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  • Writer's pictureSean Kincaid

DarkCloud WHISKY OF THE YEAR 2022 Review


Killowen Barantuil Cask #KD001


Background

The first cask ever produced by Killowen Distillery. There were only 232 bottles produced from the 120L PX Sherry cask. This is a mixed mash bill whiskey that was “turfed” (barley was smoked using Irish Peat that is called “turf”) before it was distilled in April of 2019 and then bottled in September of 2022.

The insane thing is that most distilleries keep their first ever cask filled as a memento and a keepsake for the distillery. Not Killowen! That isn't all that surprising though as Killowen pride themselves on doing things differently. They decided to release this first cask through an online lottery draw. I happened to have Irish luck shining on me and I have one of only 4 bottles that came to Canada, and the only one of those 4 that has been opened.

Killowen are literally changing Irish Whiskey along their journey. Not ones to be confined by neo-Irish rules, they are setting out to bring back the true history and tradition of Irish Whiskey production. Whether that is using more of the heritage mashes of days long gone, or interesting finishes, to even bringing in casks from distilleries across the globe and further adding finishes to them, before releasing them in super small batches.

Speaking of small, that doesn't even start to account for the production methods at Killowen. Their flame-fired still could fit inside most people's laundry rooms, their malting facility is a repurposed garden shed and they did crazy things like move their fermentation vats outside into the elements with open tops to allow natural yeast in the air to aid the fermenting spirit. In other words a whiskey nerds dream, and even better they are releasing amazing whiskey now.

Cask #KD001

120L PX Sherry Cask

Mixed Mash Bill - in order of percentage Turfed malted barley, unmalted barley, oats, wheat and rye….oh my

Distilled April 2019

Bottled September 2022

Outturn is 232 bottles at 500ml (all by lottery with over 3000 entries)

Bottled at 60.7% abv

Proudly displayed “Authentically & Unashamedly 3 Years Old”

Nosed and tasted in the Authentic Irish Whiskey glass - The Tuath Glass


In The Glass

This whiskey just looks special right off the hop. It's a deep brownish orange colour with a tinge of green shades around the edge of the liquid, and when swirled, a pink note shines from the glass.

This whiskey is oily and viscous without a doubt. The “legs” appear only about halfway down the glass, like they skipped the first half of the fall. But what I think is happening is it's so oily that it clings to the glass and is too oily to fully form legs at the top of the swirl and they don't cling enough to each other to form legs until about halfway back down towards the bowl.


Nose

Where do I even start to begin to describe this one… It's meaty yet sweet, fruity yet earthy, smokey yet malty, it's literally a balanced motif of contrasts and it works so damn well. Right off the initial sniff I get The PX sweetness and the meaty savoury note like smoked ribs with a fruit and brown sugar glaze on it. The turfed malt has a voice and speaks soft at first but then demands to be heard. A coal brisket BBQ used to roast caramel drizzled smores. Only a hint of actual Peat is noticed but it's there. The fruit notes I am finding are red apples that are almost to the point of being over ripe. As I nose it deeper and longer the raisin and nutty fig note that is so unmistakable PX comes through. I am both in awe and mesmerized by this dram in my glass. There is not a single note of youthfulness showing on the nose of this 3 year whiskey. In fact the nose on this is so gorgeous, it would probably be blindly said to be 15+ years by almost any whiskey drinker.


Palate

All I can do when this first hits my lips… is laugh. It is so rich and oily and so inviting. It coats the mouth with minimal effort. The first note I notice is a sweet, chocolate covered salted caramel. There is a beautiful spice that builds with a touch of cinnamon and maybe a hint of ginger but more like gingerbread man cookies. There is a slight heat to this dram but at 60.7% it does NOT drink that strength at all. As that spice settles the dark rich fruit notes come out but the raisins and figs are bringing some bonfire style smoke with them. A dark dried fruity smoke note is unique and so awesome. A coffee style note is found towards the end of the sip, maybe a double double style coffee with a touch of cream in it showing. As I swallow and sit here in amazement for a few minutes, the spice and heat return but are never antagonizing. The very lasting notes is a chocolate and dark fruit note, very reminiscent of those Cadbury’s Fruit and nut chocolate bars. Like the aftertaste after eating one of those. Okay I need a cigarette after that…and I don't even smoke.


Conclusion

I am honoured and know how lucky I am to get to try such an historic bottle of whiskey. Not only for Killowen but for Irish Whiskey as a whole. This is a mash bill that SHOULD be called a single pot still, and in the bygone days when Irish whiskey was the world's choice, this would be just that. The Irish Technical file currently only reflects when Midleton was the sole producer and therefore they made the rules. Let's hope this changes soon and people everywhere can truly taste what Irish Single Pot Still whiskey is and should be. Being able to drink this is like drinking history both past history and history being made. The fact this whiskey is absolutely beyond its years in flavour and complexity is a tribute to Killowen and Brendan and proves they are more than on point with their methods, ethos and at times craziness. I had super high hopes for this when I found out I had won the lotto to receive one of these. This not only met my expectations but it blew them clean out of the water. There was no question when I first sipped this the day after Christmas that it was going to be slotted here right at the very top and it is so deserved and earned. Holy Moly this whiskey is so damn good!!!!


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