At the southern edge of Northern Ireland, right next to the border with the Republic, is the Killowen Distillery. It’s located in a rural area full of small farms and fields criss-crossed with rural roads. In all honesty, it’s not that dissimilar to some areas of the Basque coast, in Biscay or Gipuzkoa.
And nestled in this lush, green, rural landscape right out of your typical Irish postcard, there’s a small distillery that, according to them, is determined to manufacture liquors following the ancestral traditions and techniques of that country.
They produce three types of liquor: gin, poitín, and an alcoholic beverage whose manufacture was prohibited for three centuries, but which now has its own “European Denomination of Origin” for distilled beverages: whiskey, known in Irish Gaelic as uisce beatha, a calque of the Latin aqua vitae, “water of life”.
And why are we bringing all this up? Because this distillery, working with two traditionally-named stills (yes, they have names!), Christoir (1,000 L, 260 US gal) and Broc (800 L, 210 US gal), is preparing a new series, “10 Years Bonded Experimental Series”, where a selection of whiskeys from different Irish distilleries are “finished off” in barrels to give them special characteristics. As far as we can tell, two of these special editions have been produced, both of them in limited numbers.
The first, in a run of 248 half-liter bottles, is a whiskey that has spent time in barrels that used to hold Jamaican rum.
And the second, which was just launched, has a run of 49′ bottles of whiskey that spent time in acacia barrels that had been used to make txakoli.
According to the experts at The Basque Txakolina Cask, it was chosen specifically for its aroma and freshness, which, alongside the heads of virgin acacia, creates a unique, limited-run liquor with full body.
Honestly, we never cease to be amazed by the ability some wine and liquor producers have to find new combinations to provide touches of new aromas, flavors, textures, and body to their products.
It seems to us that the possibilities for whiskey lovers to get to try this limited-edition drink are going to be thin. We’re sure the 490 bottles are going to simply “vanish”. All we can hope for, or wish for, then, is that this experiment and special edition last for a while so people can enjoy Irish whiskey with a touch of Basque soul for a long time.
FramWeek- 24/3/2020 – Northern Ireland
Innovator Brendan bottles rich whiskey flavours from Basque and Jamaican casks
I first talked to Brendan Carty a couple of years ago as he was developing his Killowen small batch whiskey distillery in what is surely the most stunning location for the production of spirits on the island of Ireland. I was impressed then by his knowledge of – and enthusiasm for – what has become one of the most dynamic industries in Ireland. He’s since launched small batch whiskey, gin and Irish poitin from his operation high in the iconic Mournes, overlooking the majestic Carlingford Lough.
That’s Dram Good – 9/2/2020 – Ireland
Killowen 10 yo Bonded Experimental Series – Txakolina Acacia Cask from Basque Country
Last November, while walking around both evening sessions of Whiskey Live Dublin I was stopped every couple of stands and asked “what has been the highlight, is there anything we should look out for”. The answer always came quick and resounding. “Killowen…..You gotta get to Killowen!”. Brendan is working magic in his wee direct fire still distillery, playing with some seriously delicious mash bills, samples of which he graciously brought to whiskey live along with his newly released 10year old Rum cask finish blend of sourced whiskey for everyone to try.