Caperdonich Stills Bubble Again At Belgian Owl Distillery – Belgian Whisky News

Caperdonich Stills Bubble Again At Belgian Owl Distillery 

Ernie – Ernst J Scheiner, The Gateway to Distilleries at

The famous coppersmiths of Rothes Forsyths bought the site of the well-known Speyside distillery Caperdonich 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 renowned manufacturer of distillation equipment saved the mash tun, the washbacks and the four pot stills. They were moved to their 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 silent distillery back to life in Belgium 

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. They were copmpletely refurbished and technically updated for their new purpose to distil malt whiskies far away from their original site  in Belgium. They were moved to the new production site at a former monastery, now a rural farm near Fexhe-le-Haut-Clocher west of Liège where the Belgian Owl Whisky has been maturing already. The stills have changed somehow and received flange couplings to join the boil pot, the neck and the lyne arm together. They went slightly modern and lost somehow their former Victorian appearance.

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 which date back to 1890 just could not meet the steady rising demand. 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.

New Production will start in May

Étienne Bouillon was more than happy, his dream came true and above all resulted in the aquisition of Victorian pot stills. By May 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 stainless mash tun and washbacks were installed by the men of Forsyths. Pipes where laid and the new distillery technology was set up by them.

The hard and pure production water is drawn from a bore hole 40m just below the new distillery site. The spring barley will be exclusively from their own fields surrounding the latest farm distillery. The barley has been malted in the region by malsters. Non-peated malt will be mashed in a 10.200 litre stainless steel mash tun with a steel dome, the cooled wort will be pumped into two stainless steel washbacks, each holding 24.000 litres. The distillers will use compressed distillers M1 yeast. The wash still capacity is still 11.000 litres, the wash will be heated by steam coils just like the 8.000 litre spirit still. The alcohol vapours will be condensed by indoor shell and tube condensers.

The Caperdonich-Belgian Owl new make will be reduced with water from the nearby bore hole to around 63,5% abv. Étienne’s whisky will be maturing in dunnage warehouses on site which are damp and humid. The premium first-fill Bourbon casks came from Heaven Hill Distillery in Kentucky, U.S. The first whisky will be available in 2016.

“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 Belgian Owl 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.” Prices are on request.


The Owl Distillery sa

Rue Sainte-Anne 94

B-4460 Grâce-Hollogne



You may visit the new Owl Distillery by a virtual tour from your desktop at

Photos are copyright by Belgian Owl, Text is copyright by Ernie –Ernst Scheiner, all rights reserved.

About the Author: Ernie – Ernst J. Scheiner M.A. was a director in an adult education centre. Ernie offers courses on whisky distilling, writes for newspapers and magazines in Germany. He is the editor of The Gateway to Distilleries at which gives an excellent photographic and educational insight into the whisky industry of Scotland, Ireland, Europe and Asia.

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