This is the benchmark of Waterford Distillery’s first five (or almost six) years of production. Waterford The Cuvée is the amalgamation of all those different farms that have been distilled separately. It is Mark Reynier’s most important stop yet in his journey of creating “the most profound single malt that’s ever seen.”
Indeed, that is the lofty goal he set for himself when he founded Waterford Distillery in 2015. You have to be very confident, cocky almost, to not just think you can reach such a goal, but to be outspoken about it as well. Then again, Reynier has always been outspoken. It’s part of why he is so admired in some circles (and very much disliked in others).
The new(ish) Waterford The Cuvée is not the first cuvée the distillery has ever done. Far from it actually. There have been many so-called Micro Cuvées. Most importantly, the distillery’s inaugural release was the Waterford 1st Cuvée Pilgrimage. Waterford The Cuvée is different though. So far all of Waterford’s releases have been fleeting and limited, but this will be an ongoing part of the distillery’s range.
We’ll be seeing less of the Single Farm Origin releases in the future. Which is probably good, because it did become a bit cluttered. It was fun to compare and contrast for a while, but I can’t help but feel almost sorry for the people that are trying to collect the entirety of all of Waterford’s whiskies. Maybe someone has done it, but it sure would’ve been a Herculean task.
Instead, the arrival of the Waterford The Cuvée should signal a new, calmer era for the distillery. It’s an assembly of spirit distilled from barley grown at 25 different farms. Or as Reynier explained it back when The Cuvée was far from a reality, “the ultimate aim is to assemble them so you have layer upon layer of complexity. Because each [farm] has its own mapping of flavour compounds, and many will be shared, but there will be extra ones too.”
It’s an interesting thought and one that makes a lot of sense on the surface. Similar to how I usually prefer releases that combine a handful of casks (much like the Cadenhead’s Small Batch series used to do). There’s simply more potential for complexity compared to when it is just one single cask.
However, Waterford The Cuvée is far from such a small batch release. They’ve married dozens of casks and, if my memory serves me right, have released 40,000 bottles in total. I’m not confident the intricacies of the different farms will shine through in such a large batch of Waterford The Cuvée, just like single casks usually don’t in a homogenized blended (malt) whisky or a particularly large batch of a distillery’s core range single malt. The proof is in the pudding…
Waterford The Cuvée (50%, OB, 2021)
4 years, 5 months and 19 days old
36% Irina, 19%, Taberna, 32% Overture and 13% Propino barley
Fermented for 138 hours
Assembled from 25 farms
Matured in a mixture of U.S. first-fill, U.S. virgin, Premium French and Vin Doux Natural casks.
Nose: Big notes of apfelstrudel with warm vanilla sauce, as well as a strawberry reduction, nougat, plenty of toffee, and some shortbread too. Most importantly, there’s a lovely malty backbone highlighted by whole-grain bread and barley husks. Taste: Rather oily from the get-go. Some spices like nutmeg and cardamom, but the barley talks loudest. Muesli, biscuits and a hint of porridge with lemon zest. There’s also an encore of the apple, more like a compote now. Finish: A pinch of white pepper, but then sweet stone fruits, poached pears and flower honey. Medium in length.
Once again, very impressive. I also find it remarkable how much of a recognizable style Waterford already has. It seems as though they've really hit their groove, highlighted by this Waterford The Cuvée.