There’s a saying that there are no famous Belgians. That’s possibly because Belgium is a small country – nestled in Western Europe, with a population of just over 11 million. The place is known for its beer, but it was a surprise when my wife – who was at the airport on work travel – asked me if I wanted a bottle of Belgian whisky. It’s rare that my wife encourages me to buy another bottle of aqua vitae (as I’m sure many of you might know with your own partners) but this one was a gift. How could I refuse?
So she returned from her travels with a 50cl bottle of The Belgian Owl Single Malt Whisky. It cost about 50 Euros, which is about £35 at the moment (or will be about £3.50 once Greece exits the Eurozone and everything collapses like a tower of cards).
The “Owl Distillery” distillery started up in 2004, by a team led by Etienne Bouillon, Christian Polis and Pierre Roberti. They produce handcrafted whisky using local – Belgian, from Goreux farm – barley and have established a good reputation for themselves. Now here’s a cool whisky fact: the stills that the Owl Distillery uses are derived from the closed Caperdonich distillery, which ceased production in 2002.
Ten years no longer feels young for a distillery, and in this time they’ve made some good progress. Of course, they’ve done well in the Whisky Bible, whatever that really means, and have scored highly at international awards. The Belgian Owl Single Malt Whisky is aged for 36 months – three years, and bottled at a healthy 46% ABV.
On the nose: lots of esters – green apples, pears, a little wine almost. A little fresh dough – almost malted milk biscuits. Yes it is young, but it’s still very pleasant.
In the mouth: Again, much the same. Very bright and fresh, just like you were when you were young. Similar flavours: apples, almost cider. Flecks of citrus. Vanilla. Viognier wine. What I like about the spirit though is the kind of density it possesses – not so much a thick, viscous body, but something more ingrained and tight. Hard to say, but you notice it when you try it.
It’s a fair price for something quirky. It is a young whisky, and like you and me it will gain more depth and complexity with age, but the spirit is very good. I think this is more a case of: watch this space. Let’s hope the Belgian Owl develops into a famous Belgian one day.
You can find out a little more about the Owl Distillery in this video.