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Monday, 8th August 2022

Drogheda distillery gives century-old Spanish casks a new lease of life

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Juan Manuel Rodriguez of the Toneleria JL Rodriguez cooperage in Córdoba, fills the first of 68 century-old Spanish Oloroso casks he repaired for Boann Distillery, with a new spirit which will take up to 20 years to mature.

Drogheda’s Boann distillery has given almost 70 extremely rare 100-year old Spanish wine barrels a new lease of life and hopes to be using them to mature whiskey in this country for another century or so.

The Oloroso casks were shipped from the ancient city of Córdoba in Andalucía, southern Spain, to Boann Distillery - the first of which was filled with spirit by the Spanish cooper who repaired them.

In the ultimate act of recycling, the drinks firm 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 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 were not lost.

“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 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.

Anyone wishing to taste the new whiskey will have to wait though – the remainder are being filled this week and will mature at a bonded warehouse, with the earliest bottles not expected to appear on shelves for at least 10-20 years.

The casks range in volume from 500 to 600 litres and Boann has already sold ten to independent bottler drinks companies and plans to bottle the remaining 58 after maturation.

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