“Great success breeds a lot of things, including sequels.” – Dwayne Johnson
Who doesn’t love a sequel? Back in July and December – which seems like an age ago – I reviewed Killowen’s Cúige series (five poitíns finished in beer firkins) and its Dalriadan whiskey, an amalgamation of a Scotch and Irish whiskey that Killowen bottled in a two-part series. Thankfully, Brendan has blessed us with more releases, an addition to the Cúige, we have the Le Chéile and another Dalriadan release. Part 2 looks to cement the popularity of the series and Killowen’s credentials as a prominent and acclaimed distiller/bonder.
Since it’s been over two months since I last reviewed Killowen, I thought I’d update Malt readers on what Brendan and the team at Killowen have been up to. The releases haven’t stopped; at the time of writing, Brendan is expanding Killowen’s inaugural experimental series by expanding it southwards… way southwards.
For those unaware of Killowen’s inception: Brendan was inspired by Belgrove Master Distiller Peter Bignell. Brendan’s ways, methods and expressions are clearly influenced by Peter, exhibiting a portfolio of sustainability, variety, and passion. This relationship has enabled Brendan to commandeer two casks from Belgrove for the subsequent releases showcasing rye and oats.
Furthermore, the popularity of poitín has risen dramatically over the last seven months. Officially dubbed “2022: the year of poitín,” Brendan has produced four poitíns and inspired other brands to follow and create Ireland’s age-old spirit. Ireland will host the world’s first poitín festival, “Poitín Now,” in Dublin later this year, a testament to Brendan’s enthusiasm for drum beating.
Rather than regurgitate the history regarding the Dalriadan, I thought we should just delve into the whiskey itself. Funnily enough, it won’t take the brains of a mathematician to anticipate what the make-up of Part 2 will be… Yes! It’s the remains of the Caol Ila cask and the remains of the Bushmills cask, which means it’s a 60% Caol Ila and 40% Bushmills blend this time around.
What is interesting, though, is the Part 2 expression spent ten months in Pedro Ximenez and Killowen Dark Rum casks. Killowen produces a now signature “Rum & Raisin” blend that is finished this way, so this was clearly one for the true Killowen “Kulters.” It’s bottled at 57.99% ABV and – like all Killowen releases – transparency is fundamental, indicating the liquid’s origins. It’s a limited release of 304 bottles; based on current web surfing, available bottles are few and far between.
On the other hand, the makeup of Le Chéile (translated as “Together” in English) is less straightforward. Essentially, it’s a blend of all five previous Cúige expressions in a half-filled firkin. Initially destined for the Kult, the pandemic meant that it was subsequently released during Dublin’s whiskey live to whomever could get to the Killowen stand quickest.
The five blends are all vatted for 21.5 months in the “O Brother” firkin (an Irish craft beer company from Wicklow, Ireland). It’s the same mash bill of 50% peated barley, 21.6% unmalted barley, 14.2% Oat (malted and peat smoked on site), 7.1% wheat and 7.1% rye.
The price of the Dalriadan may cause some un-educated drinkers to suck their teeth; however, the whisky industry has experienced its worst supply chain crisis in history, meaning that the best single malt whiskies are set to triple in price next year. Imagine the cost of buying a cask! The resurgence in Irish whiskey has also seen sales increase 16.3% in the last year; a price increase is a sure thing given the lack of supply and growth in demand.
The poitín, on the other hand, represents modest pricing, reflective of the popularity of poitín today.
Killowen The Dalriadan Part 2 – Review
£114.95 from The Umbrella Project.
On the nose: Initially, there’s a subtle sweetness basking in fresh burnt moss. The sweetness carries on throughout and transitions to fruit salad sweets, tangerines, Werther’s originals and honey. There are also delicate notes of fresh leather, shoe polish and remnants of a cigar box, all equally balanced throughout with oaky, malty notes of toasted almonds and digestive biscuits.
In the mouth: a healthy concoction of spice and smoke. Burnt black peppercorns, cloves and cinnamon combined with a whiff of tobacco ash. An evident influence of Islay maritime maturation with a distinct saltiness to it as well. Little sweetness this time around, with lemon zest being most prevalent. On the finish, the smoke endures but is merely flickering throughout the finish, but less overpowering as time goes on. The spice accumulates into a last helping of pepper, followed up with a shot of espresso. Sweet, spicy and robust.
Killowen Le Chéile – Review
£30; exclusive to Killowen Kult members.
On the nose: Initial earthiness; very floral, hints of fresh cut grass, wet moss, and bark. Some spice comes through, light peppermint, fennel and a dusting of cinnamon. Notes of unripened peaches, stewed apples and nectarines give it a fruity depth.
In the mouth: Firstly, the sweetness is revealed; lots more fruity notes of limes, lemon zest and peaches, dusted with cinnamon powder. There is undoubtedly smoke there, but it’s perfectly balanced, not overpowering and matched by the intensity of the sweetness. Further spicy notes linger in the background; black pepper, cinnamon and cloves all generate a seductive warmth that coats the mouth. On the finish, a balanced concoction of smoke, spice and sweetness. Finishing with coffee beans and warm rhubarb crumble. Medium to long finish.
It’s no surprise that both are worthy sequels to their predecessors. The second release of the Dalriadan is an exciting concept; flipping the ratio of Caol Ila to Bushmills certainly has an interesting effect on the whiskey, then finishing it in Killowen Rum and Raisin cask has provided an effective way of balancing the liquid between the smoke and the spice. Another lovely edition, but part one just takes it for me.
The Le Chéile doesn’t necessarily follow the same journey as the other Cuige releases and is instead just an amalgamation, but it still is an excellent addition to the range. I particularly liked this one, not necessarily as it was exclusive to Kult members and very limited. Still, it builds on Killowen’s passion for broadening people’s palates, increasing awareness, and giving credibility to the “Year of Poitín.”