Irish distillery uses centuries-old Spanish casks for its fragrant whiskey

Dublin, Aug 21 (EFE).- An Irish distillery has turned to centuries-old oak wine barrels to age its whiskey and add lashings of flavor to its concoction.

Boann, a small family business located in the historic Boyne Valley (north-east), has rescued 68 Spanish wine barrels that were once used to mature oloroso sherry, a nutty and sweet fortified wine made in southern Spain.

“We are giving the barrels a new lease of life, we hope they can last for another hundred years and the wood is packed with flavors,” Peter Cooney, Boann’s export director, tells Efe in an interview.

His family has spent decades making “uisce beatha” (whiskey in Gaelic and which translates as water of life) and scouting for barrels across the world, from Sicily to Porto, Kentucky and Spain.

In 2021 the Boan family tracked down over 68 barrels in a winery that was closing down in the Cordoban town of Montilla, in southern Spain.

The Irish distillery commissioned barrell traders J.L. Rodríguez to repair the casks, which were filled with oloroso wine for several months before being shipped to Ireland.


The barrels arrived at the Boan distillery in July and the family replaced the oloroso with a classic Irish blend distilled in a single pot of raw barley (40%), malted barley (30%), oats (15% ), wheat (10%) and rye (5%).

The team will not be able to taste the result for at least three years, the time The Irish Whiskey Act requires the beverage must be aged before it can be called Irish whiskey.

Cooney adds that in the past they have used 30-40-year-old sherry casks and the result is an intense Christmas cake flavor of raisins, figs, stewed fruits, and hints of sherry.


This unique blend was rediscovered in 2021 by historian Fionnan O’Connor. The concoction leaves an aftertaste of malt and spice on the palate.

“We’re looking forward to seeing what happens in the years to come,” the Boann sales manager says.

“Whiskey is a long-term play, typically the longer in the cask the better it’s going to be,” but the quality of the wood and its interaction with the whiskey also play a role, according to Cooney.

These barrels “are quite big and the ratio of wood contact with the spirit, ten years, twenty years hopefully forty years or fifty years would be fantastic,” the expert adds.

Sustainability is also important to the family business and it understands that the acquisition of these Andalusian barrels not only raises the quality of its product but it is also giving a new lease of life to barrels that may well have been disposed of.

“All of our grain is local. The oats, wheat, rye and barley are grown within a 30-kilometer radius of this distillery, so I guess now we’re giving these hundred-year-old barrels a new lease of life,” Cooney concludes. EFE


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