Meath whiskey distillery snaps up century-old Spanish wine casks
A Co Meath distillery has saved 100-year old Spanish wine barrels which are now being used to mature whiskey here for another century.
Almost 70 extremely rare Oloroso casks from Córdoba in Andalucía, southern Spain, have been shipped to the Royal County - the first of which was filled with spirit by the Spanish cooper who repaired them.
In the ultimate act of recycling, Boann Distillery, outside Drogheda, bought the casks when a Bodega (wine storeroom) closed – now they will be used to mature its whiskey after a century of Oloroso wine seeped into the wood.
To honour the heritage of the barrels, the family-run firm is filling them with a mashbill or ingredients which were used to make Irish whiskey in the 1920s.
“It was a pure accident really,” said Peter Cooney of Boann.
“I’m always looking for rare casks and we heard that a Bodega was closing.
“We took 78 of the 100-year-old barrels and asked a cooperage, Toneleria J.L. Rodriguez, to make minor repairs to them, ensuring the original wood and the flavours they absorbed remained.
“By saving these hand-made casks, we are giving them another lease of life and they can conceivably be used to mature whiskey for another 100 years.
“It also goes hand in hand with the green message as they are being re-used without the need for fresh timber to construct new barrels.”
It took Juan Rodriguez and his team three months to restore 68 of the 78 casks at a rate of two-three a day.
“Juan emptied the Oloroso, brought them to the cooperage, repaired them and packed them up before shipping them to us in Ireland,” said Mr Cooney.
“It was fitting that he came over from Spain to our distillery and filled the first cask – the first whiskey barrel he had ever filled.”
Boann is filling all 68 casks with a unique mashbill – a single pot still spirit produced using the same ingredients as Irish whiskeys produced a century ago and re-discovered by whiskey historian Fionnan O’Connor last year.
It is a combination of raw barley (40%), malted barley (30%), oats (15%), wheat (10%) and rye (5%).
Anyone eager to taste the new make whiskey will have to wait – the remainder are being filled this week and will mature at a bonded warehouse, with the earliest bottles landing on shelves in 10-20 years.
The casks range in volume from 500lt-600lt. Boann has already sold 10 to independent bottler drinks companies and plans to bottle the remaining 58 after maturation.