You already know that Mark Reynier (of Bruichladdich fame) settled in Ireland to start making whiskey at Waterford distillery. In a way he’s moving forward on what was done at Bruichladdich, focusing on téirroir, diligently noting down every tiny piece of information about the production process and the raw materials.
Waterford distills one farm, one terroir at a time. This Bannow Island: Edition 1.1 was distilled in 2016 from Ouverture barley sown by Ed Harpur on 23.03.2015 in Wexford, a place influenced by Atlantic winds and sandy soils. Harvesting was done on 07.09.2015 with a John Deere Model S790 (543 bhp) while Ed was wearing his Barbour coat which had been waxed 6 days ago, on a Monday right before lunch (ham sandwich). His wife loves music by The Dubliners, especially the early work. Fermentation time was 136.2 hours. I may have added some bits, but the information is in fact staggeringly detailed.
This Irish whisky (not whiskey) was matured in a combination of American oak (some virgin oak) and French oak (some Vin Doux Naturel casks). Obviously the best thing would be to compare to other Single Farm Origin expressions, but I didn’t have the chance.
Waterford Single Farm Origin 2016 – Bannow Island – Edition 1.1 (50%, OB 2020, 8616 btl.)
Nose: the floral and spicy character of French oak comes out on top, with some fresh lemons and a mineral / earthy note underneath. The sourness of green apples and nectarines, balanced by rounder vanilla, hints of hay, dough and a touch of varnish.
Mouth: sweet and sour again, with fresh lemon juice alongside raisins. A lot of grainy bread, giving away its youth. Vanilla creaminess. Grapefruit zest, as well as some white pepper and nutmeg. A good deal of bourbonny new wood too.
Finish: quite long, on slightly minty oak with some chilli heat. Plenty of grainy notes.
A very good 3 year-old, I must say, full of promise in terms of quality. I’m looking forward to older expressions which are more balanced and less woody. Originally around € 80 but sold out quickly.
The Whisky Exchange is now offering Bannow Island Edition 1.2 as well as three other new releases.
My only worry at the moment is how much of this ‘big data’ approach will actually stay noticeable in mature whisky (prone to many other influences that are not necessarily terroir) and whether consumers will stay interested in a micro-distilling approach which may deliver an unpredictably different whisky in every bottle. How can a focus on differences be translated to core range consistency? Or will Waterford stay a geeky name with an endless stream of tiny releases (“I prefered the 138.4 hours fermentation time”). We’ll see.