CAPERDONICH REBORN AT THE OWL DISTILLERY IN BELGIUM – Belgian Whisky News

CAPERDONICH REBORN AT THE OWL DISTILLERY IN BELGIUM
Ernie-Ernst J. Scheiner, The Gateway to Distilleries

The famous coppersmiths Forsyths bought the site of the well-known Speyside distillery Caperdonich at Rothes in 2010. As they did not intend to distil whisky but needed some more space for their manufacturing business Glen Grant’s twin sister distillery was bulldozed one year later. However, the manufacturer of distillation equipment saved the mash tun, the washbacks and the four pot stills. They were moved to the scrap yard.

Founded by the owner of the neighbouring Glen Grant Distillery, James Grant, in 1897-98, the newly built distillery was closed just after three years of production due to negative impact of the infamous Pattison Crash. In 1965 „Glen Grant No. 2“ was reopened under the name of CAPERDONICH. Two more pot stills were installed by the Glenlivet Distillers Ltd. However, production life had been short again when „The Secret Well“ was made silent by its new owners Pernod Ricard in 2002.

From scrap back to production

Richard Forsyth sold one pair of the four Caperdonich pot stills to the Belgian Owl Distillery which is situated near the vibrant economic and cultural centre of Liège in Wallonia, Belgium.

Master Distiller Étienne Bouillon’s huge success with his much acclaimed whisky made solely of Belgian spring barley brought instantly the micro distillery to a bottleneck after the first Owl Whisky was released in 2007. „The demand has been overwhelming since then. It was much higher than our production capacity of 20.000 bottles per year.“ 95% of their whiskies are consumed in Belgium.

The Owl Distillery’s two vintage Swiss alambic pot stills date back to 1890. Their small size and their age made further production increases impossible. „We considered their renovation, dropped this idea, and planned a new set of pot stills. While planning we still looked out for old used pot stills,“ the distiller recalls their difficult situation.

The founding team around Etienne with Christian Polis and farmer Pierre Roberti was absolutely lucky when Jim McEwan of Bruichladdich Distillery gave them a vital hint. Talks and discussions began. In the end Richard Forsyth sold one pair of the four Caperdonich pot stills which were originally built by his forefathers in 1898.

Étienne Bouillon was more than happy, his dream came true and above all resulted in the aquisition of a renowned pair of beautiful Victorian pot stills. By summer 2013 the 11,000 litre wash still and the 8,000 litre spirit still will be distilling a Belgian type of „Caperdonich new make spirit.“ A new set of mash tun and washbacks will be installed by Forsyths whereas the original Caperdonich mash tun will be displaced at the new distillery.

The production site will be moved to a former monastery, now a ruaral farm near Fexhe-le-Haut-Clocher west of Liège where the Belgian Owl Whisky matures already. „We will also have a visitor centre in the heart of Hesbaye to teach tourists different ways of whisky production,“ explains Katia Guidolin, the Assistant Manager, „we want people to appreciate our Belgian quality product amidst the fertile barley fields.“

„We are very, very lucky,“ says Christian Polis, who is in charge of finance, „our new distillery project will be co-financed by the influential MEUSINVEST GROUP, which supports various business enterprises in the Province of Liège.“

The new distilling business has started. „We offer the first 200 casks of the Private Angel Range to the whisky enthusiasts around the world,“ tells Étienne Boullion, „and you may place your order from now on.“

Tasting Notes: The Belgian Owl 48 Months, 46% abv

What a fulminant bundle of pleasing aromas! They are fruity and floral, joined by toffee, vanilla and wood flavours. What a wonderful lasting richly textured mouthfeel! The whisky pleases velvetly, runs smooth like cream, offers some sweetness, creates notes of coffee and chocolate. There is an excellent harmony between nose and palate. The new make is indeed perfectly distilled and by no means pungent, very clean, floral and fruity in abundance, smooth and by no means not harsh. Despite its young age the Belgian Owl is full of harmony and delight. It matured in a first-fill Bourbon cask from Heaven Hill Distillery in Kentucky, U.S. It is bottled non-coloured, non-chillfiltered and was reduced with natural water. Whisky like it should be!

For further information open a photographic tour at The Gateway to Distilleries www.whiskydistilleries.net and visit The Owl Distillery at www.belgianwhisky.com

Photos are copyright Ernst J. Scheiner 2012

TOP the  Caperdonich stills

MIDDLE Passionate Master Distiller Etienne Bouillon and his 1890 Alambics

BOTTOM the Bottle and the Glass

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