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Tuesday, 2nd April 2024

Boann Distillery to use timber from storm-felled oak tree to make whiskey casks

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Ian Leonard of Kentucky Bourbon Barrel with Peter Cooney of Boann Distillery and Mark Quick of Kentucky Bourbon Barrel on Swainstown Farm in Co. Meath where a 1,000 year old oak tree was recently toppled by a storm. The ancient giant is set to be transformed into rare Irish oak casks skilfully crafted in Ireland. Photo: Brian Connolly, Bang Bang Visual.

Timber from a thousand-year-old Irish oak tree that was blown down by a storm last December is to get a new lease of life and used to make casks for whiskey made by Drogheda's Boann Distillery. 

In a unique project between Boann Distillery and Kentucky Bourbon Barrel cooperage in Kildare, the storm-felled oak, with a 10-metre girth, will be transformed into barrels that will age and produce Preston’s brand of Single Pot Still Irish Whiskey.

The Preston family, who reside on Swainstown Farm in KIlmessan, where the ancient tree once stood tall, are descendants of the renowned Preston's of Drogheda, Co Louth - operators of a major whiskey bonding business for almost a century from 1886.

“It is extremely rare that Irish oak is used to craft casks, making this a unique project,” said Peter Cooney of Boann Distillery.

“The idea was first mooted six years ago after I told Arthur Preston about our plans to revive the trademark ‘Preston’s Whiskey’ brand, using an old whiskey recipe dating back to the late 19th century.” 

“We made a deal that, in return for the casks I gave him for his Swainstown Farm shop, he would let me know when an old Irish Oak tree on his grounds would become available for cutting. 

“Arthur had one old tree in mind that had stood in the front paddock of the Preston’s Estate, and when it fell during last December’s Storm Elin I got the call from him to come and check her out.”

A large section cut from the lower body of the tree will now be shipped to a facility in France, where it will be split and made into staves and air-dried for 24 months. 

The staves will then be transported back to Kildare where coopers will turn them into 3 to 4 Irish Oak casks before they are filled with a unique mashbill to reproduce Preston’s whiskey.

"We typically source our barrels from American white oak shipped directly from bourbon and whiskey distilleries," said Mark Quick, managing director of Kentucky Bourbon Barrel. 

“With this venture we will revive traditional whiskey cask crafting in Ireland using Irish oak from a tree that stood for over 1,000 years, so we are naturally very excited about this whole project.” 

“It’s great to see the idea evolve from a conversation in 2018 to an innovative collaboration between heritage-rich estates, seasoned distilleries, and renowned cooperages,” said Arthur Preston of Swainstown Farm. "I can’t wait to taste the final product.”

The Preston’s mashbill that will be laid down once the casks are ready is secret Vintage Mashbill XI from the Boann’s 2021 Vintage Mashbill Project.

"We have been laying down stock for this brand since 2021 in a variety of casks such as Bourbon, Oloroso, PX, NEOC and Jamaican Rum,”  said Peter Cooney.

“By using Irish Oak we can bring a piece of ancient Ireland to the glasses of future connoisseurs.”

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