The Belgian Owl – Intense 72.7%

I am pretty sure that The Belgian Owl Intense has to be the strongest whisky I’ve ever had – by alcohol strength that is! Most distilleries will reduce the new make spirit by adding water before maturing in barrels – hence even in younger cask strength whiskies we see ABV hovering around the 60%s or less. Not so with Belgium Owl who have bottled at a whopping 72.7%! What did we think of the whisky?

The Belgian Owl Intense 40 months, first fill bourbon, single cask 1538452 72.7% Bottle 177

  • Colour – Bright gold
  • Aroma – We initially thought of a dusty attic, very different. Nutty, resins, as it opened up, becoming increasingly pleasant, sweetly vanilla, a floral perfume, toffee, strawberries, Victoria sponge cake, cream, pure desert, really interesting and inviting. It kept shifting – from desert to sweet grass and honey, back to cinnamon, then caramelized bananas
  • Palate – Salty buttery caramel, cinnamon, chocolate milk, toffee, vanilla, bananas
  • Finish – Initial burn, then very sweet soft caramels
  • Water – While surprisingly smooth without water, it is even better with – bringing out a buttery cinnamon roll… over time there was almost a “perfume” on the palate

Had we sampled this “blind”, I highly doubt anyone would have guessed the ABV. It was way too delicious with different dimensions and not at all harsh. In many ways this was the most interesting of the quintet – bursting with character yet surprisingly not overwhelming.

What do the folks at The Belgian Owl have to say?

The Belgian Owl Intense is a single cask whisky stored at its degree of ageing, specifically selected by Etienne Bouillon. Each cask is unique and unveils its own character. We would like to promote some of these casks, we are sure you will be delighted.

The choice of bottling at cask strength is a completely natural choice for us. We can offer you a tasting as if you were here with us, in our whisky storehouse, undiluted, straight from the cask. This sensation is intense and unforgettable. We hope that these emotions will accompany you wherever you are.

Overall when we considered the five different whiskies in our The Belgian Owl quintet, we thought:

  • Trying the spirit with Origine provided interesting insights into the underlying qualities
  • Their flagship Identité at only 3 years is friendly with delicious aromas
  • For us, the 3-year single cask Passion was the only disappointment, coming across as a bit unbalanced and ‘not quite there’ the way Identite nailed it… and curiously lacking “passion”
  • When we first tried the 4-year Evolution, we loved how it was a clear step forward from Identite, building on what we appreciated with the added maturity really augmenting the experience on the palate in particular
  • And with Intense? Remarkable! At 72.7% we thought it would be too intense – not at all!

This set was kindly provided by The Belgian Owl – to me in Germany, my tasting companions in Paris and hopefully soon by folks in India too. However, the views here are our own.

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Additionally, there are the two ‘off-shoots’ with:

The Belgian Owl – Evolution 46%

We kept up our exploration of The Belgian Owl with their oldest expression… and before you start thinking of venerable 20 year old whiskies, for this distillery, forty-eight months is sufficient time to produce something worthy of exploring!

The Belgian Owl Evolution 48 months, first fill bourbon 46%

  • Colour – Bright copper
  • Aroma – Ahh! Though initially a bit shy, as it opened up was well worth a wee wait. Lots of pears, herbs, vanilla, slowly evolving from floral to fruity and then back to more floral. Much like the Identite, the primary fruit was pears joined by exotic tropical fruits. We also found some quince. lovely honeysuckle, sweet spices of cloves, aniseed… then back to herbal and even a hint of pine.
  • Palate – A sharpness in a good way! That light spice, malty wood, slightly bitter… all combined in a more classic Scottish character.
  • Finish – A long soft, subtle spice, quite interesting with a hint of mint and liquorice
  • Water – No desire to add

Here was a “proper” whisky! One that wasn’t Scottish but gave a generous “nod” to a classic Scottish style. The kind of dram that invites you back to more – well balanced and interesting enough to keep you curious.

