Hunter is a flavourful but largely forgotten barley variety. Named after pioneering plant breeder Herbert Hunter, it was introduced in 1959 and lauded for its distinctive flavour. However after two decades this rare and “game-changing” barley disappeared in favour of higher-yield varieties.
Together with Minch Malt, the Irish ministry of agriculture and several farmers Waterford distillery initiated the plan to cultivate it again. The starting point was a 50 gram bag of Hunter seeds, upscaled over several years before there was enough to distil. The 2019 distillation yielded only 50 barrels, now coming together in Waterford Heritage: Hunter, the latest expression in their Arcadian Farm Origin range. At the moment three other heritage varieties go through the same process.
This single malt comes from a combination of 45% first fill US oak, 19% virgin US oak, 21% French oak and 15% Vin Doux Naturel.
Waterford Heritage: Hunter (50%, OB 2022, 9048 btl.)
Nose: a fascinating dusty profile, with earthy notes, minerals and roots, tree bark, dried grasses and celeriac. Very natural. Then there’s a hint of baguettes and wet chalk. Few fruity notes, although I get some apple and green banana skins. Fresh grains, always, as well as sunflower oil. It gains complexity over time, nice.
Mouth: oily texture, with more creamy banana now, as well as orange cake, making it sweeter than expected. White pear and lemons. Plenty of earthy notes again. Subtle savoury notes (clove and salt) and dried citrus peels. Damp leafy notes, chalk and sweet dough. Rustic in a way, but there’s a lovely quality to it that is hard to describe.
Finish: medium long, with green leafy notes, lemon oil and a touch of charred oak.
A rather unique Waterford again: there is nothing like this on the market. It is fresh and spicy with a distinctive dusty / earthy side. An interesting project with a lot of potential for aged releases. Available from The Whisky Exchange for instance.