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Jean-Claude Van Damme launches Irish whiskey

Hollywood actor Jean-Claude Van Damme has co-founded Irish whiskey brand Old Oak, named after Oak Leaf County in Derry, Northern Ireland.

Jean-Claude Van Damme, known as “The muscles from Brussels” after his starring roles in films such as Streetfighter, Universal Soldier and Mortal Kombat, has launched Irish whiskey brand Old Oak.

The mixed martial artist revealed that he was initially hoping to release a Bourbon, but a chance meeting with a friend persuaded him to turn his attention to the Emerald Isle and put his name to a spirit from Northern Ireland instead.

“I was looking for my own brand of whiskey, possibly an American Bourbon and then one of my close friends and business associates asked ‘why an American whiskey when you can go back to the roots of whiskey and find an Irish whiskey?’,” the actor said.

“He then introduced me to the Old Oak whiskey label, which had yet to be launched, and had been put together by some whiskey aficionados in Ireland.”

There is also likely a commercial leaning to Van Damme’s decision given that sales of Irish whiskey have grown tenfold in the US since 2002, and are expected to grow by a further 16% this year, fuelled by the number of Irish American citizens there.

Though born in Brussels, Van Damme has lived in the US since the 1980s.

Old Oak co-founder Kevin Carson and co-director and shareholder Ian Rowlands said: “We are proud to partner with world-renowned actor Jean-Claude Van Damme whose interest in premium whiskey led him to discover Old Oak. What he found we believe was not just a brand but an emotional connection that goes beyond the taste and aroma.”

“His relentless pursuit of perfection and attention to detail make him the quintessential representation of our brand.”

Described by the brand as “a craft premium whiskey”, Old Oak is named after the hometown of co-founder Carson, the Oak Leaf County region of Derry in Northern Ireland.

Two expressions of Old Oak are currently available, a three-year-old (£34.95) and a five-year-old (£39.95), with a Pot Still elaboration in the pipeline for “the near future”.

Produced in a craft distillery near Belfast, Old Oak’s signature 3-year-old blend is finished in a mixture of Bourbon and New Oak barrels, while Old Oak 5-year-old is finished in a rum reserve barrel.

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