch and a dominant sweetness sitting against a backbone of delicious nuttiness.

My favourite of the range is the High Seas Navy Strength expression, which not only clocks in at a higher ABV, but dials up the citrus spice as well, with the complex flavour profile meandering between grape fruity sweetness and gingery spiciness and lots of interesting half-tones in between.

Summa summarum, Cannabis Co delivers with three quality releases that offer ample opportunity for gin loves to experiment with new flavours.


images from company websites

May 26, 2021

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