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  • Writer's pictureSean Kincaid

Killowen Cask #KD039 (Canada Exclusive Part 1)

A full review of A Canada Exclusive release from my 2023 Distillery of the Year, Killowen!



I will start this review off by stating the obvious....I LOVE KILLOWEN!!

When the guys behind PWS Imports started looking at brands in various countries to approach about partnering, they asked me, their Irish Whiskey superfan friend, what some brands they should look at would be.

I still have that list saved and the #1 spot had Killowen at the top. At this point they had not even released a drop of their own whiskey, but were sourcing, blending and finishing from different distilleries and using their own quality cask portfolio to release top shelf and highly sought after whiskey. All the while they were producing and laying to rest as much of their own distillate.

When we talk about their own distillate I want to make one thing abundantly clear. Killowen is small scale. Everyone points to Springbank in Scotland as the epitome of small scale, old school, craft distilling. Springbank casks 260000 Litres per year. Killowen started off producing 10400 Litres per year and recently expanded to a whopping 15600 Litres per annum. Other similarities to Springbank such as the total manual hands on approach to all aspects of the whiskey making process and especially the direct flame fired still usage, has led to some calling Killowen "The Springbank of Ireland"


But listen to me when I say this....This bottle of whiskey is better than any bottle from Springbank that I have personally tasted.


INFO

Age - Proudly 3 Years old (Distilled December 2019, Bottled August 2023)

Cask Type - 120 Litre (quarter cask) first-fill Ex-Bourbon

Style - Single Pot Still (Malted Barley, Unmalted Barley, Malted Maris Otter Barley, Oats, Wheat) All grains sourced local except Maris Otter Barley and Wheat

Fermentation - Wild, Open top, Outdoor

Worm Tub Condensed and Wash still only filled 40%, Spirit still filled to 20% capacity

ABV - 58.2%

Bottle Size - 500ml

Bottles released - 116 (This is part one, consisting of half the aged whiskey, the second half was left at Killowen to undergo a year of finishing in a top secret, special cask type, which will then be released as Part 2.)




Appearance

A fairly translucent and lightly golden hued liquid that almost shines as it's poured into the glass. Light seems to bounce off of this whiskey. A slight swirl reveals immensely oily legs and seem to never fall and cling to the glass forever. A definite preview of what's to come.


Nose

Straight away you are hit with what I now call the Killowen effect. Its a note common among all Killowen distillates including their rums, Poitin and of course whiskeys. It is almost difficult to describe but my best attempt is to call it a meaty, earthiness that is also fruit forward and a touch floral. I have a feeling that the direct flame fired stills (more on this soon) as well as the open top, outdoor fermentations combine to produce this distinct note I find on most, if not all, Killowen made products. The cask influence is also very apparent on the nose with waves of cocoa, caramel, vanilla and honey covered tropical fruits. The nose on this whiskey can only be described as special. When I first cracked open my bottle, I sat and nosed it easily for half an hour straight. As tempting as it was to dive right in for a sip, the nose just kept pulling me in time after time after time.


Palate

I finally gave in and took a small sip to coat my whole mouth and then a larger sip to really grab hold of what exactly I was tasting. The first thing I noticed was the absence of much youthful notes at all. Having been lucky enough to try a few Killowen whiskeys over the past year or so. Cask #001 was very similar with barely any youth found on the palate. A couple others that I have had both had a touch of youthful abrasiveness to them but in a great way. This easily could be mistaken for a whiskey 5 times its age when tasted blind.

The next major note is one I have grown to love in the past couple years and can only be produced by direct flame fired stills. It is produced by the Maillard Reaction which is a chemical reaction between Amino Acids and reducing sugars that create melanoidins. This is most commonly seen or tasted in foods that have been "browned" such as seared steaks, roasted marshmallows, breads and starchy vegetables. Once you have tasted the Maillard reaction in whiskeys you will be able to pick it out fairly clearly and this whiskey has it in spades! Its truly a special aspect that very few distilleries in the world are able to create.

The flavours found again are a mix of distillate and casking and include baking spices such as smoked paprika, and all spice along with toffee, honey drenched baklava and dessert pastries with freshy melted butter spreading across their surface. The mouthfeel is thick and oily and coats the entire mouth. I can't say this enough times but my reaction every step of the way was simply just "WOW".


Conclusion

I will start my summary by first stating that I am a self-admitted sherry head. If given my choice I will usually choose a sherry or wine casking almost every time. When I first found out we were receiving this release as the first half of the Canada Exclusive series, I figured I would buy one to try and one to keep until the second part reaches us. Well, I have already bought a backup for now and most likely will add another. Here's another huge statement by me. This is the BEST Bourbon casked whiskey I have tasted in years!!! It is well beyond it's age statement in profile. It is well rounded and balanced in savory and sweet notes. It is just simply special.


Below Photo credit to Jeremy Pue



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