We thought of this as the “adult” version of The Belgian Owl – mildly reminiscent of Linkwood – more from the sentiment it evoked than directly comparable. Clearly one that could be a crowd-pleaser.

When we reflected back, considered Identite more of a “smell” whisky whereas the Evolution is more of a “taste” whisky… one that gives much more as you sip.

What do the folks at The Belgian Owl have to say?

Nothing on their website however this was the oldest of the quintet at four years. In keeping with their house style, matured only in ex-Bourbon casks and like Identite was likely a combination of a few casks.

What else did we receive as part of our The Belgian Owl quintet?

This set was kindly provided by the good folks at The Belgian Owl however the views here are our own.

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The Belgian Owl – Passion 46%

After a decidedly promising start with both the Origine spirit and signature expression – Identite, we shifted into a single cask from The Belgian Owl. Similar age as Identite – a mere three years – it gave a window into the alchemy in a single ex-bourbon cask.

What did we think? Did it bring out our passions?

The Belgian Owl Pasion 36 months, first fill bourbon, single cask 1538337 46% Bottle 29

  • Colour – Bright gold
  • Aroma – A bit closed, then as it opened fruity – particularly pear – first ripe pear, then baked pear, shifting more into tropical notes with banana, a hint of passion fruit and then clear pineapple tang, joined by some caramel and wood notes
  • Palate – Light spice, still smooth like the earlier whisky but somehow lacked the character and substance
  • Finish – Sweetish – think of red candy dye
  • Water – To be honest, we didn’t even think of trying with water

After thoroughly enjoying Identite, our expectations had risen considerably. What did we discover?

It was clear it came from the same whisky family, however, it was curiously flat, and whilst smooth and sweet, we also found it a bit imbalanced. Something that was so well rounded in Identite was absent here. It was still overall quite pleasant but didn’t have that easy-going, cheerful character that was so incredibly appealing in Identite.

One quipped it didn’t exactly arouse our “passions” though was actually quite a decent dram.

What do the folks at The Belgian Owl have to say?

The Belgian Owl Passion is a single cask whisky, specially selected by Etienne Bouillon. Each cask is unique and unveils its own character.

What else? They use unpeated distillate in pot stills and exclusively mature in 1st fill ex Bourbon American white oak (Quercus alba).

What else did we receive as part of our The Belgian Owl quintet?

  • The Belgian Owl Origine Pot Still unaged spirit 46%
  • The Belgian Owl Identité 36 months, first fill bourbon 46%
  • The Belgian Owl Intense 40 months, first fill bourbon, single cask 1538452 72.7% Bottle 177
  • The Belgian Owl Evolution 48 months, first fill bourbon 46%

This set was kindly provided by the good folks at The Belgian Owl following a virtual tasting with friends scattered from Europe to India. Whilst we hope to revisit together with The Belgian Owl team to explore and understand further, our tasting was held without any specific insights or influence, hence views are our own.

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Additionally, there are the two ‘off-shoots’ with:

The Belgian Owl – Identité 46%

The Belgian Owl has a “signature” whisky – their primary and most accessible expression of their identity – aptly named “Identité”.

After sipping the surprisingly smooth and fruity “Origine”, we cracked open their 36-month-old expression….

The Belgian Owl Identité 36 months, first fill bourbon 46%

  • Colour – Light gold
  • Aroma – Sweet vanilla, quite ‘active’ and cheerful, balsam fir, grains, becoming fruitier as it opened up, powdered sugar with vanilla – think of marshmallows, a quick chase of citrus then plums, toffee, even a bit of coconut oil before shifting back to vanilla, lightly floral. a bit of talcum powder then back again to vanilla
  • Palate – Smooth with substance, a trace of butter, more of the toffee, coconut, pear, nicely fruity, wonderfully balanced, easy-drinking – quite “happy go lucky” in style
  • Finish – Light spice
  • Water – No need

Overall we really enjoyed the evolution of the nose. Whilst it settled on quite a pronounced vanilla, the journey to that point was a happy one. It was nicely rounded on the palate… the kind of whisky you enjoy sipping… suddenly realizing your glass is empty without quite knowing how!

