The First Whisky Launch by Waterford Distillery

Waterford Distillery whisky

You may have heard about Waterford Distillery. An Irish whisky distillery where they believe in the unique taste of terroir – how the type of barley, the specific soil and location where it grows can enhance the flavour of any spirit.

Of course, they have created a lot of controversy over their approach to making whisky. Many are doubtful of the terroir project; is it worthwhile? Some believe it is a waste of resources, others are fully on board. The argument is often that distilling will kill any characteristics of terroir, but if you take into consideration any clear spirit made with fruit, you can, in fact, taste the fruit in question even after the distillation process. So why wouldn’t you be able to taste the barley in the new make?

Over 70 farms, 19 types of soil and three methods of farming are involved in providing barley to the distillery and capturing the very essence of terroir. But the final question really is: can you still detect the nuances of each farm after the new make has been matured for several years in various casks? Well, now we have a chance to find out!

Waterford Distillery is launching its first ever whisky series – Single Farm Origin – at the end of June!

The Single Farm Origin series

Each one of these whiskies demonstrates the unique flavours, terroir, of barley from individual Irish farms and harvests from 2015. Three whiskies, three farms. The project required excellent logistics to separate each individual farm with the intention of capturing the very essence of terroir.

Each crop has been harvested, stored, malted and distilled separately. Waterford Distillery uses a unique mash filter, which is used instead of a traditional mash tun to extract every possible drop. The mash filter works with hot water using several filtration plates. The fermentation takes an incredible 120 hours, with the aim of extracting all possible flavour from the malted barley. It goes without saying that no colouring, other additives or chill-filtration has been used.

All three have been aged in a combination of first-fill French and American oak casks and bottled at 50% ABV.

Bannow Island: Edition 1.1

  • Distilled in 2016
  • Overture barley from southern coast of Co. Wexford
  • Expect salinity due to coastal location and Atlantic wind
  • Available in Europe, Taiwan, Japan and parts of Canada

Ballykilcavan: Edition 1.1

  • Distilled in 2016
  • Taberna barley from Co. Laois
  • The fields are sheltered by ancient woodlands
  • Barley of the Year award winner in 2015
  • Available in Europe, Taiwan, Japan and parts of Canada

Ratheadon: Edition 1.1

  • Distilled in 2016
  • Irina barley from the limestone lowlands of Co. Carlow.
  • Rich and loam soil (equal proportions of sand and clay) in a very windy location
  • Available at the distillery and online later this summer

A bottle of Waterford Single Farm Origin release ranges from €70 to €79. The first two, approx. 8,000 bottles, will be available in specialist stores and online retailers from the end of June (and in Canada from October).

Do not worry if you live in the US or other overseas territories. There will be equally special releases for you later this year.

The bottle design

Waterford Distillery is a modern distillery, therefore it is only fitting their bottles support the image. The main focus of Waterford whisky is barley. To keep everyone focused on the grain over the colour they decided on coloured bottles. Blue is the colour of Waterford, which made the colour decision easy. Plus, it also looks classy.

The glass top is a Vinolok glass closure. These are hygienic, reusable and recyclable. The Single Farm Origin series has a yellow/gold top and other releases are likely to come in a range of colours.

A unique design and a bottle you will cherish even once it is empty.

Waterford Distillery whisky

Overall

I find this project fascinating, although somewhat nerdy. The more I learn about it, the more I believe in the idea of terroir in spirits. The project is a modern experiment by people who are extremely passionate about whisky. I like that this creates a lot of controversy, but it will also challenge people’s perception about distilling and whisky production. The interest in the Irish whisky category is growing, especially in the US, so this first Waterford whisky launch will most certainly get a lot of attention.

I had the chance to visit Waterford Distillery in 2019, when we even visited some of the farms. Ned, the head distiller, gave me a lot of insight and many new makes to try. There were clear differences based on the location and the farming methods used. We even tested a few spirits that had been resting in the oak for some time. See my previous article for more information about the distillery and my experience.

Will you buy a bottle? Do you believe in the terroir project? I’d love to hear your opinions on all aspects: the project, the whisky and the design.


Disclaimer: This article is not sponsored by Waterford Distillery. I am simply interested in the terroir project and how people find it.

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2 Comments

  1. Although I like a good Irish whiskey (my favourite is probably Red Breast) I seldom buy a bottle. But, like you, I find this very interesting and I think I might well make a purchase. Or maybe two, just for research purposes

    1. Two of these will be available in a week or so, definitely keep an eye out for them. I was just saying yesterday that perhaps I should write a blog post on how the location and soil type each influence the whisky ranging from saline to floral and fruity. Would be an interesting research .

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