Peat has been the primary fuel source in rural Ireland for a long time. The smoky aroma was found in ancient thatched cottages, but also in (illicit) distilleries where it was commonly used to dry barley. However this custom began to die out in the 1850s.
Given the pioneering mindset of Waterford (often looking at the past…) with its focus on natural flavour, producing a peated whisky is an expected step. The Peated Ballybannon and Peated Fenniscourt are the first two expressions, made using peat cut from Ballyteige in Kildare. Each farm’s harvest was peated to different levels: Fenniscourt’s barley to 38ppm and Ballybannon’s barley to 47ppm.
Waterford Peated Fenniscourt 3 yo 2018 (50%, OB 2022)
Nose: slightly lactic and yoghurty, with herbal notes up front. Sage and thyme. A lot of oily notes with whiffs of iodine but not a lot of peat smoke as such, just a light ashy side. Unripe pears and light vanilla (especially after trying Ballybannon). Subtle leather as well.
Mouth: plenty of malty aromas, with dried grass, lemon peels and apples. Now clearly more peaty notes. Quite sweet and round at first. Then it becomes more herbal and floral again, with aniseed, juniper and ginger. Broken branches and mossy notes, some fisherman’s rope, white pepper and a tart edge.
Finish: medium, with lemony notes, pepper and plenty of earthy notes. Gin-like herbs in the very end.
Somehow this impressed me less than the unpeated versions. With the regular expressions I keep thinking they invented a class of their own, while I am more inclined to compare the peated versions to existing whisky, which seems to be richer and more integrated in comparison. I think they simply need to mature further in order to convince. Available from Whiskysite.nl for instance (also samples).
Waterford Peated Ballybannon 3 yo 2018 (50%, OB 2022)
Nose: more maritime, but more metallic as well. A lot of sour yeasty notes, maybe a hint of moist cardboard. I’ve seen other people mention ‘hints of pee’ somewhere and while it’s really subtle, I must admit I get what they’re saying. No really, this is quite funky. Then tobacco, sorrel and sumak. After a while some lemon icing appears.
Mouth: medium peat again, cleaner now. Some unripe banana and apple. Then a metallic hint again, as well as some youngish wood. Lemons. Hints of petrol, barbecued fish and a faint herbal bitterness. Then grains, oily notes, a subtle salty edge and dry herbs.
Finish: medium, citrusy and slightly fierce. Only spices and smoked grains now.
Even more racy and funky. Not boring, but difficult to enjoy because of its jittery character, I’d say. Available from The Whisky Exchange for instance. Overall, I think these two are too expensive for what they have to offer at this moment. Score: 77/100