The Belgian Owl, Single Malt Whiskey, is the first Belgian whiskey ever made with barley grown in Belgium. It is the outcome of the determined efforts of Etienne Bouillon, a master distiller. The distillery is located in Liege, Belgium.
“The distillation I practice gives a very flexible, smooth product. To obtain a top quality taste, I keep only the heart of the distillate obtained after a second distillation.”
The barley malt is distilled in century-old stills, then aged in oak casks. During the maturation process, it gradually takes on its lovely amber color and develops magnificent aromas of pear, cherry, and lily. The finish hints at apples.
For Etienne Bouillon, spirits are a family tradition. He started the distillery in 1997, after acquiring two handmade stills from the 1880s. Each of these stills has a capacity of 500 liters.
Etienne traveled to Scotland and joined the Whisky Academy at the Bruichladdich distillery on Islay to learn all aspects of the whisky-making trade. Studying under master distiller Jim MacEwan there, Etienne later returned home to produce a most unique Belgian whisky using only local ingredients. The barley fields are in Hesbaye, the water from 40 meters below, clear and protected. Malting, mashing, and fermentation processes take place in an old converted farm on the city’s outskirts. American Oak (ex-bourbon) barrels are used for maturation.
The symbol of the Owl was chosen to represent the whiskey as it recalls nature, authenticity, wisdom, and Wallonia in particular.
“European Single Cask Whisky of the Year”– Jim Murray’s Whisky Bible 2011, on the 44-month edition of the Belgian Owl.
Hesbaye is a region in Belgium including parts of the Liege province. It runs approximately from Tirlemont to the Meuse and from Tongres to Gembloux. The region stands on a shelf of limestone, covered with a thick layer of loess, wind-deposited loam of glacial origin. Essentially the entire area is farmed intensively for grain and sugar beets.The first cask was filled and sealed on 29 October 2004. Each of the distilleries old stills has a capacity of 500 litres. A fermentation tank provides for a capacity of up to 20,000 litres of wort. The current annual production capacity is approximately 50,000 litres and the bottling programme has five batches of single malt released each year.
The barley is malted in the old fashioned floor malting process by the 'Malterie du Chateau' but no peat is used.The ‘Mondial de Bruxelles’ has honored The Belgian Owl Distillery with two awards : One Silver for their new spirit in 2010 and in 2011, and one Gold for their whisky aged 44 months.