I haven't yet talked about Killowen here, so I guess it's about time. There are new distilleries all over the island, and I haven't been able to keep up with them all. The Killowen distillery name started showing up in my social media feeds some time ago and I saw their bottles everywhere with people praising their whiskey.
My initial reaction was, as usual when we speak about more small batch bottlings, that there was no point trying to chase down a bottle because they would all be sold out anyway. If you read my post about the Dream Cask earlier this year, you'll know my opinion about this. I normally don't even try to get those more fancy single cask whiskeys - it's too annoying spending time and energy to try to be in time for the release, just to find it's been sold out in seconds.
The Killowen may not be considered one of those high demand whiskeys, but it sure was treated as such on social media. I was wrong about them selling out though, I've seen their earlier bottles still around in online shops quite recently.
I decided against buying one, but then I received an e-mail from Irish malts about news in the shop - including a Killowen whiskey finished in a peated Islay cask. Now, if someone mentions the word Islay, they will immediately have my attention. Islay is special to me. I love the place and I love the whisky. So my fingers hit the buy button quite fast for this bottle.
Killowen distillery is located in County Down in Northern Ireland, near the mountains of Mourne. They already have a gin and a poitìn in their portfolio, and it's said that they're the smallest distillery of Ireland. They have two flame heated handmade stills built in an old style shape, and use worm tub condensers - something I'm learning about now. There are many aspects of the actual distilling process and equipment that I know very little about but I'm absorbing all the knowledge I can get. Worm tub condensers are said to preserve more flavour to the whiskey, and for more details, for now I can only refer you to this article and I'll go and do some reading myself!
Wait, what - a whiskey blogger who doesn't know it all?! Well, we're all learning, myself included, and I think the learning process is part of the fun with writing about and indulging in whiskey. And writing about it is an excellent opportunity to learn more.
The whiskeys we've seen so far from Killowen are included in their Bonded Experimental series - a collection of blends made from sourced whiskeys, at least 10 years old, from different distilleries. There have been four releases in this series; a rum cask finish, a Basque Txakolina cask finish, a tequila cask finish, and now this peated Islay cask finish. All of them are bottled at cask strength and in 50 cl bottles.
This peated Islay cask finished Killowen blend sold out quite fast but I managed to get a bottle (thank you, Irish malts, for your mailing list!).
The whiskeys in this blend are matured in ex-bourbon casks, then they have been blended together and further matured in ex-sherry butts. Killowen has then blended in another ex-bourbon matured single malt, and then finished the blend in a peated Islay cask. It is bottled at 55,4% ABV, has natural colour and is non-chill filtered.
Dry wood spice, a subtle hint of dry smoke. Pear flavoured icecream, perhaps some pineapple, and some yellow winegum. There's some toffee in there too.
It has a nice close to creamy mouthfeel, with sweet tropical fruit. Almost immediately there's dry spice and a hint of smoke. The peat smoke is definitely not overwhelming here and I would recommend this to anyone who claims to hate peated whisk(e)y. I wouldn't call this a peated whiskey but after all there is an Islay cask involved but without the powerful peat smoke character that usually comes with it. This whiskey basically only shows that it has seen the cask, it's mostly sweet with tropical fruits and a nice spice.
This is a very good first encounter with Killowen's whiskey. Now I regret that I didn't buy at least that Basque Txakolina finished one while it was available. I do, however, suspect that there is more goodies to expect from this brand.