The Muscles from Brussels has often enjoyed a glass of whiskey while unwinding after a hard day spent kicking bad guys in the head.
He was interested in launching a bourbon, but friends convinced him to ‘go back to the roots of whiskey and find an Irish whiskey’ to invest in.
Van Damme, the star of classic action movies such as Kickboxer, Universal Soldier and Street Fighter, was introduced to the Old Oak brand by a friend.
It had not yet been launched, but Van Damme tasted it, and he said that he ‘loved its aroma and the smoothness on the palate compared to the heavier whiskies I had tasted from different parts of the world’.
The Belgian martial artist, who recently made a cameo appearance as a robotic supervillain named Jean-Clawed in Minions: Rise of Gru, added: ‘It was also the perfect opportunity to combine two things with which I feel a close connection: whiskey and its rich heritage, and the charisma and warmth of Ireland and its people.’
Derry native Kevin Carson created the Old Oak brand along with co-director Ian Rowlands, a businessman who formerly worked for Fiat, Adecco and Interskill.
Derry is actually an anglicisation of the Gaelic word ‘Doire’ which means oak wood, and it is often referred to as the Oak Leaf County.
The brand is designed to celebrate the long tradition and history of whiskey production in Northern Ireland.
It offers a signature 3 Year Old blended whiskey, aged in bourbon and new oak barrels, along with a 5 Year Old blend that was finished in a rum barrel. Plans are afoot to launch a pot still whiskey and an older expression.
‘Jean-Claude embodies the very essence of our brand with his unwavering strength, exceptional character, and unparalleled precision,’ said Carson.
‘His relentless pursuit of perfection and attention to detail make him the quintessential representation of our brand.’
Old Oak is launching on a global basis, and it has a recommended retail price of £34.95 for the Three Year Old and £39.95 for the Five Year Old in the UK market.
The team has also identified the United States and India as key markets for Old Oak in the future.