During a second tasting, we had a remarkably similar experience however the whisky had become even more perfumed, with spring flowers and a more herbal quality joining the fruitiness and vanilla.

Overall this is just an easy enjoyable dram… one we were happy to explore.

What more do we know? From former Caperdonich pot stills of 1898, the whisky is matured in American white oak – Quercus alba – for just three years.

What do the folks at The Belgian Owl have to say?

This indispensable drink is the result of the way we use our know-how to introduce the distillate to the oak wood.

  • Nose – Without any doubt, the key words here are freshness, nesses and precision. The delicate tones of roasted oak and toffee melt into the fruity signature of Belgian Owl: conference pear, muscat, crystallized angelica and apple jam. When the whisky further opens up in your glass, you’ll discover the aroma of vanilla pudding and amber banana.
  • Mouth – Surprising thanks to the perfect balance of different aromas that the nose already brought to light and that develop further in the mouth: Spanish honey, vanilla and coconut ice cream, candied ginger, apples fried in butter and plum tart.
  • Finish – A long finish that returns from the savours in the mouth to the pleasant taste of the malt distillate, leaving a fruity and woody echo of the Hesbaye region as its legacy.

What else did we receive as part of our The Belgian Owl quintet?

  • The Belgian Owl Origine Pot Still unaged spirit 46%
  • The Belgian Owl Passion 36 months, first fill bourbon, single cask 1538337 46% Bottle 29
  • The Belgian Owl Intense 40 months, first fill bourbon, single cask 1538452 72.7% Bottle 177
  • The Belgian Owl Evolution 48 months, first fill bourbon 46%

This set was kindly provided by the good folks at The Belgian Owl, however the views here are our own.

If you don’t want to miss a post, why not follow Whisky Lady on:

Additionally, there are the two ‘off-shoots’ with:

The Belgian Owl – Origine Spirit 46%

New make spirit or moonshine can be pretty harsh stuff. And yet there is something quite revealing about sharing with the world the ‘base’ or ‘origin’ of your whisky as an undisguised spirit.

We opened The Belgian Owl “Origine” curious to see what we would find…

The Belgian Owl Origine Pot Still Unaged Spirit 46%

  • Colour – Completely clear
  • Aroma – First thought – sour mash, starchy potatoes, cereals, then became increasingly fruity, a touch of saline
  • Palate – Remarkably smooth… not in the least bit harsh, quite pleasant

One lady observed how it was a bit reminiscent of a rye vodka she had tried. As for the palate? Was it harsh? Not at all!

We speculated it would make a brilliant base for a dirty martini or perhaps jazzed up with some lime and ice.

What do the folks at The Belgian Owl have to say?

  • Nose – This unaged distillate takes you to the place where it all starts: the heart of the barley that grows in the Hesbaye region. The aroma of malted barley is surrounded by the scent of freshly-baked bread and shortbread. When this Spirit Drink further opens up, you discover fruity, fresh hints of ripe pears, greegages and cidar that then melt away into an echo of newly mown grass.
  • Mouth – The initial sensation in the mouth is sweet, characterized by the beautiful oily nature of the distillate. Bit by bit, fruity notes from the orchard rise to the top.
  • Finish – Long and very well balanced in which the fruit from the orchard is in perfect harmony with a touch of licorice

Whilst a bit fanciful, we would overall agree with the description. Quite a promising start!

What else did we receive as part of our The Belgian Owl quintet?

  • The Belgian Owl Identité 36 months, first fill bourbon 46%
  • The Belgian Owl Passion 36 months, first fill bourbon, single cask 1538337 46% Bottle 29
  • The Belgian Owl Intense 40 months, first fill bourbon, single cask 1538452 72.7% Bottle 177
  • The Belgian Owl Evolution 48 months, first fill bourbon 46%

This set was kindly provided by the good folks at The Belgian Owl – to me and our tasting companions scattered around Europe and India. However the views here are our own.

