This tour was booked online with tours available most weekends, but days and times are vairable deending on brendan's availability.
The Distillery is located near Warrenpoint in the south of Northern ireland just north of the border with the Republic. The last part of the journey to the distillery is along off the main road up a single track lane. There are other businesses and houses along the lane so care should be taken to avoid accidents and frightening walkers; the distillery does say that tours are strictly by appointment and further that visitors show respect to the other properties along the road to the distillery. Parking at the distillery is very limited.
The tour was conducted by the founder, Brandon, who met me upon arrival. This is one of the smallest distilleries I have visited, being located in an old farm building which has been upgraded to become the distillery, and has very manual processes throughout.
On the tour you'll hear about the construction of the distillery, and why some choices were made, and making of the equipment as well as a history of whiskey in Ireland covering some of the differences between whiskey in the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland. All of this was well covered with the last being of particular interest; being on the island of Ireland, they do get to make Irish whiskey, but some of the rules which apply to them are rules stipulated by the government of the United Kingdom of Great Britain & Northern Ireland, rather than that of the Republic of Ireland as most other distilleries on the island of Ireland.
The stills here, like those at Lough Mask are made in Portugal, but these ones are direct flame heated, making this the only Distillery in Ireland to use direct heat stills (which is forbidden in the Republic. The stills were made on request and have a somewhat peculiar shape along with custom line arms and worm tub condensers.
After hearing about the process and seeing the filled barrels in the store which are ageing the spirit, we stepped outside to see the growing botanics and the shed where they smoke their own grain (barley is bought in already malted). I hadn't expected them to be peating their own barley as this is usually only done by bigger distilleries who malt some of their own barley; Killowen buy their barley in already malted and then peat it which is a very different approach.
We then moved onto a tasting in which I got to try a couple of the Poitins which were really good. They also make gin and vodka and have an Experimental range where they buy whiskey from elsewhere and finish it in a variety of barrels. They are very open about the experimental range and there are some interesting looking whiskies within it.
The tour was very informative and well delivered. Being done by the founder of the distillery, you get a lot of detail and Brandon's enthusiasm shows through. Killowen is well worth a visit if you're in NI or in the Meath/Dublin area.