Waterford Cask Samples Organic Single Farm Biodynamic

Sneak Preview: Waterford Distillery Cask Samples

Over the years I’ve written about Waterford Distillery numerous times. You may have read something on this blog, or maybe elsewhere in a magazine or website. And you can be sure that I’ll keep writing about Waterford in the future. Simply put, I find Waterford Distillery one of the most exciting whisky projects in the world – maybe ever.

Nowhere else will you find a team of people focused on the terroir of barley as much as they are at Waterford – or at least not in the whisky industry. It’s an aspect of whisky production woefully neglected. Bruichladdich is experimenting with it, but that’s no surprise given Mark Reynier’s previous involvement. A few others maybe dabble in terroir every once in a while, but I’m not sure that is because they truly believe in the concept, or because it presents a great marketing opportunity.

When I visited Waterford almost 2,5 years ago, the distillery gained an instant supporter. Usually that only happens after I’ve tasted (and approved) a distillery’s whisky. Only in very rare occasions does a distillery win me over before they’ve released their product. Dornoch Distillery comes to mind, as does Ballindalloch. Waterford is another such exception.

Waterford Distillery Exterior

For those of you paying attention, Waterford have been operating long enough for its warehouses to hold mature whisky. That means the moment is nearing when Waterford launches its inaugural release. Not just one release, mind you, but two! The plan is for the first duo of releases to go out the door in May 2020. Drinkers will be able to compare and contrast whiskies from different farms – made from the same barley, with the same cask composition, but different terroir.

It’ll be an experiment to watch out for. In the mean time, because I’m a very lucky boy, I’m going to explore four different cask samples of Waterford whisky. They were sent to me earlier in the year and – at a risk of sounding obnoxious – I was as much if not more excited about these than I was when a sample of Caol Ila 1968 arrived in my mailbox.

Below you’ll find details on each sample. There’s two that are from different farms, reduced to around 50 percent. The other cask samples are at cask strength, made from organic barley and biodynamic barley. I’ll be able to do a pretty fair head-to-head between the two single farm samples. Both are similar in age, and have the same cask makeup. The organic and biodynamic samples matured in blood tubs, so it’s not exactly right to compare them to the single farms.

Anyway, I’m excited about this, so let’s get to it!


Waterford Single Farm (49.31%, OB)

  • Farmers: William & Pat Doyle
  • Distilled: 12/08/2016
  • Sampled: 08/02/2019
  • 40% American bourbon, 15% American virgin oak, 25% French casks and 20% VDN

Nose: Somewhat citric at first, with notes of lemon zest and greek yoghurt at the forefront, evolving into sweeter apricots, but also ripe banana and vanilla. Also a good amount of barley husks and porridge. Finally somewhat earthy, with a hint of cinnamon.
Taste: Somewhat sweet (Demerara sugar), but mainly red apples, as well as resin and caramel, and a good amount of nutmeg.
Finish: Caramel, a touch of paraffine, red apples again.


Waterford Single Farm (49.97%, OB)

  • Farmer: Edward Harpur
  • Distilled: 23/06/2016
  • Sampled: 08/02/2019
  • 40% American bourbon, 15% American virgin oak, 25% French casks and 20% VDN

Nose: Warm apple sauce, vanilla and touches of orange juice, as well as rose petals and mango, and a fairly good amount of galia melon, with hints of green apple parts and earl grey. A tad herbacious too.
Taste: Very mellow, but also maybe more youthful than the nose suggests. Hints of pear skin, slightly metallic at times, but the apple sauce also makes an encore. Nutmeg and white pepper too. Not my favourite.
Finish: Lingering spices.


Waterford Organic Growers (64.27%, OB)

  • Farmers: Trevor Harris, Alan Jackson, Jason Stanley, John Mallick, Paddy Tobin & Pat Booth
  • Cask number: 2157
  • Distilled: 09/09/2016
  • Sampled: 08/02/2019
  • Ex-bourbon blood tub (35l cask)

Nose: Ripe banana with a prominent hint of sourness (which fades with time), as well as kiwi fruit. A touch of nougat, and a fair amount of marzipan. It has a sliver of farminess to it, but the sweetness dominates.
Taste: Oily mouthfeel, and a spicy arrival, but rather fudge-y as well, with a hint of caramel. Water is not a luxury, and brings out soft orchard fruits, and bitter lemon peel.
Finish: Lingering notes of caramel and fudge sweetness.


Waterford Biodynamic Barley (66.20%, OB)

  • Farmers: Trevor Harris, John McDonnel & Alan Mooney
  • Cask number: 8227
  • Distilled: 13/03/2018
  • Sampled: 08/02/2019
  • Ex-bourbon blood tub (35l cask)

Nose: Very green, agave-like almost at first. Cactus juice. Hard to pinpoint this one. A whiff of pine needles, but then becoming sweeter, traipsing into port poached pear territory. There’s cinnamon, dried figs and caramel glazed apples too, as well as honey.
Taste: Juicy cherry syrup, damp wood, although a somewhat dry mouthfeel. Hints of blackberries and honeycomb, but also a good amount of chili pepper. Water brings out a whisper of tobacco leaves, but also more of the green-ish cactus juice.
Finish: The damp oak makes an encore.


Conclusion

The thing that’s most striking is the vast difference between the samples. I went back and forth numerous times, and every time I noticed something new or different. The spirit was evolving before my very eyes.

The standout here is the biodynamic sample. Disgustingly complex, even at such a young age. The depth is simply amazing. Also, it’s unlike any other whisky I’ve ever tasted – although I suppose this isn’t whisky yet. The fact that it matured in a very small cask, and yet the character of the spirit still oozes out of the glass, is a strong testament to biodynamics. Can’t wait to see future releases.

I found the organic sample a little less evolved than the biodynamic one, even though it is much older. Although actually, its age could also be detrimental, because well over two years in a 35 liter cask might be pushing it, especially when the spirit was filled at over 70 percent, as was the case here.

The single farm samples were very interesting if only because of the big differences between the two. I’ve tasted Waterford new make from two different farm before, and they were nothing alike. I’ve always wondered how the spirit would hold up during maturation. Now that I’ve tasted oak-matured spirit from two different farms as well, I think it’s fair to say that the spirit can survive oak as well, so to speak. The uniqueness of each new make can stand up to maturation, and leave a significant imprint even a few years.

Only a few more months, and I’ll be going back to Waterford for a return visit. Can’t wait to see what has changed since 2017!

Samples provided by Waterford Distillery

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