It almost feels as if I’m running out of things to say about Waterford. By now it must be the distillery with the most in depth coverage on Words of Whisky. But then they go and release their first ever organic whisky. Part of their Arcadian Series, the Waterford Organic Gaia 1.1 is the next step in the distillery’s evolution.
Organic spirit is not just something Waterford is playing around with. The first year of farming (2015) they recruited six farmers to produce Irish-grown organic malting barley. While the yield is lower than regular malted barley, Waterford still manages lay down 400 to 600 casks of organic spirit a year.
It’s not just the organic philosophy that’s interesting here. In a way the Gaia 1.1 also is the first widely available Waterford cuvée, a blend of several different farms. While we’re all very much enjoying the Single Farm Releases right now, the cuvée is where it will be at in the future. Theoretically that approach will yield the most complex, profound single malt Waterford will be capable of producing. The 1st Cuvée is early evidence of that.
Scratch that. The Waterford Organic Gaia 1.1 is not a cuvée, as all organic barley is mixed prior to distillation. That means they were distilled together. Brainfart on my part, because I actually knew that. Luckily a reader (Head of Communications Mark Newton) pointed it out to me.
One final tidbit to disclose before you can read my tasting note. On the sample I received it says ‘Representative of bottling’. It means that the whisky I review isn’t 100% the same as the Waterford Organic Gaia 1.1 you buy in the shop. It’s the same casks brought down to 50% abv. The only difference is the water used is lightly different at Waterford’s official bottler. Apparently—or that’s what Mark Newton concludes—the official bottlings are a touch more silky compared to the sample I tasted. That might be because water is added more slowly at the bottling plant.
Waterford Organic Gaia 1.1 (50%, OB, 2020)
Growers: Jason Stanley, Paddy Tobin, Trevor Harris, John Mallick, Pat Booth & Alan Jackson
Nose: The barley and cereal notes are omnipresent, always lurking. Hints of droopy honey enhance the sweet floral notes, but vanilla, orange zest, mush bananas and raw sugar stand out as well. A whiff of chalk as well, with some lingering spicy notes in the back row. Taste: Thick, oily and spicy. A fair amount of oak and heat, with cloves and pepper vying for attention. Cherries, quinces, pear skin and dried apricots restore the balance. Finish: Pretty dry, but sweet and with notes of port-stewed pears in the end.
The youth is mostly noticeable on the somewhat aggressive palate, but otherwise this is another well-rounded, impressive showing from Waterford.
The next step is Waterford’s first biodynamic release, but we’ll have to wait a few more years. I believe the first distillation of biodynamic barley was done in 2018. A sample I tasted a while ago was disgustingly good—something to look forward to.