If you don’t want to miss a post, why not follow Whisky Lady on:

Additionally, there are the two ‘off-shoots’ with:

The Belgian Owl

Sometimes one thing leads to another… What was originally intended to be a Bombay ‘bar night’ with various whiskies lying around turned (thanks to the wonders of modern technology and curious connects) into a special feature on The Belgian Owl together with the founder and master distiller – Etienne Bouillon – and brand ambassador – Frédéric Senet.

Alas I was already back in Germany so could only experience Identité ‘vicariously’ via the descriptions of the others – which were incredibly positive! Even from one who was a bit skeptical from his earlier brush almost a decade ago – however distilleries and palates evolve and the sincerity of the enthusiasm was clear.

How did this evening come about? Well, one of our Bombay Malt & Cigar gents currently splits his time between Belgium (where his wife lives and works) and Mumbai (where he lives and works).

On a recent trip to Mumbai, he was contacted via a consulate connect asking “Don’t you do whisky tastings? The folks from The Belgian Owl are interested in getting some feedback from an Indian perspective…” Which is a bit amusing considering the gent in question is actually British! However, like myself, has lived for decades in India, adopting Mumbai as home so not so strange after all.

He was so impressed with the bottle shared in Mumbai that our intrepid introducer made the trek to the distillery on his next trip to Belgium, determined to bring the full range to Mumbai.

As for myself? Courtesy of the fine folks we virtually met, I now have this very tempting quintet to explore…. not today but sometime soon when a similar set makes its way back to Mumbai so we can join together virtually in a Belgian quest!

  • The Belgian Owl Origine Pot Still unaged spirit 46%
  • The Belgian Owl Identité 36 months, first fill bourbon 46%
  • The Belgian Owl Passion 36 months, first fill bourbon, single cask 1538337 46% Bottle 29
  • The Belgian Owl Intense 40 months, first fill bourbon, single cask 1538452 72.7% Bottle 177
  • The Belgian Owl Evolution 48 months, first fill bourbon 46%

Nice to have something to look forward to in the coming months.

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Additionally, there are the two ‘off-shoots’ with:

Whisky Archives – Singleton, GlenDronach, All Malt, The Belgian Owl

Here’s another from our whisky archives… this time from May 2013…

Following our standard format, we blind tasted samples before revealing the whisky. This month featured: Singleton, GlenDronach, All Malt and the Belgian Owl.

The Singleton – We found it tasted better when chilled otherwise a fairly ‘standard’ whisky. A Speyside offering from the Auchroisk distillery.

The Singleton (Photo: The Singleton Website)

THE SINGLETON (PHOTO: THE SINGLETON WEBSITE)

GlenDronach 12 year – Unique on the nose and on the palate. Another Speyside worth revisiting.

GlenDronach (Photo: GlenDronach website)

GLENDRONACH (PHOTO: GLENDRONACH.COM)

Nikka’s All Malt – A beautiful offering that which was quickly categorised as a `woman’s whisky’ for its delicate, nuanced character. Refreshing to sample a whisky from Japan!

All Malt (Photo: Nikka website)

ALL MALT (PHOTO: NIKKA WEBSITE)

The Belgian Owl – Nothing exceptional and not even up to our regular standards. Perhaps it needs to perch itself longer in the cask maybe? Sigh… or maybe our Belgian friends should stick to beer? Pity this eco-friendly, colouring free whisky isn’t…. well… better…

The Belgian Owl (Photo: United International)

THE BELGIAN OWL (PHOTO: UNITED INTERNATIONAL)

Our favourite of the evening? It was a toss-up between the All Malt and GlenDronach – both delightful in their own way.

For more posts on our tasting sessions and whisky explorations…

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